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Our Past, Present & Future

The Story Of How We Got Here

Our Past

In 1988, Donald P. Kelly, a successful Chicago businessman, founded Whitnell along with two experienced investment professionals – Bill White and Mike Brunell. From the merger of their two last names, the Whitnell company name was born. One of the hallmarks of Don Kelly, as an executive, was leadership. He led by example and hired great people who were considered experts in their individual disciplines. He gave them autonomy to make decisions and run their divisions as they saw fit. Bill White epitomized this philosophy and built the foundation on which Whitnell stands.

Don had realized a great deal of success through hard work, calculated risk-taking, a quick wit and by being an honorable person who treated everyone with respect. His career exploits are well documented in the business press. He was CEO of several companies and led multiple billion dollar transactions throughout his career. He also owned several family businesses after his tenure as CEO of other companies.

In Don Kelly one finds elements of all three types of clients we serve: business owners, executives and wealthy families. Don was, at various points in his life, all three of these. He was a fierce competitor as a business owner who always strived to stay one step ahead of the competition. He was a successful executive who knew how to hire the right people and let them do their jobs. He amassed a sizable fortune that he wanted to pass on to his heirs by ensuring his assets were properly protected and enhanced. This is one reason he founded Whitnell.

To view Don Kelly as merely a business man, however, is to miss the heart of who he was as a person. He was an incredibly charitable person who served tirelessly on non-profit boards and generously supported hospitals and educational institutions. For Don, the center of his world was family. At age 30 he married and stayed by the side of his bride until his passing in 2010. They raised three children and enjoyed being grandparents to twelve grandchildren. Their three children inherited their father’s entrepreneurial spirit and are actively involved in the Kelly family businesses. Don expressed his love for family by ensuring that they were secure and they continue to work closely with the financial professionals at Whitnell to this day.


Our Present

This same approach holds true today. While the Kelly family founded Whitnell, it quickly grew to include the assets of several other wealthy families. To ensure that the entire range of concerns for these families was fully addressed, Whitnell began adding more quality professionals. A key addition to the team was Bill Thonn who knew the Kelly family through his tenure as head of wealth management at Harris Bank. The Kelly family brought in Bill to build a premier financial services organization.

Bill set about his task with great relish and began recruiting top talent from people he knew over his long and successful career. In the course of seven years, he assembled some of the most experienced financial services professionals, many of whom moved from leadership positions at other firms to better serve their clients at Whitnell.

There is something special about Whitnell today. It is not just our financial strength and success. It is true that we have grown from less than two hundred million in assets under management to more than one billion in assets under management. It is true that we accomplished this in seven years. It is true that we did this during the worst recession that today’s working adults have ever witnessed. But that is only part of our story.

We are all passionate people. We love what we do and are incredibly committed to being at the top of our game so we can take care of our clients. It gives us great pleasure to hear how our clients use their wealth, the very wealth they entrust us to protect and grow, to care for the ones they love and the charities they treasure. This is one way we know we are keeping the spirit of Don Kelly vibrant and alive in our communities.


Our Future

Our vision for our future is as strong as our past and present. We look forward to seeing our clients realize the great milestones of their lives. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in their joys and their sorrows. We take it as our personal mission to protect and grow their wealth so they can live their lives and truly celebrate the moments every family should cherish. Because we have multi-generational relationships with so many clients, we plan to be not only their partner, but also a financial partner to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Our past, our present and our future make us who we are.

This is our story. We would so love to hear your story.