Retirement Planning & Financial Managment Experts in Columbia

    Retirement Planning & Financial Managment Experts in Columbia

    Workplace Seminars


    Left to right: Nicholas Ibello, Gary Williams, and Mark Atkinson




    Our Team



    Gary Williams, CFP®, CRPC®, AIF®

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

    Raised in Baltimore County, Maryland, Gary learned lifelong lessons about money at an early age. Growing up the son of a bricklayer, his family struggled financially—and Gary was devastated when his mother died when he was just 8 years old. The family was forced to rely on welfare at times and didn’t have extra cash for emergencies, and those early experiences shaped Gary profoundly. He didn’t know it at the time, but the foundation was laid for Gary’s career. He learned that hard work is important; that family comes first; and that in order to be financially secure, saving and investing for your future is essential.

    Gary attended Towson University and graduated with a BS 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 felt strongly about. And for the past 20 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.

    Because investment products and tax laws change frequently, Gary has always made it a priority to obtain advanced learning. In 1997, Gary undertook the in-depth study and examinations required to earn the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification, which offers expertise in retirement, tax, financial and estate planning. In 2004, Gary earned the Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM designation to more formally hone his skills as a retirement planning specialist. Finally, in 2010, Gary earned his Accredited Investment Fiduciary® designation, which requires putting participant’s needs first, which is the highest standard of care when working with retirement plans.

    Due to his expertise in retirement planning and investment management, Gary is frequently asked for his comments and ideas. He has been quoted and published in many newspapers, magazines, and websites, including Money Magazine,, Wealth and Retirement, the Baltimore Business Journal, The Business Monthly, The Daily Record, Citybizlist, Yahoo Finance, MPT’s Business Connection, and others. In addition, Gary frequently writes a blog on personal finance and general life interests, which you can read here. Gary also enjoys participating in industry-related membership organizations, including the Financial Planning Association (FPA), the Howard County Estate Planning Council, and the Baltimore Estate Planning Council.

    In 1997, Gary married the love of his life, Lee. A former elementary school teacher, Lee shares Gary’s desire to help others and is active in the community through charitable endeavors and children’s sports associations. Gary and Lee’s three children—Abigail (Abby), Nicholas (Nick), and Emerson (Emmie)—keep them busy with field hockey, lacrosse, basketball, football, and school-related activities. When not working or spending time with his family, Gary enjoys running five to six times a week and has proudly run the Marine Corps Marathon. Another hobby is surfing, which has taken Gary to both East and West coasts, as well as Hawaii and Costa Rica.

    Grateful for the help his family received growing up and looking to give back to the community, the Williams family is also active in causes and charities. Gary serves on the Governance and Nominating Committee for the Central Maryland Y. In this capacity, he helps provide oversight of the overall governance structure and process and adherence to the association‘s by-laws to ensure that the highest quality people are recruited and oriented to the board. In addition to the Y, Gary serves on the Investment Committee for Mount Saint Joseph High School to help provide oversight for the school’s endowment. He also helps raise money and volunteers for a more personal cause, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease.” In 2008, Gary lost his beloved father-in-law Bruce to ALS, and it deeply affected him. After Bruce died, Gary became friends with O.J. Brigance, a former NFL player who suffers from ALS. Now completely paralyzed except for the movement of his eyes, O.J. still communicates through a computer. “He’s been through so much,” Gary says quietly. “I’m constantly humbled by O.J.’s bravery and his positive outlook on life.” Because of these amazing people in his life, Gary has become a passionate supporter of ALS-related fund-raising activities for research and equipment, including fervently serving as a board member of the Brigance Brigade Foundation.

    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 tells the story of Michelangelo’s incredibly long (and challenging) life and art as a way to illustrate the importance of creating a resilient, well-crafted portfolio. The goal is for readers to create their own masterpieces in financial planning, which will offer them both security and a fulfilling life and legacy. All profits from the sales of The Art of Retirement are split among four charities: The Brigance Brigade Foundation, Augie’s Quest, The Y of Central Maryland, and the Maryland SPCA. 

    *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. 



    Mark Atkinson

    Vice President – Investment Operations

    Born and raised in north Baltimore County, Maryland, Mark is the youngest of five siblings (three brothers and one sister). Five children meant money was tight, so Mark learned at any early age he had to earn what he wanted. He made little but learned a lot by weeding neighbors’ gardens, collecting returnable bottles, selling Kool-Aid, mowing lawns, and even picking tomatoes and potatoes on a farm.

    Mark’s mother died of breast cancer at an early age, and seeing his father care for her for years taught him a lot about the importance of family and taking care of each other. Some years later, his father remarried—to a woman who also happened to be one of Mark’s brother’s wife’s mother, making an unusual arrangement where Mark’s sister-in-law is also his stepsister. His new mother also had five children—four girls and one boy—the exact opposite of Mark’s family. Brady Bunch comparisons aside, they all got along well, creating fond memories (and material for a sitcom on a blended family!).

    With little money for college, a determined Mark paid for all his college expenses himself by working part-time during school for Stewart’s Department Store in Timonium. He graduated from Towson University with degrees in economics and business with concentrations in finance and international business—with no debt.

    After college, Mark worked for American National Savings Bank in senior capacities and served as president of the Maryland Institute of Financial Education. Mark felt that clients needed financial planning, not just savings and checking accounts, and left the bank to work for American Express Financial Advisors. While there, he worked on comprehensive financial plans for clients. This is where he met Gary and became part of the Williams Asset Management team. As director of financial planning and head trader, Mark develops financial plans for clients, completes trades, monitors asset allocation models, and sits on the firm’s Investment Committee. Mark holds FINRA Series 7, 63, and 65 securities registrations (through Commonwealth Financial Network®), life and health insurance licenses, and is a notary public.

    Mark has been happily married for 33 years to Cathy, who helps manage the pension plan for retired Dupont employees. They have two children, Russell and Julia—and one delightful grandson, Alistair, age 3. Russell is an auto mechanic specializing in European cars, and Julia works as a manager for GreekYearbook and also does wedding photography on the side.

    Giving back to others is deeply important to Mark, and he reports, “I feel very blessed in life.” He spent more than six years as an assistant scout master and troop leader with the Boy Scouts and is active in his church, having served in leadership roles at Towson Presbyterian Church. Mark also served as a session member and chairman of the Mission and Stewardship Committees of White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church. Another charity Mark volunteers for is Family Promise, which works to keep homeless families together and provide support until they are able to find permanent housing. He also donates time and energy with a church group called Workers Without Wages, helping people constrained by physical and/or financial limitations with tasks such as painting, cleaning, repairs, and yard work.

    In his spare time, Mark enjoys traveling, hiking, bike riding, camping. and spending time with his family. In the last several years, they have traveled to Italy; went on both a land and sea cruise of Alaska; biked across southern Spain; and have taken a cruise to Bermuda. Each year, they spend a weekend camping on the beach in Assateague in southern Maryland, occasionally needing to fend off the local wild horses from stealing food. Mark also loves to go hiking through the state parks with his dog, Peyton, a mixed breed beagle.




    Marie Lee

    Vice President 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

    Associate Financial Planner

    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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