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Meet the Team

Dedicated to Walking With You 

Through Every Season of Life

Ross Marino, CFP®, CeFT® Photo
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Ross Marino, CFP®, CeFT®

FOUNDER

Do you remember any gifts from your 15th birthday? I do. I received a copy of Money magazine, and it shaped my life. A subscription to Psychology Today soon followed. From an early age, I was fascinated with how people think and what they do with money. 

I grew up outside of Cleveland, OH, (love the Browns, hate the cold weather), then headed to Stetson University in Florida, where I wrestled. My career as a financial advisor began in 1988, and I have been helping people ever since.

The drive to understand people and money remains deeply embedded in me today. How can I help people make decisions? What’s the best way to think things through when there are multiple options? General financial advice wasn’t enough, so I decided to become a Certified Financial Planner practitioner. 

While studying for the CFP® exam, I learned how quickly life changes. One day, I’m anticipating the launch of a new financial planning career. The next day, I can’t get off the couch. An awkward bounce on a trampoline led to six years laid up with a severe back injury. 

Fast forward ten years. My health is somewhat improved. Jocelyne, my wife, and I adopted two amazing daughters, and my business is flourishing. Then, life happens again. I found myself as a parent of a special-needs child and caregiver for my wife. Seemingly overnight, there weren’t enough hours in the day; I had less time in the office and more disruptions throughout the day. 

The combination and timing of my challenges may be unique, but that doesn’t make me special. Life happens to everyone, regardless of how much planning we do. I’ve lived it and seen it firsthand in the people around me. Yes, change is hard. Do you know what’s even harder? Making life-altering financial decisions in the middle of those changes. My life experiences were the genesis for Transitus Wealth Partners. Eventually, I discovered the Financial Transitionist Institute and earned the CeFT® designation.

Outside of work, I enjoy being active with my family. We play tennis, pickleball, workout in the gym, and walk Lexi, our overly-protective and incredibly spoiled Blue Merle Pomeranian. I enjoy reading science fiction and listening to podcasts (or watching on YouTube) like the Knowledge Project or Huberman Lab. When relaxing, I need my sticks, as in chopsticks for sushi and drumsticks for my electric drum set. A perfect dinner is a Dragon Roll with a side of 80’s Rock.

Liz Troutman Photo
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Liz Troutman

Chief Operating Officer

As the Chief Operating Officer, my role is to oversee Operations and Client Service for our Firm.  Our goal is to have efficient, streamlined processes and technology and deliver top-notch service to our clients. 

Our clients prefer a go-to person who knows them and their families. Building relationships and helping people navigate major life changes are my favorite aspects of serving our clients. Plans are disrupted when life happens suddenly. That’s when our clients need advice and call our office. I enjoy listening, learning what’s going on in their lives, and being a part of the team that helps.

After graduating from UNCW and working in Wilmington for a couple of years, I moved to Washington, D.C. There I worked in Human Resources for a large international law firm. After over ten years, I made the decision to return to Southeastern North Carolina to be closer to family and friends. 

Whether I’m working or playing, I try to live life to the fullest. Staying active and being healthy are top priorities. I love working out, snowboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, and outrigger canoe racing. 

My weekends stay busy as I spend time with family and friends at home or sink my toes in the sand on the beach. Music has always been a passion of mine, and you can find me hunting the record stores to grow my diverse vinyl collection. If I’m not listening to music, I’m probably listening to podcasts and drinking coffee, lots of coffee.

Mike Giblin, CFP®, CeFT® Photo
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Mike Giblin, CFP®, CeFT®

Senior Financial Planner

I became fascinated with the stock market at an early age while growing up in the shadows of Wall Street in central New Jersey. My love of finance grew during an internship while attending The College of William and Mary. After graduating, I worked on Wall Street as a trader for over a decade. My passion for learning led me back to school to earn a master’s degree in economics from NYU.

During this time, I realized that I would be most fulfilled working with people, not just investment portfolios. My focus shifted, and I began helping people achieve their personal and financial goals.

Bonnie, my wife, and I moved to Wilmington, NC. She continued working as a teacher, and I dove headfirst into personal financial planning. First, I earned the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) designation. Then, I studied to become a Certified Financial Transitionist (CeFT®). After 25 years in the financial services industry, my transition from a trader to a financial planner is complete.

Wilmington has truly become home. I’ve enjoyed serving on the boards of multiple non-profit organizations, volunteering as a coach and serving as a mentor for business school students at UNCW. Our family attends St. Therese Church in Wrightsville Beach.

As the son of an educator and husband to a teacher, I’ve witnessed the impact of teaching. It’s no surprise I ended up at UNCW, teaching an Investments class as part of the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification curriculum.

My wife and I are incredibly blessed to have two wonderful children. Our son Daniel loves athletics, especially playing ice hockey. He’s an enthusiastic student and a protector and advocate for his beautiful little sister, Maggie. She is an upbeat bundle of energy, a ravenous learner and an absolute sweetie pie. And yes, she's daddy's little girl. Watching them both grow and develop is an absolute delight.

Earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, serving as a mentor to students and teaching preparation classes for the CFP® certification examination helped shape me as a financial planner and a man. One of my core beliefs is that insight comes from being open-minded and continuously learning. That insight is the foundation for helping people make wise decisions.

Joan Cox, CFP®, CeFT®, CRPC® Photo
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Joan Cox, CFP®, CeFT®, CRPC®

Director of Advanced Planning - Louisiana Office

Life has a way of “bumping your table” and scattering your puzzle pieces. That's when life is most challenging, and making financial decisions matters more than ever. This is also where I enjoy helping people. As the head of advanced planning at Transitus Wealth Partners, I help our clients with complex needs who are often experiencing dramatic life changes.

I am part of a select number of advisors who earned the Certified Financial Transitionist® (CeFT®) designation. Have you noticed how sudden and irrevocable changes in life influence your thoughts and actions? For years, I’ve seen people struggle to make decisions when their lives were turned upside down. That’s what led me to the CeFT® program.

CeFT® training helps me understand the impact of human transitions or life events. The curriculum uses science-based tools and protocols designed specifically to merge the human and technical sides of financial planning during significant life changes.

I earned my B.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1976. In 1987, I received the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) designation and in 2001 the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor designation.

I’ve always been active in the community. In the past, I served on the board of the local chapter of the Financial Planning Association, was president of the Association of Employee Benefit Planners in New Orleans and a member of NAPFA, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. I taught financial literacy in a local battered women’s shelter and schools through Junior Achievement. In 2014 and 2015, I received the Five Star Wealth Manager award and was featured in a New Orleans magazine. Also, I served on the Jewish Endowment Foundation board in New Orleans and the Investment Advisory Committee of Touro Synagogue Foundation.

I grew up in Louisiana and eventually returned to the state when I got married. I’ve lived on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain since 1987. Greg, my husband, and I have two adult children. We enjoy listening to jazz, big band, funk and 60’s music in our free time. Like any good native of Louisiana, I love live music and good food. During college, I won a contest telling Cajun jokes. Ever hear the one about Boudreaux and Thibodeaux???

Bryant Lester, C(k)P® Photo
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Bryant Lester, C(k)P®

Financial Planning Associate

I grew up in Greensboro, NC, and my interest in finance began at a young age. For that, I can thank my family. My grandfather is a successful entrepreneur and investor, and my father helped people save for retirement. Growing up, I learned to be frugal, pay down debts quickly and invest for the future. As an adult, I now understand how important those lessons are, and I’m grateful for my heritage. I’ve seen firsthand how actions have consequences. This fueled my curiosity about financial planning and motivated me to learn why some people make wise financial decisions while others don’t.

I  attended the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where I earned a bachelor's degree in finance. Upon graduating, I joined Advisor2X, which trains and educates financial advisors. After completing my MBA at UNCW, I earned the C(k)P® designation, which focuses on 401(k) plans. Currently, I am studying to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and expect to take the exam in 2022.

In 2018, I married Lindsay, my amazing wife, and we have two large “doodles” named Harper and Gunner. We welcomed our son, Miller, into the world in September of 2021. Lindsay is also a part-time child therapist and is passionate about loving and serving people. We attend Port City Community Church and enjoy being outdoors and on the water. 

I grew up playing travel soccer and played on the UNC-Wilmington Club Soccer team. Recently, I was introduced to pickleball. Have you played yet? It is so much fun! Lindsay and I are members of the Cape Fear Pickleball Club and play every weekend. We love playing and introducing the sport to new people. Ready to learn?

Trey Dowdy, PMP, C(k)P® Photo
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Trey Dowdy, PMP, C(k)P®

Chief Financial & Compliance Officer

As the Chief Financial & Compliance Officer, my responsibilities include looking after the firm's economic health and its adherence to the rules and regulations as a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA). Serving our clients and supporting our planners requires efficient processes and streamlined operations. That’s what I do, and I enjoy it.

I was drawn to Transitus Wealth Partners because of the leadership of its founder Ross Marino and its ethos about helping clients manage life’s transitions and changes. I believe in our philosophy that helping clients manage transitions in life is the key to making informed decisions. 

My background has always been in finance since college. I earned a B.S. in Finance from Florida State University, interned with Ross and Raymond James, and landed my first job with T. Rowe Price. My studies continued with an MBA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, plus a Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified 401(k) Professional (C(k)P®) designations. I love to read and am committed to continuous learning and personal and professional development. Before joining Transitus Wealth Partners, I helped build Advisor2x, which has hosted more than 1,000 educational conferences and events for financial advisors.

In my free time, I enjoy working out, Krav Maga and playing pickleball. I’m an avid vinyl collector and am learning guitar. Giving back has always been important to me. Mentoring students at the UNCW Cameron Business School is fulfilling. Our family is also active in a local church, and I’ve been on several mission trips. 

Fun facts about me: I have been to all 30 baseball parks in North America (and I don’t even like baseball!). My baby sister Michelle was a Broadway star in Hairspray, my family hails from County Sligo in Ireland, home of the poet William Butler Yeats, and I’m great at keeping secrets but terrible at surprises.

Jeff Kirkpatrick Photo
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Jeff Kirkpatrick

Financial Planner - Georgia Office

Soon after graduating from the University of Georgia in 1991 with a BBA degree and major in Finance, I began my career working for an accounting and tax firm that specializes in the dental and orthodontic industry. I was hired by Merrill Lynch and began helping people with their investing and financial planning needs, and 24 years later I am proud to continue to serve some of the same clients that I began with then so long ago. I have lived in the metro Atlanta area my whole life and consider myself a loyal and faithful fan of the Braves, Falcons, Hawks and of course, the Georgia Bulldogs! I live in Suwanee, GA and enjoy playing golf, tennis, reading and music. In my spare time I like to attend tribute shows (and the real ones!) of all my favorite rock bands from the 70’s and 80’s with my wife Vivian, brother, and friends. My favorite charitable organization is the Mikell Conference Center in Toccoa, GA, where I grew up attending summer camp as a camper and volunteering as a counselor. I also worked there as a Summer Staff member for two summers during my college years, and my family continues to attend and work at Camp Mikell to this day. Now my girls are all grown up. One is a Senior at UGA, and the other is in her second year at Georgia Southern, and I have two great bonus kids as well! I am very blessed!

Laura Aarnio Photo
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Laura Aarnio

Branch Operations Manager - Georgia Office

As the Branch Operations Manager for the Georgia office, I am responsible for managing all aspects of office administrative functions and assisting Jeff Kirkpatrick as necessary with his clients.

I graduated from San Diego State University with a B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis on Management and Human Resources.

I have over 30 years of experience with client and account management in various financial industries, which range from banking, mortgage loans, escrow, group health and life insurance, and finally wealth management.

I live with my husband, Alan, a Porsche enthusiast, and guitar luthier, plus our cat, Gu.  We have a daughter, Megan, who is a Clinical Trial Manager for Sangamo Therapeutics with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and her spouse, Claire, who is a Clinical/Research Psychologist for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.  We also have two amazing grandchildren, Leo Sean, who is three years old, and Juniper Marie, who is 7 months old.  

During my free time, I enjoy anything outdoors.  I love walking in the local park, sitting on our deck and watching multiple birds enjoying our feeders, spending time on the beach.  Inside, I love reading, playing trivia games, crocheting, and adult coloring.

Finally, my personal vision is to guide all our clients with integrity, passion, and skill.

Vivian Kirkpatrick Photo
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Vivian Kirkpatrick

Client Services - Georgia Office

After graduating from Georgia State University in the early 90's, I began a career in television advertising.  I sold airtime, aka commercials, for WB36 (WATL Atlanta) then moved to Seattle and sold for KTWB-TV (now KZJO) and later for NorthWest Cable News.  Several years of success in this field came to a screeching halt when I had my first child.  My new career as a full-time mom began!  Our family returned to Georgia in late 2005.  Once my children were older, I enjoyed part-time positions doing administrative work for a couple of different companies.  It was a great balance that served my family and me well during that life season.

Fast forward to today and I really look forward to talking with clients, assisting Jeff and Laura in our Georgia office, and contributing to the Transitus team.  While my job is administrative, it's also largely client service.  I'm here to help!  

My husband, Jeff and I live in Suwanee, Georgia, a northern suburb of Atlanta.  We have 4 kiddos between us - three in college and one a junior in high school - so our household seems to have a revolving door!  Jeff and I are 1980's kids and love to listen to live 80's bands on the weekends whenever we have the chance.   We also love spending time with our family and friends, as well as getaways to the beach or the mountains as often as we can.