Our Team

Our Team

About Us
Powell Financial Group began more than a quarter of a century ago with the express purpose of assisting clients in the identification of their dreams and the formation of an estate and/or retirement plan. We assist our clients in charting their financial course and are able to respond to the needs and concerns that naturally arise along the way. Entering the uncharted financial world of the next century is an exciting and great challenge. We look forward to taking the journey with you.

Our Commitment
Our staff consists of experienced professionals with a hands-on approach to financial guidance. Not only will you find our team members knowledgeable, but you will also discover that our staff truly cares about your dreams. As your financial professionals, we will continually remind you of the importance of maintaining a disciplined approach to realizing your goals.

David W. Powell, CFP®, CRC®

CEO, Founder, Wealth Manager

Having graduated from San Diego State’s School of Business, my passion for helping people and building close relationships led me to years of work in the fields of accounting and investment real estate.  After years of searching for the perfect fit for my life, I was led to join a team climbing Denali (Mt. McKinley) in Alaska.  Having little oxygen, committing step by step through rough terrain, and climbing with pick axes and ever-changing weather, I found myself on summit day struggling with altitude sickness. I was abandoned by my team who wanted to summit in spite of me. Without the timely help of some Austrian climbers who found me and took me down a thousand feet, I would not have survived.  My journey provided an epiphany.  Without the help of caring individuals who look out for your well-being, we often struggle and sometimes don’t make it.  The same can be said in the financial arena.  Without caring wealth managers who put their clients’ needs first and create a plan to meet their unique goals, people can be misled and mismanaged. 

I established Powell Financial Group in 1987, more than 30 years ago, with the motto “We Take the Time to Listen.”  Powell Financial Group is staffed with a caring, socially responsible, and well-educated staff who work hard each day to provide independent advice, complex analysis, and active management of our clients’ accounts. With a constantly changing landscape of political, financial, and social change, keeping abreast of trends is crucial to providing top advice to our clientele. 

Erin, my wife of almost 35 years, is my soulmate. She has been supporting me through years of working long hours, building a firm, and meeting the needs of people through wealth advising and charitable work all over the country.  We are the proud parents of four children.  Our oldest daughter Sierra was recently married and works as a travel specialist for Scott Dunn in Solana Beach. Our son Steven is majoring in animation and video game design at CSU Chico. His hope is to teach English abroad. Our middle daughter, Carolina, is a fabulous pastry cook for a San Diego based restaurant, and our youngest son, Michael, after two years of college as a kinesiology major, surprised us all by enlisting in the US Army as a physical therapist.   

I love giving back to our local and global communities, especially alongside our clients. Along with my family, friends, and clients, we work together to build new homes for families in Mexico and the Conejo Valley. We also give back to a local charity called My Stuff Bags. They help foster children and now local victims of fires with needed personal items, toys, blankets and stuffed animals which are put in duffle bags and delivered to foster homes and shelters. My Stuff Bags is close to my heart since three of our four children are adopted. In addition, I support the sustainability of our eco-system through non-profits that aim to protect endangered species, save forests and land, and help keep our oceans clean and revitalized. In my spare time, I work on my golf game, spend time traveling to see the world I strive to protect, and learn photography to record the memories.

My wife Erin and I
                       My children: Carolina, Michael, Sierra and Steven
Making blankets with staff, family, and our clients at My Stuff Bags


Gustavo R. Zarate, CFA®, CFP®

Wealth Manager

My journey into the financial services industry began in my sophomore year at California Lutheran University. After a series of fortunate and timely conversations, a bit of luck, and hard work, I landed an internship with Powell Financial Group. 

Let’s back up a bit.  I grew up playing soccer in Southern California, and at 14, I was nominated to the winter pool for the Olympic Development Program.  At the time, 25 percent of all men’s national team players originated from Southern California.  The sport provided many amazing experiences and taught me valuable life lessons that have helped shape how I approach every challenge.  My latest undertaking on the soccer front is coaching my daughter’s AYSO U8 girls team this fall!

I’m also the son of Mexican immigrants and the first of my extended family to graduate from college.  I remember being driven to preschool by my dad, and he telling me that when I grew up, I’d actually have the opportunity to get an education. By elementary school, I was convinced college was in my future, although I hadn’t quite settled on a career path just yet.  Eventually, my love of math and problem solving pointed me toward finance, and my desire to help facilitate positive change in people’s lives narrowed it a bit more to personal financial planning.  I consider myself fortunate to have grown up with extremely supportive parents who saw the potential in me.  They instilled in me the belief that through dedication and lots of hard work anything is possible.  

I graduated from California Lutheran University with a degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance.  I’m a member of the Financial Planning Association of Ventura County, hold the Chartered Financial Analyst® designation, and have also earned the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM certification.  

Most importantly, I’m a proud husband and a father of two beautiful girls, Caitlin and Emma.  My oldest daughter Caitlin just started 1st grade & Emma is preparing to begin pre-school. 

When I’m not in the office, I enjoy playing soccer with friends, joining my wife for cardio kickboxing classes twice a week at our local gym, or coaching my daughter’s soccer team on Saturdays!

Iris B. Ilao, CRC®

Wealth Manager | Director of Financial Planning Services

Hello there!

My name is Iris Ilao. I’m a Wealth Manager and the Director of Financial Planning Services at Powell Financial Group.  With over sixteen years of experience as a licensed financial advisor and Certified Retirement Counselor, CRC®, I understand first-hand the value of sound financial advice.  I am passionate about building long-term, meaningful client relationships and helping clients identify, pursue and achieve a life that brings fulfillment and joy.

I contribute to Powell Financial Group in a variety of ways ranging from the implementation of new technological solutions, integration of social media marketing, and development of corporate financial wellness programs.  My efforts are ultimately focused on helping shape the vision for the future of our firm. Additionally, my desire has always been to reach out into our community and offer financial literacy classes as a way of making a positive impact on the lives of others.

While living in New York as a college student and sorting through the financial implications of private university tuition, I was fortunate enough to have been recruited in the field of finance at the young age of nineteen.  I started in the business through true grit immersion - marketing and selling life insurance as a means of paying for my expenses as a young adult.  As I made my way through the insurance industry in my early 20s, I realized that I had a profound desire to help people align their finances with their values and purpose so they can live their greatest lives.  It was then that I decided to pursue entrepreneurship and a career as a financial advisor. 

As a young girl, I learned the value of a good work ethic, perseverance and building relationships by assisting in small businesses owned by my parents.  My personal entrepreneurial endeavors include a photography business, a gift shop / mailbox store and rental properties.  The experiences I’ve had as a business owner are invaluable and translate into additional resources for clients who share my entrepreneurial drive. 

In my personal life, family is most important to me. My husband, Alex, and I enjoy watching our kids, Christopher, Jordan, and Savannah grow.  Christopher (9) loves playing basketball, swimming, video games and solving math problems for fun!  Jordan (who is our 5 year old foster son) is the happiest when riding his bike, playing at the park and eating popcorn during family movie nights.  Savannah (who is Jordan's baby sister) is the newest addition to our family and loves when we read and sing to her.  Since our journey as foster parents began, I’ve become an advocate for foster kids by helping raise awareness of the need for “resources” and/or foster families.  Inspired by David and Erin Powell’s story as adoptive parents, I too wish to inspire others to open their hearts and homes to children.  If you’d like to hear about our experience as a foster family, I’d be happy to share our story with you over a cup of coffee!

Standing by the importance of investing not just in one’s own future, but in society’s as well, I support and volunteer for various charitable organizations.  I recently joined the board of directors of Ventura County's emerging children's museum, kidSTREAM.  I sit on the board alongside some of the most distinguished members of our local community.  We all share the common desire to inspire and empower kids of Ventura County to become critical thinkers, innovators, and life-long learners.  In my most fulfilling role as a volunteer, I mentored a “little sister” through Big Brothers Big Sisters for ten years.  100 Women Who Care Conejo Valley, Ronald McDonald House, Childfund, Compassion International, The Conejo Valley Village, and American Cancer Society are other organizations I support. If interested, I’d love for you to join me in volunteering one day. 

When I’m not helping clients or giving back to the community; you may find me reading a book or napping for relaxation and camping, traveling or cooking for fun!

NY 2018
Fathers Day 2019








Malibu 2019
Mothers Day 2019


Erin Powell, BA, MA, MS

Chief of Operations

After graduating UCSD in the field of communications, I went on to attend California Lutheran University where I received an MA in curriculum and instruction and an MS in counseling and guidance. My career began in education as an English teacher and eventually focusing on British literature and college writing. After many years as a teacher, I wanted to inspire and help students who were often struggling and so I shifted to become a high school and middle school guidance counselor. This rewarding work, helping students overcome obstacles, graduate and go to college, was very fulfilling. I eventually transitioned into the position of assistant principal of a middle school, and then I was appointed to be a vice principal at the high school level in charge of the counseling and guidance department. Throughout my many years in the field of education, I was trained to interview teaching candidates as well as serving on WASC committees. As experienced educators and leaders in our field, we evaluate the success of public schools in California and provide direction for improvement and growth. These skills proved invaluable to my husband, David, and so in 2007, I joined our firm, Powell Financial Group, to expand our support staff, provide technology guidance, and create educational client opportunities and events. I am so proud of our firm because we stand for everything I worked so hard to promote: support, compassion, guidance, education, and sound advice.  Parents, if you are going through the growing pains of middle school, high school, and college, I understand. If you ever have questions, please feel free to give me a call. 

I am the mother of four amazing children, now adults in their 20s. My oldest daughter Sierra graduated from Principia College in Illinois and just got married to her love, Andrew. She is now a travel specialist for Scott Dunn. My oldest son Steven will be graduating from CSU Chico with a degree in animation and game design and then plans on teaching English abroad. My middle daughter Carolina studied in culinary schools and is a pastry cook for a San Diego based restaurant. My youngest son Michael is serving in the US Army. He finished two years of school pursuing kinesiology and is now training in physical therapy with the Army. 

In my spare time, I love to quilt, golf, travel, and volunteer at home and abroad. Alongside my family, friends, and clients, we build homes from the ground up for families in Mexico with YWAM.  We serve families who have demonstrated a commitment to work and educate their children. We also make blankets and stuff bags for foster children with My Stuff Bags and support conservation efforts around the globe. If you would like to join us in these charitable endeavors, just give us a call.  We can also recommend other charities that might fit your personal goals and heart. 

In addition, as of late, much of my time has been spent supporting victims of shootings. My husband and I survived the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting. After much work, we have healed the emotional wounds of the experience. I now help other survivors of shootings as well as giving back in the names of the 58 dear ones who lost their lives. I have also been putting a think tank together to tackle the ever-growing problem of gun violence. Experience has solidified in me the importance of spending the time to make the world a better place. 

Healing Garden in Las Vegas
Building a home in Mexico with my two daughters
Volunteering at My Stuff Bags with my hubby, David


Cody Nigh, CFP®


Hello there,

My name is Cody Nigh and I work as a para-planner at Powell Financial Group, assisting David, Gustavo & Iris in their day-to-day planning work. I was born and raised in Ventura County and owe much of my success to the people in our community who helped shape me into the man I am today. As such, it is my absolute honor and privilege to serve our community that has allowed me to grow and prosper.

When I graduated from Camarillo High School in 2012, my education and career path were far from established. I knew that I was relatively good with numbers and that I wanted to be able to make an impact in the lives of others. 

In my first job, I worked as an administrative assistant at the Area Housing Authority for the County of Ventura, a nonprofit quasi-governmental agency, tasked with providing housing assistance to those in need in Ventura County. What I came to realize is that despite the hard work of dedicated families, they still needed a helping hand. Hearing the hardships people faced, and seeing their relief when being processed for assistance, stirred within me such a strong feeling of pride and gratitude, knowing that the work I was doing, however seemingly insignificant, was making a difference. It was at this point that I found my calling; I wanted to help people grow and prosper financially so as to avoid these hardships altogether.

I graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in financial services, with an emphasis in personal financial planning. As a CFP® practitioner, I take great pride in being able to say that I abide by the fiduciary standard, meaning that nothing shall ever go between myself and serving in the absolute best interest of our clients. I am so genuinely grateful to be a member of the PFG team, and every day I feel lucky to work alongside our clients, as we collectively work towards achieving their important financial goals!

When I’m not in the office, I spend most of my weekends as a competitive race car driver with the California Lightning Sprint Car Series. I compete all over the Southern California dirt tracks from March to November each year, driving for my family-owned #45. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to share this passion with my entire family, and I take pride in being a 4th generation race car driver. 

When not at work or the race track, I enjoy spending time at the beach, hanging out with my family and friends, and rough-housing with my 3 dogs: Demi, Rico, and Ladybug.


Nigh Photo
San Diego