Strategic Alliances

Expert Interview



Wayne Schmidt, CFA®, Chief Investment Officer of Gradient Investments, LLC

In October 2008, Wayne Schmidt joined Gradient Investments, LLC to serve as Chief Investment Officer. Boasting over 26 years in the financial industry, Wayne brings invaluable institutional experience and in-depth knowledge of the private client market to Gradient Investments, and offers a global investment management perspective.

Wayne is an essential and direct resource for investment advisors and their clients. He provides vast wisdom, knowledge and tools to help investment advisors both grow their practices and their clients’ assets.

In a nationwide search that included acquisition considerations, AXA Investment Managers, a subsidiary of the European insurance giant AXA Group, handpicked Wayne to build their U.S. investment grade fixed income capabilities and to lead a seasoned portfolio team located in Saint Paul.

During his tenure at AXA Investment Managers, Wayne served as senior portfolio manager for the U.S. investment grade fixed income team. As the lead portfolio manager, he managed $9.5 billion of fixed income assets with a variety of mandates ranging from aggregate, corporate and government bond portfolios.

Before joining AXA Investment Managers, Wayne dedicated over 20 years to Minnesota Life and its’ $14 billion investment arm, Advantus Capital Management. As their portfolio manager, he managed a variety of high-grade funds as part of Advantus’s $1.8 billion Total Return Product for institutional and retail clients. He also served as the lead portfolio manager of the Advantus Bond Fund and the co-portfolio manager of the Advantus Spectrum Fund.

Wayne earned his Master of Business Administration in Finance from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst® and a member of The Chartered Financial Analyst Institute and the Twin Cities Society of Security Analysts.

Over the years, Wayne has been quoted on the global economy in numerous nationally and internationally recognized investment publications such as: Bloomberg, Pension & Investments, Reuters, The Los Angeles Times, Financial Week (2008 Neal Award Winner), Asia Times, InvestorVillage, Safehaven, SFO, Credit Investment News and RGE Monitor (Nouriel Roubini’s Global EconoMonitorinvestment). He has also provided market insights on Bloomberg radio and television.

Wayne’s love of Minnesota is Gradient Investments’ great fortune, as he declined to relocate with AXA Investment Managers following their strategic decision to consolidate function into a high-yield operation in Greenwich, Connecticut.


Michael Binger, CFA®, Senior Portfolio Manager of Gradient Investment, LLC 

Michael Binger, CFA®, serves as the senior portfolio manager for Gradient Investments, LLC. Michael brings over 24 years of institutional equity investment experience to Gradient. He has extensive experience working directly with financial advisors designing and actively managing portfolios. Michael has successfully managed assets in numerous market and economic cycles giving him a level and depth of experience that is rare in this industry.

Michael started his investment career in Minneapolis with Lutheran Brotherhood in 1987 and gained experience managing assets in a variety of asset classes including convertible bonds, small cap equities and large cap equities. When Lutheran Brotherhood and Aid Association for Lutherans merged in 2001 to become Thrivent Financial, Michael was selected to work as the senior portfolio manager on the Large Cap Growth Team and Large Cap Alpha Team managing over $3 billion in assets. As the senior portfolio manager, he developed and oversaw the tactical investment strategies utilized within mutual funds, variable annuities, pension funds and insurance company products. These investment processes included proprietary portfolio construction strategies, security selection parameters and volatility controlled umbrellas.

Michael graduated from the University of Minnesota earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration-Finance. He graduated with honors and was the University of Minnesota’s “Wall Street Journal Award Winner.” Michael is a CFA® and a member of The Chartered Financial Analyst Institute and the Twin Cities Society of Security Analysts.

Michael’s media highlights include providing market insight on CNBC, Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Radio. He has also been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Smart Money, Reuters, Business Week and numerous other local, national and global investment publications.


Nick Stovall, CPA /PFSSM, CGMA, MBA, Owner, president and chief tax strategist of Stovall and Associates, Ltd. 


Nick Stovall is at the forefront in accounting; strategic financial planning; business, IRA and technical taxation; tax law and policy; and investing. With extensive knowledge of the financial services industry and a solid understanding of the complex demands of diverse business settings, his experience provides invaluable perspective into the intricate relationship between tax and business issues.

During his tenure in the private industry sector, Stovall served as the chief financial officer for Glenn Corporation, E Energy Adams and Gradient Financial Group, LLC. He has also consulted in the public sector serving individuals and businesses in the areas of financial and tax planning. Stovall was an instructor with National American University, teaching upper division accounting courses and remains a mentor for aspiring accountants in the Twin Cities area.

Stovall founded what is now Stovall and Associates, Ltd., an independent certified public accounting firm located in Minnesota. As owner, president, and chief tax strategist for the company, Stovall provides an invaluable perspective on the intricate relationships between tax and business issues to clients across the United States and Europe.

He earned the Masters of Business Administration in Accounting and a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of St. Thomas where he graduated with distinction. In addition, he attended Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota for the Masters of Business Taxation. Nick also holds his series 27, 7 and 66, as well as his life and health license. In addition, Stovall recently just published his first book: “Retirement Income an Owner’s Manual.”
Stovall remains active in the accounting industry and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants (MnCPA) and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). He is a member of Ed Slott’s Elite IRA Advisor Group.

Kris Boyd, Attorney

Kris Boyd is a vibrant estate planning attorney whose practice concentrates on advising clients in preparing their assets for protection and distribution through wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living wills and guardianships. Kris has been featured in magazines such as Little Rock Family and AY and on radio shows like The Family Money Show and The David Lukas Show. Kris is also the author of the popular article “Heir-ors In Judgment” featured in legal websites and journals. Kris graduated from the Oklahoma City University School of Law with his Juris Doctorate after graduating from the University of Arkansas with a major in Communications and a minor in Political Science. Kris clerked for Douglas W. Coy in Little Rock, Arkansas, who specializes in the areas of estate planning and tax law. Kris also clerked for Jerry Kirksey & Associates in Edmond, Oklahoma. He was also an associate attorney for the firms of Zlotogura & Zlotogura and Looney, Nichols & Johnson in Oklahoma City, OK, where Kris gained extensive experience in the area of civil litigation. Kris is licensed to practice law in the States of Arkansas and Oklahoma. Kris serves on the Board of Directors for the Central Arkansas Hope Ambassadors for The American Cancer Society and the Wilbur D. Mills Treatment Center Fundraising Board. Additionally, Kris is a guest presenter for seminars on estate planning, designated beneficiaries and asset protection.

John F. Hughes (Fred), Independent Health Insurance Advisor

Fred has worked in customer service all his life. He was in the grocery business for 26 years with his final position being Store Director for Albertsons in St. Augustine Florida. In 2005 his store was sold and he wanted to start a new career. He became a captive agent for an insurance company in Florida. After a trip back home to visit his parents in Arkansas in 2006, Fred and his wife decided to move back to Arkansas for him to continue his career as an independent insurance agent and to help take care of his and his wife’s parents.

A few of the Companies he has been appointed with as an independent agent is Blue Cross, Aetna, Humana and United Health. He is very familiar with the different plans that are offered by the companies in order to better serve his clients. He is now on Medicare himself which puts him in the unique position to understand the needs of his clients and help them through the confusing choices they need to make.

He also understands the needs of the family, because he is helping to raise his 3 grandchildren, a grandson and twin granddaughters. The new plans with the Affordable Care Act have changed the landscape of health insurance for family’s and individuals. Fred has been working with his clients on the Marketplace since its conception and has been staying up to date on new and developing issues.