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 searching for the perfect fit for my life, I was led to join a team climbing Denali (Mt. McKinley) in Alaska. After two weeks on the glacier, it was summit day. Having little oxygen, committing step-by-step through rough terrain, and climbing with pick axes and ever-changing weather, I found myself at 19,500 feet, struggling with altitude sickness. I was abandoned by my team who wanted to summit in spite of my condition. Without the timely help of some Austrian climbers who found me and took me down 2,500 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 35 years ago, with the motto “We Take the Time to Listen.” Powell Financial Group is staffed with a caring, 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 and financial change, keeping abreast of trends is crucial to providing top advice to our clientele. 

Erin, my wife of 38 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 older daughter, Sierra, is married and works for our firm as our technology and account services manager. She and her husband provided us with our first grandchild, a girl named Kensington Wren. Our older son, Steven, graduated from CSU Chico with a degree in animation and video game design. He is living in Boulder, Colorado, and is polishing up his portfolio to enter the workforce. Our younger daughter, Carolina, is a talented pastry chef, having worked in several high-end restaurants in Southern California. She resides in Idaho, enjoying nature and exploring various opportunities. Our younger son, Michael, is a sergeant in the U.S. Army, serving as a medic/paratrooper, and has graduated from Army Ranger School. He is stationed in Anchorage, Alaska.

I love giving back to our local and global communities, especially together with our clients. Along with my family, friends, and clients, we have worked 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 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 various non-profits that protect endangered species, save forests and land, and help keep our oceans clean. 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.


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My wife, Erin, and I
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 My children: Carolina, Michael, Sierra, and Steven
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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. 

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 him 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 hold the Chartered Financial Analyst® designation and have also earned the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification.  

Most importantly, I’m a proud husband and a father of two beautiful girls, Caitlin and Emma. My older daughter, Caitlin, is in fourth grade and Emma is in first grade. 

When I’m not in the office, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, joining my wife for workouts, or watching my daughters play soccer on weekends!

 

Iris B. Ilao, CRC®

Wealth Manager | Director of Financial Planning Services

Hello there!

My name is Iris Ilao. I’m a wealth manager and Certified Retirement Counselor® (CRC®) at Powell Financial Group. I am passionate about building long-term, meaningful client relationships, and helping clients identify, pursue, and achieve a life that brings fulfillment and joy. Additionally, through the development and implementation of value-added financial planning services, my efforts are focused on helping shape the vision for the future of our firm.

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 to the field of finance at the young age of 19, over 20 years ago. 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, 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. 

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 an HOA commercial landscaping business, 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 (11), Jordan (7), and Savannah (3) play and grow. In 2018, we began our journey as a foster and adoptive family, and since then have become advocates for foster kids. We help 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 and adoptive 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 am a board director of Ventura County's emerging children's museum, kidSTREAM, and 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 lifelong learners.

In my most fulfilling role as a volunteer, I mentored a “little sister” through Big Brothers Big Sisters for 10 years and helped my “little sister” achieve her goal of being the first person in her family to graduate from high school! 100 Women Who Care Conejo Valley, Childfund, Compassion International, The Conejo Valley Village, Raising Hope, Organic Soup Kitchen, and Lighthouse Church 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!

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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. After many years as a teacher, I wanted to inspire and help students who were often struggling, so I shifted to become a middle and high 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 vice principal at the high school level in charge of the Counseling and Guidance Department. Throughout my tenure, I was trained to interview teaching candidates as well as serve 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 left education and joined our firm, Powell Financial Group, to expand our 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.

I have been married to my love, David, for 38 years. Read his bio to get the latest update on our kids. In my spare time, I love to quilt, golf, travel, and volunteer at home and abroad. In addition, while continuing to work at Powell Financial Group, I am now privileged to serve on the board of directors for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross.

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Cody Nigh, CFP®

Para-planner

Hello there,

My name is Cody Nigh and I work as a para-planner at Powell Financial Group, assisting David, Gustavo, and 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 on 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 toward 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 fourth-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.

 

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Sierra Obermark, BA

Technology & Account Services Manager

Hi! My name is Sierra, and I am the technology and account services manager for Powell Financial Group. I attended a small liberal arts college where I majored in art with minors in religion and dance. I also played for the soccer team and spent many hours playing other sports like Ultimate Frisbee and performing for our dance productions. After graduating with a BA, I had a series of unrelated jobs for the next six years. The most relevant of which was my position at Apple, Inc., as a technical specialist. This position afforded me a wide range of technical knowledge and customer service, which has helped me easily integrate into my role at PFG.

Another of my career possibilities was as a travel consultant. I have always been enthusiastic about traveling and visiting other countries. I am proud to have visited 30 countries and 28 states. I hope to continue adding to these numbers throughout my life. The countries that have always spoken to me are Germany, Scotland, and Ireland, although London is the only city in the world I would ever consider living in.

While working for Apple, I also worked a second job where I met my husband in 2016. We have been married since 2018 and have a beautiful daughter who was born in February of 2021, right after I began working for PFG. We live a quiet life along with three cats and two dogs and enjoy being homebodies, reading for book clubs, playing video games, and watching TV and movies. As if we didn’t sound nerdy enough, we also spend a lot of time at Renaissance Faires and even spent a few years working in a sword booth at our home faire.

While I may not see you in the office, I am glad for the opportunity to work remotely so that I can spend time with my family.

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Ryan Kramer

Administrative Assistant

My name is Ryan Kramer, and I am the administrative assistant here at PFG. I am in the office part-time as I am also currently a student at California Lutheran University, where I am majoring in business.


I was raised in Palos Verdes Estates, California, where I graduated high school as a four-time California Scholarship Federation Sealbearer. I participated in Boy Scouts for eight years, working up toward the Eagle Scout designation, which I earned in 2020. I was also the recipient of the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award for three years straight, having spent years as a volunteer at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and an instructor at the Galileo STEM Camp.


In my spare time, I enjoy doing anything outdoors. I can consistently be found riding one of my electric skateboards, mountain biking, snowboarding, diving (free and scuba), backpacking, rock climbing, golfing, or just hanging out at the beach. In addition, I love to travel and experience new cultures; my favorite being a family trip to Australia, where I got to dive at the Great Barrier Reef, explore the Australian Outback, and climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

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My younger brother, Mason (right) and I

 

 

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Mason and I before scuba diving at Turtle Cove, HI
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Riding one of my electric skateboards in the Malibu mountains

 

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On a backpacking trip to, and up, Mt. Whitney, CA