About Vertex Planning Partners

Thoughtful Planning for Purposeful Living.

Our Story

At Vertex Planning Partners, our journey began with a simple yet powerful idea: to bring the right people together in a collaborative effort to deliver the financial foresight that will help our clients experience the futures they deserve. 



Founded by a group of passionate financial experts, we set out to create a firm that not only excels in wealth management but also forms lasting relationships with our clients. Over the years, we’ve grown in experience and scope, but our core commitment to personalized, client-centric service remains unchanged.

Our Purpose

Our mission is to empower our clients to pursue financial security and independence. We envision a world where financial planning is not just about growing wealth, but about creating a meaningful legacy. We strive to be the leading firm where experience meets empathy, and where clients' dreams and goals are at the heart of everything we do.

Our Values

Integrity, Client First, Consistent and Purposeful define us at Vertex Planning Partners. We believe in doing the right thing, always striving for the highest standards in our services and recommendations, and building enduring relationships based on trust and mutual respect. Our values are the cornerstone of our approach and the guiding principles in every interaction with our clients.

Meet the Team

Our team at Vertex Planning Partners is our greatest asset. Comprising seasoned financial advisors, strategists, and industry experts, we bring a diverse range of experiences and insights to the table. Each team member is dedicated to providing personalized solutions that align with our clients’ unique financial journeys.

Christopher C. Huston,
CIMA®, CAIA®, AIFA®, AIF®

DIRECTOR OF
PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT
Managing PARTNER

Sean Baloun, CFA®

Portfolio Manager

Edward Smith

Technology & Operations Manager

Gail Cannata

CLIENT SERVICE TEAM LEADER

Connie Gross

ADMINISTRATIVE
MANAGER

Lindsey Benner

CLIENT SERVICE ASSOCIATE

Linda Chasteen

CLIENT SERVICE ASSOCIATE

Juliette Hackett Engelhardt

CLIENT SERVICE ASSOCIATE

Kara Owen

CLIENT SERVICE ASSOCIATE

Megan Rouse

CLIENT SERVICE ASSOCIATE

Why Choose Vertex Planning Partners

Choosing Vertex means choosing a partner committed to your financial success. Our holistic approach to financial planning, combined with our experience in Wealth Management and Tax Planning, sets us apart. We’re not just advisors; we’re custodians of your financial future, dedicated to delivering solutions that are as unique as your life’s journey.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

We’re here to listen, understand, and guide you towards your financial goals. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and discover how we can help you build a lasting legacy.

Get In Touch

Schedule your consultation today.

Michael D. Bellis, CFP®, CLU®

MANAGING PARTNER

Michael D. Bellis, CFP®, CLU® began his career as a financial planning professional in 1994. His practice is centered on holistic financial planning, astute risk management strategies and empirical, research-driven portfolio construction. He began his career in partnership with his father under the name Bellis & Associates. Together, their practice and reputation for excellence dates back more than 40 years and includes multiple generations of the same families. After his father’s retirement several years ago, Mike continued to build a client-centric, consultative practice before forming Vertex.

Mike holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification and is also a Chartered Life Underwriter. He has been an active member of both the Society of Financial Services Professionals and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. He earned a B.S. in Business & Marketing from Illinois State University. Mike is a lifelong resident of Naperville, Illinois. He and his wife Tanja have three children.

Gregory P. Benner, CPWA®, CFP®, CLU®, CHFC®, AIF®, RMA®

MANAGING PARTNER

Gregory P. Benner, CPWA®, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, AIF®, RMA® has over twenty-two years of experience as a financial advisor. Greg’s practice is based on developing holistic financial plans that help his clients integrate sophisticated retirement, tax, risk management and estate planning strategies into an actionable plan, then stay the course as their behavioral coach.

Prior to founding Vertex Planning Partners, LLC, Greg spent four years as a founding partner of a Registered Investment Advisory firm affiliated with LPL Financial. He also spent seven years with JPMorgan Chase as a Senior Financial Advisor and was a Financial Representative with Northwestern Mutual Life.

Greg holds the Certified Private Wealth Advisor® designation and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Certificant. He also holds the Chartered Financial Consultant®, Chartered Life Underwriter®, Accredited Investment Fiduciary™, and Retirement Management AdvisorSM designations. He earned a B.S. in Finance from Miami University.

He and his wife Lindsey reside in Naperville, IL with their daughter and twin sons.

Steven P. Franzen, CPA, PFS, CGMA

MANAGING PARTNER

Steven P. Franzen, CPA, PFS, CGMA is a public accountant and consultant with more than 23 years of experience helping individuals and businesses reduce their tax liability.  He began his career under the guidance of Patrick M. De Sio, CPA, CGMA and in 1996 became Mr. De Sio’s partner in De Sio, Franzen & Associates, Ltd. Steve’s expertise include entity design, complex tax strategies and multigenerational wealth transfer.  As Managing Partner, Steve conducts his practice under the philosophy that the client’s investment in their CPA should yield a return on that investment – most of the time that return is realized when working with clients on planning for their future. In an effort to increase the planning capabilities of the firm,  Steve formed Vertex Accounting Partners, LLC to ensure their guiding philosophy will continue well into the future.

Steve is a certified public accountant and has earned the professional designations of Personal Financial Specialist and Chartered Global Management Accountant.  He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Illinois CPA Society.  Steve earned a B.S. degree in accounting from Millikin University.  He and his wife Kristie live in Sugar Grove, IL with their three children.

Scott A. Sandee CFP®, CIMA®, CPWA®, CEPA

MANAGING PARTNER

Scott Sandee brings over 20 years of experience as Managing Partner. He is responsible for leading the firm’s efforts in assisting middle-market business owners and seven and eight-figure families to plan and realize financial goals based on their unique aspirations and situations.

With a privately held family business background, Scott has helped owners prepare for and execute a successful transition. In addition, he works with business owners and their advisors to develop financial strategies to maximize sales proceeds and minimize future taxes.

Before joining Vertex, Scott served in financial planning and investment strategy roles at Oxford Financial Group, Capital Group, and The Northern Trust Company, working with Chicago’s HNW/UHNW families clients.

Scott holds the Certified Financial Planner®, Certified Private Wealth Advisor®, Certified Investment Management Analyst®, and Certified Exit Planning Advisor designations. Scott earned his B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Illinois University, and his family resides in Wilmette, IL.

Christopher C. Huston, CIMA®, CAIA®, AIFA®, AIF®

dIRECTOR OF PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT
MANAGING PARTNER

Christopher Huston brings over 17 years of experience to his role as Director of Portfolio Management. He is responsible for leading the firm’s efforts in investment research, portfolio construction and design, capital markets analysis, trading, and portfolio implementation. In addition to his role as Director of Portfolio Management, Chris manages Vertex’s investment technology systems and the team supporting Vertex’s investment process.

With a background working in trust banking, Chris has brought and implemented an investment process consistent with the Code of Ethics and Standards brought forth by the CFA Institute as well as applicable Fiduciary Standards for both firm level and client level portfolios. Vertex incorporates a formalized process of portfolio construction to monitor risk, returns, taxes and expenses in client portfolios. This process consists of Investment Policy Statement construction, asset allocation and selection, quantitative and qualitative due diligence, monitoring and reporting. He is well-versed in technical and fundamental analysis, structured portfolio management, and results-driven performance analytics.

Prior to joining Vertex, Chris served in both portfolio management and investment strategy roles at the Northern Trust Company, working with HNW/UHNW families, business owners, retirement plans and foundations. Previously, at JPMorgan Chase he worked as a banker on Chicago’s North Shore.

Chris holds the Chartered Investment Management Analyst®, Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst®, Accredited Investment Fiduciary®, and Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst® designations. He currently is a CFA Level II candidate. Chris earned his B.A. in English from Bucknell University. He and his wife reside in Chicago, IL.

Julie Hupp CFP®, MBA

PARTNER

Julie Hupp, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, has worked in the accounting and corporate finance field since 1987. She began her career as a CPA with Deloitte & Touche, specializing in the financial needs of small businesses. Then spent the next 13 years in corporate financial planning and business development at Baxter and TAP Pharmaceuticals. Recognizing her passion for personal financial planning, Julie started her business in 2006 where she focuses on comprehensive financial planning strategies and implementation.

Julie graduated from University of Illinois with a BS in Accountancy. She received her Master’s in Management with a concentration in Finance from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in 1994.

Outside the office, Julie is the co-founder of the 12 Oaks Foundation, which has merged with Cal’s Angels, and is a former Board member. Julie enjoys cooking, reading, running, triathlons and doing almost anything outdoors. A great weekend is spending time with her husband and two adult kids boating at their lake house in Wisconsin.

Peter M. Babilla, CFP®, CRPS®

SENIOR WEALTH ADVISOR

Peter Babilla brings 40 years of experience in investment management and fiduciary* financial consulting to Vertex Planning Partners, LLC.

Pete graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana with a Bachelor’s of Science in Finance.

He began his career in 1983 with a focus on institutional fixed-income portfolio management, primarily working with community banks. After a decade serving institutional clients, Pete shifted his focus to working with individuals, families and business owners, providing guidance and education in all areas of Wealth Management.  Among his areas of focus are accumulation and retirement planning, investment management, risk management, and estate and wealth transfer.

Pete’s planning philosophy allows him to create a personalized program for clients, based on their own unique goals and circumstances.  The extensive investment and planning platform offered by Vertex enables him to create a highly customized program, tailored to each individual client.

Pete and his wife Suzanne have two children, and have resided in Wheaton, Illinois for the past 30 years.  He enjoys golf, reading, and traveling with his family.  Pete gives back as a past Board Member of the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago, where his focus is on improving the lives of those living with epilepsy.

Pete works as fiduciary for his clients and holds the CERTIFIED FIANANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) designation and the Chartered Retirement Plan Specialist (CRPS®) designation.

JUSTIN J. D'AGOSTINO, CFP®, CRPC®, AIF®

PRIVATE WEALTH ADVISOR

Justin D’Agostino joined Vertex Partners in 2019 and is a Private Wealth Advisor that serves a select group of business owners and affluent families. He specializes in investments, financial planning, and succession planning. His interest and knowledge in providing comprehensive financial planning and wealth management services to clients was sparked when he worked at a boutique tax and wealth management firm in Michigan. He has nine years of experience in the financial services industry, and his mission is to provide every client with targeted, comprehensive financial advice and to help them implement customized strategies designed to move them closer to accomplishing their unique goals.

Justin attended Hillsdale College where he earned his BA in Accounting and Financial Management and was a member and captain of the football team. Justin is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional, holds the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor™ and Accredited Investment Fiduciary™ designations.

Justin and his fiancé, Alexandra, reside in Chicago, Illinois. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys golfing, playing soccer and spending summer weekends with his family.

Tammy T. Billadeau,
CFP®, CDFA®, AAMS®

Director of Financial Planning

Tammy Billadeau joined Vertex Planning Partners in 2019 with over 14 years of experience in the financial services industry. She specializes in comprehensive financial planning for high-net-worth individuals. Tammy works closely with advisors and their clients to help create customized financial plans, and builds solutions and strategies to help individuals pursue their personal and financial goals.

Tammy has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business/Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In addition, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional (CFP®), Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®), Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS®). As a LPL Registered Associate she holds the following securities registrations: Series 7 & 63 (held with LPL Financial) and 65 (held with Vertex Planning Partners, LLC), and Life & Health Insurance license. She and her husband reside in Naperville, IL.

Cindy Mittlestaedt,
CFP®

Associate Advisor

Cindy, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER, joined our team in 2018. She has been involved in various aspects of the financial service industry since she earned her finance degree in 1989 from Northern Illinois University.

Prior to joining Aspire Planning group (A Vertex Planning Partners Company), Cindy was a Client Service Associate with Edward Jones. In addition, she has experience with Insurance, Tax preparation, Investment and Financial Planning. She earned her CFP® designation in 2021 by meeting rigorous education, experience, exam and ethical requirements.

In her free time, she enjoys lake living with her husband, Ron, and two teenage sons, Evan and Chase. When she’s not at a school or sports events with her boys, she is usually helping with a home remodeling project. Her favorite leisure activities include kayaking, biking, and entertaining family and friends.

Sean Baloun, CFA®

Portfolio Manager

Sean Baloun joined Vertex in 2016. As part of the portfolio management team, Sean helps to ensure client portfolios are managed in accordance with Vertex’s formalized investment processes, performing fundamental and quantitative due diligence; incorporating risk and return monitoring; and maintaining tax and expense awareness when making investment decisions.

Sean is a CFA® Charterholder and earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance from the University of Iowa. As a LPL Registered Associate he holds the following securities registrations: Series 7 & 63 (held with LPL Financial) and 65 (held with Vertex Planning Partners, LLC). He resides in
Lombard, IL.

Edward Smith

Technology & Operations Manager

Edward Smith joined Vertex in 2021 as a Data Analyst. As the firm’s Operations Manager, Edward has primary responsibility for Vertex’s technology platforms, account performance reporting, reconciliation, and billing. He earned both a Bachelors and Masters of Science for Physiology from Illinois State University and currently holds his Series 7, 63, and 65 with LPL Financial.

Edward grew up in Naperville and currently resides in Lemont, IL.

Gail Cannata

CLIENT SERVICE TEAM LEADER

Gail brings a specialized skill set to Vertex Planning Partners based on 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. She began her career in 1989 with an independent broker dealer. She supported several advisors at Morgan Stanley for many years before assisting various LPL Financial advisors over the past 15 years. Gail’s focus is on creating an exceptional client experience while facilitating complex advisor solutions.

Her excellent problem solving and resolution skills are central to her ability to interact with clients and advisors. In her spare time, Gail enjoys directing, producing and acting in live theater and of course special times with her family, including her adorable grandchildren.

Connie Gross

ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGER

Connie is a graduate from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh with a degree in Journalism. After working in corporate positions and running her own business, she joined Julie’s team in 2009 and helps keep everyone organized. Connie is the first point of contact for our clients.

Connie spends her free time reading the latest mystery novel, taking exercise classes with friends and sampling the newest restaurants with her husband, Mark. As often as possible, she spends time with her daughters- Allison a graduate from Arizona State University pursing a Marketing career in Chicago while Katie is back in school pursuing a Masters in Nutrition and Dietary Science at Northern Illinois University after receiving her undergrad from Drake University. She loves to travel with her friends and husband, preferably someplace warm.

Lindsey Benner

client service associate

Lindsey Benner is a Client Service Associate at Vertex Planning Partners, LLC. She has over ten years of experience in a variety of capacities in the financial services industry.

Lindsey earned her BA in Psychology at Ohio University. After earning her degree, she decided to pursue a career in finance and started in retail banking with National City Bank outside of Cleveland, Ohio. She completed the Retail Management Development Program, eventually serving as Branch manager for over a year. She returned home to Chicago with a role at National City Bank’s Private Client Group working in Fiduciary Investments. After several years in that role, she joined JPMorgan Private Bank, where she held a series of titles including: Estate Settlement Assistant, Market Administrative Officer and Client Service Manager. After leaving JPMorgan, she joined her husband Greg’s firm Redwood Financial Network as a Compliance Analyst.

She also holds the Series 7 and Series 66 licenses with LPL Financial.

Linda Chasteen

CLIENT SERVICE ASSOCIATE

Linda Chasteen joined Bellis & Associates Financial Services in 2007 as the their administrative assistant. Linda has extensive experience in client servicing, office management, and operations. Linda has earned the LPL Financial top ranking Certified by completing all three AdminU training curriculum of Specialist, Associate, and Bachelor.

Her hobbies include traveling, volunteer work, yoga, and camping.

Juliette Hackett Engelhardt

CLIENT SERVICE ASSOCIATE

Juliette Hackett Engelhardt is the first face you see when you walk through the doors at Vertex Planning Partners. She has a strong customer service background and superior organizational skills that she has developed over the years while working in the financial and marketing industries. As a Client Service Associate, she is a helpful asset with client communication and service.

Juliette and her husband, Mike, live in Sugar Grove, IL, where they raised their four beautiful children.

Kara Owen

CLIENT SERVICE ASSOCIATE

Kara Owen joined Vertex in 2022. She taught for 7 years in the elementary education setting in the suburbs of Chicago. At Vertex Planning Partners, Kara uses her skillset as an educator—communication, organization, innovation, and leadership; to focus on client relations and service.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education from The University of Iowa and her Master of Education from Benedictine University.

Kara resides in Naperville, IL with her husband and three young sons. In her free time she enjoys working out, reading, spending time with friends, and going on walks.

Megan Rouse

CLIENT SERVICE ASSOCIATE

Megan Rouse joined Vertex in 2022 with over 10 years of customer service experience. Before coming to Vertex, she worked as a Customer Service Team Lead for a large fleet leasing company. During this time, Megan gained valuable experience by developing customer communication and interpersonal skills, while remaining exceptionally organized to deliver on the service needs of her customer base. Meagan is eager to apply her skills in the Financial Services Industry.

Megan has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Northern Illinois University. She and her family reside in Glen Ellyn, IL.

Connect

Connecting with Vertex Planning Partners is your first step towards a tailored financial future. Reach out to discuss guidance that aligns with your unique financial goals and aspirations.

Connect With Us

Schedule a meeting with a  Vertex Planning Partner Advisor who will answer any questions you might have. 

p: 630.836.3300 – e: in**@ve************.com

We’re here to help. Email or call us and speak with a Vertex Planning Partner Advisor who will answer any questions you might have: 630.836.3300 or in**@ve************.com

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