- Coaching culture
- When to transition jobs
- A day in the life at an RIA
- Transitioning skills from public accounting
Margie Carmody started her career at KPMG. After making manager, Margie left public accounting for a unique role at a registered investment advisor. Enjoy the read!
I had a bit of a non-traditional path into accounting. I fought it pretty hard. I have five CPAs on my mom's side of the family, and I just thought it wasn't for me. So I started off majoring in English and Spanish. I always had strong technical writing skills.
But I had a come-to-Jesus moment my sophomore year of college and realized that I needed to get a job after graduation, so I enrolled in the intro level business classes. One of those courses is Accounting 200. It just immediately clicked with me. I looked around at my classmates who were dreading that class in particular or who were struggling through it and thought, "If I get this, maybe it's worth pursuing."
I graduated with my undergraduate in 2014 and continued with my master's, both from the University of Kansas. I interned at KPMG the summer before my MAcc program and then started full-time in the audit practice.
I had a great experience in public accounting. I had also done an internship at Union Pacific Railroad, which was an excellent way to see the difference between private and public. But the culture at KPMG was just a close fit for me. The teamwork and the coaching were what kept me around until I made manager. I knew I wasn’t always the most intelligent person in the room, but I learned in high school and college that I'd always work the hardest, and I'd doit with a smile.
Good people skills often made the difference between a successful audit engagement or, back in college, the difference between an A and a B. I had always thought you had to be super smart or super technical. That was a big part of why it took me so long to pick accounting. I thought it was just a bunch of people with their heads down, number crunching. It was refreshing to show up in an audit room with all these people who were fun, energized, and high-caliber.
We had people management leaders, formal mentors, and then, of course, the teammates you interact with daily on your various client audit teams. I took advantage of all the above, and I loved that piece of working at KPMG. I don't necessarily learn by just reading a document or textbook. I learn best from on-the-job, quick teaching moments. I loved that other people would take time and invest in teaching me how to do or understand something.
And then, with the way public accounting works, it's not long before you're in charge of teaching someone else how to do it. So that's a big piece of what kept me there. I genuinely enjoyed teaching and coaching. I loved witnessing the light bulb click on for someone because it was not long ago I was in their shoes, trying to learn and grow as quickly as possible.
Some engagements had better morale, better teamwork. And there were others on the opposite end of the spectrum. They tasked me as a senior leader on some of those jobs, where I tried to boost morale and figure out the pain points. Most of the time, it came down to communication and people being willing to coach and train other team members.
As I said, I may not be the most technical person, but I am a firm believer in a culture that thrives on teamwork. Consistently showing up with a positive attitude and being willing to do whatever it takes to lighten someone else's load are not skills that can be taught and are much easier said than done.
Well, the firms continue to cram years and years of experience into a shorter time frame. I say that I’ve had ten years of experience crammed into five. This push is a good thing, especially early in your career. It’s what enabled me to feel comfortable leaving after five years. I wanted to make manager and function in the manager role for a year before leaving. I ended up leaving right after I got promoted because the right opportunity came around.
Overall, it depends on why you’re leaving and what you want to do. I think you should stay for a couple of years at a minimum because of the learning curve. I mentioned the high-caliber, high-energy team environment earlier, and I don’t think any of us who have left public accounting ever realized how much of our professional growth came from the day-to-day audit room conversations. Early on in your career, you are forced to learn how to carry yourself in meetings or process walkthroughs, often with client executives. You gain confidence and polish your written and verbal communication skills. You learn how to lead and manage a project from start to finish. This growth is immeasurable, and it wasn’t until I started my new job that it truly dawned on me just how much had become ingrained. I don’t think I would feel the same way had I left after a year or two.
This move was a career change I hadn't foreseen but one I couldn't pass up. Through friends and family, I knew that Moneta, an independent registered investment advisor, would be opening an office in Kansas City. I wasn't necessarily looking to leave because I was so focused on making manager but what tipped the scale for me was the opportunity to work under Diane Compardo. Diane is my team's founding partner and one of the top advisors in the country. She also spent the first five years of her career in public accounting with PwC. It didn't take more than a quick Google search and a scan of her bio to know I would be lucky to be coached and mentored by Diane.
One other thing that made a move more comfortable was that nine other members on our team left big four firms to come work for Diane, including another partner on the team who is a former EY tax & business advisory partner. I'm sure we'll talk about this more, but she has built her practice around the public accounting model.
Sure, Moneta is a registered investment advisor (RIA) providing wealth management services. Our biggest client bases are high net-worth individuals and families with multi-generational wealth, so we typically hold ourselves out as a Family CFO with the ability to serve as a family office advisor as well.
Under the Moneta umbrella, there are 24 partner-led teams. The partners manage their own client relationships and structure and build their teams as they so choose. Moneta also has an Enterprise Services Team, a shared services model providing accounting, marketing, compliance, investment research, things like that.
We service clients using a team structure very similar to public accounting. Partners assign an Advisor and Client Service Manager to each one of their clients. There are nine CPAs, nine CFPs, one CFA and an estate planning attorney just on our team of 25, along with operations and administrative support personnel. We specialize in serving Family Office and Family CFO clients, along with a growing professional athlete practice.
I was hired as a Senior Client Service Manager (CSM), but my role is a little unique because my primary focus is to grow the Kansas City client base. I’m our first full-time employee here in KC. I’m working with another advisor who’s part-time in KC and part-time in St. Louis. I plan on spending a year in the CSM role to gain a solid foundation before being promoted to Advisor.
Sure. So, my role is somewhat hybrid. Day-to-day, I am servicing existing clients, but I'm also tasked with going after new business to grow our Kansas City market. For a prospective client, we create an in-depth financial action plan. The plan integrates multiple aspects of their life, not just investments. It also includes education planning, tax planning, insurance and risk management, cash flow management, retirement, and it's all integrated. Basically our clients call us for anything that impacts them financially, and sometimes even more.
Once someone is a client, we help the client prepare and execute all the necessary paperwork to remove their previous advisor (if they had one) and list us as their investment advisor at their custodian. Then we design an investment strategy and execute it. Anytime we place trades in a client's account, we are mindful of the tax impact. Here is where public accounting is beneficial, especially if you come from tax. Several people on our team come from tax. Only one partner and I came from the audit side. I've been enjoying learning more about tax.
Again, comparing to public accounting, CSMs are in the weeds like associates and senior associates. Advisors are managing various client issues and reviewing work the CSMs have prepared in order to make appropriate recommendations to the client, similar to managers. And then our partners are the overall brains behind it all. Some client complexities require more of a partner's time.
People skills, time and task management, the ability to delegate, and to manage people and peers. I did not realize how much of that had become ingrained in me, but having these skills has made my transition seamless. I would also say the ability to juggle multiple priorities and to communicate both up and down. I knew these skills were all things I was good at from audit, but I had no idea how well it would translate into what I'm doing now.
No one with a public accounting background should ever feel pigeonholed into a certain career path. Those skills translate to so many different industries and roles.
Always focus on learning and making your supervisor's life better. Be willing to rollup your sleeves and work hard. It signals you are strong and mature enough to lead others and to be a good example. The habit of showing up and being accountable to a team is what gets me out of bed every day and makes me excited to work.
I remember being right out of college and getting together with my friends. I knew early on that I was in a more demanding role, and it took me a while to realize that was a good thing. You're working a lot, and it's hard. But there's no better way to start your career. If you can focus on learning as much as you can, showing up and doing whatever is asked of you, you're going to have a great career.
Definitely my mom - she's a CPA. She started in public accounting and has had an outstanding career. She was always a good sounding board. And then there is Diane, my managing partner. There are some nuances to being a female in public accounting, but I think that's changing slightly. The industry I'm in now is still a bit male-dominated. So I look up to my mom and Diane; they both demonstrate you can be female, have a family, and have an excellent career as well.
I feel like both my career and life goals are finally aligned. Just in my ten months with the team, I can see what we do does make people's lives better. And that helps me sleep at night -- knowing the complexities and burdens we're removing from their situations allows them to do whatever it is that they do best.
So my career goal is to continue helping people and grow this practice in Kansas City. It aligns with my life goal, which is to feel good about what I do. Success is success. To love what you're doing and to know you're helping someone is vital to me.