As time passes, we don't grow our client base,

we grow our family.

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Dr. Eugene Lerner

Dr. Eugene Lerner

Founder & Executive Chairman

Dr. Eugene Lerner is the Founder & Executive Chairman at HighTower. Previously, Eugene was a Director of Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney where he managed money on a discretionary basis for high net-worth individuals. Before joining Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, through predecessor firms, he served on the Board of Governors of the Chicago Stock Exchange, was President of his own investment advisory firm, Disciplined Investment Advisors, for over 20 years, and Senior Vice President at Morgan Stanley.

Eugene Lerner is a Professor Emeritus of Finance at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Before joining Kellogg in 1966, he served on the faculty of the graduate business school at New York University, CCNY and UCLA. He received his BA and MA in Economics from the University of Wisconsin and his PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago.

The experiences of providing investment consulting and investment management services, along with his research interest in the areas of stock, bonds and regulation of the financial industry, have earned him international distinction in the field of finance. Dr. Lerner has traveled throughout the world as a visiting faculty member at universities in Thailand, Korea, South Africa, Ireland, France, Ecuador, Venezuela and Switzerland. He has served as a Senior Economist to the Banking and Currency Committee of the House of Representatives, was an Economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and has testified at numerous legislative hearings on a wide range of financial topics.

Dr. Lerner is the author of eight books on financial and investment strategies. He has written more than 60 articles for publication in leading scholarly journals such as the Journal of Finance, Journal of Money and Credit, and the American Economic Review. He has also prepared various monographs and authored articles for publication in a wide range of books about finance and the economy.

Dr. Eugene Lerner holds his Series 7, 63, and 65 licenses.

 
Walter (JR) Gondeck

Walter (JR) Gondeck

Managing Director, Partner

NFLPA Player Financial Advisor

JR Gondeck is Managing Director and Partner at The Lerner Group. He is the chief portfolio manager responsible for implementing and refining the investment process created by our founder, Dr. Eugene Lerner. JR is also in charge of the strategic direction of the practice and synthesizes and communicates our market outlook through our monthly letter and monthly seminars.

JR's history as Dr. Lerner's protege began in December 2003 when he entered the Morgan Stanley training program and graduated 1st in his class. By this time (March 2006), he was a 3-year member of the Pacesetter's Club.  JR conducted biweekly research with Gene to make the buy and sell decisions on individual equities and asset allocation targets. Over time, and while still with the Lerner Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, JR expanded their equity investment strategies from 4 to 9. JR worked up to Senior Vice President at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney before making the transition with his partners, Gene and Ming to join HighTower.

In his tenure with the Lerner Group at HighTower, JR has expanded our core equity strategies to include fixed income, which came with the addition of the team's dedicated bond trader. JR has spent the past several years expanding the Lerner Group's service offerings to include all aspects of wealth management, specifically financial and estate planning. He believes that the first step in assessing a person's entire financial picture is to review or create an estate plan. This prompted JR to hire an in-house estate planning attorney to consult with clients as a complementary part of the Lerner Group's onboarding process.

JR graduated from Marquette University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance.  While attending undergraduate at Marquette (from 2000 - 2002), JR worked at US Bank in the Float management department. JR has his MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and holds his FINRA Series 7, 31, and 66 licenses.

JR enjoys working with all families, especially those with complex dynamics and financial situations. For fun, JR applied for and received the NFPLA Registered Player Financial Advisor designation for current and retired NFL players. 

Mingdong Tan

Mingdong Tan

Managing Director, Partner

Ming Tan is Managing Director and Partner at The Lerner Group. He began his career in wealth management with Dr. Eugene Lerner’s former practice, Disciplined Investment Advisors in 2001. His work included developing and maintaining the firm's operation system as well as coding and implementing computer programs that selected suitable securities from the S&P Compustat database for client portfolios.

From 2002 to 2012, Ming served as Vice President at the Lerner Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. His responsibilities increased in three principle areas. First, Ming was responsible for executing all equity trades for the Lerner Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. Their team managed, on a discretionary basis, portfolios with a market value more than $500 million. Second, Ming oversaw four Advent applications which helped the group to service its clients. These included Axys (client data reconciliation and reporting system), Moxy (a trading system), Qube (a client information database) and BREU (a browser reporting system that prepared client meeting materials such as portfolio performance reports, gains and losses, and stock distribution analysis). Third, Ming maintained and managed the operation of production programs that retrieved S&P data and helped the Lerner Group in their buy, sell and hold decisions. In 2012, Ming made the transition with his partners Gene and JR, to HighTower.

Ming moved to the U.S. in 1998 and immediately enrolled at Northern Illinois University where he received his Master of Science degree in Management Information Systems. Ming has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Law from Hua Zhong University of Science and Technology in his native China. Ming holds his FINRA Series 7 and 66 licenses.              

Ming seeks to add the most value to families and business owners in the United States and China. Ming understands the potential struggles and obstacles of attaining citizenship and is equipped with the experience and knowledge of how and where to effectively invest in order to attain his clients’ specified goals.

Ming and his wife have two sons, Minyi and Haiwen. Ming is actively involved with XiLin Chinese School and the Association of Chinese-American Scientists and Engineers ('ACSE').  In his spare time, Ming enjoys soccer, fishing, Tai chi, GO (Chinese chess), and reading.

Vanessa N. Martinez

Vanessa N. Martinez

Managing Director, Partner

Vanessa Martinez is Managing Director and Partner at The Lerner Group. Vanessa brought a holistic planning philosophy to the team, encouraging the team to focus on our clients' entire financial landscape, treating asset allocation as one piece of an integrated approach. Vanessa prides herself on being able to dive deep into family dynamics and find solutions for complex problems with the goal of helping families preserve wealth from one generation to the next.

Prior to the Lerner Group, Vanessa spent over 5 years with JPMorgan, establishing long-lasting relationships with clients and helping them meet their financial goals. She completed her tenure at JPMorgan as Branch Manager.

Vanessa spent 7 years in Guatemala managing international sales and representing PROCINSA in trade fairs in Europe, Canada and throughout Central America. During this time, she earned her BBA from the University of Guatemala.

Upon returning to Chicago, Vanessa completed her MBA at North Park University with a specialty in Finance and International Business. Vanessa holds the FINRA Series 6, 7, 63 and 65 licenses.

Vanessa and her husband Noel have two daughters, Xienna and Isabella. In her spare time, Vanessa is an active member of the Northwest Church of Christ and Step Up, a nonprofit dedicated to helping young girls reach their fullest potential in education. Vanessa enjoys writing and organizing big life events like weddings.

Matthew Taylor, CFA®

Matthew Taylor, CFA®

Fixed Income Portfolio Manager

Matthew Taylor is a Fixed Income Portfolio Manager at The Lerner Group, and is responsible for running our Fixed Income Strategy. Prior to joining the team in 2012, Matt served as the Director of GIS Trading & Sales at HighTower corporate, where he actively searched for executable trade ideas for portfolios, advised on security selection for fixed income portfolios and interacted with counterparties on trade execution.

Matthew has over 16 years of financial Industry experience. Prior to HighTower, Matthew was a Fixed Income Senior Trader with The Vanguard Group Inc. He also held a role as Analyst/Trader with Vanderbilt Capital Advisors, as well as Assistant Vice President at Wachovia Securities LLC.

Matthew obtained his MBA with a concentration in Financial Analysis from DePaul University in 2006. He received his BBA from Western Michigan University with majors in Finance & Marketing and minors in Economics & Business Administration.

Matthew is a CFA charter holder and has his FINRA Series 7, 24, 53, and 63 licenses.

In his spare time, Matthew enjoys playing with his dog Monte, cycling, dining out, traveling and performing fundamental analysis (for fun!). He also serves as the Treasurer of the Municipal Bond Club of Chicago.

Megan Kowalski

Megan Kowalski

Director of Operations

Megan Kowalski is Director of Operations at The Lerner Group. Megan joined the team in June 2014 and has quickly grown and evolved into her role, taking on more leadership responsibilities throughout the years. Her main focus is managing the day-to-day activities for the team. She monitors and improves the efficiency of all facets of the business. Her strong, interpersonal skills enable her to quickly bond with clients and she is often the primary point of contact as she oversees everything from initiation to completion and is known for making even the most complex transactions run smoothly. In addition to focusing on continually improving the overall client experience, she strategically identifies business development opportunities that may avail themselves for the team.

Megan graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Finance from DePaul University in 2014. She currently holds the FINRA Series 7 and 66 licenses and the IL Life & Health Insurance Producer License.

In her spare time, Megan enjoys running, spending time with family and is an avid listener of audiobooks and podcasts on various topics.

Michael Schneider

Michael Schneider

Financial Advisor

Michael Schneider is a Financial Advisor at The Lerner Group. Michael joined the team in 2012 and is skilled at uncovering what truly matters to our clients and developing a plan to help achieve their goals. When working with Michael, clients will receive a comprehensive financial plan including thorough review of their current estate plans and recommendations for portfolio allocations.

Prior to joining the Lerner Group, Michael served as a consultant at Capgemini where he executed senior leaderships’ vision for clients. His primary role was to optimize financial tracking and reporting for clients in the financial services industry by developing dynamic tracking models to analyze and forecast monthly revenues and resource utilization.

Michael graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. Michael received his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and currently holds the FINRA Series 7 and 66 licenses.

Michael is actively involved with CURE (Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy) as well as Keshet. In his free time, Michael enjoys spending time with his family, cooking for friends, and golfing.


Wayne Cooper

Wayne Cooper

Wealth Strategist

Wayne Cooper is a Wealth Strategist at The Lerner Group. He has been practicing law for over 30 years, concentrating on income and estate tax issues facing closely-held business owners. He has spent his career helping individuals, their families and their closely held businesses, mitigate exposure to taxes, for both current and future generations, with sophisticated tax and estate planning strategies. Wayne’s role involves reviewing and structuring clients’ estate documents and dealing with tax issues arising from life-changing events such as a business liquidity transaction, marriage, divorce or death. Wayne’s experience in family related issue offers benefits to clients in all stages of life.

Wayne counsels the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the world’s largest private foundations located in Chicago, on tax and compliance matters. He has deep knowledge of the issues facing private foundations and other charitable entities and the immense benefits philanthropy brings to a family’s legacy.

Before joining The Lerner Group, Wayne was the Wealth Strategist in Merrill Lynch’s Private Bank and Investment Group advising their wealthiest clients in the Midwest and Southwest. Wayne provided a distinct viewpoint to the role of Wealth Strategist that brought great value to clients and advisors.

In the community, Wayne is active with our team building volunteer activities including the BritePaths organization. He was extremely active with his children, coaching across multiple youth sports leagues and looks forward to watching his grandchildren participate in the activities they find enjoyable. Wayne also made time to participate and contribute his expertise on the long-term planning committee for his temple.

Wayne received his Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Illinois and his law degree from DePaul University, and was a Certified Public Accountant.

Hira Tanweer

Hira Tanweer

Senior Private Wealth Associate

Hira Tanweer is a Senior Private Wealth Associate at the Lerner Group.  She is responsible for the oversight and execution of client requests, account opening procedures, account transfers and maintenance, money transfers, and executing trades.  Hira’s attention to detail and strict quality standards have earned her the role of handling the sensitive and urgent client demands.

Hira also helps with creating and implementing procedures and strategies to train other team members in processes that aim at achieving the highest level of accuracy.  These help others grow their knowledge and has improved the performance of the operations team overall.

Prior to joining The Lerner Group Hira served high net-worth real estate clients in Chicago’s North Shore and worked in the mortgage industry as a loan processor.

Hira also speaks fluent Urdu and Hindi and has a degree in Finance from Northeastern Illinois University. Hira holds the FINRA Series 7 and 66 licenses.

In her spare time, Hira enjoys skydiving and traveling.

Silvia Cortez

Silvia Cortez

Private Wealth Associate

Silvia Cortez is a Private Wealth Associate with The Lerner Group. Silvia’s primary focus is to assist the team with daily operations including servicing accounts, client account requests, and other account related operations to help maintain a strong relationship with our clients.

Prior to joining the team, Silvia worked for JP Morgan Chase as a teller for four years where she gained experience in both customer service, assisting clients with account inquiries, and cash management. Shortly after graduating college she worked as a lead accountant for New World Van Lines where she oversaw reconciliations and month end operations.

Silvia is a multilingual member of the team who speaks fluent Spanish.

Silvia graduated in 2015 from Northeastern Illinois University with a degree in Economics. 

Amaris Herrera

Amaris Herrera

Office Manager

Amaris Herrera is the Office Manager at The Lerner Group. She is primarily responsible for bookkeeping, accounting for the practice, and for managing our charitable contributions. Amaris coordinates with vendors, tracks our continuing education requirements, and plays an important role in fact-checking advisory agreements, distributions, and processing deposits.

Prior to joining the Lerner Group, Amaris worked at Chase Bank from 2004 - 2017. She began her career as a teller and earned the role of Assistant Branch Manager in her 13-year tenure with the company. Amaris graduated from DeVry University with Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and a concentration in Accounting.  

Amaris and her husband have two children, Kayla Margarita Herrera and Jaime Herrera III. In her spare time, Amaris loves to run and explore the outdoors. She is a regular finisher of 8k and 10k races and is an aspiring marathon runner.

Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson

Private Wealth Associate

Michelle Johnson is a Private Wealth Associate with The Lerner Group.  Her primary focus is to assist the team with daily operations including servicing accounts, client account requests, and other related operations to help maintain a strong relationship with our clients. 

Michelle has over 20 years of experience in the financial industry.  Prior to joining the team, Michelle served high net-worth investment and insurance clients in Columbus Ohio and Greater Chicago areas.  

Michelle has degrees in Finance, Business Management and Communications.  She currently holds her IL Life and Health Insurance Producer, Series 6 and 63 Licenses. 

In her spare time, Michelle enjoys spending time with her family; which includes her husband Jay, two children Tyler and Alexandra, and her dog Prada.  She also enjoys traveling, especially to Canada, outdoor activities and reading all genres of books.