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From The Top: Greg De Jong, Paragon

<p>Winfield resident Greg De Jong, the founding principal of Paragon, an advisory firm that was founded in 1995.</p>

Winfield resident Greg De Jong, the founding principal of Paragon, an advisory firm that was founded in 1995.

Savant Capital Management is one of the nation’s largest independent registered investment advisory firms. Based in Rockford, the company is looking to establish a local footprint in Naperville and the Chicago area, and is putting its faith in a Naperville firm led by Winfield resident Greg De Jong.

He is the founding principal of Paragon, an advisory firm founded in 1995.

De Jong’s office will become the satellite for Savant’s expansion. De Jung will serve as an “adviser.”

“The Savant firm isn’t big on titles,” he insists. “I have the business card of the CFO from the company and all it has is his name on it.”

De Jong, 54, grew up largely in northwest Iowa and went on to attend college in Michigan at Calvin College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English.

He admits “not knowing enough to teach it,” but he took his writing skills and went to work as a public information officer for a life insurance agency, which proved to be pivotal in terms of his career path.

“I worked for the first company for five years and actually did work for three financial service companies before I decided to go out on my own,” De Jong said.

“The work I did helped me learn about the financial services business, and then in 1990, I hung out a shingle and went out on my own.”

Seeing a need to offer more services than a one-man operation could handle, De Jong opened the Paragon firm in Oak Brook in 1995 and eventually moved the office to Naperville on Park Street near Diehl Road. De Jong said the move happened “as a result of finding a nice office condo” and closer proximity for his clients as well as his home.

De Jung said that, despite no formal financial training, he believes that his communication skills as well as being a good listener and having “a good bedside manner” have helped him become successful as an investment adviser.

“I’m not a huge numbers guy, but you have to be able to break things down for people and explain things in a way they can understand them,” he said. “It’s important to make financial concepts intelligible even though I’m not an analyst that crunches numbers all day.”

De Jung says the recession that took hold in 2008 presented challenges for him as well as for his firm, but his client retention numbers during that time speak well to the trust his clients have for him and his understanding of the investment market.

“This business is very much about trust, and we were able to maintain 95 percent of our clients during the recession period,” he said. “We felt we had good evidence to show that this wasn’t going to last forever, and I feel that my partner at the time and I did our best work then by not having people succumb to their fears.”

Steve Reitman, regional senior vice president for American Funds Distributors, said he has known De Jung for more than 20 years and calls him “top shelf” when it comes to providing investment services to his clients. Reitman also was instrumental in the imminent merger of Savant and Paragon.

“I told Greg this past summer if he was ever thinking of making a move, this would be one of the options to be highly considered,” Reitman said. “Greg is a man of immense integrity who is led by his faith. He uses a very refined process in serving his clients, and the success of his organization is very high. He’s one of the top 5 percent in the Chicagoland area.”

Reitman adds that De Jung works hard to focus on his customers and keeping their costs down.

The new adviser for Savant said he’s relieved to not have the responsibilities of running a small business and is looking forward to focusing on clients.

“Here in Naperville, I like the diversity of residents, and there is a wonderful blend of retirees as well as self-employed people and corporate types and everything in between,” he said. “We have a lot of great amenities here.”

His two sons, ages 26 and 24, both live and work in the area, and his daughter is a senior in college.

“This is a vibrant community and is very business friendly,” he said. “The long-term challenge now is growth for the company.”

Email candidates for From The Top to community news editor Heather Pfundstein at hpfundstein@stmedianetwork.com.

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