Ask them to define it and ask them if they function in that capacity. A fiduciary is someone who must put your needs in front of their own or their firm’s goals. They are usually not agents or representatives of a firm. I would also seek out a Certified Financial Planner as they have training and education, as well as ethical (including fiduciary) standards that must be met to conduct business.
As part of our series about what one should look for when hiring a financial planner or adviser, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Wright, CFP®, Director of Financial Planning for Pinnacle Advisory Group. Kelly has over 30 years of planning experience in creating financial plans and managing the development of financial planning efforts. Kelly is a member of Pinnacle’s Management Team and primarily works with their Wealth Managers and Planning Associates in providing our planning and wealth management services. He has been a CFP® since 1992 and has an MBA with a concentration in Finance from Loyola University Maryland and a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland. Currently, Kelly is on the Board of Directors for the Financial Planning Association of Maryland.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always been fascinated by what made things work. I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering but found a career in engineering lacked human interaction, and was ultimately unfulfilling. As a result, I went into sales, first in the engineering world, then into financial services. Now I run a financial planning department.
Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
I used to sell life insurance. I started to make a reasonable living doing it, but I hated it. There was plenty of human interaction but far less solving of problems. This is how I first discovered Financial Planning as a tool to answer the question of “how much insurance should I have”? I would always butt heads with the old school insurance managers. My advice would be if you see a facet of your job you think you might enjoy, don’t wait to investigate it in depth and move in that direction.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Very much so! One of the biggest challenges we have in Financial Planning is how to convey complex information clearly. I have researched this area in depth, and I am excited to integrate those ideas into our Financial Planning tools. Relating complex information in a clear way helps clients develop an intuition for their own finances. We are constantly developing and introducing really useful Financial Planning tools — it keeps me energized and excited about what will come next!
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?
I never thought the management part of my MBA would really help until I was in the role of managing people and projects. Once I developed new Financial planning protocols for a firm, working with the Wealth Managers to help get the new standards adopted and to improve them has been both exasperating and rewarding.
What three pieces of advice would you give to your colleague in the finance field to thrive and avoid burnout? Can you give a story or example?
Yes, relating some of the topics I touched upon. Also, I find it helpful to be direct with communication, and deal with problems as they occur in a collegial fashion. We need to remember we are all on the same team.
Ok. Thank you for all of that. Let’s now move to the core focus of our interview. As an “finance insider”, you know much more about the finance industry than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to hire a financial advisor (not you :-)), which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing? Can you give an example or story for each?
I would, as a bare minimum, seek someone who functions as a fiduciary. Ask them to define it and ask them if they function in that capacity. A fiduciary is someone who must put your needs in front of their own or their firm’s goals. They are usually not agents or representatives of a firm. I would also seek out a Certified Financial Planner as they have training and education, as well as ethical (including fiduciary) standards that must be met to conduct business.
It is important to find a person who understands how complex financial issues might affect you. For example, back at the end of 2017, you could have asked, “How will the new tax laws affect me, and what suggestions do you have in that area?”. We decided early to reach out to our firm’s clients to answer that question proactively. I wrote some articles about the issue that a prospective client could read. Another one would be, “How do I protect myself given the recent Equifax hack?” See if their answers make sense, compare them to articles you can find on-line.
I think most people think that financial advisors are for very wealthy people. This is likely not actually true. Can you explain who would most benefit from hiring a financial advisor and why? Can you give an example?
I guess this depends on how you define the term very wealthy. I ran into a Financial Planning Client with a large operating loss that he could not use up on his $130,000 a year salary (they expire after a certain number of years). He had a sizable sum, over $500,000, in his 401k and was continuing to fund it pre-tax. This person definitely needed a planner! We suggested he discontinue all after tax 401k contributions and funnel them into the Roth part of his 401k instead, and complete an in-service 401k Roth conversion of the $500,000 of pre-tax assets. Now those assets, when used in retirement, will come out of Roth accounts.
Wealthier clients tend to have more complex issues, but many in the “Mass Affluent” category also really need and can obtain competent Financial advice.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many who have helped me along the way, but mostly I have to thank my Dad for teaching me that a really good sense of humor can help a lot.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
In October I am teaching a college class pro bono though an outreach with the Maryland Financial Planning Association, of which I am a board member. I do this because financial literacy is a horribly overlooked area in our educational backgrounds. I would love to see more things focusing on financial literacy
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Linked in? I’m kind of old school
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.