I grew up in Mount Carmel, Ill., with two siblings and 23 first cousins. One of my jobs as a kid was working at a fast food taco restaurant. Watching what the owner experienced opening day and seeing him expand to other cities fueled my passion to work with business owners.
My sophomore year in high school, a business teacher sparked my interest in accounting. I knew then I wanted to be a partner in a Big 8 accounting firm. Senior year, I took advanced trigonometry. The class had five students. I was the only female. During my senior year at Southern Illinois University, I obtained an internship at Arthur Andersen in St. Louis. [I passed the CPA exam before graduation and was hired full time.] During my first audit, St. Louis had a record snowfall. Our client was in the midst of a merger. In the middle of the night, they flew us to the new company they were acquiring to verify the inventory since it would be in a note to the financial statements.
In 1984, I returned to my hometown to work for regional accounting firm, Kemper CPA Group. I was a partner in charge of the tax department and became interested in financial planning there. Next, I worked for Citizens Bank of Indiana, a predecessor of Fifth Third Bank. I expanded the 401(k) area at Citizens and worked with lifestyle, or asset allocation models, which were new at the time.
One of the biggest changes I've seen over the years is the responsibility 401(k) plans can put on employees as opposed to defined benefit plans. It has changed our country and our industry. People need us more than ever now for investment advice. As a member of the National AICPA Tax Committee, I was involved in reviewing the 1986 tax law changes dealing with 401(k) plans. I'm still not sure how beneficial the switch was for us as a society.
Ten years ago, I got to know Jim Allen, CEO of Hilliard Lyons. I had Hilliard Lyons accounts for 30 years. Last year, he approached me about working for the firm to build our wealth management practice area. I accepted and moved to Louisville last July. We have the same philosophy about serving clients. For the last 13 years, I have worked with advisors to help them deliver a full suite of wealth management services to deal with all complexities clients are facing today, whether they are business owners, retirees or executives.
In our spare time, my husband and I love to fly. We own a Cirrus SR22. He's an instrument-rated pilot and more mechanical than I am, so he does the piloting. I sit in the copilot seat and help navigate. It goes back to my love of math. On 9/11, I was taking piloting lessons in Evansville, Ill. I had just been cleared for takeoff when the control tower instructed me to return to the hangar. My instructor said they were just messing with us, but when the tower contacted us again, he said he'd never heard that tone and we should comply. We did and found the world had changed.
As told to Pat Olsen