The Kelly Group
Knowing whom to trust is one of life’s great challenges, especially when it’s about trusting someone with your financial well-being. The Kelly Group understands that “trust” is something that must be earned, every day with every client. When addressing their clients’ needs – including investment choices, critical retirement decisions and estate planning – the firm’s advisors understand they are among the most important people in their clients’ lives. And they act accordingly.
• 16 Full-time and 2 part-time employees
• Over 850 families as Wealth Management and Tax clients
• Total assets under management – $290 Million
It’s not just competence that The Kelly Group brings to the table. It’s a special caring, a caring about their clients, their future and the future of their children. It’s a caring that inspires Bryan and Bill Kelly, as well as their associates, to treat clients like they would want to be treated, to treat them like, well, family.
“Family” as the Guiding Vision
In 1996, Bryan Kelly, MS, CFP, approached his uncle Bill Kelly, CPA, CFP, with an idea: Expand Bill’s accounting and tax preparation business to include wealth management and financial planning services. In this vision, the new business would serve both individuals and small businesses. It would provide advice and services in the areas of investment, estate, retirement and tax planning. And it would emphasize the values inherent in close-knit, community-oriented families, values that can help lead to deep and meaningful relationships with clients, other professionals and local non-profit organizations.
Eighteen years later, uncle and nephew find the concept of family securely ingrained into the fabric of their business, which is only natural, considering how important and inspiring family has been in both of their lives.
“Bryan and I come from a large family,” Bill says. “The importance of family is in our genes, in our blood. My mother and grandmother both were dear, affectionate, core family-type ladies.”
Bryan Kelly echoes the importance of the matriarchs of his family. “I adored my grandmother, and, of course, I was her favorite,” he laughs. “She made each one of us feel that way – she had a tenderness and a caring and understanding way about her.”
Spend some time with Bill and Bryan Kelly, and it’s evident that their concept of family extends to the associates who work at The Kelly Group, most of whom have been there for many years.
“When we look at a new employee, we know in a short period of time whether he or she is going to be the right fit for our organization,” Bill says. Judging by the tenure of many of the firm’s associates, The Kelly Group inspires family-type loyalty. To name just a few: Michele Wolbert-Joyner, RP, Director of Client Services, 15 years at The Kelly Group; Michael Bertrand, RP, Director of Operations, 11 years; Susan K. Burchett, CPA, Vice President, six years; Sandra Reardon, Client Service Associate, 13 years; and Nicole Bengel, Client Service Associate, six years. Chuck Wienckowski, CPA/PFS, AEP, joined The Kelly Group after serving as a partner in a major accounting firm; and Jodi Davis, Vice President, came to The Kelly Group as a client and eventually joined the firm.
“It’s a cliché, but we really are a team here,” Bill says. “We have five advisors and a team of what I call ‘administrative and operational professionals’ who really take service to the next level. I talked to an attorney the other day who asked, ‘How do you hire such great people? We cannot find people like that.’ You have to put in the time with your associates and try to hire the very best.” And by hiring great talent, The Kelly Group provides its clients the best of both worlds – a knowledge base and skill set that can rival a national firm, along with a small town “Norman Rockwell” culture of caring.
More Than Just Clients
This small town culture even seems to be reflected in the firm’s brick and mortar. The Kelly Group is housed in two gorgeous historic homes Bryan and Bill renovated, on East Gordon Street in Bel Air. There is a hospitality one finds in these buildings that is consistent with the core element of the Kelly Group’s culture: Clients first.
“When we discuss financial planning with our clients it’s not a sterile conversation,” Bryan says. “After all, we’re not Wall Street people. Ninety percent of the meeting isn’t about investments. It’s about their personal plans and what’s going on with their lives.”
Asked what one special quality The Kelly Group can bring to its clients, Bill responds, “It’s a disciplined process that provides order into a sometimes chaotic financial world. When we discover deficiencies, we address them in the financial plan, which is essentially a financial roadmap for long-term guidance.”
Another unusual aspect to the business is its ability – and willingness – to work with other professionals in tandem with what The Kelly Group brings to the table. “We invite in a client’s accountant, attorney and insurance agent and work together for the client. Even though we have CPAs on staff, if they have a long-term relationship with a trusted CPA, we prefer they continue to work with that individual. It’s about helping coordinate care for the client; it’s not just about investments,” Bryan says.
And when Bryan or Bill meet with another professional on behalf of their client, their long, close relationship with the client allows them to help more effectively communicate the client’s plans and desires.
“We have relationships that go back to when we started the firm,” Bill notes. The depth of these client relationships helps The Kelly Group recognize and focus on issues most vital to the clients’ goals. “I had a periodic review meeting recently with a client nearing retirement,” Bill says. “We reviewed his investments and their performance and discussed his updated financial plan as it related to his retirement. But the meeting was really all about this new chapter in their lives and their vision of how it will unfold. Because they have not yet experienced retirement, it was a very important conversation to have.”
Bill continues, “The challenge for us is that we have to keep that high level of client service. Our clients have high expectations because we set their expectations high. It begins with Bryan and me, and we push those expectations down to all of our associates. We won’t accept anything but the best.”
Importance of Community
From the time Bill and Bryan Kelly launched their business, they have emphasized financial education, whether for clients or the community. Through the years they have provided free workshops, ranging from events covering real world financial planning solutions to a recent seminar on end of life issues (where they partnered with McComas Funeral Homes). They have even held town hall meetings addressing crises such as the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the 2008 global financial meltdown.
“These sessions aren’t just to promote ourselves, but also to help educate our clients and members of the community,” Bryan says. For example, the October 2008 town hall meeting to address the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression was not a marketing tactic but a way to take care of their clients.
“During this stressful time, we ran towards our clients,” Bill says. “We wanted to be in front of them but could not accommodate all of them quickly enough on an individual basis. So we had a town hall meeting and 200 people showed up. We gave them all a 3-by-5-inch card and pencil to write questions. We had no planned presentation, so we just answered questions for three hours. That was one of the highlights of my professional life because we knew we were helping our clients at a very stressful time. Some of them brought friends who said they came because their advisor would not take their calls.”
Both Bill and Bryan Kelly say that it’s important to plan for such crises and to educate clients on the idiosyncrasies of the financial markets. “We always try to keep our clients grounded, even in the best of times,” Bill says. “Enjoy the good times but be prepared for the bad times.”
Bill and Bryan agree that one of their most important tasks is to help the client control their own behavior, whatever the markets might be doing at the time. “At times, you are going to have a drop in your portfolio. Don’t panic,” Bryan says. “And when the market goes up, don’t get greedy.”
Consistent with the original vision for this business, The Kelly Group continues to be heavily involved with their community. “Being part of the community is part of our culture,” Bryan says. Bill adds, “We were both born and raised in Harford County, both still live here and both are very connected to the local community.”
“We encourage our associates to get involved with the community,” says Bryan. “It’s not a matter of generating business. Oh, sure, the business will come. But it’s more than that. It’s our commitment to getting every member of The Kelly Group family involved in something they are passionate about.
“After all, whether it’s for our clients or our community, our mission is to help create a better future for all.” I95