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

Co-Founder

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 two grandchildren.

Jeff Bennett

Jeff Bennett

Co-Founder

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.

Catherine “Kitty” Kilmer

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
Jeff Ricchiuti

Jeff Ricchiuti

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 Gregory

Stacy Gregory

Plan Advisor

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.

Fun facts:

  • 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

Travis Santa Barbara

Chief Administrative Officer

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 Chief Administrative Officer, 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 his children, Brayden and Camryn.
Grace LaPlante

Grace LaPlante

Administrative Assistant

Grace joined DirectAdvisors in 2019 as their Administrative Assistant.  She has over 30 years of experience in group health care claims management and employee benefit administration.

Her vast experience as an employee with the Prudential Insurance Company of America took her from an entry level claims processor to a Technical Claims Technician, Eligibility Team Leader, and Training Coordinator.  In 2000, she transitioned to the employee benefits arena in the public sector at Albany City School District, which led her to the Employee Benefits Client Manager position with Rose & Kiernan.  She retired from Rose & Kiernan in 2017.

Her Customer Service philosophy and work ethic made her an excellent fit with the DirectAdvisors Team.  Her attention to detail, and willingness to help others, are assets that compliment her Administrative position within the firm.

Grace earned her Associates Degree in Marketing from Hudson Valley Community College.

Fun Facts:

Grace loves Golden Retrievers.  She worked for GRROWLS-NY rescue organization, from which she was awarded the Best Foster Home award for her work with rescued Goldens.

She is an avid classic movie fan and owns wardrobe items from her favorite movie Ben-Hur that were worn by its stars Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd.

She enjoys painting by numbers to relax and walking with her Golden Retriever, Tyler – a rescue, of course!

Tanya Mandigo

Tanya Mandigo

Trust Analyst

Tanya joined DirectAdvisors in 2020 as a Trust Analyst.  She works in the Trust Operations department ensuring that our clients’ benefit programs are running smoothly and kept up-to-date daily. 

Tanya has worked in the accounting field for over 20 years, gaining a vast knowledge of how the perfect processes and procedures can make the most difficult tasks run efficiently.  She is looking forward to continuing her education to become a Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor (CPFA).

A few things to know about Tanya:

  • She has always been one to do everything possible to make sure the job gets done.
  • Resides in Corinth, NY with her three children, Cheyanne, John Jr, and Everett – and too many pets to count!
  • Tanya is an avid outdoors woman who loves to fish, hunt and ride ATV’s.
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