Hannah: Well, thank you, Amy, for joining us.
Amy: Yeah, absolutely. I’m glad to be here, Monday.
Hannah: Yeah. Can you tell us, how did you get into financial planning?
Amy: Well, like I told you, I kind of fell into it completely by accident and didn’t even trip and fall into it. Maybe I was pushed, I don’t know. I got a business degree and I had no kind of background in financial planning, didn’t know what a financial planner was, didn’t really have any direct desire to go into money business at all. Maybe I did, but I really had no idea when I graduated from college what I wanted to do, and I got very, very lucky in that I had worked as an intern for Evan Energy, which Oklahoma City, much like Texas, very oil and gas heavy, so you either go to the oil and gas industry or move somewhere else. I had decided that I didn’t really feel like that was the right move for me and I was about to graduate with no job, and a guy that I’d actually, it was very interesting.
It was just one of those universal things is that I’d gone on a mission trip over spring break with the president of Heritage Trust Company’s son just randomly, and I guess he, when we had the roundup of that mission trip, he had come to that and he just randomly handed me his card. This is after spring break by senior year. I’m about to move back in with my parents and be a bank teller or something, and he just hands me his card and he’s like, “I don’t know what you’re looking for or if we’re even hiring, but if you even just need some practice interviewing or would want to talk to me, here’s my card. Give me a call.”
I had no idea what a trust company was. He had credentials. He had a CTFA and he had a CPA and I was like, “I’m not an accountant,” but just on a whim I went to talk to him because I didn’t have a job and they basically created a position for me, which was basically the receptionist, but I was the marketing assistant and was kind of helping getting some of their president and the chairman and the marketing guy all organized, so they hired me, and I went to work for a trust company. Eight years later, I was basically the head of trust and head of relationship management and then a portfolio manager and they’d done a lot of great things for me, and so that’s kind of how I accidentally became a financial planner.
Hannah: Oh, that’s great. For the listeners who are listening to this and may have heard of a trust officer or a trust company or maybe they even haven’t heard of that, can you just tell them what is a trust company and what do you do as a trust officer?
Amy: Yeah, exactly. I had no idea what that was either, and so I went to work there in 2007 in the good days, you know? I had sat at my reception desk and I just started googling what a trust was basically, which is very embarrassing to admit, but I just didn’t have any background in it. I don’t have a trust fund of my own, unfortunately. A trust company is basically an asset management company that can take in assets and not just monetary assets or stocks and bonds or things like that, but they can manage real estate, they can manage oil and gas interest. They can manage priceless artwork, they can manage cars. They can honestly act as you in whatever situation that you might find yourself. Maybe it’s a situation where you don’t have any family and you need to go into a nursing home and you need somebody to make sure that your bills are paid. Maybe after you’re gone, you think that your children might fight and so you want to go ahead and put in a third party to kind of be the referee in a lot of those situations.
In honesty the most of what we work with is high net worth financial planning is really what it is. You don’t have to name a trust company as trustee. You don’t have to hand it over to them. They can be your agent. They can pay your bills for you. They can manage your assets. They can really do anything that a person could do for you or that a financial planner could do for you. It’s actually a bank. It is a bank. They are the custodian, and so it’s kind of a different model than the traditional RA route or the traditional financial planning situation.
You do things for people that you would never believe. I at one point had to push a car, a Corvette, out of somebody’s driveway and jump it in my heels and then drive it to CarMax and get it appraised and everything else. I’ve had to pull up in little old ladies’ cabinets and get their 16 guns that they’re hiding in there. I’ve had to actually purchase underwear for a client that was in a nursing home, did not have any family and was struggling being able to get to the store. It really is the whole gamut. It’s a very interesting business and very, I think, fulfilling business, but that is definitely my background and what I still really enjoy doing.
Hannah: As a trust officer, those are pretty intimate things to be involved in a client’s life with. Was that to you, it’s beyond just the money side of it. It’s really into the day to day taking care of somebody?
Amy: Very much so. You think about what it takes to take care of somebody. If that means paying their taxes, if that means making sure that they have home healthcare coming in and you’re paying them, that you’re paying the bills. Whatever that means of taking care of somebody, that’s the service that we offer.
Hannah: That sounds more high touch than some RAs I know.
Amy: Very high touch, very high touch.
Hannah: Then how does the trust company get paid?
Amy: Trust company gets paid, number one, assets under management. That’s how they got paid. It’s fee only. There’s certainly no commissions. There’s no insurance sales or anything like that. It is the definition of family. It’s the original fiduciary. We’ve just now kind of heard this fiduciary word coming across the pike, and obviously RAs have been fiduciaries forever too, but trust companies are kind of like, “How come this was never an issue that we were driving this?” That’s kind of the drive. Trust companies really should’ve been pushing that fiduciary push all along because they’ve always been trust companies.
Hannah: Tell me what it was like to be coming straight out of college and basically be working at the receptionist’s desk. What was that experience like?
Amy: Like I said, I got lucky. This company, it started actually in 1998, and a big bank had come in and purchased another smaller bank that use to be very local, and they just didn’t really like the way that their customers were being treated, the fee structure that was coming in, the big bank push for additional products and additional proprietary pushes, so one of the major families partnered with several of the trust officers from that particular bank, and they started this company, and so I came in about within 10 years after they got started, and I was really the first hire that they had under 40, for sure. I was the most interesting thing. Regardless of what I did, I was the most interesting thing that was going on, which was kind of fun. I actually, I got several dads out of the situation, especially you think about coming in and working for a company who at the time only had about 13 employees, and guys that knew exactly what they were doing, have been doing this for decades, and the opportunity to spend time with them, the opportunity to learn from them.
It really, the situation that I was in and being very, very lucky and just being the first kind of young person to come in really, really benefited me. Now, that company has a beautiful downtown office and they employ 45 people, so it’s definitely a different and probably at least now 30% of those people, maybe more, are younger people now.
Hannah: Oh, that’s great. You started there. Did you start studying for your CFP® exam right away? Is that something that you pursued or what were the designations or exams that you took?
Amy: Yeah, I obviously have a love for designations and education I guess. I hopefully am coming to the end of is my goal. Somebody tried to ask me about a new designation the other day and I was like, “No, no more.” I had never really heard of the CFP® exam in general. Again, I hadn’t ever thought about financial planning as a profession or as a job or as something that I would want to go into. I obviously knew kind of what stockbrokers did, but that wasn’t even kind of the idea that I had in my mind of what a stock broker even was. I thought investment bankers were the same as stockbrokers.
Again I was not at all learned in this area, but that what kind of got me was the reason I started pursing designations is because I was … Yeah, obviously in a unique position to be able to see how the entire business was working because it was so small at that time, and I didn’t know what I was doing, and so I had moved out of the, I was promoted, I guess, out of the receptionist job pretty quickly and I went to be a trust officer’s assistant basically, and I was assisting three of them, and so I was in a lot of those meetings, and I really just felt uncomfortable with myself of not knowing what the rules were or what they were talking about or what solutions that we could give, so again, I got on Google and started looking and seeing what educational programs might help me with that.
I came across the CFP® exam and brought it to my bosses and I said, “This might just be,” they had sent me to trust school, which ultimately took the CTFA exam, which was through the Institute of Certified Bankers, but ultimately I went and I said, “Can I start taking these CFP® classes? I just think that they’d be a good educational background for me personally so I can feel confident in these meetings, so I can eel like I know what I’m doing, and I’m really enjoying this business. I really am on board with what you guys are doing and I like this. I think that it is something that I’d like to invest in if you’ll invest in me.” They said, “Yeah, absolutely. We’re very excited that you want to learn more about our business and that you want to be educated.” My employer was very, very glad to support me in the CFP® courses, which I took online and then ultimately took the CFP® exam in fall of 2008.
Hannah: Very nice. Did you feel like the CFP® exam gave you that confidence that you were looking for?
Amy: Yes, absolutely, and that’s what I tell people all the time is I know sometimes, especially as a younger person, especially as a woman, you are in those meetings and you’re just, whether or not you know your stuff or not, I think the CFP® designation does a lot to boost your own knowledge, to boost your own self-confidence there, even if you’re handing a card to somebody. I don’t know what age I look, even today, I don’t know what age I look. I was at the gym last week and talking to somebody, and of course I’m in my early thirties, and they were saying, “Oh, well I thought you were in college in at UGA, like as an undergrad.” Which, I’m at the gym so I probably don’t look great, but at this point in my life, that’s a compliment, but I think even when I was 22.
I had braces when I was 22. I probably looked about eight when I was 22, and so even kind of getting that confidence through at least myself knowing what I was knowing, that I knew was talking about felt like I could then expand and make the people that I was talking to feel like that I knew what they were talking about because that’s ultimately, especially as a trust company, you’re talking with people that have millions and millions of dollars and expect that level of service and expect that level of expertise, so it is a little scary if you go in, especially in a meeting by yourself where you may not have that self-confidence right off the bat.
Hannah: Oh, that’s great. You have more credentials.
Hannah: And more exams. Can you kind of walk through on a timeline the various, because you have your MBA and your PhD, you’re in progress for that, and you’re actually teaching a course right now, so can you walk through what inspired you to go back and get your MBA?
Amy: An MBA, regardless of that I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do, an MBA was always just kind of one of those things where I was like, “Well, I’ll have an MBA.” I just felt in my mind that I was an MBA type of person. I didn’t know exactly what in business I wanted to be in, but I knew that I wanted to be in business and I knew that I wanted an MBA. I looked around when I had, I think I had finished the CFP®. I must have finished the CFP®. I’d even applied, you’re making me think here on my timeline, but I had applied for an MBA program, a couple MBA programs right out of college because again, I had no idea what I was doing or where I wanted to go work, so I thought I’d just keep going to school because I’m pretty good at school. The programs that I’d really wanted to hadn’t worked out.
My GMAT score was not super stellar, so I’d kind of put that on the back burner anyway, and then once I guess I’m just a sucker for feeling like if I’m sitting still for a second that I need to go and look and see what other educational endeavors I can pursue. Yeah, once I had taken the CTFA and the CFP®, I think the MBA was just my next conquest, so I again, talked to my employers, and I had thought about going full-time at first and then they said, “We’ll help you with the MBA process if you want to continue working here and do the MBA at night.” That ended up working really, really well. I got an MBA through the University of Oklahoma and did classes at night and gained a lot of friendships and gained a lot of relationships through that and feel really, really good about that process and how that worked, and again, was able to keep working and keep getting better at what I was doing at my employer too.
Hannah: With that MBA, do you feel like it helped you in your relationship with clients and beyond just the confidence level or knowledge, I guess, working with clients?
Amy: I don’t know. The MBA was a little bit different because it’s not as focused on exact … The CFP®’s so practical. You learn the rules as they are at that time, and you’re able to honestly apply whatever you’re learning at the rules at the very beginning, whereas an MBA is much broader on the technical side or the business strategy side, so I got a lot more expertise in accounting practices, got a lot more expertise in negotiation. Again, made some amazing relationships with people that were also working at the same time and also wanted to be there in school, which was a completely different, not that people don’t want to be there as an undergraduate, but in a master’s degree where everyone else is working full time during the day, you just really get a caliber of people that do want to be there and so you get to make those relationships and understand their industries better and understand your own industries better and see how other people’s business trajectories have gone, and so that’s really the most value that I got out of it.
Hannah: You knock out your MBA, and so the next logical choice is a CFA?
Amy: Of course. That was the next logical choice. At the time, I was a portfolio manager for my employer, and so that was kind of an understanding is that they were hoping to get all the portfolio managers at the trust company to be CFA charter holders. I graduated my MBA in 2012, and took level one of the CFA that same month and just by accident passed that very first level, which is very, very difficult. Then went on through the process of the CFA program, which was, I will tell you, the most difficult thing I have ever done and probably will ever do. In all of my educational pursuits, the CFA program is certainly the hardest.
Hannah: At this point with the trust company, you are a portfolio manager. Could you talk about what does a portfolio manager do and kind of what is that job function?
Amy: Yeah. Portfolio management is, I was not necessarily on the side that was buying underwear at this point. I was on the side that I was buying stocks, I was buying bonds. I was actively on the investment committee. I was contributing to stock selection committee. I was looking at stocks on a much deeper level. I was actively talking to bond brokers every single day looking for, and these were in the good days where we could buy bonds with yields. I was actively talking with clients. In our firm we had, every client was assigned a portfolio manager and a relationship manager, so any time that there was a quarterly review or any kind of performance review, an investment officer would be brought in obviously to speak to that. Some clients need more of that. Some clients need less of that.
Some clients, it goes the gamut of whichever side is needed, and obviously a lot of clients don’t necessarily need a portfolio manager in the room if that’s not the main focus of the meeting, but a lot of our clients were much more focused on the portfolio management side. That was working through the CFA program, being a CFP®, coming out of the MBA, that was a new challenge that I was very excited about, and then ultimately I had moved back over to the trust side after a couple years of great investments.
Hannah: Those are really two separate job functions within that trust company. Those were two very different roles.
Amy: Completely. Same clients, but definitely different roles. Different day to day, different expectation level.
Hannah: You were at the trust company for eight years, is that right?
Amy: Eight, yeah, eight years.
Hannah: What kind of prompted you to want to make a move?
Amy: Yeah, I would not have said that right off the bat that it was something that it was my goal to own my own business someday, but after I had become a CFPN and gotten involved in FPA and especially been involved in Next Gen, which I know a lot of our friends and a lot of listeners are very involved in Next Gen. That’s how we all kind of met and that’s how we all built our businesses was just talking to people who knew what they were doing, talking to people that were using other softwares, and ultimately just getting to the point where I was working a lot for the trust company at the time, and it was an issue that was causing some negative feelings in my life, just from an issue of time that I was spending there and just from the level of stress that I was experiencing, and I was 30, almost 30 years old at this point.
I really had some good advice from a good friend that told me if it was something that I did want to do, which was ultimately run my own business, that I should quit before I couldn’t afford to not quit. I certainly have wonderful feelings for that company and everything they did for me, continue to have wonderful friends there, continue to think that they are doing exactly what they need to be doing, but at that time, it was really an issue that I did need to go ahead and step away and try to get some flexibility in my life and trying to just have a new adventure at that point. We, I think, parted on pretty good ways and I was able to go ahead and start my own business and ultimately add, get a PhD as one of my hobbies.
Hannah: I feel embarrassed of my hobbies now.
Amy: Well, when people have to ask me what my hobbies are, I’m like, “Well, working and sleeping, and that’s it.”
Hannah: Okay, so let’s talk about your PhD. There’s so much here. Your PhD, and it’s in consumer economics. Is that right?
Amy: Yeah, it’s in consumer economics and financial planning.
Hannah: From University of Georgia?
Hannah: You live in Oklahoma, right? Are you doing this virtually, or how is this working?
Amy: Yeah, I live in both. I’m actually in Georgia right now, and I’m in Georgia for the majority of the school year, but I go back and forth pretty often. I try to be in Oklahoma at least a couple days a month in the office working and seeing people, but most of my business during the school year is digitally done, which is not very difficult in today’s environment, honestly, and just the sheer numbers of clients that I have is just nothing like the number of clients that I had working at a trust company. You’re able to do that a lot easier. Yeah, going back and forth. I’m in Georgia today. It’s the eclipse day. It got really dark, but I dragged my feet on getting those glasses, so I couldn’t actually see it.
Hannah: Me too. You’re in Georgia. You’re going to school for the PhD program, and you’re also teaching a course.
Amy: Yeah, I’m co teaching a seminar course, and we were talking about this a little before we started, but Georgia has a clinic here. It’s called the Aspire Clinic, and they actually offer pro bono financial counseling, financial planning services to the community, and so anyone from the community or teachers or students or graduate students can come in and they can sit down with one of our students, undergraduate students or graduate students. Then every week, these students hold a seminar, and so I kind of help facilitate this seminar in that they’re bringing their cases or the issues that the people that they’re seeing in their financial counseling meetings, they’re bringing the issues that they’re having and then together all of us, there’s about 10 students in the seminar.
We’re coming up with creative ideas. We’re coming up with people that’ll know a good resource to reach out to. If one person’s kind of weaker on what to recommend or what might be a good strategy, we all work together to come up with that strategy, and obviously I’m able to bring a little more knowledge to the table as far as what strategies are and hopefully disseminate that knowledge throughout the students. It’s really rewarding. I really enjoy it, and actually it’s stretched me quite a bit too because the people who are coming in for pro bono counseling are really coming in with different issues than say people that are coming into a trust company are coming into, so I’ve actually learned a lot through the process too, so I really enjoy it.
Hannah: That’s really neat. With your PhD program, are you doing research? Are you contributing in the research world?
Amy: Yeah. We’re doing a lot of really exciting research. Through the clinic even, it’s a research clinic and we’re able to collect a lot of data from people that are coming in and getting the financial planning services, so it’s kind of a dual situation. I’m involved in a lot of the research projects that are going through there, and then hopefully in the spring, I’ll be starting my own writing my dissertation process. I’m finishing up my coursework this semester and then I’ll be full time dissertation in the spring and hopefully graduate in May.
Hannah: Can you share what your dissertation is about or what you want to study?
Amy: I don’t actually have it finalized, no, but there’s a lot of good questions that are being asked out there. There’s a lot of issues that I’m especially close to. HSAs are one of them. Investments biases. A lot of the behavioral things that come into investment portfolio choice, risk tolerance. I can’t say exactly what it will be on exactly, but it’s starting to come together on some of those questions that I find interesting and that I think that I can dig a little bit deeper through.
Hannah: One of the things I’m also harping on is if we really want to become a profession, we have to figure out how to integrate this research with our day to day practices, and so my question for you would be as a practitioner and as a researcher, for the people listening to this podcast, maybe newer in their careers or just starting out or just starting their own firm, where can they go or how can they start getting exposed to a lot of this research that’s happening right now?
Amy: It’s so hard, and I actually harp on these guys all the time because academic research is not fun to read. It’s not fun to write either. It’s very hard when, especially in the academic research realm or in the academics research literature where a lot of these solutions are basically written in math. That’s really difficult or be able to take away. I have been trying to contribute to as much even writing process as I can in the literature that I’m being asked to look over or some of the implications for financial planners that I can look over and trying to at least point out some of the issues that are coming up and some of the findings that we’re finding. The research is really, it’s a very slow moving process. It takes one step at a time and one researcher bouncing off of another researcher and then another idea coming off of another idea.
I look at journals like the Journal of Financial Planning that does a really good job of at least presenting it really well in a nice colorful magazine that’s a little bit easier to read and I think is much more pushed towards the practitioner standpoint, without being too overwhelming. Make sure that the graphs are readable and things like that, and I think that’s hopefully what journals would move towards. That would be my desire. I don’t know that that’s the desire of the academic world, but I’m one vote if I ever get to do it. I have the same problem. That stuff is hard to read and it’s hard to especially make time in your day to weed through it.
Hannah: Yeah, absolutely. You start eight years at a trust company and you start your own firm. What was that experience like?
Amy: You learn a lot about yourself, what you know.
Hannah: Isn’t that the truth?
Amy: Yeah, I always considered myself to be an introverted worker and especially when I worked with so many people around me, I would go to work and obviously do my work and then sometimes I would go to the gym and then I would come back to the office after I went to the gym when everybody was gone, and that’s when I would actually get my work done, so I always thought that I’d be really good at that. Then it turns out that when you actually just have an entire day stretching in front of you that you really have to set some traps for yourself to kind of understand how you work and how you understand in that I did learn that I do not work very well alone, that I actually need somebody to monitor me and know that even setting an expectation that you’re going to see somebody, setting an expectation that you’re going to be at the office in a certain time, that you’re even going to take a shower and not wear yoga pants to the office is one of those things that you’re going to change.
I had to do a lot of shuffling and trial and error on how my office situation was going to be set up and how I was going to spend my day and when I was going to be in the office and how I was going to conduct myself to find that sweet spot of how I work best. That, I think, is the most important thing to realize because you do, once you’re on your own, you are responsible 100% for how you’re going to eat that day. You do have to hustle and you got to get it done, but there’s nothing necessarily, you don’t have to report to anybody. There’s nobody reporting to you. There’s no accountability beyond the goals that you’re setting for yourself, so you do have to be, or at least get good at that and find a way to push yourself that way. I don’t know if it was the same for you, but that was a big challenge for me.
Hannah: Oh, a huge transition. Absolutely huge transition, and I think compounding, I don’t know if people who start out who don’t have the revenue, it’s just stress on stress on stress that you don’t really know. Did you bring clients from the trust company to your own practice or did you really start from zero?
Amy: Yeah, some of the clients did come over with me, so I was lucky in that manner. It wasn’t even, and this is my own perspective. It wasn’t necessarily the revenue that I was most worried about, but it was just kind of a personal vendetta that I wanted to make sure that I did not fail at this, and that was probably a bigger driver for me in that yeah, revenue was happening, but I also knew that I had enough money saved that I was not going to starve necessarily, even if I was just able to get even half the clients that maybe I thought might come over. That wasn’t too big of an issue for me, but the issue of I am going to be able to do this and that I’m not going to fail at this was probably a bigger driver than even the dollars and cents issue.
Hannah: When you brought the clients over, did you have to pay for them or you were just able to do that and they just changed advisors?
Amy: They changed advisors and I really was very careful because there were certainly non-competes in place, and I also wanted to stay in good graces with my former employer. I did not want to just light those bridges on fire as I walked away. Oklahoma City is a small wealth management community and I, again, had so much respect for the company that I worked for that I did not want to do it the wrong way. I probably could have hammered harder maybe, but I also wanted to make sure that the clients were going to be in the best place for them too, and so I do think that was a little bit unique of a situation in that there’s a lot of clients that I couldn’t bring.
A lot of them were trust clients and I don’t have trust powers, and I didn’t really want to partner with a no name somebody that was renting me their trust powers. Really, if they needed trust work, they needed to be at a trust company. I tried to keep that as a driver of when I was creating my clients. Yes, clients did come over and I certainly answered the phone when they called and encouraged them to come over, but I did try to at least do that as delicately as possible because I have a lot of respect for that former employer.
Hannah: Yeah, it’s such an interesting transition when you move companies and we’re in such a unique field where you can take revenue, some places you have the opportunity to possibly take revenue, but how do you do that well?
Amy: It’s hard and it was an issue of that firm is actually purchased by a large kind of regional bank, and so a lot of the people that I’d kind of grown up working with were retiring, so when that transaction happened, it was actually a good breaking point for me to go ahead and cut ties, not 100%, but at least cut my employment ties and feel like I at least left them in a place where they were going to be in a good place and I was going to be in a good place, and it was going to be better for me, and I think a lot of people understood that too.
Hannah: Are all of your clients in Oklahoma City?
Amy: Majority are in Oklahoma. Especially at first, they were all in Oklahoma. I do have a few scattered about, but they all for the most part either have a connection with me personally or in Oklahoma in some way.
Hannah: Your client base, are they more that high net worth client like you had at the trust company?
Amy: At first, they were because all the clients that came over were really the trust company side, but I also wanted to make sure that I was able to serve really anybody that was going to be willing to do what it took or willing to do it right, and I think that was the breaking point is at the trust company, you’re mostly working with people who had already made their money and were kind of in the distribution stage of their life or of their financial situation versus I did want to start working with people who maybe hadn’t made their money yet but were dedicated to saving. Really, the RAA model uniquely, I think, gives you the opportunity now with technology to be able to work with people who are willing to save a certain amount every month, even if they don’t necessarily have a big pot of money already just waiting to hand you and to cash a million dollars.
That’s always great when you can get one of those, but I also wanted to work with people that were my age. I wanted to work with people who were just trying to do the right thing, who were excited about their future, that wanted to really collaborate with me on a longterm plan. That was very a pillar of what I wanted to start the firm to do too.
Hannah: With clients like that, how do you service them and how do they pay you and what’s your structure for that?
Amy: Yeah, I have developed a little mini robo. It’s a robo that I kind of run, but it’s I say bare bones, but it is trying to eliminate any of that customization that I run with a lot of the bigger portfolios, whereas a lot of the bigger portfolios, I do run a stock portfolio. I will purchase individual bonds. I will individually look at your tax loss harvest situation versus I run now what I called the Accelerator Program, and the minimum deposit every month is $500, so I’m able to keep up there as far as being able to grow the account in addition to if there’s not necessarily any money there, and so it’s automatic rebalancing. I work through TD Ameritrade and I use ETFs that are commission free. I use iRebal and automatic rebalancing, automatic ACH payment pools, and then anything beyond that asset management side I do hourly consulting.
Hannah: Very nice. Do you do for what these younger people who have that $500 to invest, is it a flat fee that you charge them? Do you do the monthly retainer model or what does that look like?
Amy: It’s AUM, and it’s for any asset level under 180,000. It’s 1.1% and it’s deducted just like all the rest of my AUM clienteles.
Hannah: Interesting. Do you do a financial plan for them?
Amy: Not typically. I will do a little bit of just right off the bat starting off what type of accounts we need to open, but if they are really looking for a full financial plan, then that’s hourly on top of that.
Hannah: Very interesting. What’s so exciting to me is how you can really design whatever service model fits the client and really fits you in this business.
Amy: Yeah, and that’s exactly what I hear from a lot of people. A lot of people focus more on the financial planning side. I tend to focus more on the investment side just because that’s my background. Would like to get back into more financial planning, but that’s just not possible when I’m living in two states right now, but hopefully next year when I’m a little more centralized, I’ll be able to focus a little bit more on the planning side, but in the investment, the investment side is really my bread and butter and building in models and making sure that asset allocation is correct and specifically asset placement. What type of accounts are we investing in? I’m able to do it very cheaply, for me and for them.
Hannah: Right, by using the iRebal and various software.
Amy: Yeah, I try to take as much of that out of the equation as possible. I don’t want to spend my day, as you know, spend my day doing unnecessary paperwork or trying to mess with something that is not going to be either in my best interest or their best interest. I want to use my time well, and I think I’ve developed a good pipeline to be able to do that.
Hannah: One of the things that I find so interesting about you, especially being in your early thirties is the Heartbeat for Hope. Can you tell people what this is about and how it got started?
Amy: Absolutely. Heartbeat for Hope is a nonprofit 501-C3 organization that I got involved with. Through college and then after college, I actually had a friend who had moved to Ghana to work in an orphanage called The Village of Hope, and she had been over there for a couple years, and I love to travel, and so an opportunity came up, and this was when I was young and poor that somebody had donated to her two Delta buddy passes to be able to come to Africa. Me and another friend who had been supporting her with as much money as we had every month or so in her work over there, we were able to go and visit her. Seeing what the need was there and what the situation with the orphanage was was really a eyeopening experience for me.
I’d never been to Africa and certainly never been involved in any kind of business transaction that was outside of the United States, but when she actually came back, there was some opportunities for us to get involved with vocational training for women, which has really been a big push to be able to try to empower women, to be able to pay the school fees for their children, and then ultimately create sustainable models of living, and there’s just not, the infrastructure doesn’t exist over there in Ghana where they can just graduate from high school and then go get a job. That’s just not a thing. There’s not huge companies that have come in and invested in factories or manufacturing Ghana like there is here or even in some of the other developing countries, so it’s really a very entrepreneurial workspace.
Trying to offer training to especially people that were not necessarily going to have the opportunity to then goes into empowering them forever. Then we were able to partner with Heartbeat for Hope to try to get more structure and get more ability to raise money and now we do some work with another vocational training school that actually takes teenagers off of the street and gives them a two year basically training program in textiles, in auto mechanics. They choose a major. In catering, in skills that are able to market and skills that they’re going to be able to make a living at. That is money that you’re basically putting in one, as an investment, and then the training center is able to continue going on its own because they can make the products, sell the products, and then that can be re recycled.
That’s been a big issue for me is always trying to keep centralized the money that we’re putting in there. We don’t try to take over a lot of things. If we’re purchasing things, we want to purchase things over there, help another person who’s in entrepreneurial and just let that wheel round. That is a big part of my life. I’m going again in January, I think, so I’m very excited to go again and see where we are on that stuff.
Hannah: Is this a microloan program?
Amy: Yeah, we’ve done a little bit of microloans. I won’t say that we have perfected it yet, but we have made some microloans to people that we know and to people that have provided us with very well-written business plans that we can track and we can follow and we really feel like we can be involved in the microloans that we’re making. We’ve made some microloans for somebody buying a taxi. A taxi driver over there has to rent their taxi every single day, and some days they’ll make enough money to pay for the rental of their taxi that day and some days they won’t, but you not ever really get ahead that way, so by making a loan, they can buy the taxi. Then they’re paying the taxi back. Now they own the taxi and they can actually use it to make money over time and to build up, but it’s very different cultural mindset, I guess. Over there, saving is really not anything that’s valued like it is here. It’s not necessarily something that’s like, “Oh, they’re a good saver.”
They’re very socialistic and environmental, so if you’re saving, you’re really almost thought of as selfish because you most likely have a family member or a friend who’s in the hospital or may need your help, and so it would not necessarily be socially smiled upon for you to just be hoarding money, so a lot of times their savings goes into building a house and they, because the loan situation doesn’t work like it is over here, you’re literally building a house brick by brick as you can afford it. You can afford a brick, you go buy a brick and you put it on. It’s almost as simple as that, but trying to integrate that savings culture that we have over there just doesn’t work, so a lot of trial and error as far as what works and what can ultimately make the most difference has been the biggest learning experience for me. I won’t say that I have it figured out yet.
Hannah: I find this so, I think it’s such a good example where you just had this passion and you just kept following it. Has this, not that this is why you do any of this, but has this helped your business and your relationship with clients?
Amy: A lot of my clients know that I’m involved with Heartbeat for Hope. I have certainly not hidden that, and then I also, I make a pledge for any of my clients that 10% of the gross investment management fees that I collect actually goes back into basically a nonprofit of their choice, and that serves a couple good reasons. One, it’s a great marketing technique and people really love to partner with a company who’s also involved in the community, and then people, I want to know what my clients are interested in. I want to know what they’re passionate about, and so it allows me to connect with my clients on another level and it allows me to offer some guidance on a charitable giving standpoint. Then it also allows me to partner with another charity either in Oklahoma community or another charity that my clients might be interested in, and so that’s a good partnership for me, that we’re able to build that local community too.
Then any time that there isn’t necessarily a charity that somebody’s passionate about, I let them know that for me, my passion is Heartbeat for Hope and this is what I’m doing and so any time anybody doesn’t necessarily have a charity that they are passionate about, that 10% goes to Heartbeat for Hope too. I try to be as open about when I’m going and what I’m doing and what the needs are and what the support level is with my clients too.
Hannah: Oh, that’s really neat. As we’re wrapping up, what’s next for you? I feel like you have so many different interests. What are you working on that you’re really excited about or what’s coming up for you?
Amy: Well, my number one goal this year is to finish my dissertation, and so that is a lot of people asking me what’s next for me, and I know that I am not going back to school, and that is 100% what I can say, but I do think that I would like to do a couple new things with my business. I’ve got a couple ideas on the consulting side, and I think I would like to even partner with other financial planners that may need some help on the investment side, knowing that working with somebody who has the same mindset as them and that has the same values as them and has the same passions as them, maybe bringing someone to do my planing for me that has more passions for financial planning and doing more partnerships like that, I’m really excited about.
Hannah: Oh, that’s great. For the listener who is just starting out, whether they are studying for the CFP® exam or kind of within those first couple years of their career, what advice would you have for them?
Amy: Get in meetings with as many people as you can. That is absolutely what I think was the most valuable thing to me is that I was able to be in meetings with people who I consider to be the very, very best at taking care of clients in the world. I was able to go and be in meetings and hear how other people approached situations, hear how other people kind of not spin, but can approach a certain problem in a way that can make a client feel very much taken care of, very comfortable, what even body language you need to pay attention to.
There’s just so much that you can’t read about in a book that you need to get as much exposure as you can possibly ask to, even if you’re just going up to somebody that you know is a rainmaker or that you know takes care of their clients or know does things well. Just say, “Hey, if you ever have a meeting, would you mind me just sitting in? I would really like to learn from you,” and just soak that in as much as you possibly can.
Hannah: Where did you go for this? You had other advisors outside of your firm that were letting you sit on meetings?
Amy: No, within my firm, so if you work for a smaller firm, that’s harder, but within your firm. Even if it’s not your direct report, if you do have the time, if your employer will allow that, just see if you can get as much exposure to what works well and who works well and that will pay dividends certainly.
Hannah: Well, is there anything else as we wrap up, Amy?
Amy: Yeah. Get educated and get that experience, and this is an amazing career. I’m extremely happy that I tripped and fell into it.