Sarah Catherine Guiterrez

Founder & Partner

Aptus Financial

Little Rock

Age: 37

Sarah Catherine Guiterrez

At Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock, Sarah Catherine Gutierrez (née Phillips) was voted most likely to become a nun. Instead she’s the married mother of three, but she does have a mission: Aptus Financial.

After graduating from Salem College in North Carolina, Gutierrez joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and spent three years helping find jobs for the homeless. That work led her to earn a master’s in public policy from the Kennedy School at Harvard University in 2007.

Back in Little Rock, she took a job as a stock analyst in the research department at Stephens Inc. The housing crisis of 2008 led her to ask the question that inspired her to start Aptus in 2011: Where do people get financial advice?

“You have advisers who will take your first $500,000 and they’ll help you make your second. Then there are people who will sell you products to put their own kids through college.

“Then there are extreme debt counselors, like Dave Ramsey, who help people who are desperate.”

What was missing, Gutierrez concluded, was unbiased financial advice that people in the middle could afford. Aptus offers conflict-free personal financial advice at an hourly rate. “I think this is the future of advice, and people are going to demand it,” she said.

Gutierrez now has three partners — including her former boss at Stephens, Tim Quillin — and the company has expanded from individual advice to managing 401(k) plans with more than 2,500 participants (including employees of Arkansas Business Publishing Group). The Aptus approach has increased the savings rate by at least 50 percent at each participating company.