CFO of the Year: Nathaniel Leach, co-founder and portfolio manager, LBW Wealth Management

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History majors may be unique among CFOs, but then how many CFOs start managing their own investments at the age of 15?

Nathaniel Leach, our CFO of the Year, charted his own course rather than obtaining a traditional business or finance degree. His passion for investing began in his teens when informed that his family had been investing toward his college education for years.

Leach graduated from Kalamazoo College and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, spending four years in Virginia before returning to Madison, where his knowledge and investment fund insight impressed others.

He worked with Tim Bickmore and Dan Weiss in Madison at another Madison investment firm, and in 2015, the three left to form LBW Wealth Management. Since then, Leach’s financial wherewithal has resulted in impressive compound annual growth rates: revenue, 35.1%; net income, 23.5%; free cash flow, 16.7%; and an internal rate of return of 107%.

This CFO also serves as portfolio manager, compliance officer, and has taken the lead on the company’s business consulting platform. Leach believes capital allocation — helping determine where to deploy a company’s free cash flow — is the most critical function of a CFO. “Does it make sense to reinvest back in business, distribute it to the business owners or shareholders, or merge or acquire another company? Companies sometimes don’t have the capacity to do that,” he says.

In 2020, when first quarter revenue dropped by more than 30% due to a pandemic-induced stock market upheaval, Leach’s persistent research on government programs such as the PPP and his vast knowledge of investment funds, return on investment, and longtime focus on building a “margin of safety” kept the company financially stable. LBW Wealth Management was able to pay its staff, make charitable contributions, and still reinvest in the business.

The company just passed its five-year milestone, aware that it may not have been as fortunate had it not been for Leach’s steady guidance, according to Weiss. “His ability to keep us on point, on a timeline, and completely aware of how every action impacts the business financially has made all the difference.”

Leach shares his knowledge with other small businesses as well, through the company’s CFO-for-hire program, and most recently he began offering fiscal mentorship to New Jersey-based Ironbound Boxing, a nonprofit designed to build confidence in inner-city youth through boxing. He first heard about the organization’s founder and fellow veteran Mike Stadman through a podcast after the death of George Floyd. He felt compelled to help.

Uncomfortable in the limelight, Leach feels honored to be named CFO of the Year. “It’s nice to be recognized for what I enjoy doing on a daily basis, but I stay in the background by design.”

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