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In the C-Suite: Christopher Burgos, President & CEO of Diamond State Financial Group

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Christopher Burgos | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

CHRISTIANA – Growing up, Christopher Burgos always knew that he one day wanted to own a business.

The New Castle native had to take on a lot of responsibility early in life after his father passed away when Burgos was just 10 years old. His mother strove to raise him and his sister in the years afterward.

“I was always doing something to try to generate some income,” he recalled, noting he mowed lawns, shoveled driveways, and delivered newspapers. “I had to grow up at a pretty young age.”

He attended the University of Delaware, pursuing a business degree with concentrations in marketing and management and a minor in economics. As the first member of his family to attend college, Burgos wanted to make sure the experience translated to future success.

During college, he worked in MBNA’s call centers and excelled at the company that was once a powerhouse Delaware employer, earning leadership positions.

“They were a really good culture and a company that so much good came out of, but I just realized I couldn’t work for someone else,” he said.

It was a chance encounter with Diamond State Financial Group founder Ray Bree Jr. that would change Burgos’ career trajectory. Bree was on campus during an alumni event to talk with undergraduate business students about his company and the financial planning industry when his story struck a chord with Burgos.

“I realized that this is about as close as you can get to opening a business without going to the bank and asking for a loan,” he recalled of the profession where an individual’s success largely falls in their hands. “Plus, I figured that I would personally benefit from learning this financial planning stuff along with helping other people.”

Burgos reached out to DSFG and was hired within a year of his graduation in 1999. He hit the ground running to build a practice from scratch, helping families plan for retirement, save for college tuition, or buy insurance.

Upon building a successful personal practice, Burgos began taking on more mentor roles within DSFG and eventually began leading a team of advisors. In 2008, he was offered a partnership in the firm – just eight years into his career.

In a new leadership role, Burgos helped steer DSFG as it grew into one of the largest independent financial planning firms in Delaware. It continues to find success, he said, because of a strong company culture that prioritizes a fun and supportive workplace.

“I think we genuinely want to see each other succeed and we genuinely want to see our clients succeed,” Burgos added.

That culture helped DSFG during COVID-19, as advisors were forced almost exclusively to meet with clients and colleagues remotely. When staff were allowed to return to offices in June 2020, nearly all of them did, Burgos emphasized.

That retained culture has led to recent success, with the firm adding eight employees since the pandemic began and company revenues currently up 58% over last year.

“We’re always on someone’s to-do list, it’s just a question of how far down are we? Something has to trigger it to move up the list,” Burgos said, noting that’s often a death, job loss or graduation of a child. “There’s tons of triggering events happening right now.”

As he looks to the future, Burgos, who took over as CEO from Bree in April, intends to continue growing the firm, likely targeting acquisitions of smaller nearby firms that don’t have succession plans and well as internally adding advisors – he expects to grow their headcount by about 25% in the next three years. He also wants to add on some services, such as a simplified auto bill pay system for older clients and accounting for those who don’t like filling out their tax returns.

When asked how it feels to literally own a company as the majority partner, fulfilling his teenage goal, Burgos said that he hasn’t really stopped to reflect on it.

“We’ve definitely done a really good job building this company, but nothing’s really changed for me. I keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “In my mind, I’m not entitled to anything.”

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