• An Interview with Lance Gunkel

    by Christina Gayman APR Director of Communications & Marketing | February 3, 2023

    I first met Lance in 2018 through my husband Greg, who met Lance through one of his childhood friends, Matt, who is coincidentally Lance's brother-in-law. Lance and Greg initially connected over their love of ultrarunning, and in the years since we’ve spent fun times supporting each other at races throughout the U.S.

    I enjoyed conducting the following interview with Lance and learned so many fascinating things about him. Enjoy getting to know Lance Gunkel, managing director of Syverson Strege, in this up close and personal interview!

    As a kid, what were you like?

    Growing up I always wanted to do the right and good thing. I was a definite rule follower.

    What has been the most rewarding moment or time in your history with Syverson Strege?

    I’m excited about our purpose and I enjoy getting others onboard to help families and our community through financial planning.

    Tell us about your love for running.

    Running for me is time when I can just be on my own to think about whatever is going on in my personal or professional life and really think it through; or it’s a time when I can just turn off all my thoughts and work and move my body hard.

    What is your favorite Bible verse?

    Romans 5:3-5

    What is your favorite movie?

    “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”; it’s the first blockbuster movie I saw as a kid.

    What is your favorite junk food or snack?

    A hot dog.

    What is the first thing you eat or drink in the morning?

    Super strong coffee.  

    What is your morning routine?

    On weekdays, I wake up at 5 a.m. and go run for an hour. I come home, have coffee and head into the office. On weekends, I wake up at 7 a.m. and run at Raccoon River Park, then bring coffee and donuts home for the family.

    You and Carolyn are coming up on your 20-year wedding anniversary. What has been the key to your lasting marriage?

    Showing interest in Carolyn’s hobbies. Being inquisitive about each other’s day and asking each other’s opinion on cultural happenings. Giving her the space to be her own person and do her own things, but also doing things as a family.

    What is your favorite meal that Carolyn makes for you (or that you make for her)?

    Almost every evening, we are in the kitchen together. We spend that time downloading our days with each other. Our favorite thing to make is a homemade pizza that our boys really like. During dinner, we all share our “favorite” and “thankful” from the day.

    When you’re not eating at home, what is your favorite restaurant?

    Lucky Lotus in downtown Des Moines.

    What is your most memorable vacation?

    As a kid, it was when we drove to Washington, D.C. I was in elementary school, and it was extremely fun to look at all the monuments and historical sights I had learned about in class.

    As an adult, taking our boys to New York City and walking around a huge metro area with them was a lot of fun. It’s made our oldest son want to go to college there.

    What scares you the most?

    My kids being able to drive and then, ultimately, moving away to attend college.

    What’s your least-favorite chore?

    Home maintenance projects, i.e., changing light bulbs, air filters, etc.  

    What do you read for fun? What is the last book you read?

    I like reading contemporary fiction books. The last couple I read were “A Quiet Life” by Ethan Joella and “All the Broken Places” by John Boyne.

    What has been your most rewarding areas of service or volunteering?

    Right now, my oldest son is working to fulfill his Silver Cord of Service program requirements and we’re doing almost all the volunteer hours together. It’s been great for us to see each other in service. I also really enjoyed volunteering with my kids’ faith formation classes.

    You have a puppy named Zoe. Tell us about her.

    Out of the blue, our youngest son put together a slideshow about why he wanted a puppy and the benefits to our family of having one – which is so typical of operating in our family. My wife and I had long agreed that we were a non-pet family, but after his presentation we decided that if it meant that much to him, we would make it happen. While we all love Zoe, she is now Carolyn’s sidekick. She goes everywhere with her, and they have a fun connection.

    What is your fondest memory growing up?

    I have a lot of them, but every summer we would take a family road trip somewhere in the U.S. My dad would have work conferences and we would never fly; we always drove. At the time, they felt like classic family road trip horror stories, but in retrospect they were great. We packed our own lunches and played car games.

    Where is the farthest you have traveled and why?

    I love to travel overseas, but I suppose the farthest I’ve been is Singapore. My brother and I went to a CFA conference for the first half of the trip, and then we flew to Hong Kong. 

    What motivated you to get into the financial services business?

    From a fairly young age, my dad taught me about the principles of investing. As a freshman in college, I didn’t know what to major in at first. But then it was an almost overnight decision. I enjoyed researching investments, so why not turn that into a career? I majored in finance and economics, and upon graduation when all my classmates were going into financial analysis or investment analysis, I realized I could use the same research skills and apply them to financial planning. I could be in planning without having to be a salesman.

    Share a time when you faced an unexpected challenge.

    The 2007/2008 stock market downturn was the first time we had experienced one when I was in a leadership position at Syverson Strege. Trying to be there for our clients and our team, being in communication with both groups, and being a good listener for everyone. Getting through that created a bond with team members who made it through the multi-year downturn. Knowing our company could survive a situation like that made me feel very positive that we’re doing things the right way, for both our clients and staff.

    What is your favorite family tradition?

    Sharing dinner together every night with no exceptions. We also take family drives together to share our news or talk about our day to day.

    Describe a professional accomplishment.

    Two come to mind:

    Obtaining my CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation. It was such hard work in the moment, and it seemed like it would never end (I spent countless evenings and weekends studying to get all the knowledge down). At the time Carolyn was in law school, we lived in a townhome, and were both studying all the time.

    Becoming a shareholder in Syverson Strege – it signaled to me that Johnne Syverson and David Strege had enough confidence in me that they wanted me to be part of the ownership team.

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