Strategic Alliances

Steve Hansen

Steve brings the wisdom and experience to the Altitude Wealth Management team. Steve’s career in Financial Planning began after bad advice and planning caused financial ruin on his very own family. His wife’s grandmother saw her financial picture get turned upside down and ended up losing most everything, including the equity in her home, because of bad advice. Steve then vowed to make a difference in an area where there is too much bad advice. We refer to Steve as our “Walking Encyclopedia” because of his years of experience and his desire to keep abreast of this ever changing financial world. A teacher/coach at heart, Steve enjoys making sure our clients are well educated and informed.

From Steve, “Everything I do is driven by the desire to serve. I get great satisfaction every day from working with people to make their financial lives easier.”

Steve is happily married to his lovely wife, Jeanette. Steve resides in Brighton, Colorado. He is the proud father of three sons and one daughter and proud grandfather of seven grandchildren. Steve enjoys spending quality time with his family, volunteering and being outdoors.



Wayne Schmidt, CFA®

Chief Investment Officer of Gradient Investments, LLC

In October 2008, Wayne Schmidt joined Gradient Investments, LLC to serve as chief investment officer. Boasting over 26 years in the financial industry, Wayne brings invaluable institutional experience and in-depth knowledge of the private client market to Gradient Investments, and offers a global investment management perspective.

Wayne is an essential and direct resource for affiliated investment advisors and their clients. He provides vast wisdom, knowledge and tools to help investment advisors both grow their practices and their clients’ assets.

In a nationwide search that included acquisition considerations, AXA Investment Managers, a subsidiary of the European insurance giant AXA Group, handpicked Wayne to build their U.S. investment grade fixed income capabilities and to lead a seasoned portfolio team located in Saint Paul.

During his tenure at AXA Investment Managers, Wayne served as senior portfolio manager for the U.S. investment grade fixed income team. As the lead portfolio manager, he managed $9.5 billion of fixed income assets with a variety of mandates ranging from aggregate, corporate and government bond portfolios.

Before joining AXA Investment Managers, Wayne dedicated over 20 years to Minnesota Life and its $14 billion investment arm, Advantus Capital Management. As their portfolio manager, he managed a variety of high-grade funds as part of Advantus’s $1.8 billion Total Return Product for institutional and retail clients. He also served as the lead portfolio manager of the Advantus Bond Fund and the co-portfolio manager of the Advantus Spectrum Fund.

Wayne earned his Master of Business Administration in Finance from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst® and a member of The Chartered Financial Analyst Institute and the Twin Cities Society of Security Analysts.

Over the years, Wayne has been quoted on the global economy in numerous nationally and internationally recognized investment publications such as: Bloomberg, Pension & Investments, Reuters, The Los Angeles Times, Financial Week (2008 Neal Award winner), Asia Times, InvestorVillage, Safehaven, SFO, Credit Investment News and RGE Monitor (Nouriel Roubini’s Global EconoMonitor investment). He has also provided market insights on Bloomberg Radio and Bloomberg TV.

Wayne’s love of Minnesota is Gradient Investments’ great fortune, as he declined to relocate with AXA Investment Managers following their strategic decision to consolidate function into a high-yield operation in Greenwich, Connecticut.


Michael Binger, CFA®

Senior Portfolio Manager of Gradient Investments, LLC

Michael Binger, CFA®, serves as the senior portfolio manager for Gradient Investments, LLC. Michael brings over 24 years of institutional equity investment experience to Gradient Investments and its affiliated advisors and clients. He has extensive experience working directly with financial advisors, designing and actively managing portfolios. Michael has successfully invested in numerous market and economic cycles giving him a level and depth of experience that is rare in this industry.

Michael started his investment career in Minneapolis with Lutheran Brotherhood in 1987 and gained experience managing assets in a variety of asset classes including convertible bonds, small cap equities and large cap equities. When Lutheran Brotherhood and Aid Association for Lutherans merged in 2001 to become Thrivent Financial, Michael was selected to work as the senior portfolio manager on the Large Cap Growth Team and Large Cap Alpha Team managing over $3 billion in assets. As the senior portfolio manager, he developed and oversaw the tactical investment strategies utilized within mutual funds, variable annuities, pension funds and insurance company products. These investment processes included proprietary portfolio construction strategies, security selection parameters and volatility controlled umbrellas.

Michael graduated from the University of Minnesota, earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration-Finance. He graduated with honors and was the University of Minnesota’s “Wall Street Journal Award Winner.” Michael is a CFA® and a member of The Chartered Financial Analyst Institute and the Twin Cities Society of Security Analysts.

Michael’s media highlights include providing market insight on CNBC, Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Radio. He has also been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Smart Money, Reuters, Business Week and numerous other local, national and global investment publications.


Mariann Montagne, CFA®

Senior Investment Analyst of Gradient Investments, LLC

Mariann Montagne, CFA® serves as a senior investment analyst for Gradient Investments, LLC. She has 20 plus years of experience working with both institutional and high net worth clients, and has amassed a strong breadth of investment experience during her tenure. This includes company and industry sector analysis, risk monitoring and portfolio management in both the equity and fixed income markets. She is highly attuned to economic and market conditions, and has extensive experience selecting individual stocks, ETFs and mutual funds.

Prior to joining Gradient Investments, she was the senior investment analyst and co-portfolio manager for a Minneapolis-based registered investment advisor with over $500 million in assets under management. Montagne was involved in security selection, portfolio management, client presentations and setting strategic direction for the investment department. Her coverage included individual securities, ETFs and mutual funds in the equity, fixed income and alternative asset classes. Prior to that, she was a senior investment analyst at Thrivent Asset Management, examining industry sectors and selecting individual equities. Montagne also spent several years at Munder Capital Management as the assistant director of research along with covering growth and value equities.

Montagne served for seven years on the Global Board of the Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY), including posts as president and conference chair.

She is a Chartered Financial AnalystTM and a member of both the CFA Society of Minnesota and the CFA Institute. Montagne is an alumnus of the University of Detroit where she graduated cum laude with a finance major and an English minor.

Montagne’s media highlights include quotes in Barron’s, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, NPR, Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on Bloomberg TV and Fox Business News.

*Third-Party Money Management is offered through our Strategic Alliances with Gradient Investments, LLC