By Kim Cobb
Karen Keatley, Incoming Finance Chair of WIF, describes herself as a rational, rather than blind, optimist and offers this favorite quote from POW Admiral James Stockdale: “Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current realities, whatever they might be.” Plainspoken and positive, Karen has a strong belief in peoples’ abilities to solve problems and overcome challenges, which informs her work with her financial advisory clients.
Her career began more than 20 years ago in the Economic Research Department at CSX Transportation. Later completing her MBA at Duke University, she joined Prudential Insurance Company and helped manage a multi-billion dollar portfolio of fixed-income and private equity investments.
Karen stepped off the professional track in 1995 to raise her two young children after moving to Charlotte with husband Randy. Unable to sit idle, she volunteered regularly at school, which included serving as prop master for school plays – her finest creations in this regard being a huge eyeball and rotten tooth. Seven years later, Karen decided to return to work citing many factors, including a humorous exchange with her then 5-year-old. After protesting the need for kindergarten, her daughter asked, “Why can’t I just go to the gym everyday like you do, mommy?” It was time, she thought.
Rather than go back to the familiar, she transitioned to financial planning for individuals. She structured her business as fee-only because she strongly believes in the importance of separating financial advice from financial product sales. Her business grew organically and almost completely without marketing. Her experience has been that “if you offer something people need and want, they will find you.” Her firm, which she launched in 2007, now has more than $70 million in assets under management and continues to grow.
Recognizing a natural fit between her rational optimism and WIF’s support of innovative grassroots solutions to community problems, Karen joined WIF in 2012. She chose to be an active participant because she found WIF’s members were not simply talented women, but extraordinary in their willingness to put their gifts to work on behalf of the greater good. She now sits on WIF’s Board of Directors as the incoming chair of the Finance Committee.
In addition to her professional accomplishments, Karen is a lifelong singer and former member of the Charlotte Symphony Chorus Oratorio Singers. In her college days, she also held the coveted title of “Miss Lehigh Tavern,” having accepted her roommate’s dare to sing the National Anthem at the local college watering hole.
“Worth it!” she says, given the prize was a year’s worth of free drinks! She says she would tell her 21-year-old self, “You’ll never be this skinny again, so enjoy it!”
WIF is fortunate to have such a genuine, talented and seasoned financial mind at work on our behalf. Thank you, Karen and….Cheers!