Proven Professionals: A Trusted Partner, When You Need it Most

Sponsored Content: Life doesn’t stop for a pandemic. If anything, we’re even more focused on our personal and financial goals these days. In a time of uncertainty, it’s important to remember that you still have a helping hand in making those difficult, but important decisions that will affect your finances, your retirement, your personal life, business and more.

Our financial concerns are top of mind these days. Worries about our jobs and businesses, our retirement plans, our tax expectations and more are giving us plenty to consider as we try to navigate these uncertain waters.

Indeed, uncertainty and unpredictability keep us guessing at every turn. And, in all reality, life doesn’t stop for a pandemic. We still have needs to be met and goals to attain, matters to close and opportunities to open.

One thing that remains unflinching in these difficult times is the need for smart strategies and solid advice to carry us forward. That’s what you’ll find among the trusted partners you’ve always sought for advice on complex decisions.

Today, just as in days past, your network of attorneys, investment advisors, insurance advisors and certified public accountants is focused on helping you to attain your important goals and chart a course forward, because the only thing that’s ever certain in life is uncertainty.

This year’s guide to Proven Professionals introduces you to the region’s most trusted experts, the type whose work has been proven over years and decades, through good times and bad. Their experience will provide invaluable assistance as you seek personal success, both on the personal and business front.

Stillman Trust & Wealth Management

Serving the community since 1882, Stillman Bank has spent over 138 years forging a stable financial institution that is dedicated to the customers and communities it serves. With six full-service office locations throughout Ogle and Winnebago counties, it still remains locally owned and headquartered right here in the Rock River Valley. While the banking industry has transformed since Stillman Bank’s founding, its guiding principles have always remained steadfast. Stillman Bank has been cultivated through a long and continuing tradition of integrity, community involvement and leadership that builds value for its customers, communities and shareholders, all of which are important to the bank’s success.

Stillman Trust & Wealth Management offers a full range of trust and investment services to individuals and businesses. Managing personal assets or a company’s assets in today’s financial marketplace requires knowledge and expertise. Stillman Bank provides comprehensive and creative solutions to individuals interested in building and preserving their wealth through Trust Administration, Retirement & Estate Planning, and Investment Management services. Stillman Bank’s advisors work with their customers to determine long-term and short-term goals to develop a strategy that is customized to every unique situation. They take pride in offering clients innovative financial solutions to build and protect their assets. For more information or to arrange a no-obligation, complimentary consultation, contact them at any of their six locations. Trust administrators regularly visit all offices, so appointments can be made for any location or time.

In addition to the products and services it offers, Stillman Bank provides support to numerous community organizations with monetary donations, resources and volunteer hours. As your neighbors, their employees are truly living, working and investing in the betterment of the local communities. Contact any one of Stillman Bank’s six office locations to speak with an experienced Trust Officer or visit for more information.

Locations: Byron, Rockford, Oregon, Roscoe, Rochelle, Stillman Valley

Lucas Group CPAs + Advisors

A lot has changed since Lucas Beggin and Richard Lamm launched Lucas Group a decade ago. In just 10 years, the firm has grown into a thriving financial services team that works between two locations. And it continues to grow.

The Lucas Group umbrella has two firms. Lucas Group CPAs + Advisors specializes in accounting and financial management, while Lucas Group Financial Advisors takes care of wealth management. Combined, Lucas Group provides comprehensive services for individuals and small to mid-sized businesses, including investment management, income tax planning, retirement planning and legacy planning.

The firm started in September 2010 as Beggin Tipp Lamm CPAs in Freeport. Eventually, the firm added a specialty in audits, including nonprofit and governmental auditing. It also expanded into Rockford, doubling the staff.

In 2014, Beggin and his team entered new territory when they started a wealth management company with specialties in financial and retirement planning. In 2019, the firm added additional team members to Lucas Group Financial Advisors with knowledge in estate planning, divorce financial planning and insurance services.

Today, operating as Lucas Group CPAs + Advisors, this group of experts serves clients with a diverse range of skills at locations in Rockford and Freeport. The plethora of services Lucas Group provides helps to separate them from other firms in the area. Unlike many other firms, the accountants at Lucas Group believe that tax services should involve planning and advice ahead of the tax deadlines, instead of simply filing the returns. For this reason, the firm starts its tax season around October – roughly two months ahead of competitors. This gives the company more time to help individuals and smaller businesses prepare and plan for filing their taxes.

“We listen to what the clients want and we address their needs,” Beggin says. “We’ve always tried to treat people right and take the high road. Doing the right thing tends to be the best way to grow over time. Our clients appreciate the hard work we do, and they refer their clients and friends. You do right by people who do right by you.”

Locations: 524 W Stephenson St., Ste. 200, Freeport; 1617 Temple Lane, Rockford

CoyleKiley Insurance Agency

CoyleKiley Insurance Agency is the region’s leading, locally owned, independent agency specializing in commercial insurance, personal insurance, executive planning, employee benefits and wealth management.

We’re licensed to conduct business throughout the United States, so our agency works with more than 30 of the best insurance companies in the world. Each one carries a minimum “A” financial strength rating by A.M. Best, a standard that comforts both us and our clients. We’re recognized for our outstanding customer service and have been for many years.

Our goal is to simplify the process for you and build a long-lasting relationship. When you partner with us, we have the time-saving ability to market different policies, with all of our carriers, at one time, for your benefit. This allows us to effectively overview your options in carriers, coverages, deductibles, payment plans and more. We help you decide the best plan for you. We’re not the insurance carrier; we’re your insurance advisor. We represent your needs and are part of your team.

When you choose CoyleKiley, we not only provide traditional insurance solutions. As your consultant, we also review your insurance and financial priorities to provide a customized plan that will assist you in taking advantage of changing times and new risk protection solutions. Throughout CoyleKiley Insurance Agency, we believe strongly in maintaining our core values of delivering excellence, staying engaged and earning our clients’ trust every day.

Our internal perpetuation of Coyle-Varland Insurance Agency means our firm is built upon more than 60 years of industry knowledge and expertise. CoyleKiley Insurance Agency delivers experts who have been in the insurance field for more than 30 years. We have an extremely strong foundation to our agency, and now we’re taking it to the next level with a group of younger professionals who will strengthen our legacy and growth.
CoyleKiley Insurance Agency… we’re here to serve all your needs. Call us today.

Location: 810 N. Alpine Road

DiBenedetto & Associates LTD

DiBenedetto & Associates is a full-service investment management and financial planning firm with more than 35 years of experience in helping clients to achieve their financial goals.

As a fee-only investment advisory firm with experience in numerous financial services, we emphasize empathy, compassion, integrity, trust and personalized service in all we do.

DiBenedetto & Associates was founded by Chuck DiBenedetto in 1980. His sons, Alex and Jeffrey, joined the firm in 1998 and 2002, respectively. Tracy Gresty joined the firm in 2016 as office manager and director of client coordination.

As a boutique advisory firm, we take our clients’ needs very seriously. While planning and investment management are at the core of our client relationship, the real value added is in access to advice. This is where we set ourselves apart from other advisors. Our clients don’t hesitate to call with any financial question. We become true partners in our clients’ financial success.

Location: 4920 Forest Hills Road, Loves Park, Ill.

Benning Group, LLC

Benning Group, LLC (BG) is a full-service traditional CPA firm with offices in northern Illinois (Freeport and Rockford) and southern Wisconsin (Monroe). Don Benning, CPA, and Curt Kleckler, CPA, worked together in the 1980s at a national accounting firm. The predecessor to BG was formed in 1987.

In the past 30 years, the firm has added two additional partners, Jenny Blocker, CPA, and Jake Thompson, CPA, and developed a strong team of certified public accountants and supporting staff to meet the needs of a diverse group of small businesses and individuals. In September 2020, Roger Boeke, CPA, and his team at Boeke & Associates merged into Benning Group’s Rockford office, further strengthening BG’s client base and its breadth of experience and knowledge.

Firm clients include a wide range of manufacturers, agricultural industries, retail stores, financial institutions, and other entrepreneurs and their businesses. BG assists them in accomplishing their goals through various consulting services in addition to in-depth knowledge of accounting principles, software solutions, and income tax laws and regulations. Over the years, we have also developed niche practices in the financial and compliance audits of Illinois school districts as well as audits of employee retirement plans and nonprofit entities, including their related information reporting.

Because BG is a full-service CPA firm, individual tax planning and tax return preparation are a substantial part of the practice, and BG’s more than 25 professional staff members get to know clients personally while watching their families grow and needs change over the years.

Benning Group LLC takes great pride in providing top-quality services in a timely, responsive manner at a reasonable price. A “hands-on” approach in delivering client services separates BG from larger firms, while the depth of knowledge and experience sets BG apart from other local firms.

Locations: 50 W. Douglas St., Ste. 300, Freeport; 6815 Weaver Road, Ste. 300, Rockford; 1809 10th St., Monroe, Wis.

MacCloskeyKesler and Associates, LLC

MacCloskeyKesler and Associates, LLC, is a leader in personal injury law in the Rockford area. The firm has been serving injury victims since 1998, when Kim MacCloskey founded the firm. In 2004, Phil Kesler joined Kim in his quest to handle every case like his own. The firm has grown, but the emphasis on compassionate, personal injury representation remains.

The firm has been privileged to receive numerous awards, including the “Best of the Rock River Valley” award for both law firm and personal injury lawyer, based on votes from local community members. The firm has many million-dollar and multimillion-dollar settlements and verdicts to its credit. Kim and Phil are both members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Multimillion Dollar Advocates Forum. The best reward for Kim and Phil, however, comes from helping injury victims find peace during difficult times. 

Kim and Phil credit their staff and clients for their success and awards. The staff at MacCloskeyKesler and Associates is well-trained and dedicated to providing personal attention to their clients. Much of the staff has been with the firm for over a decade, and clients routinely refer friends and family when they’ve been injured. Kim and Phil see this as the highest honor.

MacCloskeyKesler and Associates continues to grow and succeed. Despite its success, its dedication to providing experienced representation and personal attention to each case remains the same. With this in mind, MacCloskeyKesler & Associates only handles personal injury cases and does not represent insurance companies. Because of the firm’s reputation, most cases settle without trial or without even the need to file a lawsuit. 

During the ongoing pandemic, the team is meeting with clients by phone, video or in-person, as desired.
If you have been a victim of someone else’s negligence, contact MacCloskeyKesler and Associates for a free consultation at (815) 965-2000.

Location: 308 W. State St., Ste. 200, Rockford

Edward Jones/Mike Donnelly

As an Edward Jones financial advisor, I believe it’s important to invest my time to understand what you’re working toward before you invest your money. It’s also important to understand the level of risk you’re comfortable accepting when investing, so we can balance it with the steps necessary to help reach your long-term goals.

Whether you’re planning for retirement, saving for college for children or grandchildren, or just trying to protect the financial future of the ones you care for the most, we can work together to develop specific strategies to help you achieve your goals.

We can also monitor your progress to help make sure you stay on track or determine if any adjustments need to be made. Throughout it all, we’re dedicated to providing you top-notch client service.

But we’re not alone. Thousands of people and advanced technology support our office so we can help ensure you receive the most current and comprehensive guidance.

In addition, we welcome the opportunity to work with your attorney, accountant and other trusted professionals to deliver a comprehensive strategy that leverages everyone’s expertise.

Working together, we can help you develop a complete, tailored strategy to help you achieve your financial goals.

Location: 2406 Charles St., Rockford

Charles Schwab: Mark Gerard, Advisor

At Charles Schwab, we believe in the power of investing to help individuals create a better tomorrow.
We have a history of challenging the status quo in our industry, innovating in ways that benefit investors, advisors and employers who serve them, and championing our clients’ goals with passion and integrity.

Schwab’s independent branch in Rockford opened in 2013 and has since been offering local residents access to a range of investing and wealth management guidance, products and services.

The branch is led by Independent Branch Leader Mark Gerard, a financial services professional with 20 years of experience in financial planning and portfolio design.

Clients can also meet with financial consultant Bill Osborne, also a 20-year veteran of the investment management industry, for financial planning discussions and personalized portfolio consultations.

Location: 801 N. Perryville Road, Rockford

German American State Bank

German American State Bank was founded in 1907, making us one of the oldest community banks in Illinois.

With four full-service branches in German Valley, Pecatonica, Winnebago and Seward, and a new Loan Production Office in Belvidere, our bank has continued to grow throughout the years, not only in location, but also in the products and services we provide to our customers.

While staying true to our roots, we continue to grow in innovation and technology to bring the best in banking to the communities we serve.

German American State Bank is a member of Foresight Financial Group, a multi-bank holding company that values and commits to community banking.

Locations: German Valley, Pecatonica, Seward, Winnebago, Belvidere