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Goldleaf expands office, sees growth in its future

Goldleaf Partners moved from Laurel Street in downtown Brainerd into Johnson Bui1 / 2
Heather Windjue, vice president and chief operating officer, was Goldleaf Partne2 / 2

BAXTER — Call it the lakes version of “the quiet company,” as Goldleaf Partners has been steadily growing without much outward fanfare.

But the company, which recently moved into larger office space in Baxter, has expectations for continued growth. That translates to more jobs.

Goldleaf Partners was established in the winter of 2003. Heather Windjue, vice president, chief operating officer, was the first employee in Brainerd and the company’s third staff member overall.

The company, a national firm which lists Brainerd as its headquarters office, made its first home on Laurel Street. Goldleaf Partners provides independent retirement and employee benefit consulting and administration. About two weeks ago, Goldleaf Partners moved to well-appointed offices in the Johnson Building One off Golf Course Drive, almost doubling its space to 6,400 square feet.

Sixty percent of the private company’s staff works in Baxter. Goldleaf Partners has sales and service centers in Minneapolis, Duluth, Belleville, Ill. and Phoenix. It has regional offices in Bloomington, Phoenix and St. Louis, Mo.

Goldleaf Partners administers employee benefit plans with all kinds of retirement plans from 401(k) retirement accounts and defined benefit plans to other employee benefit plans such as flexible spending accounts, health savings and reimbursement accounts, COBRA accounts and employee stock option plans, among others.

Goldleaf Partners provides consulting services for plan audits and reviews and mergers and acquisitions. The company also provides continuing education courses for financial advisers, certified public accountants, brokers and plan sponsors. The new offices include a second floor conference room, which is designed to double as an on-site training facility.

In less than eight years, the company has grown to serve more than 2,600 retirement plans with $1.4 billion in assets. Goldleaf Partners reports it also provides support and industry expertise to more than 2,000 plan sponsors.

Windjue said the company specialized in defined benefit plans with a reputation for that service and has seen an increase in demand there.

A College of St. Benedict graduate, Windjue previously worked at Universal Pensions and BISYS before she joined Goldleaf Partners. Going from large corporations to a small firm was a bit of an adjustment. When she was first out of college, Windjue’s job in Des Moines, Iowa had her handling large accounts with $600 million in assets for the average client.

At Goldleaf Partners, as its sole Brainerd employee to start, she was all things in one. No mailing department. No information technology tech to call when a system shut down.

“It was a character building experience,” she said, noting she laughs about it now. The company also provided the work diversity Windjue wanted.

“I haven’t been able to pick my favorite thing to do,” she said. “This gave me an opportunity to play in all the sand boxes.”

Windjue currently oversees offices with 26 employees. In five years, she said there are expectations the employee number will climb to 60. Additional growth is anticipated beyond that. The firm recently added a service center at its Baxter offices for employee benefits with a four-person team. Health savings accounts have doubled in the last three years, Windjue said.

And companies that jettisoned paying into employee 401(k) retirement plans during the height of the recession are starting to add that benefit again, Windjue said. Other companies choose Goldleaf Partners for a third party to administer COBRA health benefits for separated workers.

“Our COBRA administration has been quickly growing,” Windjue said, noting they’ve added five to 10 clients a month.

Goldleaf Partners has support staff to help employees navigate online accounts for flexible spending or health savings accounts where they can submit claims and track their accounts.

For Windjue, one of the appeals of Goldleaf Partners is its emphasis on personal relationships with clients with face-to-face meetings and regular calls to touch base. Recent open enrollment meetings had the firm scheduling session’s around the client’s needs whether that’s a session 5:30 p.m. and one the next day at 5:30 a.m.

The firm also works to provide a family friendly atmosphere with flexible hours so a parent can see a child’s soccer game. Employees are encouraged to follow their volunteer interests from Meals on Wheels to Junior Achievement.

“I think that’s important to a lot of employees here,” she said. And the flex scheduling, Windjue said: “It’s increased our productivity.”

Goldleaf Partners is now in 45 states. It has about 40 clients in the lakes area.

“We consider ourselves to be blessed with the growth we’ve had,” Windjue said. She noted the Brainerd area is known for its depth of experience in retirement plan industry.

Goldleaf Partners administers plans it doesn’t provide a record keeping platform but works with whatever best fits the client’s needs and helps customers navigate regulatory waters, working with their financial advisers for a cohesive approach.

“I think it makes an employer’s life a lot easier,” Windjue said.

An open house is scheduled at the new Goldleaf Partners offices from 4-6 p.m. Thursday with tours available of the two-story facility.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 855-5852.