Welcome back to the 159th episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today’s podcast is Kelly Shikany. Kelly is a financial advisor and director of wealth management for Lakeside Wealth, a hybrid RIA based in Chesterton, Indiana, right outside Chicago, where Kelly manages a base of nearly $90 million of client assets.
What’s unique about Kelly, though, is her decision to not hang her hat as a solo advisor and instead navigate existing advisory firms that have already established the necessary infrastructure to operate the firm, allowing her to focus on clients and not needing to live in an “eat what you kill” grid-based environment.
In this episode, we talk in-depth about Kelly’s career path through the advisory industry under the employee model. From starting out as a trust accountant for ERISA plans with Northern Trust, shifting to become a trust officer with an independent trust company, transitioning to the independent channel under the Wells Fargo FiNet platform, and then joining her current firm with an opportunity to grow by servicing clients that the firm acquires in its own efforts to grow.
We also talk about how Kelly grew her client base in the early years by conducting women’s circles as a way to network and establish relationships in her small town community. The reason she decided to pursue the CDFA designation as a way to initially differentiate herself, and how ultimately she decided the best way to differentiate herself was simply her ability to have a different kind of conversation with her clients in the first place.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Kelly talks about how she structures her week to maximize personal productivity. Why it’s so difficult for most of the employee model to even figure out the right questions to ask when evaluating potential advisor job opportunities, and why it’s important to balance a positive desire to be loyal to your firm and clientele with focusing on your own needs to find a fulfilling career and the right place to work as a financial advisor.
What You’ll Learn In This Podcast Episode
- How Kelly Got Her Start In The Industry [05:38]
- How She Tackled Business Development In Broker-Dealer World [23:32]
- How Kelly Started Leveraging Women’s Circles [33:06]
- How She Decided On Her Next Step After Wells Fargo FiNet [45:50]
- What Her Practice Looks Like Today [1:02:54]
- What Surprised Her The Most About Navigating Her Career Track [1:10:48]
- What She Know Now That She Wishes She Knew 10 Years Ago [1:15:13]
- How She Defines Success For Herself [1:24:50]
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- Kelly Shikany
- Lakeside Wealth Management
- CDFA Designation
- The Circle Way: A Leader In Every Chair by Christina Baldwin & Ann Linnea
- eMoney Advisor
- Acuity Scheduling
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Welcome, Kelly Shikany, to the “Financial Advisor Success” podcast.
Kelly: Thank you for having me.
Michael: I’m really looking forward to the podcast and the discussion today and this theme that’s come up recently in a few of our podcasts. That for all the work that we do coming into this business as advisors and trying to find the right firm, the right job, the right role, the right employer, the right opportunity, almost none of us seem to ever actually get it right the first time out. That even with the best of intentions, the best of due diligence, sometimes you don’t always know what the firm is really going to be like, what the culture is going to be like. And sometimes you just don’t know what the job is going to be like and whether you’re actually going to like the thing that you thought you were going to really like until you do it for a while and then go, “Ah, I actually don’t like this part of the business so much.”
I’ve started taking the saying now for people who are coming into the industry, like, if you really want to focus on finding the right job and finding the right firm, focus on your third job. Because your first one’s going to be wrong, your second one’s going to be a reaction to whatever you didn’t like about the first one, but it will probably also be wrong. You’ll just be moving to the opposite extreme of whatever you didn’t like about the first one. And then maybe by the third one, you will finally find a role and a firm and a job and a structure that works for you. And it’s hard because no one really explains how all the different firms and rules and structures work. You sometimes don’t know until you get there. And so I know you have, I guess kind of lived this challenge in a really wide range of the industry from trust companies to wirehouses to independent channels. And so just looking forward to kind of talking today about that dynamic of the challenge of finding the right firm or almost the frustration like, why have we made it so darn hard to just find the right firm and role in the advisor industry?
Kelly: Well, I know from my experience that coming out of college, they certainly didn’t talk about this industry at all. And I know that is changing somewhat, but I certainly didn’t even know what this was, RIA, at all at the time. And coming out of a trust company and going to a wirehouse, I had no idea what that even was. So I think that students today have a much better opportunity to at least be exposed to what that can possibly mean more now than ever. And that was really my struggle coming from the world of what I had coming into. I started my early years with Wells Fargo on their independent channel, and that was pretty eye-opening.
Michael: So take us through some of this journey, I guess not even sort of at the Wells end because I think that was where you went second, first was trust company world. So I guess just paint the picture for us of what brought you to the advisor industry? What was the, I don’t know, the appeal or the draw in the first place and how did you land where you landed first?
How Kelly Got Her Start In The Industry [05:38]
Kelly: When I started out of college, I worked in Northern Trust. And that was convenient. I lived in Chicago, and Northern Trust was a great company. And they actually had a group of us on the trading floor and I absolutely loved the high energy. It was fun. But at some point, I moved back to my hometown and working and commuting from Northwest Indiana to Chicago was not going to work for having a family. I was getting up at 4:00 in the morning. I was in Chicago by 6. I was in bed by 6 p.m., back up at 4 a.m. That just was not going to work for a mom. So I still wanted to be involved in this industry somehow. So once my kids got a little bit older and I was sitting across from somebody who happened to be a CFP, I thought, “This interests me, but where can I put this to work?” And there happened to be a couple of places in my hometown that hired people in that industry, and it was a trust company. So that’s how that started.
Michael: So how did you land out in Northern Trust world in the first place, though? What started you there? Were you, I don’t know, an accounting, finance major in college and then wanted to go into trust accounting world? How did you land there? There’s no shortage of jobs in Chicago. You could have landed in a lot of different industries.
Kelly: Well, I’d love to tell you that I had a bunch of offers out of college, but I didn’t. And Northern Trust recruited at Indiana University and I got a job there. So that’s where I worked. And they had a trust accounting department. And I started in their trust accounting and I really hated sitting at a desk. And as soon as I had an opportunity to do an internal transfer to the trading floor, I took it. And I just really loved working on the floor. And I loved the dynamic of the markets. My dad used to do…he worked at the Board of Trade, so I knew that kind of an industry, and I just really loved that kind of work. So, that’s how I got into capital markets was working with Northern Trust right out of college.
Michael: And were you a business or finance-related major or was this just a totally random…?
Kelly: No, I was a business major.
Michael: Okay. Okay. So Northern…good old on-campus recruiting works, Northern Trust shows up and says like, “Hey, you would like the financial services industry, come talk to us,” and just pulled you in on that basis.
Kelly: Yes, it works. And it was a great job for a young person. And the hours were great. You got off at 2:30, 3:00. You had your rest of your day. It was perfect.
Michael: Good old banker’s hours, yes.
Michael: So you started out in trust world. Trust accounting wasn’t doing it for you because it was too much desk time and not enough people interaction time. So you landed on the trading floor. That was fun until you were in Northwest Indiana and commuting horrifically and had to find another option. And so that’s what pulled you away from Northern Trust and to say, “Let’s look at something local?”
Kelly: Yeah, I really liked when I worked with somebody on our personal investments and I saw all the different things you could do with investments, with 401(k)s, with insurance. And I saw that it all tied together. And I asked this person, “How do you do this? How do you become this?” And that’s when I got interested in this field, because I had never heard of that designation before this person had that. So I reached out to the College for Financial Planning and started to tiptoe into these different designations. There was a registered paraplanner. There was this Accredited Asset management designation. And I remembered as I got these different designations, this gentleman at this college said to me, “Well, if you get this designation, you could work for a man who is a CFP.” And those were his words to me. And I said, “I’m not going to work for any man.” And that’s when I got my CFP.
Michael: So it was like, you can get this other designation and work for, I was going to say the man, but like a man, because…and we wonder why our industry has some gender issues. Like, you can get this designation and work for a man or you can get this CFP designation and be the man, be the woman. So you thought, “I’m getting the CFP.”
Michael: But that awareness came from, “I worked with an advisor who had the CFP designation and thought that looked interesting?”
Kelly: Yes. And it just really…all the different areas that it encompassed and realizing that once I got the designation, I didn’t need to be…I didn’t need to go deep in every single one of those areas, I could find an area that really interests me. And I clearly already had an interest in the investment area from my work on the floor. But I found myself looking at the planning piece of that designation and I really loved pulling all those pieces together. And when I worked at that trust company, learning about the different types of trusts and that started to hook me in there. I liked that piece as well. But things happened in ’08, ’09, and that’s kind of when I moved on the continuum, and the Wells Fargo opportunity opened up.
Michael: So talk to me a little bit more, though, about what life was like as a CFP, a financial advisor. I’m going to imagine at the time you were probably called a trust officer or something in a trust company. What does that role look like in practice?
Kelly: Well, there’s a lot of reading involved because you’re reading a lot of those documents to make sure that what you’re doing, you’re adhering to the wording within that trust document that your…”shall pay,” “may pay.” Those documents are very specific.
Michael: And you’re not necessarily a lawyer…
Michael: …but you still have to…
Kelly: And you’re working with a lot of lawyers and not practicing law, because you can’t do that. So there’s just a lot of collaboration with families. And granted, we weren’t New York City, we weren’t Chicago, it’s Northwest Indiana. But you’re doing some of the trust work. But we also had IRAs, and we also had taxable accounts as well. So it was a pretty traditional kind of a situation with some trusts and some traditional accounts as well.
Michael: And so how does it work from a business development perspective when you’re in a trust company environment like that? Are you trying to go out and find trust accounts and people who have trust or does it tend to be more inbound like, “Hey pop-pop had this trust and he passed away and now the trust thing is supposed to happen and we don’t know what to do and you’re a trust company, so you all do this?”
Kelly: I think some of it was thought out like that and some of it was just IRAs as well. So it wasn’t just trust, it was, like I said, some of it was just regular IRA business. Some of it was traditional investment accounts. Some of it was self-directed accounts. So it wasn’t just one type of account. So it was a little bit of everything. And referrals, like everything else, and being a small town, there was a bank. There was the big banks and then there was us. So there wasn’t a whole lot of competition.
Michael: So trust business as a trust company in a small town tended to be I guess essentially more inbound or did you still have a lot of like, okay, as a trust officer, you have these business development responsibilities and you have to bring in this much in assets and revenue to keep your job every year?
Kelly: Oh, it was probably a lot of that. My role when I was at that firm was more on the investment side than on the trust side. So I did a lot more of the investment piece of the business at that firm. So we had kind of an investment list that we maintained and…
Michael: So actually doing the portfolio analysis end of what’s…
Kelly: Exactly. A lot of individual bonds. Back then it was…between 2000 and 2008, people were buying a lot more individual bonds: municipals, corporates. It was a more of that back then. You don’t see that as much now.
Michael: So you’re in this role of analyzing investments, handling them within a trust company environment, and then 2008 happens?
Michael: Was that ultimately the disruptor was just trust company was downsizing because assets went down in the bear market?
Kelly: No. Actually, I was involved in a trading error with one of my colleagues. And there was a gender discrimination lawsuit due to a trading error and I was fired. And I won the lawsuit if that makes it any better, but it was a pretty horrible time. It was probably the lowest point in my career.
Michael: So A, there were two traders on this, there was a trading error, we’re blaming the woman?
Kelly: Well, it was a trading error that involved two people and there was some backdating of an employee handbook to make the person involved in the error personally responsible for the error. And it came to light. And let’s just say I won that issue, but it was pretty awful.
Michael: And so does that literally just put you out of work for a while? Because you’re terminated from the old company, it’s kind of hard to get a job in the new one, particularly in the financial services industry, when they ask you that question like, “Have you ever been accused of financial accounting or fraud?” Or whatever the other items are. And you’re like, “Well, yes, but it’s pending” is not the best thing to say in an interview.
Kelly: And it wasn’t really…so it wasn’t characterized like that because it wasn’t…just like on the floor, when we had trading errors, it was you sell 10 instead of buy 10, it was just an error. It wasn’t fraud.
Michael: So they weren’t concerned at that end, except then people actually changed paperwork to try to shift blame, which gets a little more problematic.
Kelly: Well, the employee handbook was changed to read that if there were any trading errors, the person involved was personally responsible. And I don’t think I would have ever taken the job if I could have been personally responsible for any trading error. That would have been…it would have bankrupted my family.
Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just from a practical perspective, when you’re in a trust company with large dollar amounts involved, just making employees personally liable for trade errors usually isn’t really constructive anyways. Because if it’s a significant trade error, it’s not like they’re going to have the financial wherewithal to make the client good anyways. Well, that’s why you have E&O insurance, and that’s why you have trading processes and procedures with oversight to hopefully at least minimize trading errors from happening.
Kelly: So I think they changed. I’m pretty sure they changed things after that. And I know they had to hire some HR after that. But it was…it’s still…this is a small town, and I’ve gone on to better things, but it’s still one of those things where if, “Do you do DocuSign?” And if you ever do DocuSign, it’s always like, “Have you ever been employed in any of these places?” And it’s like, “Oh, yeah.” So you don’t get to be too far removed from your memories.
Michael: Yeah. So that had to literally sit you out of the business until the lawsuit with the firm was resolved?
Kelly: Yeah, it did. And I could have gone on and I could have taken it further, but I was physically and mentally wiped out. And I just said…I tapped out and said, “I’ve done. I won what I needed to win.” And I just moved on.
Michael: And so, what was next for you? You’ve done now Northern Trust and you’re like on the market floor and doing trading and investing right on the floor. You’ve now been in a second trust company where you got to do the investing side of things. So what came next?
Kelly: Then that’s when I found Wells Fargo FiNet.
Michael: Okay. And so what drew you to Wells Fargo FiNet? What were you looking for that you didn’t go to another trust company or a similar investment role?
Kelly: Well, at that point, I was just pretty excited to get employed. It had been a pretty tough time after the last episode I went through. And I was pretty shell-shocked. So as you can imagine, I was just like, “Yay.” I was just really ready to get back to work and do what I loved. And I was really excited to get back to doing something. And I met a great group of people that were pretty close to where I lived, which was another component. I didn’t want to have to go back to Chicago. And this was a pretty close location.
Michael: And so, what was the idea of the role going in? Were you going in to do another investment-style, investment management role that you had been doing previously or was this a deliberate like, “No, no, I want to be more on the client side as an advisor now?”
Kelly: This was complete. This was going to be a real, honest-to-goodness, I was a financial advisor, I was going to be it. And I was. But you go from a trust company where you’re regulated by the Department of Financial Institutions out of the state of Indiana, I had no licenses other than my CFP. I had to go through that hell you all call Series 7 and Series 66. I had to get all that stuff because I had no licenses because we didn’t need them when we were at the trust company. You didn’t need stuff like that. So I had to get all those licenses and get ramped up and get going.
Michael: Yeah, it’s an interesting distinction that for a lot of us in the advisor world where sort of like the options are broker-dealer or RIA and you go back and forth between the two or find your path, that there’s not a lot of awareness that there’s sort of this third option out there in trust companies that also have people in advisor roles working with clients and people in investment roles managing and overseeing portfolios. But you don’t have all these Series licenses because you’re literally not under SEC and FINRA jurisdiction for that work in the same way, you live under the regulators for trust companies, which for the most part I believe is all state-regulated, one state’s trust company overseer at a time.
Kelly: Yeah, it was… that was a tough test. I remember celebrating that night. And wow, that’s no joke. Yeah. So I had to go through all that process to get licensed. And I got all that done. So really, starting 2010, I had to begin the process of bringing on clients and joining clubs and getting in front of…and doing networking and hitting that process.
Michael: So what’s that like for you? You’re now like 15, 20 years into your career and now suddenly for the first time, we’re in a, “Oh, no, no, no, here you’ve got to go get your clients. So go get them, Kelly.”
Kelly: Not really a fan. And you know what? They don’t really come knocking on your door. That’s not how it works.
Michael: No, no. Unfortunately, not so much.
Kelly: It really is for me and it will always be about building relationships. And God love on my parents were right there for me. And I appreciated that, but I knew that wasn’t going to be what sustained me. And really for me, I’m fortunate that I’m in a…my husband works too, so this was not going to be feeding my family but was going to be for the right reasons that I reached out to people. And that’s how I did it, slow and steady. And that was just going to be me. I was not going to do it any other way. And it really has been the way I did it.
Michael: So talk to us a little bit more about what that looked like. Your year one out of the gate at Wells Fargo, you’ve got to figure out what the heck you’re going to do to start getting some clients without any or very much background directly in that end of things. You obviously knew the investment world but hadn’t necessarily had a lot of business development responsibility. You’re in a small town environment. So what did you do? What did you do first?
How She Tackled Business Development In Broker-Dealer World [23:32]
Kelly: Well, I remember joining my local Rotary Club because I knew those people and I knew they would trust me. I joined a lot of the committees. There was a scholarship committee that I participated in because that was something I really cared about. I began mentoring. There was a mentor program that I became a part of because I really cared about that. My kids were in high school and busy, so it wasn’t like they needed much help from me. I stayed involved in the things that they were involved in. So people knew what I was involved in as far as my work, so people began to ask about what I did. There was a women’s group that I became involved in because those were the people that I really wanted to help. I began doing this divorce designation because that was something I really cared about. And I just pursued things that I knew that I cared about. I joined boards or was asked to join boards that I cared about. And I just continued to work on getting myself into things that mattered to me. And that’s what worked for me. Now, I’m not going to say that I was joining any million-dollar roundtables or anything like that, but it was a slow and steady process that worked mostly.
Michael: Mostly. So where were the speed bumps along the way then?
Kelly: I didn’t find myself really enjoying. I felt that at Wells Fargo, there was a push towards products that provided more of a payout from their perspective. And I didn’t…that was never going to be something that I was willing to do. And that’s kind of where I’ve mentioned, I spoke about this grid. And I understand it’s expensive to educate and maintain advisors, but I wasn’t willing to sell products that provided more of a payout to enhance my month. And that was always a feeling that seemed to be prevalent there. And it got to be more and more prevalent the more I became aware how it worked. And it just got to the point where that just wasn’t going to work for me.
Michael: So the whole dynamic of you’re at (whatever is is) you’re at a 50% payout, or whatever it might have been in the wirehouse environment, but you can get to a 52% payout as long as you do this much in production this month. Or as long as you do this much in production, but you have to sell these particular products on the list for at least this dollar amount in order to get to the next tier on the grid. Those kinds of sales incentives?
Kelly: Well, and I don’t even know if I was privy to that much knowledge because I didn’t own that business, I was just an employee of the owner. But there were…obviously if you did a variable annuity, it paid an upfront commission. Therefore, if you get…even if you’re only getting 30% of that, you’re getting 30% of that one-time payout. So I was always told that, “Well, you’d have more money if you’d done that.” Well, they didn’t need that. I’m not going to sell it if they don’t need it. And it was always that feeling that I wasn’t doing the right product mix. But I’m not going to do it if it’s not right. And it was just always this weight. And I just…I wasn’t going to do it.
Michael: So did you know that wasn’t an issue or a concern going in into the brokerage environment? Because I know like, you’d come from a trust company world where they don’t have their own…at least, for the most part, they don’t have their own proprietary products. So you don’t have those same kinds of grid structures and grid incentives in the trust company side. So did you know this was coming and just had a plan to navigate it and then didn’t like the environment or didn’t even know that this was going to happen until you got there and was like, “Oh, so this is how it works here?”
Kelly: I honestly don’t think I even thought about annuities at all. Granted, I know I had to study and pass that part of the CFP test because I had my CFP when I went there, but I just don’t…we didn’t have that product. It’s not something we could do at the trust company. So it wasn’t something that I was running into very often. So I certainly didn’t know how much they paid or what their…I didn’t know any of those things. If you’re not in something regularly, you’re certainly not going to know what they pay. So I just remember sitting across from the owner and this matrix was put in front of me and first part goes to Wells, this part goes to me. And then this part goes…and I was like, “You know what? I just really want to help people.” And he just laughed at me. And that sounds really Pollyanna, but I wasn’t very smart about it.
Michael: But you were at least getting some clients and some business coming in? Because I know you stayed for a while.
Michael: So where was business coming from? What was working for you?
Kelly: Probably the networking with the women’s groups and the divorce designation, because people…that’s a very unique designation in this part of the area.
Michael: That’s the CDFA designation?
Michael: And so you had done that just out of the curiosity, like, “Hey, this looks interesting” or did you have a pretty specific strategic plan, like, “I want to be in this divorce niche because I think that’s how I can build my practice?”
Kelly: Well, in my own family situation, I’ve seen my mom go through the process, and I know how difficult it was for her to navigate divorce. And I think that once you’ve seen somebody kind of question their decision-making and you know that when people go through divorce, how emotional it is when they make the decisions that they do, you know as financial advisors, we can really help them with the tax piece and just helping them say, “That one is a little bit more liquid” or, “Do you really want to keep the house?” And just helping them walk through those decisions, it’s such an impact we can make that I knew that that’s where my heart would be really helpful for people. So that’s why I picked that. And I have found that it’s just really helpful for men and women to have somebody just kind of off in the wings providing them with a little bit of insight. And while it’s not always the happiest piece to be involved in, I like being able to provide some guidance.
Michael: Well, I was going to say, I know for some people, they don’t like working in the divorce realm because it tends to be really stressful situations, or at least for some clients that it’s really stressful. And the ones who need the most help tend to have the most messy, complex situations, which are the ones that have more drama and more stress associated with them. So was that daunting for you or a positive challenge or just didn’t faze you?
Kelly: Well, I don’t have…I wouldn’t even say 10% of what I do is in the divorce space. I’ve got some great friends in a mastermind group that a lot of their business is dedicated to this piece. And I have gotten some of my business from this. And just being able to offer advice internally in our office on reading QDROs and helping them with QDROs and just being able to give them a little bit of advice. Because Lakeside’s a huge team, and they know that this is an area that I have a special affinity for. So I think that just having an additional knowledge about this is just helpful. And Indiana is not like where you’re from, where there’s people doing collaboration and mediation and all kinds of things. We’re still kind of putting up a stiff arm to a lot of that in the state. So they’re not pulling me into a lot of things just yet.
Michael: So help me understand more of how the early traction got going for you in getting clients. You weren’t necessarily like all out marketing divorce services, but you had this divorce designation, you’re involved in women’s groups. What did it typically look like for actually getting initial clients when you’re trying to build traction from zero?
Kelly: Well, I think being involved in different clubs helped me, different women’s clubs helping. We had things around our different counties where I would go to different meetings to talk to people. I would do like these women’s circles. I would do those at non-for-profits. I would do them at our office. And I would do them for existing clients and then for prospects, and for centers of influence because I wanted people to see that I was a different type of advisor.
Michael: So what were women’s circles?
How Kelly Started Leveraging Women’s Circles [33:06]
Kelly: They’re an opportunity for women to get together and talk about money and money issues in a safe setting. Normally we start talking about money and values. We talk about your earliest memories around money. We can talk about building resilience. We could talk about having difficult conversations. We can talk about your thoughts around long-term care. We’ve brought in estate plan attorneys to talk about why you need wills. There’s been many different topics. And we’ve had a lot of support from Dimensional. But Eleanor Blayney and Elizabeth Jetton and Candice McGarvey, they’re the ones that really started it for us with this Directions for Women back in 2014, and they’ve really been the ones to champion it way back when.
Michael: So the idea is you’re going to do like a marketing event for women. So you’re going to host this women’s circle. You’re going to invite people to it. It’s a chance to talk about money and have these conversations and hopefully an opportunity for you to then start establishing a relationship with people who were there.
Kelly: Yes. And they really are phenomenal. If you get 10 people there, and 10 is a really good size. I’ve had a smallest 7, I’ve had as many as 18, and that’s really much too big. But you’d be really surprised how women learn from each other in these settings. And when they find out they’re not alone and they’re really…there’s a lot of people like themselves making similar mistakes and making similar progress, it really changes their perspective. And it really meant a lot to me to see them bond with each other. And I’ve done as many as four a year. And sometimes I just do two. But it’s really an opportunity for them to get more comfortable coming into our space, our financial office, first of all, and then for them to feel like they can ask questions and not be intimidated. But it really doesn’t have to be just for women, it can be for men. I just happen to do them at this time just for women.
Michael: And where were you finding women to do this? Do you buy mailing list? Were you networking your way to this? Were you doing other things to market it? How do you get people in the room to have these conversations they’re not necessarily used to having?
Kelly: Well, now we do them at our firm if people add women to our list and keyword them “women’s circles.” So right now it’s really easy to do it at the firm now.
Michael: Sure. But when you’re getting started, everything referral-based is easy after you have lots of companies to give you referrals. It’s always hard early on when you’re trying to get started.
Kelly: Well, when I first started doing it, I wanted to have at least three people that I felt pretty comfortable with. So three clients. And I had three at least that I felt really comfortable with, and then I asked them to bring somebody. And then maybe I had one or two, like a CPA that I really liked, and then an estate planning attorney that I felt would be a good referral source. And then that was it. So if you can get 10 people in the room and then a couple will probably cancel. And then from there, they usually want to come back again. So you start with your base like that, and it’s usually pretty easy to replicate it. And then I’ve offered it to non-for-profits, and they’re usually very happy to do it for their staff. And you just get really comfortable doing it, and it just kind of blossoms.
Michael: And so how does it…how does the women’s circle gathering itself work? Is everybody coming together for an hour, for two or three hours? Is this like a full-day workshop thing? How do you actually structure the gathering?
Kelly: Well, I can provide you with kind of an outline of the basic guidelines for calling a circle, but there’s a wonderful book that I’ll also give you a reference to. It’s PeerSpirit. Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea I think is the name of the people that wrote the book called “The Circle Way.” But there’s a real structure to having a circle, even though it sounds kind of willy-nilly, but you actually do go in a circle. And there’s a check-in, a checkout. And there’s usually a focused topic that you talk about. But it’s a really great way to ensure that people are listened to, because I think that we find that a lot of times when people talk, people are thinking in their head a way to respond instead of just listening. So, there’s like a talking stick and things of that nature so that you really focus on listening. And we have a way to make sure that we watch the time. But I don’t think that you would ever spend more than two hours in this, at a circle. That’s usually about the amount of time we spend. I personally do them like 5:30 to 7, but I have some friends in San Francisco that do it and sometimes they do them at lunchtime because of the traffic there.
Michael: Right. Well, whenever people are willing to come to a room and hopefully not be so road-raged that they can actually relax and engage with the event itself.
Michael: And so it sounds like a big part of business development and getting clients for you early on after the first few, because you’ve always got to get a first few, invite some clients, they bring some friends, you do one of these women’s circle conversations. If they have some good conversations, one or several of them want to follow up and talk to you more and they become potential clients. And then you do another one and they invite their friends and you just kind of repeat the cycle? Was that the structure?
Kelly: That’s part of it. But one of the things that I really want to impress upon you is that it’s more about creating a sense of we’re different. We communicate different, we listen different. And it’s not all about business development. Because I don’t think you’re going to go to every advisor on the street and find that they do or host women’s circles, but that’s kind of the thing that we want to say very clearly. Because a lot of times when you go to a training for a women’s circle, there’s going to be people there saying, “Well, can you tell me how much business you’ve gotten from a women’s circle?” And it’s not just about I got 3 $2 million clients, because it’s not that. If you were able to be a fly on the wall, and here’s some of the conversations that come out of these circles, it makes me want to stay being a financial advisor so much longer because of the content that comes out of these circles and these women. And they’re just so impactful.
Michael: So this is an interesting framing, that it wasn’t necessarily literally the business development of the event or the activity as much as doing the activity in the first place differentiates you because people see a conversation, a way that you communicate and engage with others and say like, “Wow, my financial advisor doesn’t talk to me this way and doesn’t have these conversations.” And just this recognition like, “Oh, Kelly’s different than other financial advisors I’ve met in the past,” which to me is the essence of like, that’s how you start establishing differentiation so that you can eventually win business, simply because people see you are very different than anybody else. So if that’s what they like, you are the only person that does that.
Kelly: Well, and the challenge is that we invite clients across the firm, and we want them to know that Lakeside is different because Lakeside is holding these events for our clients. And anything that happens in circle stays in the circle. So we don’t…I don’t share the conversations. So there could be clients there for any of the 18 advisors. So they know that if something is said, I’m not going to go back and say, “Well, you know what she said?” No. We’re holding this space sacred. We want to offer the space for you to become comfortable no matter what. But it’s still…this is still Las Vegas, we’re not telling.
Michael: So how did this process go for you in terms of trying to get clients and develop business? Was there a point after you were in for a ways where you finally said like, “Okay, I think it’s going to work, I’m going to make it” or did it always feel like it was on the line about whether you were going to make it as a, “Hey, I just want to help people” and the manager literally laughed at you?
Kelly: Well, I think that my turning point when I decided to leave Wells Fargo, I had reached a point where I was stopping the business development there because I didn’t want to bring anybody into that space anymore. I wasn’t happy with where things were going. I wasn’t happy with what I was hearing. I just wasn’t happy there. So that’s when I reached out to Lakeside and just I needed to make a change, and that’s when that happened.
Michael: Well, I guess that’s certainly a fatal moment to the business. Like, when you’re literally not comfortable to go get clients because you’re not comfortable with the firm you’re at or affiliated with, it’s time to find another firm. Whatever it is, whatever the context is. I’ve seen a lot of advisors over the years where they’ve struggled with business development, and what it really came down to was, they were so not comfortable with the firm they were at that they were basically self-sabotaging their own business development because they didn’t actually really want to win any clients because they didn’t feel good about the firm that they were going to bring the clients to but hadn’t made the connection of like, that’s why they were struggling with business development. And they didn’t even realize that they were. They had become their own blocking point because they needed to change firms, not just find new business development strategies.
Kelly: Yeah, I think that’s where I was because it was, I was finding myself hesitant to move forward. And I just couldn’t do it. And I knew that I still was very much wanting to do the work, just not do it there.
Michael: And so, what did the practice look like at that point that you’re now deciding like, “Okay, I’m going to make a change, I’ve got some base of clients.” What did you have in terms of clients at that point or were you looking at bringing them with you? Where did you stand at the moment that you said, “I think I’ve got to make a change?” Because for a lot of people, they never actually take that leap. There was something that you took the leap that a lot of people don’t.
Kelly: Well, I hadn’t signed a non-compete, so I must have known that there was something internally up as far as that was going on.
Michael: Well, and I guess to some extent, being on the FiNet platform, which is sort of the least partially independent, you’re not quite tucked in as much as the core Wells Fargo full employee model probably ended out giving you a little bit more flexibility on the departure as well.
Kelly: There was really no fight at all other…there was a little bit of a fight, but I just pretty much signed whatever that Broker Protocol was and one month later, after four years of being at…was about five years at Wells Fargo FiNet and then I just…and I’m not going to say it was seamless, but from November of ’14 to, I think it took about two or three months to move everything over to Lakeside, it was done.
Michael: So what was the size of the practice and the client base at that point when you decided to make the change?
Kelly: Yeah, $18 million or $19 million.
Michael: Okay. So good, healthy base, particularly in an independent channel to…you can earn good dollars and make a living and have a base of clients you can actually get referrals from to grow further. So how did you decide where to go next? Because you now, you were in Northern Trust for a while, you were at a local trust company for a while. You’d done the large firm thing at FiNet. You’re many years of experience in the business. So what were you looking for at that point? How were you deciding about what to do and where to go next?
Kelly: Well, my sister-in-law worked at Lakeside. She was on their qualified plan side. And I called her and I told her I was just really…and I was kind of scared. I didn’t know what to do. There weren’t really many options. And you really care about your clients, and you want the best for them. I wasn’t really concerned about me as much. I was really concerned about where could I go. I felt like I needed to go somewhere. So I can remember it. I can remember the day. I can just remember calling, and she got me like a 30-minute sit-down with one of the partners. And I went into this room and sat down and told him, “I just don’t know what to do.” And within a week or so, I had an interview there and I met with a bevy of them. And it was an all-day affair and in and out and in and out and in and out, all these people come in and out. And it just, from there on, it was a pretty fast pace after that. And I had no idea what was coming because I had never had to repaper anybody or to transfer paperwork before. So locomotion.
Michael: Yeah. So how was that process of just actually going through a client move, trying to move out of Wells Fargo?
Kelly: It was very hard. It was very emotional, too. There were people there that I left behind, so to speak, that I really were friends, for people I really cared about. Some of the employees I really cared very deeply about. So that was very hard. But I knew I had to do what was best for me and for the clients for long term. So I knew that was really important. And it just…I knew I could get it done. And I’m kind of a Type A person. I was just going to get it done. I was going to check all the boxes and go through the motions, but I cannot…it’s so confusing to somebody that once again did not understand this whole RIA, IAR. It was just so confusing. I did not understand it for the longest time because they had a broker-dealer and they had their own investment management. And it was just very confusing. So it was a lot.
Michael: Yeah, again, the challenges of all the different channel segmentations and overlaps.
Kelly: Right. I tried to understand.
Michael: Yeah. Did you have any concern that clients weren’t going to come with you?
Kelly: Sure, absolutely I was. Because we were going from…Wells Fargo had these individual investments and individual stocks, and we’re a Dimensional firm with…we used different allocations. Of course, we identify everything from capital preservation to growth, but I then had to explain who’s Dimensional. And I had to learn all that. And it was just a lot.
Michael: Yeah, that’s quite a shift to go from like, we’re doing individual stocks and bonds to, “Let me introduce you to DFA.” And frankly, kind of a DFA story that’s sort of negative on the things that you were doing previously with clients at Wells Fargo.
Kelly: Right. Right.
Michael: So how was that conversation? How do you break that conversation to clients?
Kelly: It was a lot of education. I got a lot of support from the team. They really helped me. And Dimensional spends a lot of time educating you as well. And I had heard about them before, so I was familiar with their story. So that helped a lot. But as you can imagine, it was pretty overwhelming, but there was a lot of people to help you do it. So I’m thankful that it was pretty much 100%. But a couple stayed behind, and it was the right couple.
Michael: Yeah, the ones where they tell you they’re not coming with you to the new firm and you go, “Oh. Oh, darn. Oh.”
Michael: Were there any clients that really did have particularly hard conversations that pushed back on DFA or just the contrast of DFA versus what you were doing with them previously?
Kelly: No, not at all. Obviously, you have to manage some tax issues. So some of it, it couldn’t happen. But no, absolutely not at all. It was a pretty seamless event.
Michael: So was that, I don’t know, was that a surprise of like, “Wait, I was doing all this stuff for you guys for so long, why aren’t you more upset I’m not going to do it anymore?”
Kelly: Well, and you know, on the Wells Fargo side, they had a lot of…we had a lot of it managed anyway, so it wasn’t like I was the one picking out all that. So no, I was grateful, and I’m grateful that we have a team doing it now because that is a lot of work. And I’m glad to be aware of it. I’m glad not to be in it is how I think about it now. It’s just a piece that I don’t want to have to be dealing with day-to-day anymore.
Michael: So I guess to the extent that Wells gives you various in-house and third-party separate account managers, that the transition for clients for you is really more of, “Okay, I used to have a team that managed things this way and now we’re going to work with a different manager that manages these things that way,” but they were already used to the fact that you had other managers involved that were doing things as part of the process. The only distinction was, “Okay, I guess this is just going to be a different strategy.”
Michael: And you just went from stock and bond building blocks to DFA building blocks.
Kelly: Exactly. And a lot of times the fees went down, the internal costs were lower, institutional share classes. So it was pretty much if not exactly the same or cheaper. So I was making sure that everybody was getting a better deal for the costs involved, because I didn’t want anybody to feel like they were going to be in a worse position.
Michael: I guess that’s sort of the nice thing about those shifts sometimes is when the math works out, that it’s going to be less expensive anyways, it makes the rest of the conversation kind of a lot easier. You’ve still got to explain the value, but it’s easier to explain, “Oh, it’s a better value and it’s actually cheaper” is a lot easier than, “Well, it’s better value, but it is going to cost you a little more, but let me explain why that’s still worthwhile.”
Kelly: And it also helped that at that time, Wells Fargo had a lot of headline risk. So the move at that time just, it just helped out that they were not doing themselves any favors.
Michael: And well, some of the headline stuff, so I’m just trying to remember, were the fraudulent new account openings scandal for Wells, was that currently news at the time or that broke a little later?
Kelly: It was around then. So it was a lot of that was going on. And I think they were the credit cards, credit card stuff. And it was enough of that that it made it seem like, “Oh, okay, let’s go.”
Michael: Yeah, it’s an interesting shift, I think, for a lot of the…well, a lot of the wirehouses but certainly Wells seems to have suffered from it more just from the headlines lately. That I think there was a world for a long time where one of the big assets of being at a wirehouse was this large national or global brands. These companies have put 100-plus years into their marketing and branding. And notwithstanding some of the industry barbs that we throw at each other across the channels, the large national brands have spent a lot of money on large national branding for a reason. It does work from a consumer’s trust perspective until you have giant national scandals. And I feel like there is this interesting shift right now where for a long time wirehouse brands were an asset and advisors would at least decide like, “Do I want the company name on my business card or do I think I can be an independent and work on my own and have clients just by me for kind of my name and what I do?”
But it’s very different when the wirehouse brand asset turns into a brand liability and you’re actually explaining to clients now why. Like, “Oh, yeah, you read that in ‘The Wall Street Journal,’ but we didn’t do that to you. I promise.” That’s an awkward conversation to have to have. Even if it’s true and you didn’t do any of the bad things, that’s not a conversation anybody wants to have with their clients.
Michael: So what did the structure look like as you were going to Lakeside? You lived this trust company world of salaries and bonuses. You lived the Wells Fargo world of grids and the incentives to move up the grid, then suddenly you’re moving out to Lakeside. You’re into the independent broker-dealer channel under a large firm in that environment. Tell me about that transition and what sort of structure you were going to at Lakeside.
Kelly: Back to where I kind of knew what was going on, it was a salary and on occasion, bonuses. And I think we all knew that bonuses can happen and then bonuses sometimes don’t happen. And then from time to time, your salary is adjusted. We have support advisors, we have senior advisors. So you kind of can move along the continuum as you progress in your career. So there’s obviously salary changes as you move along the career path. So those things happen. And then most likely their salary ranges at the different career levels. But that’s how it’s done. We’re all on salary.
Kelly: That’s how it is.
Michael: So was that a hard change when you were in a world of being on grid and getting percentages of revenue and moving to a world of where you’re going to be on salary instead?
Kelly: I think that if I had been some $100 million producer when I had been at FiNet, maybe that would have been the case. But I’m just beginning to get to that level now. So that’s not me right now. I manage about $90 million in assets. So I think when you’re a part of an ensemble like this, you get so much support. We have so much flexibility that you have to realize that there is…the structure here allows for a lot of support. So it’s just a different type of situation. Like you said, we don’t have this eat what you kill mentality. We’re all here to support each other. It’s just different. I know that now going in. At least my eyes are wide open. I don’t have that deer in the headlights look like I did when I sat down at Wells Fargo, like, “What is a grid?”
Michael: Right. And so was that part of the preference of just, did grid and percentage payouts for a while, I’d rather be back in salaried environment land? Just don’t like that variable payout structure?
Kelly: I really don’t know, but I’m certainly glad. I’m glad to know where I’m at. I think it’s a good exercise to know what you bring to the firm. I know that advisors aren’t cheap. I have a CFP. My designation costs money annually. My FPA membership costs money, the E&O costs money, my computer, the software, the Riskalyze, everything costs money. So I think that we all need to know what we cost so then we need to know what do we bring. And there’s this give and take for being employed. So the expectation of what you should receive, there needs to be a balance to that process. And you do a survey of salaries. And I think that’s an important thing for everybody to be aware of.
Michael: Yeah, I don’t know, it’s one of the challenges in the advisor world that, I don’t know, maybe we’ll do some follow-up content on Nerd’s Eye View on this at some point. So on one end, there’s all this obsession and focus around…at least for some people around switching platforms and trying to get higher payout to maximizing your payout and who has the payouts with the highest grids. But at the end of the day, it’s actually still a pretty decently efficient system that you go to a firm that has higher grid payouts, it’s usually because they give you less in support and there’s more things that you’re going to need to hire and do for yourself. Which is fine, but they can take a larger percentage of your grid or you can keep more of your grid and then you can pay your own expenses and your net often kind of comes out pretty similar. Because just the costs of running an advisory business, the costs of running an advisory business and the portion that goes to overhead and the portion that goes to advisors and the portion that goes to profits at the end of the day is remarkably stable across most firms in the industry, really from wirehouses all the way down.
I know a lot of advisors that criticize wirehouses as having like often 35% to 45% payouts, at least until you get to the really high end of the grid. But then if you go and look at a large independent RIA in a benchmarking study, you’ll see that the average percentage of revenue that gets paid to advisors is usually right around 35% to 45%. And the math basically adds up to the same thing. Obviously, individuals sometimes have a little bit of a different situation where they can maybe play the system a little and make the math work out slightly better in their favor, but to me, it’s often striking how whether you’re in a salaried environment or a grid payout or a comp based on revenue payout or the rest, that the math is pretty similar almost wherever you go. And places where you get higher payouts usually means you’re absorbing more of your own costs because the net is still the net, and it’s kind of similar at the end of the day,
Kelly: I think I talked to you about all the licenses that we have to pay for now that’s just this tech spend. And it’s just getting worse. Everybody wants to look at your ADV and assess with your Series 7 license. And it’s just the Redtails. It’s a lot. So if we all put a price tag, if we walked in the door and we had to put a price tag on what all of us cost, I think it would be eye-opening for all of us to recognize what we cost and what we bring, and it would be an interesting conversation to be made aware of.
Michael: Yeah. Particularly as technology plays more and more of a role in a lot of firms. eMoney and Riskalyze and others are just saying like, “Hey, you’ve got five registered people on your ADV, we’re charging you for five licenses, because we figure they’re all going to touch the software at some point.” And whether they actually do or not, that’s their pricing structure. And it just becomes ultimately part of the cost of doing business. That if you need the software to run your firm, the software has a cost. And if you need the staff infrastructure to run the firm, the staff has a cost. And you need office space and office space has a cost. And all of that adds up at the end of the day. And you still get back to a pretty similar and consistent, here’s how much it costs you in overhead to run an advisory firm and here’s how much it costs to pay advisors to do the work and here’s the profits that are left over. And those three buckets stay pretty stable across the spectrum.
What Her Practice Looks Like Today [1:02:54]
Michael: So where does your practice sit today as it’s currently structured?
Kelly: So as of today, I’m right around $89 million for assets that I’m responsible for.
Michael: So that’s quite a leap and change having come on board with about $19 million as you were leaving Wells Fargo. So is that like growth got going for you? Is that because part of the salaried role is managing clients of the firm that the firm provides? How does that work? What was that growth path for you?
Kelly: Well, part of the growth path was that we acquired a practice in 2018 that I was responsible for absorbing. So that was $50 million of it. So I’m good, I’m not that good. So a lot of it was that practice. So we took over that practice in 2018 and onboarded those clients. And that’s been a two-year project, and we’re still…there’s still another year on that before that advisor fully retires. So that’s been quite an effort there.
Michael: So what does that look like from your perspective when you’re in more of an employee salary model? Do you just sort of get the news one day from the firm like, “Hey, we’ve acquired this practice and there’s going to be a couple dozen clients coming your way, so get ready?” Pretty much that?
Kelly: Pretty much that. That sounded pretty good. I did meet the advisor. We met for lunch and we talked. She wanted to meet me and see what I was like and see what my philosophy was. And then pretty much from there, it was, we had a list, we met with the clients. Some of the clients took one meeting, some of the clients took two meetings. And some were in their homes, some were at her office, some were at our office. And then it’s just been trying to mold them into Lakeside clients and make them feel happy with how we work, and doing it that way. And it’s been a lot harder than I thought it would be just because when you naturally acquire clients, you kind of meet people that are attracted to you. When you acquire a practice, those were clients that were naturally attracted to her. So sometimes it’s just I find myself working harder because they didn’t naturally like me. So it’s just harder.
Michael: That’s an interesting point. So you have to do a lot more to win them over.
Michael: So what have you ended out doing just to try to win them over and navigate that?
Kelly: Well, I do what I always do, which is I always do the financial planning and all of that sort of thing. But you know when you can really be yourself and just be natural, it’s just so much easier. But when you have to try harder, it’s just like walking into a cold room and you’re like, “God, I don’t want to be here.” So it’s just a little bit harder to turn it on for meetings when you are trying to win somebody over. It’s just a lot harder. It’s gotten a lot easier, but I’m not sure that these clients would have naturally picked me, but I’m hoping it’s getting better for them as well.
Michael: So walk us through what that meeting looks like when you’re going in with the original advisor and you are now the newbie, the new advisor? Obviously, you’re not literally new, you’ve done this for many years of experience, but you’re the new stranger to them. What do you do in that first meeting to try to make the connection to win them over?
Kelly: Honestly, I just be myself, and she would normally just explain my background and what I’ve done and where I’ve been and the different experiences I’ve had. And to be quite honest, the CFP designation has sold me a lot. That seems to have a lot of shine to it for people. And I think that it’s been really helpful.
Michael: She didn’t have it previously, the advisor that you’re taking over for?
Michael: Interesting. So it’s just what, it’s a credibility marker for them?
Kelly: Yes. She is much smarter than I am. She’s got a really strong tax background and really started in insurance. And I think starting in insurance and having a tax background is really a huge, huge thing for anybody that starts in this advisory business. But the CFP, it’s just like sparkle dust sometimes that just works.
Michael: Interesting. Interesting. So is that something that gets communicated in advance, just gets communicated in the meeting? Like, you get introduced as Kelly Shikany, the CFP and the credibility has been endowed?
Kelly: Yes. And then we usually talk about how we do the eMoney software. And I might show that in a client meeting and how we’re going to transition them to the financial planning software and how she previously hadn’t used that. And this will be a nice add-on. And then we might walk them through an initial Riskalyze. And she’s very gracious about saying these are things that she hadn’t used before and now that they’ll have access to this, and aren’t they so lucky. And it’s things like that that she’s been really gracious to sell as benefits to her affiliation with Lakeside. And the clients really, I would say 98% retention on the transition with her book.
Michael: Well, and I think the way you’re…what you’re describing makes an important point as well, that for any of these kinds of transitions, one of the biggest drivers of success in the succession transitions is just the advisor who’s departing and their ability to talk well and talk up their successor or their acquirer, whoever is taking over, and it’s hard. Because I’ve seen a lot of advisors, having been to some meetings watching this happen where like, you want to hand off a client and it’s hard not to keep trying to come back in as the person who’s led that client relationship for a long time. And if you keep coming in and trying to take the leadership role, it undermines the person who’s taking over, and then the clients lose confidence in the person that’s taking over.
The ones that do best I find really are the scenarios that you’re describing, when the person who’s handing off clients to you just keep saying, “Lakeside is great. And here’s all the new things you’re going to get. And Kelly’s going to wonderful. And she’s got her CFP designation. She’s going to do all this planning work for you that I wasn’t able to do for you.” Because clients aren’t really sure how to interpret such a situation until the lead advisor says, “No, no, Lakeside’s great and Kelly’s going to be wonderful, and you’re going to be well taken care of.” And then people start to relax.
Kelly: Right. And I think that it’s gone really remarkably well with that. So I’m hopeful. And it’s stretched me. And the whole reason I came to Lakeside is that I wanted to be surrounded by people that were smarter than me. I don’t want to be the only person in an office. I never wanted that. And I want it to be people that were talking over my head a lot. And that was really important.
What Surprised Her The Most About Navigating Her Career Track [1:10:48]
Michael: So as you look back on this journey and all the different turns along the way, what surprised you the most about navigating your own career track over the years?
Kelly: I’m kind of surprised that it took me this long to figure out where I wanted to be finally. I’m usually pretty laser-focused and very loyal. And I always figured wherever I started, I would be there like the old person and get the gold watch and just be there forever. And it’s surprised me that it kind of took me this long to figure it out.
Michael: Yeah. Again, that’s to me the interesting thing about these journeys for us advisors, even when you really think you know where you want to be, it just doesn’t necessarily turn out that way in the long run. Then you go somewhere else, you’re like, “No, no, this is the place I’m going to be.” And then that one doesn’t necessarily turn out well either. And that it’s usually not until the third or the fourth transition I find, at least by the third, we usually are getting a sense of what we want, but even then, it sometimes takes a fourth leap before we finally find the place that we can park for the long run, park until the end, park until the gold watch. That it’s just…it’s hard to really get a sense of what all the options and the channels are really like until you spend some time in several of them and find which ones you actually like being involved with.
Kelly: I agree.
Michael: So what does the typical week look like for you at this point?
Kelly: Well, I really try to keep Mondays and Fridays just for getting stuff prepared for the week. And my person who helps me with everything, Mindy, she knows that I like to schedule meetings just Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays. And I think somebody dreamed up this calendar thing, but I like just to do my meetings on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. So I block those. We do Acuity. So those are my client meeting days. So I like meetings just on those days.
Michael: So Acuity is the scheduling software where you just give clients a link and they can schedule their own meetings on the available times and dates?
Kelly: Yeah. And it’s been…that’s been one of our initiatives from 2019 that we implemented. So we really like it. It’s been very helpful.
Michael: And so I’ve got to ask, do you ever get clients where like, “Yeah, Kelly, went to your calendar, they’re all Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. I was kind of hoping to meet with you on Friday. Can I have a Friday meeting?”
Kelly: Absolutely. And I absolutely do. I do nighttime sometimes, and I even do Saturday. So I’m an awful scheduler.
Michael: So you’ll grant them the exceptions, but you at least give them the…the choices as initially presented are, “Would you like Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday?”
Kelly: I try.
Michael: How often do they just take you up on the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday thing and how often do they ask for exceptions?
Kelly: I would say 90% of the time. It’s just that I have some people that…you always have your exceptions, but I’m really doing much better about not doing nighttime appointments or anything too terribly off the regular. But I’m not too crazy about that. But yes, I do try and stick to a schedule.
Michael: So what pulled you in the direction of doing that kind of scheduling structure in the first place?
Kelly: Well, I think as a firm, we just tried to be a little bit more intentional about having something online for scheduling and getting away from doing these…trying to do phone tag. It was just getting ridiculous. So we’ve found that this…providing them with options and giving them the opportunity to schedule phone appointments has been really successful.
Michael: And what about the decision to try to push all of them to Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and not do Monday, Fridays?
Kelly: Now, that’s a Kelly issue. I don’t know what the other advisors are doing, but that’s what I do. I think everybody tries to work within the confines of their calendar and what they like to do, but I try to do my planning work on Fridays and then keep Mondays open for internal meetings.
What She Know Now That She Wishes She Knew 10 Years Ago [1:15:13]
Michael: So as you look back over this journey and all the different steps, what do you know now that you wish you could go back and tell you from 10 years ago as you’re leaving the trust company and trying to figure out where to start building as an advisor?
Kelly: You need to stay true to how you want to do it. There’s no reason to try and do it like somebody else does. I have sometimes found myself being told that you need to do this or you need to do that. And it’s not me. I am a unique advisor. Once again, I think women do, at least I do things differently. My client meetings are different. I have to be true to the way I do things. And I’ve been successful with clients this way. And I think that everybody needs to find their way to communicate with clients and to be successful. Don’t let people tell you you need to do it a certain way.
Michael: So were there particular, I don’t know, conflict points of things you do your way that you like doing that others kept pushing back on?
Kelly: I think that talking a certain way or bringing in certain documents to talk about a certain market-related things and things like that. And I just don’t find the need to talk about things like that very often in client meetings. I just find myself doing things quite differently than other people do. And that’s okay because my clients seem to respond fine that way. Everybody gets to do it their way as long as the client is happy. And I think that you need to be true to yourself. And when I mentor other people coming into this business that ask me questions, that’s what I tell them. I don’t think everybody needs to read from the same playbook when it comes to being an advisor. And that’s why I think this podcast is so important because you get to listen to the different ways people do this position.
Michael: Yeah. To me, one of the challenges for the, I don’t know, for the industry overall is there is…as Alan Moore likes to say, there’s a lot of “shoulding” that happens. You should do this, you should do that. People say you should do this and that. Then we start to should on ourselves. I feel like I’ve got to do this thing because everyone says that you’re supposed to do this thing or do it this way. And I think as you highlighted, it gets people out of alignment, it gets them off their authentic selves, and then you don’t feel as comfortable with what you’re doing. And when you don’t feel comfortable, that’s actually when your business starts falling apart. Because as you’ve said, once you’ve decided you’re not actually happy with where you are and what you’re doing, you’re not going to get any more clients because you’re going to block yourself if you’re not actually happy to bring the client on into that environment.
So it’s been interesting to me even as we’ve done the podcast that for the range of folks that we’ve had, virtually every episode, there’s always a few listeners that sort of write in and comment of like, “Don’t like that person’s business or don’t think they’re doing it well or would never go to that direction.” It’s like, well, that’s cool. Like, you be you, go your direction, but that doesn’t make the other person wrong for going their direction. To me, that’s part of what’s so interesting about this business is that we can all make these practices that are our reflection of ourselves and what we want to do and what’s important to us. And it just means you end out with a zillion different advisory firms that all do it differently, or people that navigate their careers the way that it’s meaningful for them to navigate their careers.
Michael: So what was the low point for you on the journey?
Kelly: Well, definitely in 2008, when that trust company decided that they no longer needed my services. It was pretty awful.
Michael: So did you have thoughts of just saying like, “Well, guess that was my run in the financial services industry, but let’s see what we’re doing next?”
Kelly: I did but there was so much that went into that event that I was going to do everything to prove them wrong, that that was not going to define me. And it’s just one of those moments where I was going to turn that into a defining moment. And I have.
Michael: That’s quite a bold mental shift of like, “I’m not going to let that moment control me. I’m going to make it my defining moment to make a change.” Where did that come from for you?
Kelly: Well, it’s just that when you know that something isn’t right, I’m the kind of person that just can’t let something stay not right. So I just kind of had to push through it and move forward. And I wasn’t going to let it just stay not right. So going forward with a suit was my only way to prove and just move forward and hold my head high. And that’s what I did.
Michael: And so for advisors coming in today to get their career started, is there any particular advice or tips you’d give for, I guess newer advisors? Doesn’t even necessarily have to be young by age, could be career changers coming in at a later stage. But what would your advice be to new advisors trying to figure out how to navigate some of the journey that you’ve navigated?
Kelly: Well, definitely explore all the different ways that you can get paid. Look at all the different ways and decide which one is going to resonate for you and your family, because there are a bunch of different ways. Find out how much it costs for you to be an advisor at that firm so you know what they’re investing in you and go in. If you’re going in to ask for a job or looking for a job, know what your worth is. And if you’re brand new and you don’t have anything just yet, know that you’re going to have to work towards that to get what you eventually want to be paid. Don’t come in expecting anything right out of the gate because it’s not going to happen. You may just get the opportunity to learn from a really brilliant advisor. And that’s quite an education. Not a lot of people get that or got that when they first started out. So that is a wonderful opportunity. And I think that’s something that I would have really enjoyed, too. But knowing the different ways to get paid and really understanding it before you just say, “Gosh, that sounds great.”
Michael: Yeah. So what questions do you wish you had asked when you were trying to interview and find these roles in the first place? Right? Because part of the challenge, I think, is you don’t know what you don’t know to ask in the first place, you only find out later like, “Oh, I wish I’d asked that.” Are there particular things that you would encourage people to ask now in trying to figure this stuff out?
Kelly: Well, I should have asked had I started…if I could go back to my days at Wells Fargo FiNet and said, “Give me an example of a month of a base salary and bringing in one account. Give me an example of a base salary and this product and no new business. Give me an example of no base salary.” Just to get an example of what that meant with these different scenarios. Because if you can see something in black and white, you’re like, “Oh, oh, I see.” But if you don’t see the first 10% goes to here, this next 10% goes to the owner, this part goes…oh, if you don’t see that, sometimes it’s hard to fathom what they’re talking about as far as that grid. So I think for anybody that’s thinking about going to a place that pays different on different products, it’s a good idea to get…in my case, I like to see stuff, to get some examples.
Michael: And just say, “Show me that math. Just show me what that looks like and how that calculates out.”
Kelly: Absolutely. I think that’s a very fair question.
Michael: And I think particularly in a world where, unfortunately, just for a lot of firms, those grid systems have gotten really complex. I feel like in some cases, just because it’s kind of a complex business and there’s a lot of moving parts in a few I’ve seen over the years and like, I swear, they’re just making it complex because they’re trying to have people be confused and not realize how the math is going to turn out. Not all the firms are fortunately like that, but I get the feeling there are a few. But just saying like, “Well, hey, here’s a hypothetical scenario where I brought in this much business, you should do the math for me. Just show me how that comes out. Let me see it in black and white on paper and really take in how these formulas are going to play out in the real world.”
How She Defines Success For Herself [1:24:50]
So as we wrap up, this is a podcast around success and one of the themes that always comes up is just the word “success” means very different things to different people. And so, you built this successful career in the industry, navigating as we go and taking a few knocks along the way, which I feel like is pretty common for most of us. It sounds like you really feel like now you’ve gotten to the position that you can be happy and successful in. But I’m just wondering like, at a personal level now, how do you define success for yourself?
Kelly: This is a little bit of a…we really haven’t spent any time in this space, but one of the areas that I find myself a little bit frustrated with financial services is that we still kind of have these women’s conferences and then regular conferences. Personally, I will feel like we are successful is if we don’t have to have conferences where women feel that they can find their own knowledge there. I would love to find that by the time I’m retired, that we just have regular conferences that everybody attend together, men and women, and they’re attended equally, that we don’t have to have separate events.
Michael: So do you feel like we’re wrong to be doing that now in the industry or is it like, no, no, we need that now, but we also need to get to the point where we don’t need that?
Kelly: I don’t feel like we’re wrong for doing it now. I just hope that at some point, it becomes something that we don’t need. I just never would have thought that at this point in my career, it would still be a thing that we feel that we need to have our own conferences. Personally, I just feel like that would be a success if we can finally find that women could feel accepted as financial advisors at these conferences without having their own separate area. I just feel like we’re still struggling as female advisors to find our own space.
Michael: So what about at a personal level for you? When’s the journey done?
Kelly: I really feel like at this point I’m really comfortable with where I am personally with my career. I feel like I’m almost at the point where I could kind of breathe. I’m very happy with what I’m doing. I’m very happy with the people. I’m getting people to feel comfortable with me, like I said, as far as the clients that we’ve kind of folded into the practice, I’m feeling very comfortable. I really am. And I’ve never thought I would get here. Five, seven years ago, when I look back into ’08 and all that was going on there, it just seemed impossible that I could ever feel that people would come to me as a mentor, or that I would…yeah, it seems so far away.
Michael: And so what ultimately turned it around for you if you were that down on yourself at the time?
Kelly: I think just pushing through. I think it’s just continuing to push through and continuing to reach out to people and continuing to not stop and to continuing to learn and continuing to try. Not giving up. It’s just wanting to learn all the time and never giving up.
Michael: Yeah, I think there’s a powerful message reality for that, that this business is pretty hard. Well, it’s pretty much horrible for everyone in the early years. For a lot of us, it has even more hard points that hit along the way as you go through your career or building a practice. There’s a lot to be said for just the ability to persevere and push through, particularly when the biggest determinant for advisor income is just the number of years that you manage to keep going and doing it with clients and accumulating and getting more clients and experience as you go.
Michael: Well, thank you, Kelly, for joining us and sharing the journey on the “Financial Advisor Success” podcast.
Kelly: Well, I’m so thrilled to have had the opportunity to do this. It’s just, I’ve listened to this so many times, I never thought I would be here.
Michael: Oh, well, absolutely. I appreciate you joining us.
Kelly: Thank you.