Meet Our Expert Advisors
Where you see obligation, we see opportunity. In fact, our team brings together more than a century of combined professional experience in developing fringe benefit plans and providing retirement plan guidance to benefit your organization and your employees.
Tom Santa Barbara
Tom Santa Barbara is Co-Founder of DirectAdvisors. Tom started his career in the insurance and employee benefit business that took him from Boston to California and finally back home to the Albany, New York area.
In 2000, Tom and his long- time business partner, Jeff Bennett, created DirectAdvisors to provide bona fide benefit plans to merit-shop construction companies subject to prevailing wage regulations. Tom’s natural ability to build meaningful relationships, and translate complex rules into simple concepts, has been key to the company’s success.
Tom is an Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) and Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor (CPFA). He is active board member and incoming Vice-Chairman of the Empire State Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors.
Tom is a graduate of Penn State University. An avid Nittany Lions fan and former radio football commentator for Union College in Upstate New York.
Tom enjoys traveling with his wife Dona and is the proud father of two sons and one grandson.
Jeff founded the company with a vision of bringing together Compliance and Integrity to provide maximum value for clients. He learned the value of doing things the right way, for the right reasons, early on.
After graduating from Binghamton University with a degree in Accounting, he began his career on Wall Street where he built his skills with the best, but found the culture to be, well, corrupt.
From there, he went to work for a third-party benefit plan administrator with a niche in prevailing wage in Albany, NY. He spent three years assisting merit-shop construction companies on everything from plan design to daily recordkeeping. But he found the culture to be, well, greedy.
That’s when Jeff took matters into his own hands.
He earned his MBA and was hired as Director of Human Resources by one of his larger construction clients. While there, he supervised the payroll, benefits and legal compliance for 400+ electrical workers—and gained first-hand experience with prevailing wage rules and government regulators.
Then, in 2000, Jeff joined his long-time business associate, Tom Santa Barbara, to start DirectAdvisors—raising the bar on service quality and accountability the way he’d always imagined it.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Jeff is an Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) and Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor (CPFA). He is also an active board member of the Albany chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization.
Jeff is best known for three things:
- A natural desire to do things the right way
- Zero tolerance for dishonesty
- Hand-crafted cocktails and an easy laugh
Catherine “Kitty” Kilmer
VP of Compliance
After working under Jeff Bennett at a large electrical contractor for many years, Kitty joined DirectAdvisors in 2001. She started as a plan administrator trainee, and quickly worked her way up to VP of Compliance. Today she’s responsible for “making the trains run on time” and otherwise keeping things humming on behalf of our clients.
Kitty has worked tirelessly to become an expert in every aspect of retirement plan compliance, recordkeeping and administration. She is also an expert at bona fide health & welfare plan compliance and administration for construction companies subject to prevailing wage regulations.
Kitty holds the prestigious designation of Certified Pension Consultant (CPC).
Kitty has many gifts, including:
- An unrivaled thirst for learning
- A memory that can be best described as scary
- An attention to detail that would make a NASA engineer jealous
Chief Investment Officer
Jeff came to DirectAdvisors in 2014. He currently serves as a valuable internal resource, applying his deep analytical skills to the task of helping steer DirectAdvisors’ Investment Policy Committee.
Jeff also works directly with our clients to make sure their retirement programs and benefit plans are operating at peak efficiency. He frequently engages with their employees to advise them on how best to structure their investment portfolios in their 401(k) or retirement programs.
Prior to joining the firm, Jeff held positions in financial consulting at General Electric and The Ayco Company (a Goldman Sachs Company). He graduated from Siena College and earned his MBA at SUNY Albany.
Jeff is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), an Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst (AIFA®), and a Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor (CPFA).
Jeff currently sits on the Board of Trustees of the Foundation for Ellis Medicine, serving as Treasurer and Chair of the finance committee. He was formerly on the Board of Trustees of the Visiting Nurse Service Foundation.
A few things to know about Jeff:
- He’s an expert at fiduciary process
- He lives and breathes our core values
- He resides in Colonie, NY with his wife, Rebecca and son, Anthony
Stacy came to DirectAdvisors in 2018 as a Plan Advisor. She works directly with clients to make sure their retirement programs and benefit plans are operating at peak efficiency. She also engages with their employees to advise them on how best to structure their investment portfolios in their 401(k) or retirement programs.
As a former financial consultant and financial wellness seminar speaker with Ayco (a Goldman Sachs company), Stacy brings a passion for helping individuals understand their retirement programs and finds great enjoyment in helping others achieve their financial goals.
Stacy graduated from the University at Albany, and completed the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation through Texas A&M University.
- Stacy completed her CFP® designation through Texas A&M due to its nationally ranked Finance program, and their adorable mascot, a dog named Reveille. She currently serves as pack leader to her two dogs, Chauncey and Eddie.
- As two-time League champion, she’s a fierce competitor in fantasy football.
- Craft beer connoisseur
- Enjoys taking the motorcycle out on warm, sunny days
- Spends summers up at the Great Sacandaga Lake
Travis Santa Barbara
Director of Trust Operations
Travis joined DirectAdvisors in 2015. In short order, he has become a skilled player in the trust operations department and has developed an effective approach for working with the employees of construction company clients. As Director of Trust Operations, Travis is responsible for client services, operations and marketing.
Travis is a graduate of Siena College in Latham, NY and earned his MBA from Sage Graduate School in Albany, NY. Travis uses his educational experience to create strategic marketing initiatives to identify new opportunities.
A few things to know about Travis:
- During his graduate education, Travis focused on competitive bidding strategies for contractors working on Davis-Bacon and Service Contract Act jobs.
- Enjoys spending time with his wife, Brittany and son, Brayden.
Trust Analyst & Executive Assistant
Emily came to DirectAdvisors in 2017 after attending Siena College. Before she came onboard, she earned an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration with academic honors from Hudson Valley Community College and later interned in the audit department of Hertz Herson, CPA, LLP.
Emily is working and learning in many areas of the business. Her attention to detail makes her ideally suited to the multi-faceted assignments required in our trust operations department. Her friendly disposition makes her an asset in helping clients and their employees.
- Spending time with family and friends
- Watching sports
- Reading a good book
Vice-President of Business Development
Alana joined DirectAdvisors in 2014 and is responsible for wholesale channel support and expansion. Her focus is on helping brokers, benefit consultants and advisors bring more effective prevailing wage fringe benefit solutions to construction companies in markets throughout the United States.
Prior to her current role, Alana was a Retirement Plan & Prevailing Wage Trust Consultant, working directly with our construction company clients to make sure that their benefit programs operated at peak efficiency.
Prior to joining DirectAdvisors, Alana worked for respected firms including Putnam, AIG/Sun America, First Albany and TIAA-CREF Wealth Management.
Alana holds an Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) designation from the Center for Fiduciary Studies and a Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor (CPFA) designation from the National Association of Plan Advisors.