In honor of Women’s History Month, we want to take this opportunity to spotlight Kelly Perkins, a top producing female advisor partnered with Financial Resources Group. During her 28-year career working as a financial advisor, Kelly has successfully navigated a professional field mainly dominated by men. As a seventh generation Texan, born and raised in Austin, she is the Founder of Perkins Wealth Management and a single mother of three teenagers. Kelly takes great pride in the fact that she has built her practice that employs women only. The following Q&A interview covers Kelly’s colorful career path and her experience working as a female advisor in the financial services industry.
How many years have you been a financial advisor and why did you decide on this career path in an industry dominated by men?
My career in the financial services industry began in 1994. I actually thought I was going to be a lobbyist until I realized there were only men working in the industry and all the deals were done on the golf course. Back then the financial services industry was really the same type of scenario. How I actually entered the industry was a total fluke – getting my resume in the hand of the right person and impressing the hell out him in our initial interview.
I was a competitive water skier in college – I earned a varsity letter from the University of Alabama in waterskiing. I transferred to the University of Texas my junior year with a goal of becoming a lobbyist. Realizing that I would need a law degree I decided to hold off on that goal and after college moved to Dallas. I wasn’t totally focused on my career and really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was enjoying hanging with my friends by the pool and having fun. I had this full box of crisp resumes printed and ready to hand out. So, a friend of mine gave one of those resumes out of my box to a relative who knew a colleague at Bear, Stearns & Co. where she worked that might be hiring.
Long story short, after one off-the-wall interview with a managing director and handing him the second resume from my box I got hired for my first job out of college. As one of only two women on the trading floor, I was the only woman and the last woman, in their training program at Bear Stearns. It was a really tough environment; I started on the desk cold calling making the mandatory 400 calls a day. I was given two weeks to pass the Series 7, on my own time, or be fired.
I have worked with several firms through the years starting with Bear Stearns for one year then with Dean Witter Reynolds from 1995 – 1999, then five years with Morgan Stanley and then 10 years with Smith Barney and loved it until they were bought out by Morgan Stanley. I think the archaic hierarchy of the management structure of those firms just lend themselves to a cookie cutter and canned approach to investing built around their specific model. This is why we see these huge corrections and bigger swings in the markets because of this cattle call approach to investing.
I learned quickly this industry was and still is dominated by men; however, I know now that gender is irrelevant. In the end it’s all about the numbers. It’s about the assets, the clients, the revenues and the returns, but more importantly it’s the relationships you build.
How long have you been partnered with FRGIS and why did you choose us as your OSJ?
Almost 10 years! I moved my book to Financial Resources Group and LPL Financial in May of 2012 after being recruited by Bruce Miller. At that time, I had three small children at the ages of six, four and two. He is the reason why I am still here. When I came on board, I was able to move 100% of my book from RBC to LPL within six weeks after I resigned. It was remarkably fast.
I LOVE the Independent Services model. It’s been a great experience and I’ve been really happy with FRG and the responsiveness and the service provided by the different teams.
How have you seen the industry change during your career?
The industry has changed dramatically during my career. I have been teaching at the Business School at SMU over the past 16 years and one of the themes I discuss with my students is about the bell curve. An overwhelming number of advisors are white males over the age of 65. (I think it is roughly 80%). As a white female in my early 50s, I am in a minority and still one of the younger advisors in the industry. There is a huge change coming as those older advisors begin to retire which will open many, many opportunities for women to enter the industry.
What drives your passion as a financial advisor?
My job is to help people invest their money wisely and to be careful not to lose their money… to make sure they can retire and the money will be there for them and their estate.
What drives my passion is the lasting relationships I have with my clients. I actually still have my first client who is now 95 years old. Most of my clients are interconnected to each other in some way or another which makes them feel like one large family. It’s sort of like the “Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. I love my clients because they are my people! They love how much I know about the markets, but they really love how much I care about them and their families!
What awards/recognitions have you received and what drove you to earn those?
Numerous, possibly 15, Teaching Excellence Awards from SMU for my lectures. I enjoy teaching what I know about our industry to my students.
The LPL Club Level awards are the by-products of taking care of my clients and their investments. I have won many LPL Club Level awards over the years: Chairman’s Club in 2014, Director’s Club in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2021 and 2022 and Patriot’s Club in 2019 and 2020.
How would you describe your approach to your practice and working with your clients?
I pay attention to the details and ask the right questions when new clients come to meet me for the first time. I look at my role as a financial advisor as more of a teaching opportunity. No question is forbidden. I want my clients to leave our meetings and understand my methodology, why we do what we do and the rationale behind my decisions. That’s why I don’t use money managers and I create their portfolios myself. I am proud to say that they have performed really well for my clients over the years.
What is your greatest success story working with your clients?
I would have to say it’s the longevity of my client relationships – so many of them have been with me for my entire career. These strong relationships have facilitated many successful referrals which have been the catalyst in building my practice and it continues to grow today.
For women considering a career in the financial services industry, what advice might you have for them?
I believe there is a huge and growing opportunity for women in this business. Women are great at building relationships and very intuitive when working with clients. We can multitask and are caregivers which are good skillsets for an advisor. I personally think that women can make phenomenal advisors.
Once licensed, this business allows women to take care of their families and their clients too. The markets are open from 8:30 in the morning until 3:00 and those are basically school hours. There is a big change coming and now is the time, more than ever, for the women to be a part of this industry.
Yes, I’m filtering based on different criteria and then sending a connection request. Then I have certain messages I use to follow up with. It’s a campaign and have different ones going at different times.
Taking a look back at your career and what you know today, what advice would you give a female who is new to the industry or considering a career as a financial advisor?
Today is a wonderful time to enter the industry as a woman as most advisors are older men and will be retiring in the next decade. In my opinion women are exceptionally talented at giving advice and educating clients. I would encourage women more than ever to join the industry.