For advisors who decide to bring it up with a prospect, explaining what inspired them to enter wealth management can forge a connection — and help produce a new client. Conversely, if a prospect asks the question, advisors who can’t explain exactly what inspired them to manage other people’s money shouldn’t expect to win new business.

Some advisors experienced uncertainty about their finances and careers before they entered the profession. Others were enjoying success in another field when they discovered a talent and passion for investing. Still others found themselves answering acquaintances’ questions about financial planning. Recounting such turning points humanizes the advisor, since prospects might have faced similar epiphanies in their own careers, experts say.

Losing her job as a marketing executive during the dot-com bust indirectly led Karen Blodgett to advising. “This was a big deal,” says Blodgett, who’s now on the FT 100 ranking of top women FAs and director of wealth management at Aspiriant, which manages $8 billion in San Francisco. “It felt like erasing 10 years and starting over.” Blind faith told her that if financial advising was the right career for her, it wouldn’t matter in the long run that it was her second one.

She’d been climbing the corporate ladder at a tech company when it pulled the plug on her unit in 2001. Meanwhile, her technology-heavy investment portfolio suffered when the bubble burst. The double whammy came as a surprise — even though she had once met with an advisor, who failed to warn her about her highly concentrated risk. By contrast, Blodgett recalled a colleague whose financial planner insisted on a diversified portfolio.

Karen Blodgett
After taking some time for travel and reflection, Blodgett decided financial planning could combine her analytical and people skills. In 2002, she enrolled in a financial-planning course at UC Berkeley, pursued CFP training and landed an internship. Blodgett then got a job at Kochis Fitz, a predecessor firm of Aspiriant. She has shared her tale — a perfect example of how sound planning can mitigate financial setbacks — with prospects and clients.

Sought Out

Some people’s previous careers pulled them into advising. Richard Colarossi is half of the team at Colarossi & Williams, which manages $180 million in Islandia, N.Y. Back in the early 1990s, he was an assistant controller overseeing the 401(k) plan for 200 employees at an aerospace company. When not tracking mutual-fund performance and participant contributions for the plan, Colarossi enjoyed reading financial journals. Colleagues began seeking his advice about investment strategies, retirement planning and taxes. Even his colleagues’ relatives asked him for help.

Eventually he took a controller position at another company, where working for an unpleasant manager prompted Colarossi to see financial planning as a way to become his own boss while helping others. Colarossi took financial-planning courses at what is now Long Island University before hanging out his shingle. Getting started was more challenging than he had anticipated, but he never looked back. “I once had someone tell me I am more important to him than his wife,” Colarossi says — referring to one of his earliest clients, who saw huge returns in funds the advisor had selected. “The feeling was great.”

Other advisors found their calling when a professional in the field spotted their talent. Hank Mulvihill might never have become a planner had his Merrill Lynch broker not complimented Mulvihill’s tech-stock picks. In 1987, Mulvihill was selling computer systems to big companies in the Dallas area — and his broker was putting Mulvihill’s investment ideas into other Merrill clients’ portfolios. One day, the broker introduced his client to his manager. The meeting led to a job offer from the wirehouse.

Mulvihill stayed there a few years. But he says he felt pressure to churn stocks for commissions, which wasn’t the life he’d imagined. He went independent in the mid-1990s and now oversees $37 million at Mulvihill Asset Management in Richardson, Texas. His new career has satisfied a lifelong desire to move in a wealthier, more sophisticated milieu. “In my 27 years in the business, I’ve met people I would not have met otherwise,” he says.

Mulvihill isn’t bashful about what inspired him to become an advisor. In fact, he’s told his story on stage at economics seminars, to audiences with 200 people — some of whom have become clients.