Retirement Planning & Financial Management Experts in Columbia

    Retirement Planning & Financial Management Experts in Columbia



    Our Team



    Gary Williams, CFP®, CRPC®, AIF®

    President | CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner | Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠ | Accredited Investment Fiduciary®

    Growing up as the son of a Baltimore County bricklayer, Gary learned lifelong lessons about money at an early age. His family’s frequent financial struggles (deepening with the death of Gary’s mother when he was just eight years old) forced them to periodically rely on welfare, with little or no extra cash for emergencies. It was an experience that instilled a profound belief in the values of hard work, putting family first, and saving and investing for a more secure future—values that ultimately shaped his career.

    Gary attended Towson University and graduated with a bachelor of science in business administration with a concentration in finance. He quickly realized that, as a financial advisor, he could help others avoid mistakes and achieve financial security; something he feels strongly about. And for the past twenty-four years, Gary has done just that, specializing in working with pre- and post-retirees to help them maintain an enjoyable lifestyle during their retirement years.

    A lifelong learner, he has continued to hone his expertise over the years, obtaining several specialized designations including CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM, and Accredited Investment Fiduciary® designation. His extensive experience has made him a highly sought-after investment commentator for news outlets such as Money Magazine,, Yahoo Finance, Maryland Public Television’s Business Connection, The Business Monthly, and others as well as a regular columnist for the Baltimore Business Journal.  

    To help raise money for charities dear to his heart, Gary wrote the acclaimed Amazon best seller* The Art of Retirement (with foreword by NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott). The book uses the story of Michelangelo’s incredibly long (and challenging) life and famed art as a metaphor to compare the reader’s life to a masterpiece while emphasizing the importance of creating a resilient, well-crafted portfolio. All profits from The Art of Retirement are donated to the Y in Central Maryland, Augie’s Quest, the Maryland SPCA, and the Brigance Brigade Foundation.

    Gary is exceedingly active in the community and serves on numerous nonprofit boards including the Association Board of Directors of the Y in Central Maryland, the Investment Committee for Mount Saint Joseph High School Endowment and the Brigance Brigade Foundation Board of Directors.

    Gary, his wife, Lee, and their three children—Abigail, Nicholas, and Emerson—live in Howard County, Maryland, along with their goldendoodle, Cali. In his spare time, Gary enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, and surfing.

    *Ranked #62 in Retirement Planning books for 2013



    Gary Williams is proud to have been recognized as a Chairman's Level advisor for 2017—a distinction based on annual production attained by just 3 percent of advisors affiliated with Commonwealth Financial Network.

    Each year, Commonwealth, the Registered Investment Adviser–broker/dealer that helps us process investment transactions on your behalf, recognizes Chairman's Level advisors by inviting them to an exclusive gathering of their peers, leading industry experts, and Commonwealth home office staff. Chairman's Level advisors benefit from an intensive learning and networking experience designed to help them hone their expertise, share best practices, and provide ever-higher levels of service, education, and leadership to their clients.



    Nicholas A. Ibello, CFP®, AIF®

    Vice President – Wealth Management | CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional | Accredited Investment Fiduciary®

    Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Nick became attracted to the financial services industry at an early age. In a high school finance class, students were instructed to play a stock market “game”: creating investment accounts, researching stocks, and then investing with play money. Nick performed all his due diligence and loved playing the game but was stunned when he found out he came in last. After asking the student who came in first place how he was able to do it, the response was, “My dad is a financial advisor.”

    Knowing he had a lot to learn, this experience compelled Nick to work hard and learn all he could about the industry. After four years of study at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Nick graduated cum laude with a BA in economics with a concentration in finance. He excelled there both as an athlete (soccer and tennis) as well as a student, becoming a member of the National College-Athlete Honor Society, the Economics Honor Society, and a Senior St. Mary's Scholar. The hard work came naturally to him, as he had worked in the family’s upholstery business for years.

    Realizing he was more interested in finance than upholstery (and with his father’s blessing), Nick worked three years at T. Rowe Price, both in accounting as well as their financial advisor segment. Passionate about helping people realize their financial goals and looking for a firm that matched his philosophy and investment process, Nick decided to join Williams Asset Management as a full-time wealth manager. Always looking to learn and gain expertise, he embarked on a two-year process of rigorous classes and exams, and in 2015, Nick earned the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional certification. Nick also holds the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Series 7, 63, and 66  securities registrations through Commonwealth Financial Network®, as well as his insurance license, which makes him fully licensed to sell securities and insurance in Maryland.

    Nick grew up in a very tight-knit Italian family and has three sisters, one of whom is his twin. As the only boy, he grew up looking after his sisters, and in turn, they looked out for him as well. Growing up with such a close family, Nick has come to understand the value in always having someone there to look after your best interests; and now, as a professional, Nick carries forward that same approach to his clients through his work.

    Nick loves meeting new people but also maintains close ties with his friends from elementary, middle, and high school, as well as college friends and former colleagues. The people in Nick’s life matter greatly to him, and there’s no effort too great for the people he cares about. “It’s all about the relationships,” he says simply, and clients who have worked with Nick happily agree.

    Outside of the office, Nick maintains energy and focus by staying healthy and fit. Always active, he plays racquetball several times a week, cross-trains at the gym, and has a strict diet. It can be hard to be disciplined day to day and avoid short-term temptations, but Nick recognizes that by doing so, he will be better off in the long run. The one exception he makes? His grandfather’s homemade biscotti. 


    Nicholas Ibello is proud to have been recognized as a Business Experience advisor for 2018—a distinction based on annual production that places him among the top 47 percent of advisors affiliated with Commonwealth Financial Network.

    Each year, Commonwealth, the Registered Investment Adviser–broker/dealer that helps us process investment transactions on your behalf, recognizes Business Experience advisors by inviting them to an exclusive gathering of their peers, leading industry experts, and Commonwealth home office staff. Business Experience advisors benefit from an intensive learning and networking experience designed to help them hone their expertise, share best practices, and provide ever-higher levels of service, education, and leadership to their clients.



    Mark Atkinson

    Vice President – Investment Operations

    Mark grew up in north Baltimore County where he was the youngest of five children. Money was always a concern for Mark and his family. He learned at an early age to work for what you want. Things only got more challenging when his mother died of breast cancer at a young age, but watching his father care for her through years of her disease taught him the importance of family and taking care of each other.

    Working part time, Mark paid his own way through Towson University, graduating debt-free with degrees in economics and business with concentrations in finance and international business. After working with American National Savings Bank and American Express Financial Advisors, he found his true career as part of the Williams Asset Management team.

    As Vice President of Investment Operations, Mark serves as the firm’s head trader, manages and monitors our asset allocation models, and is a member of the firm’s investment committee.

    He’s been happily married for 36 years to Cathy, who helps manage the pension plan for retired DuPont employees. They have two children and one delightful grandson.

    Giving back to others is deeply ingrained in Mark. He spent more than six years as an assistant scout master and troop leader with the Boy Scouts and is active in leadership roles at White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church. He is a member of the church’s stewardship committee and volunteers for Family Promise (working to keep homeless families together and provide support until they are able to find permanent housing) and Workers without Wages (a church group helping people constrained by physical and/or financial limitations with tasks such as painting, cleaning, repairs, and yard work).




    Marie Lee

    Director of HR & Executive Assistant to the President

    Marie was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the U.S. when she was just a couple months old. She grew up in Howard County, Maryland, with her parents and two sisters. Her positive and cheerful personality, along with a strong work ethic, are instrumental in helping to keep the office flowing.  

    Marie has many years of experience working in fast-paced environments, including major companies such as Deloitte, Sinai Hospital, as well as numerous computer software programmers and developers.  She has mastered the skill of going above-and-beyond leadership and client expectations to successfully accomplish every request made of her regardless of its level of importance.

    Marie has a longstanding passion for art. She was honored to be awarded with a certificate from the Howard County Board of Education as Art Student of the Year, which has taken her far in the creative side of business. To this point, she selected the art and accessories for our beautifully designed conference room and offices on our third floor.

    In her spare time, Marie enjoys painting on weekends and spending time with her husband and 6-year-old daughter, Mya.


    Brian McKinney, CFP®

    Associate Financial Planner | CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional

    Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Brian grew up as an only child with his mother, Darlene and father, Michael. When Brian was just 9 years old, his life changed dramatically when his mother suddenly suffered a stroke. While his mother was disabled and hospitalized for an extended period of time, he was taken care of by his father, grandparents, and family friends while his father worked. Going from a dual to a single income household was tough, but it equipped Brian with the insight of how suddenly someone’s financial situation and life can change. With the support and encouragement of Brian’s grandmother, he was taught how to be independent at a young age, including cooking meals, ironing school clothes, and budgeting money. This support and hospitality, along with his gratitude of those who have helped him in his life, led him in search of a career where he can help others as well.

    The desire to help others can lead into a multitude of career paths: nurse, mechanic, or perhaps a teacher. Brian’s path became clear as a young adult when he discovered the wealth management industry. It started when he attended Loyola University Maryland and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in finance and minor in information systems. His path became a paved road during college, when he had an opportunity to get his first taste of his future career as an intern at a prestigious financial advisory firm. He worked closely with advisors in the investment department, where his responsibilities included monitoring mutual funds held by clients and constructing equity research reports. Eager to learn as much as possible about the industry, he spent countless hours with those around him to further his knowledge about managing one’s wealth. Brian was able to take his knowledge from the classroom to help the firm enhance their processes and create detailed reports that greatly helped the advisors.

    One of the most memorable experiences from college was his opportunity to be in the student-managed Sellinger Applied Portfolio Fund class. After qualifying for the course, he and several other students were given the incredible opportunity to invest and manage a grant of $500,000 real dollars. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity most students don’t experience. For Brian, this class offered the ability to be in an investment manager’s shoes and learn processes such as asset valuation, risk management, and diversification. In addition to coursework, he was incredibly active on campus, from working as an assistant with the men’s and women’s basketball team, to playing intramural basketball and soccer. He also became a member of the Financial Management Association’s (FMA) National Honor Society.

    Following college, Brian accepted a job with T. Rowe Price as a mutual fund accountant. Through diligent and accurate work, he was able to quickly move up the ranks and accepted a role as a senior mutual fund accountant. Realizing his true passion was to help people achieve their financial goals, Brian looked for a wealth management firm where he could develop the knowledge and skills to become a successful financial advisor. He decided to join Williams Asset Management as a financial planning services specialist in 2016.

    In his free time, Brian likes to stay fit by going to the gym frequently and playing in organized men’s softball, soccer, and basketball leagues. Brian also tries to make it to the beach as much as possible on the weekends during the summer. Luckily for him, his recently retired parents just moved to the eastern shore, so Brian has a good excuse to go visit Mom and Dad in the years to come.



    G. Thomas Watson, CFA, CFP®

    Senior Planning Associate & Chairman of Investment Committee | Chartered Financial Analyst® | CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional

    Born and raised in Harford County, Maryland, Tom grew up as an only child with his mother, Sue Watson, and father, Tom Watson Jr.  At a young age, Tom enjoyed going out to his local golf course late on weekend afternoons to play nine holes with his dad.  It was during this quality time where he learned that having a positive attitude and an even-keeled temperament can help overcome many obstacles. 

    Tom went on to attend College of Charleston and while in South Carolina he also caddied at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island where he heard many investing and business tales.  Determined to one day tell his own stories, he returned to Maryland and enrolled in the Actuarial Science and Risk Management program at Towson University to put his love for numbers to good use.  Shortly after, Tom’s father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and began his battle with cancer.  It was a difficult period for the family but in 2010 Tom graduated with a BS in Mathematics from Towson University.  During this time, and until his dad passed, the amount of support from family and friends was tremendous and helped validate to Tom the influence that one individual can have on a community.

    His career in wealth management began as a Paraplanner at Academy Financial where his strong background in math helped build retirement projections and research investments.  A desire to learn as much as possible about investments quickly led him to set the goal of earning the Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) credential; the most respected and recognized investment management designation in the world.  He was awarded the CFA charter in May 2017 and enjoys telling everyone that he was able to pass all three levels on his first attempt; a very rare feat for a certification that involves nearly 1,000 hours of rigorous study.  Tom enjoys using what he learned from his studies to assist the advisers to build diversified and efficient portfolios.  He also earned the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification (CFP®) in December 2017, which he believes will better enable him to serve client’s comprehensive financial planning needs and ultimately help them meet their financial goals.

    Tom currently resides in Eldersburg, Maryland with his beautiful wife, Lauren, 11-year-old step-daughter, Riley, and infant son, George.  The family loves to take walks with their friendly rescue dog Athena and on the weekends, they enjoy spending quality time together around the house or going out for an occasional afternoon round of golf.  One of the most memorable moments for Tom’s family was during their annual vacation to Williamsburg, VA when Tom and Lauren surprised Riley with the news that she was going to be a big sister.  She was so excited that she didn’t care whether it was going to be a little brother or sister.




    Diana Abel

    Administrative Assistant & Receptionist

    Diana was born and raised in Silver Spring Maryland. She lived with her parents and her older sister, Jan. Diana’s mom actually still resides in her childhood home where she has lived for the past 59 years. Diana is also proud to share that her mother worked for the same company for an astounding 57 years. So she was taught the importance of being a loyal and a dedicated employee through watching her Mom set such a wonderful example.

    Diana became a strong advocate for fundraising for the Lymphoma/Leukemia society after losing her sister to the disease at the young age of 31. This was a very bittersweet time in Diana’s life as she gave birth to her first child on June 1st and lost her older sister just 3 days later on June 4th. While Diana and her family support a variety of the charities that support Lymphoma/Leukemia, Diana’s favorite fund raiser has always been the “Light the Night” walk in which she has participated in many times over the years and has personally raised over $10,000 for the Leukemia society through this charity.

    Diana brings with her an extensive administrative background. She has worked as an Executive Assistant, supporting Division Presidents, for large companies such as Northrup Grumann and WR Grace. However, the majority of her career was with JDSU. For over 6 years she worked as an Executive Assistant to the Sales Department. Diana’s reputation lead her to being promoted to a Finance position where she led the Sales Commissions Team. After leaving JDSU, Diana decided to return to her original passion of working in the Administrative field. Williams Asset Management is proud to have such an experienced individual like Diana as our Director of First Impressions! She is the friendly face you see when you walk in our doors and the voice on the other line when you call into our office.

    In her spare time Diana is an avid reader and loves to cook.  One of Diana’s favorite things to read are cookbooks, however, when cooking she is known for NEVER following a recipe! Coming from a large, close Irish family, Diana learned to master a family favorite, corn beef and cabbage, at a young age. Also, when Diana asks what she can bring for an outing, her spinach dip is always at the top of everyone’s list!

    Diana also enjoys spending time with her family. Diana has 3 children, her daughter, Jordan, 21, son Brett, 19 and youngest son, Bryce who is 13. Over the past 8 years her youngest, Bryce has become an avid baseball player which  has resulted in Diana spending much of her “free” time on baseball fields where she has made many lifelong friends through her baseball families! These days however, Diana’s new favorite pastime is spending time with her beautiful Granddaughter, Bella, who makes everyday a new adventure!


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