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Women’s History Month Spotlight with Kelly Waltrich

BY Team Practifi

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we want to shine a spotlight on the incredible contributions and journeys of women within and outside of Practifi. In this special series, we are honored to feature five remarkable women leaders who have forged their own paths within the wealth management and finance space. Through their stories and insights, we aim to not only celebrate their achievements but also gain valuable perspectives from their experiences navigating and excelling in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Kicking off our series is Kelly Waltrich, a marketing leader, entrepreneur and trailblazer. Kelly is the Co-Founder and CEO of, an outsourced marketing agency driving success for some of the biggest financial technology and financial services companies in the industry. In this interview, we delve into Kelly’s journey toward establishing herself as a marketing expert, thought leader and successful entrepreneur. Through candid reflections and insights, Kelly shares the milestones, challenges, and lessons that have shaped her remarkable career.

Embarking on the Path of Intentionality

Armed with a marketing degree from James Madison University, Kelly found herself navigating the uncharted territory of post-graduation employment. She ventured into the finance industry, landing a role in the wealth management division of a bank. Mentored by a seasoned advisor who recognized her potential, Kelly embraced intentionality in shaping her career path. Kelly provides a firsthand account of her journey, highlighting pivotal moments and experiences that paved the way for her success.

Q: Can you tell us about your journey into the finance industry and how it began?

A: I went to school (James Madison University) for marketing, and upon graduating — I’ll be honest here — I had no idea where I was going to land or what I was going to do. I landed in the wealth management division of a bank, working for several male advisors. And one of them turned into a really great mentor to me. We were at lunch one day when he said, “This industry is lacking in women and smart, ambitious women. If you’re intentional about the path that you plot, you can do anything.”

Q: What were some key milestones and experiences that shaped your career in finance?

A: I truly plotted a path through financial services that took me through almost every different type of financial services firm, so that I could see the various types of advisors and client needs. I worked for a wealth management division of a bank, an RIA, a regional broker-dealer, and an estate planner. I even did some life insurance underwriting for a while. Then I fell into fintech at eMoney and later moved to Orion. The rest is history… 

So I purposely immersed myself and learned everything I could possibly learn about every area of this industry.

Navigating Challenges with Resilience

Throughout her career, Kelly encountered obstacles that tested her resilience and determination. Reflecting on these challenges, she shares insights into the lessons learned and the strategies employed to navigate turbulent waters. From confronting gender biases to overcoming age-related hurdles, Kelly’s journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and self-belief. 

Q: Reflecting on your career, what were some challenges you faced and how did you navigate them?

A: I think people who know me well describe me as “a bull in a china shop.” But I’m also mindful of avoiding the “man versus woman” narrative in conversations. It’s interesting that some of my experiences might have stemmed from biases against women in the industry.

There were specifically a couple of instances where I made significant career changes because of unfair treatment, either directed at me or those I led. Looking back, I do believe both my age and gender played a role. Starting in leadership positions young added complexity, and I suspect my gender contributed to the challenges I faced.

One thing I don’t like about being a woman in this field is feeling the need to be a little tougher than I naturally am. I never wanted my gender to be an obstacle, but the reality is, I often had to adopt a “take it or leave it” attitude.

While I wasn’t always comfortable with it, I think “toughening up” is unfortunate for many women in this industry. We often need to repeatedly prove ourselves and exceed expectations – more so than our male counterparts. I accepted this, but in retrospect, it’s clearly a disadvantage.

Championing Diversity and Inclusion

As a leader in the finance industry, Kelly holds valuable perspectives on leadership, diversity, and inclusion. Through her experiences, she has witnessed the evolution of the finance landscape and the shifting dynamics of gender representation. Kelly sheds light on the importance of diversity in driving innovation and fostering inclusive cultures within organizations.

Q: Since you’ve started your career, how do you think the industry has evolved in terms of diversity inclusion?  

A: I came into this industry as a sales assistant to three male advisors. So if that doesn’t tell you, I don’t know what does. It was “normal” then for women to be put in positions to assist with the big jobs versus having the big jobs. But I’m happy to say that I see a shift – in a pretty big way. There are more programs, more organizations, and more visible efforts to create equality. I like to think everything is moving in the right direction. There’s still so much work to do, but I think there’s an effort and a movement.

There's a major opportunity for women, for smart women who are willing to do the work, willing to be the best at what they set out to be. Really, the opportunities are endless.

Q:  At a leadership level, what are your thoughts on the current level of representation of women in leadership roles in the industry?

A:  I think it’s still low, but I also think the roles are there for the taking. And I think women have to have a goal-oriented mindset. If we go into this thinking “I’m not going to get this because I’m a woman, or I can’t have that job because I’m a woman,” you’re already behind. You have to show that you’re a badass, and you have to be a little bit of a bulldog sometimes. You have to take what’s meant to be for you. I feel like we need to stand up for ourselves and go after what we want.

There’s still a disproportionate amount of men, but I think a lot of times women don’t stand up for what they want – or what they deserve. When I’m in tough situations, I ask myself, “If I were a man, what would they do? What would they be feeling right now? What would they be saying right now? What would their reaction be?”

Doing this reminds me that I don’t have to be softer, or I don’t have to be sweeter. I don’t have to give in. So I truly ask myself, “What would they do?” Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we have to ask for what we want. We have to go after it hard. 

Q:  Do you feel companies have an obligation to promote and support women to take leadership roles?

A:  I think companies have to approach hiring fairly. They need to make fair decisions. Do I think companies should have to put X number of women in roles? No. I believe in putting the best people in the roles for the job, and I think women make phenomenal leaders. In fact I know they do: my whole team is women, with the exception of a few amazing men that can keep up with us.

I think that companies should be lifting people up and trying to create cultures that foster diversity. I believe this approach brings better business results when you have a more diverse leadership and employee base. So, yes, I think companies should implement programs to mentor and coach all genders, especially women. It’s just smart professional development.

Listen, I wouldn't be where I am today if that specific advisor (my mentor) hadn't taken an interest in helping me get here and plotting out a path. His words still echo in my head every single day.

Q: Where do you see the future of the industry in regard to opportunities for women?

A: I’d love to see more women show an interest in financial services. And that interest needs to be cultivated early – in college, or even high school. 

But I truly do love what I’m seeing from a lot of organizations around trying to raise women up. Just recently, I went to the New York City FinTech Women event, and it was phenomenal. Sheryl Hickerson from Females in Finance does an incredible job of raising women up and showcasing their expertise throughout the space. I think that companies are truly on the search for great women. They’re realizing the benefits: culture is better, results are better and boards are more effective. 

So, it goes back to raising awareness and starting young: get more women interested in financial services from the start.

I believe mentorship programs and similar resources are important. But I'm also a firm believer that your career is ultimately in your own hands. My advice: take control of your career. Actively seek out mentors, seek growth opportunities, and positions where you're a good fit. You also have to deserve to be in the role, you need to know your stuff, and you need to continuously be a master of your craft.

Kelly’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of resilience, determination, and intentionality. As we navigate the complexities of the finance industry, her experiences serve as a source of inspiration and guidance. By embodying the principles of courage, integrity, and perseverance, Kelly has not only carved a path for herself but also paved the way for future generations of women in finance. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Kelly for sharing her wisdom and experiences with us, as her passion for empowering women in finance and driving positive change within the industry is truly commendable. 

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