The Lyon Group History

Few financial advisory firms have been in business for nearly 70 years. The Lyon Group has.

We began as a professional life insurance practice serving the farmers, small businesses and families of rural southwestern Ohio. Back in those days, the conversations may have been simpler, but they were no less profound. "How will I retire?" "What happens to my business if I die?" "How do we cover the taxes on the farm so the kids can take over?"

These were the questions commonly posed to our founder, Robert Lyon. He started the practice in 1950 in Georgetown, Ohio. With a degree from The Ohio State University and having served as an officer in our nation's Navy during the Second World War, he was ready to come home and serve the people of his hometown and surrounding communities.

He brought to the business a genuine interest in people and a moral mandate to "tell it like it is". To learn more about the roots of this moral mandate, see the story of The Navigator below. When he married Elinor Groover in 1962, he acquired not only a life partner, but also a business partner. Elinor had already been involved in the industry a few years before the young couple met.

For over 35 years, Bob served the community and his industry well. His life was cut short in 1985 by a fatal heart attack. At about that time, his son, Bill was completing his degree at Ohio State. With majors in Finance and Risk Management, Bill had been preparing for the emerging field of fee-based financial planning. Elinor stepped in to manage the business while Bill completed his last year at OSU.

The 1980's and 1990's brought significant change to the financial services industry. The Lyon Group relocated its headquarters in the eastern suburbs of Cincinnati to serve the needs of that growing area. Jennie Kozma, ChFC, CLU, was added to the team to help advise the growing client base. Together, they immersed themselves in community work and in providing financial education.

During the 2000's and early 2010's The Lyon Group added to its professional staff and capabilities. The firm of Nienaber and Associates merged with The Lyon Group during this time providing added expertise in the employee benefits arena. A few years later after law school and some experience as a marketing consultant, Bob Nienaber joined the firm as well.

As a team, the firm provided "thought leadership" through some of the most tumultuous financial times in two generations. Several key concepts and processes were created during this time including The Financial Navigation System and The Holistic Balance Sheet. Bill began sharing these concepts through speaking and writing to his industry and beyond.

The firm's professionals and support staff see themselves as financial navigators helping clients chart a successful course that aligns their wealth with their values. Many things have changed in 60-plus years, but the important things haven't changed at all. Central to our existence is an intention to live by Bob Lyon's hallmarks: a genuine interest in people and a moral mandate to "tell it like it is."


It happened nearly 70 years ago in the South Pacific during the Second World War. A young ensign was fresh out of Midshipman’s School where he had been studying a specific type of mathematics – Spherical Trigonometry. Naval officers needed to know this type of math so they could figure out their position on the globe before Global Positioning Satellites were invented.

So one night while not on duty, the young ensign was practicing his skills from the deck of the ship. He used an instrument called a marine sextant to determine the angle of the stars relative to sea level. The readings were then used to plot the position of the ship. What he found was that his coordinates did not match those that were officially posted. In other words, the ship was off course – significantly.

He took this information to the ship’s navigator who responded by explaining that the ensign must be wrong. He did not appreciate being called into question and accused him of insubordination. The ensign accepted the scolding.

It turned out that the captain liked to show the young officers that he was “one of them”. Over dinner that night he commented that his door was always open. So the young ensign approached him with the situation. The captain suggested that they meet on the deck later that evening so that he could dust off his own sextant and they would see why there was a discrepancy. They did and based on what they found, they went immediately to the ship’s navigator.

The captain explained, “Young Ensign Lyon here seems to think that the ship is off course”. Immediately, the navigator, who was a lieutenant, interrupted and apologized for his subordinate for bothering the captain with his foolish claim. He assured him that it would not happen again.

The captain replied that he was sure that it wouldn’t because “the interesting thing is … the ensign is right”. The lieutenant reminded the captain that he was the ship’s navigator and therefore the ensign could not be right. At which point the captain corrected him noting that he "was" the navigator – past tense. The new navigator would be Ensign Lyon here. “But sir, he can’t be the navigator of a whole convoy of ships as an ensign.” To which the captain responded by removing one of the lieutenant’s bars and placing it on my father’s lapel promoting him to the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade.

The captain concluded the conversation noting that “I don’t need another yes man. I need someone who’ll tell me like it is, whether it’s what I want to hear or not.”