Hannah: Today on the podcast we have Kevin Clark is joining us. Thanks for being with us, Kevin.
Kevin: Yeah. Glad to be here.
Hannah: We are at the FPA Annual Conference right now. Everything financial planning. We are talking about it in the sessions that we’re having. Let me ask you. You’ve been in financial planning, your services, for about eight years now. How did you get into this? How did you discover financial planning?
Kevin: I fell backwards into it in college. I came from a family that has a very long history in it. My dad did it for 38 years. My grandfather did it for 30 years. My uncle did it for almost 30 years himself. I had no interest at all in getting into it growing up and happened to just declare a really broad major in the business college and had to take finance 101. Finance 101 started about three or four days after Lehman Brothers went out of business.
Hannah: How did that influence your perspective?
Kevin: It was fascinating to me because our textbook for that quarter of study was as much the papers on the Wall Street Journal as it was the finance textbooks and calculations we were doing. It definitely exposed me to what was going on and really peaked my interest, and eventually I found out that I had a knack for a lot of the skills that go into doing it too.
Hannah: It’s so interesting, like that was your starting point of seeing that financial crisis. Has that impacted how you view investments and how you view financial planning?
Kevin: It has because the it really immediately impressed on me the emotional side of it is equally, if not more, important than the science part of it. The thing that really sold me on wanting to pursue it as a career was I came back after that quarter of finance and was talking with my dad and my dad was coming home from the office every day looking more beaten down than he ever had in his life. I could tell that all this was wearing on him, but then when we go and talk to our family, friends, and a lot of whom are clients, it’s like they’re not even worried about it because they’ve had their hands held through it and they trust that they’re getting great advice and we’ll be able to get through it.
Hannah: It’s so interesting. As you’re saying this, I’m hearing what you’re saying and I feel like maybe my initial response would have been seeing that stress on a parent’s face and already kind of having the bias that you want to run the other direction, but that made you want to still get into financial planning?
Kevin: Yeah. I grew up with a very service volunteer mindset on a lot of things and I was just amazed at the fact that with seeming like the world was melting around that these people just were not worried at all. I really liked the idea that I could potentially be that calming force too. I just found that to be really what pushed me in the direction of pursuing this as a career.
Hannah: That’s really neat. You saw that service rather than just the stress and the weight that your dad and other planners were carrying at that time.
Hannah: You get solidified that maybe this is in your blood and maybe you can’t escape it. So you graduate school. Was it a CFP program?
Kevin: It was not a CFP program. It was just a finance and management program at Ohio Northern, which has an amazing business program. They actually right now are looking at how to create a CFP program within the college, but for right now, I had to go and do the education subsequent.
Hannah: Did you immediately get a job in finance or where did you land?
Kevin: I graduated and a lot of the traditional companies still were not hiring. That was two years after the bottom, so they were still getting back to where they wanted to before they could start hiring again. I eventually started out just taking what I could, but I got a referral from a friend of college to move down to Covington, Kentucky and work at Fidelity in a call center. I found that to be a great start because they pay for your licensing, they give you the tools and a lot of the soft skills that are underdeveloped in the finance programs in college, and really just give you a path to developing what you need to eventually potentially switch into more of a direct client type of role.
Hannah: I’m fascinated with these ideas, the call centers, because when you start looking at the jobs and the numbers of jobs, like when you look at a very macro perspective of financial planning, there’s a lot of jobs opening up at these big firms like Fidelity and Vanguard and different places like that where it’s technically a call center. Tell me, when you were in this call center space, what were your tasks? What did like a week look like for you?
Kevin: That evolved a little bit. When I started, it was we had a call center of about 3000 people there. As you’re getting licensed, it’s obviously probably changed since I’ve been there, it was basically just routing the calls to where they needed to be. Then once you’re licensed, they have a very good training program that allows you to build on what you’re able to do. Eventually, I was able to do service and trading. I eventually added some responsibilities for trying to generate leads or open up discussions beyond the stated need. Then my last role before I ended up leaving was actually in the realm of executive and stock compensation where I was dealing with all of those types of awards from the barista at Starbucks to the person that is cashing out all the executive stuff that they’ve been given.
Hannah: One of my favorite … I have a lot of favorite interviews that we’ve done over the years, but one that stands out as you’re talking is we did an interview with James Matthews a while back where he was building on his career and he ended up leaving where he was at to go work at a call center because he realized that there were skillsets that he needed that he didn’t have. Where everybody viewed it as a setback, he viewed it as, “I need to fill in my skill gap in that space of being able to talk to that many clients and build out those skill sets.” I find it fascinating that you were working in this call center and using that as a foundation for your career.
Kevin: Absolutely. Yeah. I grew up extremely introverted and it really pushed me to get outside of my shell and be able to just talk with people. I thought it was great start.
Hannah: That’s awesome. You’re at the Fidelity call center for you said about two years?
Kevin: A little over two years.
Hannah: Okay. What did you decide, like did you want to keep going? Obviously, you didn’t keep working in Fidelity, we know there’s a change that’s coming, but what was the trigger for making you want to look for a different opportunity?
Kevin: Another great thing about Fidelity, they paid for a lot of the expense for getting a CFP certification. All of that program I did halfway through my first year to my second year. I kind of got to a point where I knew I wanted to deal face to face with clients. The career path to do that at Fidelity was a little longer than I was … I was a little inpatient, honestly. That along with the fact I wanted to move home back to Columbus, Ohio, I felt it was a good point to transition, and I ended up going into a traditional financial advisor role at a wirehouse.
Hannah: Okay. You’re at the wirehouse and you say a traditional financial planning role. What does that mean in a wirehouse setting?
Kevin: Wirehouse gets the reputation that they have very good training programs, but a lot of the training programs are geared toward get as many clients as you can and we’re looking at a specific asset level or type of client that you can go after. I found it to be a great program that they had because instead of that just sole proprietorship type of role, they had developed a role where you could be a team advisor and fill a specific wealth management position. I slid into a role as the planning specialist on an existing team, which gave me a little less pressure to immediately produce, but also those types of goals to be able to develop.
Hannah: Were you expected to be bringing on clients or a certain amount of assets?
Kevin: There were requirements and there was an expectation to do that, or at least to expand what you’re doing with the existing clients that are in there. It was a great experience because at that time the team I joined did not really have a lot of dedicated planning and there were a lot of abilities to deepen the relationship and expand what clients were able to get from us.
Hannah: These wirehouses in some of these firms … Even Fidelity is so huge that when you talk about a job at Fidelity, that simply isn’t enough information to know what you’re going to be doing there. Like you said, working at a wirehouse where you’re just starting out, for some people it’s 100% commission-based, sink or swim, and for others, and I have many friends who’ve worked at wirehouses, you go into a team and you go into a financial planning role and it’s a whole different experience than the stereotypical-
Hannah: … wirehouse and what people are afraid of really.
Kevin: Yeah. There is obviously a stigma with those insurance companies, wirehouses, the bigger names that have this notion of you’re just a producing person. In my experience, it’s like any other company. It’s just finding the right fit, finding a team that really is committed to doing things the right way and is committed to the success of anybody that they partner with or bring in.
Hannah: You said that you’re an introvert. You’re working at Fidelity in a call center and now you’re working at this wirehouse. How did that jive with being an introvert?
Kevin: By that time, by the time I joined the wirehouse, I had evolved a little bit to where I could have these back and forth discussions, but it was kind of a good marriage when I joined the team because I was joining people that were classic extroverts, the type A types of people. What we ended up finding was clients like the fact that they had both of those personalities present. It did end up being kind of a good transition because the clients preferred, in some cases, having someone who gave them a little more time to talk or think versus someone that was the classic type of guy.
Hannah: Clients are introverted too.
Hannah: When you were in that role, did they already have the built out financial planning that they were doing with their clients, or were you coming in and creating it, or like what did that look like?
Kevin: The company had invested a ton of money into technology and was really pushing that as the future of how they did things, to the point where they had that as an expectation for every client would have some type of planning. My role basically began digging into what was available there and how to effectively use it, talking with the clients and seeing out of all these things we have what really resonates and what do you like having us show you or going through together.
Hannah: When you were working at this wirehouse, you got to be in those face to face meetings with those clients, and that’s really when you started to, I would say, do financial planning, right? Is that-
Kevin: Exactly, yeah. That was the first case where I could deal directly with a specific family, have that relationship, and do personal financial planning for that specific case versus general guidance.
Hannah: Yeah. Then how big was your team? Like how many people were you working with on a regular basis?
Kevin: I ended up joining a couple teams. The initial team was fairly large size for that type of company. It was eight advisors when I joined.
Hannah: Eight advisors, that means there’s support staff for that too, right?
Kevin: Correct. Including support staff, it was, depending on how you classify it, 10 or so. Then I eventually moved to a smaller team that was three advisors and a support person as well. Then ended up leaving that company at some point and joined the largest team that I’ve been on.
Hannah: Okay. It’s interesting. You’re working within the same wirehouse and you have two different teams. Do the teams have different personalities?
Hannah: How they worked with their clients, did that differ?
Kevin: Absolutely. I would say that the client base that sought them out was extremely unique. I’ve always been of the opinion that the client kind of mirrors the personality or what the team does. The initial team I joined, they had a very good specialization and qualified plans and rollovers dealing directly with the companies and doing employee education. They naturally attracted a lot of people that were near retirement or needed education on their plans. The other team I joined had more of a millionaire next door type of vibe where he was outdoorsmen, a lot of his client base were outdoorsmen, and now they just had these businesses that were doing really well, but were very unassuming, down to earth people.
Hannah: We talk a lot about financial planners, especially new ones that are entering into the profession, finding a good fit for you from a firm, it’s kind of an interesting idea of like the clients have to find that right fit as well.
Hannah: This is a big game of matchmakers. It’s not easy.
Kevin: That’s why we need more and more people coming into the industry because the more personalities and types of people we have out there, the more clients can find somebody they’re comfortable with.
Hannah: Oh, I love that. If we really want to be reaching more people, we have to have more financial planners who are different. Yeah.
Hannah: You’re at the wirehouse, and so how many years did you end up spending at the wirehouse?
Kevin: I was there for three and a half years and then left there early last year. I’ve been with my current company now for almost two years.
Hannah: I love having people who have worked in wirehouses because I often worry that some of these wirehouses get a really bad rap. Obviously, within any business, there’s reason for that, but especially as a career path, looking at the wirehouses, was that a good experience for you working when there?
Kevin: Yeah. I thought it was a very good experience. Like I said, there’s some type of stigma, especially with organizations like FBA here that are more geared towards like the fee only or RIA type of space. One of my best clients a few years ago said something that really resonated. He said, “It doesn’t matter where you ever are. It matters the person.” If anybody ever goes to one of those places, they shouldn’t ever feel insecure, less than some of the other people here. It’s a great experience. They are great at what they do. Clients have an outstanding experience there.
Kevin: The only suggestion I would have is don’t judge the name, judge the people. Find somebody that is supportive to your career. Also, be aggressive about going outside of that. There is a distinct culture in the wirehouse, but that’s why we have organizations like FPA. I actually did that. I sought it out and found a different side of the business here that really evolved my understanding of what we could do for people.
Hannah: Oftentimes, it’s about finding that right fit and finding … For some times, it’s how can you make it work with where you’re at and helping navigate that. Often, we have people on these podcasts, they’ll reflect back on some of these jobs that they’ve had and they’ve realized that like oh, they really learned a lot from that experience or maybe there’s something that maybe they should’ve learned. When did you start getting involved with FPA?
Kevin: I joined FPA in December of 2016. One of the first things I did, there was a NexGen scholarship offer for Retreat and I applied for that and was one of the three people selected to join there. I was a little different from the standpoint I sought it out, but I was very involved on the national level before getting involved on the local, whereas a lot of people I’ve talked to start at the local level and eventually take advantage of what’s national.
Hannah: Were you still at the wirehouse at that point?
Kevin: I was, yes.
Hannah: Talking about FPA, how did … You got involved with Retreat, and Retreat is one of my favorite conferences. It’s done so much for me professionally. How did Retreat help you to figure out where you wanted to be in this financial planning world?
Kevin: Retreat really exposed me to … At that point, I really just knew one way of doing things. Retreat really opened my eyes to all of the different models that are out there. I didn’t have a lot of experience or knowledge of what is called fee only or different types of fee plus commission. I went in as one of the few wirehouse representatives at that event and just felt immediately welcome and really amazed at some of the things I saw and heard. It was a transformative type of experience.
Hannah: Yeah. I definitely had that same feeling with Retreat, that transformational experience. One of the episodes, depending on when this is aired, that’s coming up is looking at this idea of the 12 tribes of financial planning and realizing that there’s a lot of different avenues that you can go down, and the wirehouse is a great option for some people, but for other people it’s not. It’s really about recognizing within yourself where is it that you want to be. What skills do you have? What makes you unique and where does that fit into the larger scope? That’s what a lot of what I’m hearing you say is this was … You were learning more about yourself and where you wanted to land up within financial planning.
Kevin: Exactly. You can be an amazing financial planner at any type of firm. You just have to be doing the right things for the right reasons and surrounding yourself with people who also are doing that.
Hannah: You ended up working at Ameriprise, and you’re still there, right?
Kevin: Still there.
Hannah: Still there. Okay. This is the current home. When you made that change, what drew you to Ameriprise? What were the characteristics that really made that stand out to you?
Kevin: It stood out to me because to that point I had worked at Fidelity and this wirehouse and they are both excellent at what they do, but they have a specific type of client that they’re looking for. What I really enjoyed about Ameriprise and still like is they invest just as much into technology and the client experience as all those other companies, but they give their planners a lot more flexibility for how they want to do business and the types of people they do business with. It opened up a whole different type of client that was more my age, really in need of advice, but up to that point, I couldn’t really help at the previous two companies.
Hannah: When you got on with Ameriprise, are you working as a team or are you kind of that solo planner working within Ameriprise?
Kevin: It is a little bit siloed. We do have a good collaborative environment. We do share resources. We have terrific support staff that help all of us individually. But as far as the practices, there is an element of each of us is trying to build something separately because each of us is a different person, have different clients that are attracted to the way we do things.
Hannah: You were definitely in that business development role now, or you are in that business-
Kevin: I am, yes.
Hannah: What do you think of that? Do you like it? How does it fit with you?
Kevin: I really like it. I wish that I had gotten into it sooner, but I was actually talking with somebody last night that’s kind of where I was four or five years ago. The biggest mistake I made was not really aggressively networking and becoming a resource before I entered that. I was not prepared to be able to do it when I needed to start doing it, but I really enjoy that side of the business and pouring a lot of effort into trying to find more people I can help.
Hannah: I love that you said that as you were talking to this person last night, when you say the resources, the network, what do you mean by that? What are the actual like resources or tools you were talking about?
Kevin: Meaning just going out into the community, going to networking events, getting involved with groups that help polish your ability to communicate what you do, and also cast a wider net on who can help you and who they know. I did not do enough networking in the traditional sense, and I did not have those centers of influence when I needed to start having them.
Hannah: I love hearing you say that because so many people kind of shy away from that side of it, but hearing … Knowing that, what you’ve already said, that you’re an introvert, all those different things I think-
Kevin: And she … Yeah. The person I talked to, she’s very similar. She tends to be introverted. She wants to become a lead advisor and she just does not know where to start and is kind of intimidated by it. It’s tough to do, but it’s necessary to do and it’s better to do it early.
Hannah: You mentioned that you’re working with … Ameriprise has given you the tools to help work with people more your age or kind of a similar life situation. Tell me more about that. How are you working with our peers?
Kevin: I’m sure you’ve had several other people come on and talk about the subscription model, how they’re using that. That is something that Ameriprise supports. I have a lot of people my age that don’t have a lot of money accumulated yet, or it’s all in a 401k, 403b, whatever it may be, and they’re the people that are most in need of advice because they’re going through all those huge events in the first 10 years. They’re getting married, having kids, buying a house, trying to pay off debt, just trying to build those financial habits that have a ripple effect the rest of your career. Ameriprise provides a great way to price that service so that they’re getting a good value for the amount of advice they’re getting. It’s also making sure to support what I need to do as a financial planner.
Hannah: One of the things that I appreciate about that model so much is that you really are charging for planning. Do you charge like an AUM fee or do any product … Do you get any revenue on the other side of that with a lot of those clients?
Kevin: Yes. That’s the other thing I liked is Ameriprise does give you the flexibility to do either a flat fee or an AUM. I do have some clients that are used to and prefer just the AUM with a portion going towards investment management, a portion towards planning. They really give you the ability to price it according to what the client wants, which is something I had not experienced before that.
Hannah: I’m curious. You talked about all of your family that’s been involved in financial planning, your dad, your uncle. Was it your grandfather too?
Kevin: Grandfather, yes.
Hannah: Grandfather. You’re like third generation. It’s in your blood. You don’t work with them. Often, I hear people who are starting out, they go into the family business.
Hannah: Did you ever consider doing that?
Kevin: That was the original plan when I shifted to the wirehouse. It did not end up working out, but it’s probably a good thing too because it forced me to really have to develop those skills that are necessary to attract, gain new clients, build trust, and just not have things given to you.
Hannah: Yeah. What’s next for you?
Kevin: The one thing that I have been doing FPA wise is I have been serving as the NexGen director for Central Ohio for this year, and I’m already starting to arrange to have a really promising younger planner succeed me in a year or so. I’m not sure what’s going to happen past that. I’ve been helping with the Retreat. I’ve been helping get NextGen getting some momentum locally. We’ll just have to see after that whether I get called to go do some other type of leadership.
Hannah: You’re out there building your business. That’s a full time plus maybe some more job.
Kevin: Sure. Yeah.
Hannah: I know for the listeners, like you talked about this great experience you had with Retreat. You were on the Retreat Task Force this year, and I’m assuming you’re on it again next year.
Kevin: I am, yes.
Hannah: You’re doing so much with your local chapter of NextGen, so what is the value that you’re getting? Why are you spending so much time working with FPA?
Kevin: Because it transformed my view of where I could be and what I could do. I want to be able to do that for other people. We’re facing right now a shortage of really quality new advisors coming into the industry. I’ve always been one of those people that I owe a lot of my success to people that have mentored me. It’s my responsibility to do that for other people and try to get more and more younger planners involved and able to meet the needs the clients have right now.
Hannah: Thank you, Kevin, for doing this interview and thank you for all that you’re doing and giving back to the profession and other younger planners.
Hannah: That work really matters, so thank you.
Kevin: Been a pleasure. Thanks.
Hannah: Awesome. Thanks.