Three women have started a Chicago-based investment advisory firm that they say stands out from the competition by having a full-time clinical psychologist on staff.

“I think the main piece that makes us unique is having a doctor in psychology as part of our team,” said Vanessa Martinez, chief executive officer and managing partner at Expressive Wealth, which launched last week.

The firm is launching with more than $200 million in assets under management and Martinez said that Expressive Wealth wants to help families manage their wealth and demonstrate that a successful lifestyle isn’t all about the amount of money a person has.

“The main goal would be helping families truly believe that wealth is more than just money and through that process be able to not just build or increase the traditional definition of wealth but truly be able to increase that by making sure the communication is there and their stories and whys are totally shared with the next generation,” she said. 

Partner Patricia Villarreal will serve as an in-house chief clinical officer who works with advisors and clients in need of help during particularly difficult situations, she said.

Villarreal will meet with families when they come in to talk about sensitive subjects such as what will happen with a family’s inheritance after the parents pass away and other sensitive subjects, according to the firm.

When families make those difficult decisions, the heirs are often left not knowing the reasons those decisions were made, according to Martinez. By having those discussions, particular with a psychologist in the room, it can help the families cope with those reasons as well.

“If you’re sitting in a room and have this meeting and everyone can openly share the whys or ask the 'whys,' that is what she facilitates,” Martinez said.

Martinez was motivated to launch the firm after her work at Em-Powered Network, a network she co-founded with Villarreal that helps improve the financial literacy of women, Martinez said. After years of providing advice, many clients asked her for help in implementing that advice.

“As the question continuously came up, I knew that the next step was moving forward in helping in implementation,” she said.

Martinez met Lauren Genuardi, and Darlene Duncan several years earlier at a networking event and invited them to join her.  

Genuardi serves as the firm’s chief compliance officer and managing partner, while Duncan is a wealth advisor and partner.

Genuardi came from Chicago-based, Telemus where she worked as a financial life advisor for six years. Before that she was at Barrington Strategic Wealth Management Group in Chicago.

Duncan spent nine years as senior vice president of Destin, Fla.-based Duncan McHugh Investments before coming to Expressive Wealth. Before that she worked at Wells Fargo Advisors as a financial consultant.

Prior to her work with En-Power Network, Martinez worked at the Lerner Group at Hightower in Deerfield, Ill.

Villarreal earned her psychology degree from the Chicago School and was previously the founder and CEO of Holding Space for Psychological Wellness, an organization that provides therapy for those struggling with mental issues.