While being recognized as one of the best in a particular field is special, being recognized as a top financial planner in one of the largest metropolitan areas of the U.S. is truly noteworthy.  

This recognition was given to Texas A&M Department of Agricultural Economics graduates Emma Cramm and Greg Lanier by D Magazine – an award-winning publication covering a range of topics of interest to residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Cramm graduated from Texas A&M in 2016 with a degree in university studies-business and minors in financial planning and communications. Lanier graduated the same year with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and earned the department’s Certificate in Financial Planning.

How the top financial planners were selected

To determine who the area’s top financial planners were, D Magazine asked certified financial planners in the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Financial Planning Association to cast online ballots for industry peers they considered the “most skilled and experienced” financial planners.

A panel of local financial planners reviewed and evaluated the list of certified financial planners receiving votes. There were 938 votes cast, and 301 individuals were nominated. Of these, 90 were selected as the area’s top financial planners.

“Financial planners are in high demand, and it’s a competitive industry,” said Nathan Harness, Ph.D., director of the department’s Financial Planning Program. “It’s extremely rewarding to see two of our graduates recognized as top financial planners in the DFW area. This is especially significant considering the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan statistical area is home to more than 7.5 million people.”

Harness said Cramm and Lanier represent the most positive aspects of the Financial Planning Program by demonstrating they possess the knowledge, skills and desire to serve others in the vital role of financial planners and advisors.      

A financial planning career finds Emma Cramm

Profile shot of a woman, Emma Cramm. She is wearing a dark colored blouse with a white jacket. Cramm was recognized by D Magazine as a top financial planner in the DFW area.
Emma Cramm graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in university studies-business and minors in financial planning and communications. (Courtesy photo)

The oldest of five children in a family facing some difficult financial times, Cramm initially had no intention of pursuing a career in financial planning — or business in general. In fact, she thought that if she avoided the topic of money management altogether, she would never be stressed about it.

“Looking back, that was obviously a ridiculous mindset, and what began as one of my greatest fears became my most inspiring mission,” she said. “When I started looking into the financial planning industry and saw that so many people in that industry truly had the heart to serve others, I knew it was something I could see myself doing. In that way, you could say this career found me.”

Cramm began her financial planning career as a client service representative at Cadent Capital, a boutique wealth management firm in Dallas. She worked her way up to becoming a wealth planner, a role in which she provided advice and led client relationships.

She recently took her career to a new level by accepting a position with Goldman Sachs and is now a vice president at the Goldman Sachs Partners Family Office in New York City. She and her team are responsible for in-house financial planning for all Goldman partners, focusing on in-depth tax and estate planning.

Cramm said Harness undoubtedly had the greatest impact on her career and remains a mentor.

“His door was always open, and he truly cared about the success of his students,” she said. “Dr. Harness’ interest in student success went far beyond the classroom.” 

The courses Cramm took at Texas A&M built the foundation of her career, exposing her to every area of financial planning. They also prepared her to sit for and pass the Certified Financial Planner Exam, considered the gold standard of designations in the financial planning industry.  

“In this career, there is an overwhelming amount of information to master and a huge learning curve in the beginning,” she said. “What I learned at A&M gave me a head start on the technical skills, but even more so on the softer skills.”

She said Aggie core values are also woven into the program, so while she learned how to evaluate a mutual fund, the nuances of a retirement account or how to determine the amount of life insurance needed, she also felt well equipped to communicate this advice and educate clients on complex topics completely and compassionately.

“Money is fascinating in the way that it blends logic and emotion — you need to understand both in order to truly be a successful financial planner,” she said. “I strongly feel that the A&M program is a leader in preparing students to succeed in both areas.”

Cramm said that no matter one’s wealth level, money is one of the greatest stressors that everyone faces, and she considers it an honor to work alongside her clients to help them lighten their financial burden.

“Financial planning is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding careers you can have, and there’s a lot of opportunity in the industry,” she said. “My suggestion to those wanting to be part of the industry is to spend time discerning their strengths and what makes them who they are. Then decide what they’re passionate about and pursue that passion with everything they have.”

Greg Lanier’s passion for helping people continues through financial planning

Photo of a man, Greg Lanier. He is wearing a light blue checkered shirt with a gray sport coat. Lanier was recognized by D Magazine as a top financial planner in the DFW area.
Greg Lanier graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a Certificate in Financial Planning. (Courtesy photo)

 Lanier has always wanted to help people – a sentiment he acquired at a young age because his parents worked in the medical field. During his time as a finance major at Texas A&M, he continued to look for a way to help people – and found it by learning how to advise them on how to better manage their finances.

“A good friend had introduced me to the financial planning minor program, and it immediately clicked with me,” Lanier said. “I realized this was the path to a career where I could take complex financial situations that individuals and families were dealing with and provide clarity to those situations so they could achieve their life goals.”

Lanier is now a certified financial planner and lead wealth adviser at Buckingham Strategic Wealth.

Before joining Buckingham Strategic Wealth, he was a financial adviser at Clintsman Financial Planning, which he joined in 2018. Prior to that, he worked for an independent wealth management firm in Dallas, serving high-net-worth clients, executives and business owners with their financial planning needs.

Like his contemporary Cramm, Lanier points to Harness as someone who profoundly impacted his career.

“No other professor had ever taken the time to get to know me personally and genuinely invest time into helping me launch my career,” he said. “(Dr. Harness) selflessly gave up his time for me, and I would not have had this early success without his direct impact on my life.”

Lanier said the financial planning courses he took had an influence on his own life, as well as the trajectory of his career.

“I was armed with useful knowledge that instilled a passion in me to want to help everyday people also use these same tools,” he said. “As a wealth adviser, I consistently use the tools learned in my coursework to guide clients in their own financial plans.”

Lanier said one of the most impactful experiences at Texas A&M was as a delegate and later as director for Texas A&M’s Memorial Student Center’s Abbott Family Leadership Conference. The program’s goal is “to encourage delegates to study and reflect on their individual ethics, morals and values, establishing a personal value system and apply it to their lives as student leaders at Texas A&M and in future business, community and family relationships.” 

He said that as a financial planner, he has a front-row seat to all aspects of a person’s financial life and becomes a de facto partner in walking them through it.  

“Financial planning is truly a people business before it is a financial business,” he said. “It is rewarding to help a person with all financial issues, whether big or small. You get to take a very direct role in helping others and treating them in a way that makes them feel like they are heard and will be taken care of.”

Lanier said financial planning is one of the most personally rewarding careers to pursue, not just from a financial perspective but from a life-changing perspective.

“When you dive into the personal aspects of a person’s financial life to remove the complexity and make it clear for someone, the immediate help it provides is tangible and impactful,” he said. “Often, it goes beyond the numbers and becomes deeply personal and emotional.

“When you can connect with someone on that level and help resolve their money fears or accomplish those life goals, the satisfaction and joy you see are contagious and extremely rewarding. There’s no better career to be in.”

More about the Financial Planning Program 

Last year, the Department of Agricultural Economics received approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to create a Bachelor of Science degree program in financial planning. This will be the first degree from Texas A&M focusing specifically on holistic financial planning, including managing household short- and long-term financial goals across various areas such as risk management, insurance, investments, retirement, household taxation, estate and retirement planning.

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