Advisor Spotlight: Michael Kelly & Michael Kelly Jr.
- Michael Kelly and Michael Kelly Jr. believe firmly that the independent model is the right way to go and the future of their business.
- High-net-worth clients require more attention than most other clients and desire regular contact—more than once a quarter.
- Partnering with City National Rochdale helps the advisors ensure that their clients’ needs are met.
On St. Patrick’s Day in 1999, Michael Kelly Sr. opened his own financial planning firm—which would eventually become a part of Continuum Advisory, LLC, an Independent RIA. His journey to becoming a financial advisor is an uncommon one: he was an actor by trade for 15 years and had moved from Los Angeles to the East Coast for a role on Homicide followed by one on The Wire. He started by managing his own money—residuals received from his roles on hit shows such as NYPD Blue and ER—and soon found that he liked helping other people manage theirs as well. Now, his boutique-style firm manages almost $300 million locally in Annapolis, and advisors from across the nation have joined him and his partners at the RIA, giving it coast-to-coast reach.
“We get most of our business from referrals and word-of-mouth,” said Kelly Sr. “Our tongue-in-cheek marketing slogan is, ‘We deny we exist.’ We work with clients of all sizes, and fit is very important to us. We don’t want to work with everybody. We want to work with the right client.”
Michael’s son, Michael Kelly Jr., joined the firm three years ago after graduating from the University of South Carolina with dual degrees in Finance and Risk Management & Insurance.
“I grew up in the business,” said Kelly Jr. “I used to shadow my dad, and I really took a liking to it and embraced it.”
Kelly Sr. and Kelly Jr. believe firmly that the independent model is the right way to go and the future of their business. In their view, big wirehouses won’t look the same in the long term. When recruiting for the RIA, the Kellys look for independent-minded advisors—people who really want to own their own businesses. With Continuum Advisory, advisors get a lot of flexibility without the constraints and lack of control that can come with working for a larger corporation.
What differentiates the firm, in the Kellys’ opinion, is the close relationships they build with clients.
“We’re open and honest, and we want to coach people to avoid making bad decisions," said Kelly Jr.
In addition, having the next generation in the family business ensures longevity for the firm.
“We have a 40-year business continuity plan in place, with Kelly Jr. eventually taking over,” said Kelly Sr. “Most advisors and firms don’t have a succession plan. What happens to clients if the financial advisor isn’t there anymore?”
With a keen eye on the future, Continuum Advisory is preparing to launch its own robo advisor through Charles Schwab, with the goal of attracting a younger, more fee-conscious clientele who may not be ready to work with an advisor yet.
“We’re embracing change instead of running away from it,” said Kelly Jr. “Robos are great for when you’re just starting out.”
The robo will primarily be for smaller accounts. Larger clients, particularly those who are older and have more complex needs, prefer to have a person handling their accounts.
“Many larger clients don’t mind paying to have someone help them out,” said Kelly Sr. “There is still a huge need for a person with whom clients can work face-to-face. You can’t substitute the kind of financial planning that an advisor can bring to the table.”
Being on the cutting edge of technology has been one of the keys to the firm’s success, along with being small enough to be nimble. This ability to adapt to a changing environment and to see what clients want and need helps move the business forward.
Forging close client relationships through openness and honesty has been another pillar of the firm. High-net-worth clients require more attention than most other clients and desire regular contact—more than once a quarter.
“They bring many aspects of their life to you,” said Kelly Sr. “They want reassurance and to bounce everything off you—whether they’re buying a car, purchasing a property, etc. We’re a boutique shop, and we don’t want a ton of clients so we have the time to spend with the ones we have.”
Partnering with City National Rochdale helps the advisors ensure that their clients’ needs are met. While they focus on guiding clients through their lives, City National Rochdale does the investment research, picks the stocks, etc. No two clients are alike, and so no two portfolios are alike. With City National Rochdale, each is custom-built to the client’s circumstances, beliefs, and values.
“We handle the behavioral and planning aspect—what your life looks like,” said Kelly Jr. “We really work as a team. City National Rochdale spends all day dealing with the investments and building out portfolios, and we strive to take care of our clients’ lives.”
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