DONALD E. SIMMONS, CFP®

Principal/Executive Director

A pilot, an outdoorsman, a world traveler, a dad, and a volunteer are among the words used to describe Don. He has been married to his better half, Amy, since 1989, and they have four children, so their home is a hub of activity with a revolving door of guests.

In addition to family, Don’s passions include flying an antique (1948) Aeronca Sedan floatplane, mentoring small businesses in the poorest regions of the globe, and serving as a board member for numerous charities including Homes for All, Spa Christian School, and Northern New York Resources Corporation. Frequently, Don also organizes short-term service trips around the world, and orchestrates countless activities for men encouraging a transition from “Success to Significance” and “Integrating Faith into the Marketplace.”

In 2007, Don learned of an international fund that focuses on economic and social development throughout the poorest countries in Central Asia and the Middle East. He soon began to utilize his business experience and training to serve as a business mentor and coach with some of the small businesses held by the fund. Today, he continues to make several trips a year to developing counties so that he can befriend and aid like-minded business owners. Through his interpersonal connections with these firms, he has learned a great deal about the pressing need for these companies to find partners and solutions to fill the gaps.

As a financial planner for over 25 years, Don has been featured as a retirement speaker for many companies in the Albany area including Empire Blue Cross, The Times Union, International Paper, the Veteran’s Administration, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He continues to find great pleasure in helping educate clients on retirement planning, tax strategies, and reaching their charitable giving goals.

 

AUDRA K. HIGGINS

partner

With over a decade of experience in the financial planning industry, Audra originally hails from an unconventional background in the interior design field. Having managed different businesses over the years, including her own design firm, she now uses her education in finance and insurance as Chief Operating Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, and a Partner of Simmons Capital Group. “It is all about building solid relationships, being timely, and delivering exceptional service, no matter what industry you are in,” she can be heard sharing with new clients and colleagues alike. It is no wonder she has a passion for helping clients grow in their knowledge and confidence through financial planning and risk management.

Audra spends most of her time working with new and existing clients to meet their diverse needs, and her varied background has proven beneficial to working with individuals as well as small business owners.

She is continuously driven to increase her knowledge in many industry specialty areas to better serve her clients at Simmons Capital Group. Audra helps lead seminars on insurance planning and social security, and she works in collaboration with her partners and other colleagues to provide comprehensive financial planning for her clients, helping them minimize risk and find success in retirement.

As a small business owner, Audra enjoys working with other proprietors to find ways to make their businesses stronger, more competitive, and sustainable, helping ensure their own personal retirement.

While she relishes the challenges of her day job, Audra also maintains a passion for design and enjoys keeping up on current trends–helping friends with design projects in her spare time. Her love of the outdoors leads her to continually work on a perennial garden and indulge in sporting activities when possible. And when the weather is not so good, she can be found cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

 

Darren J. Leader, CFA

Partner

When asked why he chose a career in financial planning, Darren’s answer always centers around his love of learning. As a former music teacher, his passion for sharing knowledge with others started early, and it continues today. Whether teaching students about music or educating clients about investing, Darren’s goal remains the same: Empower people with information and skills to help them find peace and joy in their lives.

As the Director of Financial Planning and Research at Simmons Capital Group, Darren gets the opportunity each day to develop custom plans and strategies for clients, allowing them to make solid financial decisions. In addition, he keeps a watchful eye on economic markets to ensure the firm’s clients remain well-positioned and informed. 

Knowing that often people wait too long to begin proper retirement planning, Darren is determined to continue to expand the firm’s education programs to help educate individuals about the power of planning as early as possible.

Originally from South Africa, Darren and his wife, Chelsea, live in Schenectady, where he cherishes his role as father to their young daughter, Ruby. To relax, he continues to turn to music, as well as playing golf, travelling the world, and spending time with friends. He also sits on the board of trustees at his church and loves being active within his local community.