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wealthtech on deck podcast - Kelly Waltrich

Modern Marketing Strategies for Financial Services with Kelly Waltrich

With digital disruptions and shifting customer expectations defining the financial landscape, achieving sustainable growth demands a strategic approach that transcends traditional marketing tactics. For forward-thinking financial services firms, the challenge lies in creating a framework that seamlessly integrates marketing and growth strategies, prioritizing brand differentiation and customer-centric value creation.

In this episode, Jack talks with Kelly Waltrich, Co-Founder & CEO of For years, Kelly has been championing the role of marketing in the financial services industry. She designed the strategy behind several successful rebrands, acquisitions, and product launches, including spearheading the development of two advisor marketing products while creating unmatched overall brand visibility and helping to turn company executives into industry thought leaders. Through forward-thinking demand generation, PR, and product marketing, Kelly created a consistent inbound pipeline for both firms, driving CAC down and SOV up.

Kelly talks with Jack about modern marketing and growth strategies in the financial services industry. She shares how helps firms build growth engines and differentiate themselves in a crowded market. Kelly emphasizes the need for firms to have a strong brand and messaging that resonates with their target audience.

What Kelly has to say

“Because we are living in this loud, noisy, content-crazy world, your brand has never been more important. People need to understand the experience they will get when they read about or see you.”

– Kelly Waltrich, Co-Founder & CEO,

Read the full transcript

Jack Sharry: Hello, everyone. Glad to have you back on this week’s edition of WealthTech on Deck. Thanks for joining us. As those of you know who listen regularly to the show, we like to mix things up on our podcast. We talk with people all over our industry on the confluence of digital and human advice. For today’s show, we’re going to look at advice in the new age from a slightly different angle. Our guest is Kelly Waltrich. Kelly is the CEO and co founder of Kelly, welcome to WealthTech on Deck.

Kelly Waltrich: Thanks for having me, Jack. I’m thrilled to be here.

Jack Sharry: So, Kelly, I’ve been a big fan of yours for a long time going back to your CMO days at Orion. And actually, as we were getting ready, you mentioned eMoney, I don’t know if that was before or after, but love the work you’ve done. And now when I see an emerging fintech firm, making waves I’m never surprised to learn you and your company are… have your fingerprints all over the story. So let’s start with you telling us about Who are you? What do you do? Who do you do it for?

Kelly Waltrich: Yeah, thanks for the opportunity to share that. We are a growth consultancy. We build growth engines for firms in financial services. We have about 50 clients across the space. We serve fintechs, and RIAs, and asset managers, and custodians, and service providers. The common thread through all of our clients is that we want people who are willing to think differently about the way they’re going to grow their business and who want to do so aggressively and are looking for new and creative ways to do that. I’ve amassed a team of some of the best marketers in this space so that we can bring a lot of firepower to the firms that we work with. And the firms that we work with actually have created this amazing community of companies that also help each other sort of in a rising tide lifts all boats situation. So it’s been really fun. You know, we set out to bring more modern marketing to financial services, I think it was a desperately needed service at just the right time. And we’re having a ball sort of serving the clients that we have. Yeah, you know, this industry isn’t as big as it seems. Right? There are, there’s a formula, I think that can be deployed once you, once you nail it, once you learn it, once you live it, and you understand what your client acquisition costs should be and what the best opportunities are in the space to, to acquire clients. And you figure that out. It’s, it’s a process that is all about consistency, and about execution. So it’s not rocket science. At the end of the day, it’s about being gritty, and about being aggressive. And so we really, we really help firms plan, put a process in place, put consistent efforts in place, put the activities in place that we know we’re going to get them to their goals. And then I think the difference maker in our firm versus lots of other firms is we are in it. We are in the platform’s, we are in the technologies, we are executing, we are in the nitty gritty of the details every day. Because we want to be accountable to the results, we want a chance to hit the goals that we’re setting out to hit. So, so yeah. I mean, it’s like I said, it’s the industry is not that big, the opportunities to win are what they are, you just have to, you have to know what they are. And you have to, you have to execute flawlessly.

Jack Sharry: So a whole bunch of things you just said that was why I’m such a fan. So I love that you’re calling what is essentially a marketing agency, you’re calling it a growth consultancy, because people don’t want marketing, they want growth. So I love that. No surprise, but just want to highlight that to our audience that may have missed that somehow. Also, on our podcasts we often have marketers on, we’ve had many. We’ll have many more. Because we… I think it’s fundamentally important, particularly those of us in the fintech world, you gotta explain what the heck you’re talking about. Because half the time people don’t know what you’re talking about. And getting your message is so important. So talk about that a little bit. What, how do you foment growth? How do you make that happen? Talk a little bit about what goes into that, if you would.  So talk a little bit if you would, give us kind of the backstory of how you got started. The thinking I’m hearing right now is frankly, for those not paying close attention to such things as I try to. That’s brilliant. We just heard brilliant stuff. I want to get see if I can tease out a little bit more. I just want to steal some ideas, if I could, Kelly. Idea being, how did you get started? How did you, what are some of the roles and jobs you had and what did you learn along the way? I’m kind of curious how that evolved. Because what I find so much fun about marketing is you, you have to learn every day. You have to keep refining and improving and so talk about that, take us through your journey.

Kelly Waltrich: Okay, so I started as a sales assistant to two advisors at a wealth management division of a bank. I came out of school, I’ve always known what I wanted to do, I thought I was going to do it at some big New York advertising agency, but I fell into financial services somehow. I fell in love with, even in that situation, I had a, you know, I had a mentor very early on who said to me, and if you’ve listened to other podcasts you’ve been on I’m sorry, if you’re hearing this again. But I had a mentor that said to me, there are not enough women in this industry. And if you chart an intentional path to where you want to get, there’s nothing that will stop you. And so I took that to heart. And I did truly chart a path through almost every type of financial services firm you could think of. I spent time building marketing plans for the top advisors at a regional broker dealer. I spent time supporting a life insurance and estate planning firm. I learned wild things. I did life insurance underwriting for a little bit, which was really interesting. You know, I worked for an RIA. I, then I found a love serving advisors in fintech when I moved to eMoney. So I tried to spend time in every different type of firm to understand the different points of view, the different service models, different types of advisors, and exactly what they needed to succeed. So I feel like I, through that process, I learned very clearly how to communicate with them, and how to get to, you know, cut through the noise and get them to hear what I was trying to say for the firms that I was working for. And I look back and you know, some of the jobs I had are just, it was a wild journey. But I ended up where I wanted to be, which was at Orion next to Eric Clarke. And he gave me the most phenomenal opportunity. He had never hired anyone outside, a leader outside of Omaha at the point that I joined. He took a flyer on me in Philadelphia. And he let me build what was essentially an agency supporting all of the Orion businesses from where I sit here. I think of it all the time as my test run for You know, I learned how to build the office, how to hire the right people, how to manage my own P&L, how to, you know, all these things that have now translated into what I’m doing today. So I owe a lot of this to him. And, you know, I loved every moment of Orion, but we hit a point in our growth trajectory, we recapitalized the business, we were on a streak of acquisitions, we had a new PE firm in place. And I just thought in that moment, this is the perfect time to try to do what I had wanted to do for a long time.

Jack Sharry: That’s great.

Kelly Waltrich: So here we are.

Jack Sharry: That’s great.

Kelly Waltrich: Yeah.

Jack Sharry: So a couple of things, catch my ear, my eye. And that is that you along the way really got to know the customer, end customer. And you really got to know the advisor or the various folks that you worked with over time. And as, if you listen, for those who listen to our podcasts, they hear me talk about this ad nauseam. But I think listening is the most important skill anyone can have. And my sense is, as I’ve followed you closely over the years, and you’ve just affirmed is you really know what’s going on. You know, the both the end customer. You know the person conveying it. Talk about that a little bit, because it seems like you really have a good sense, a good instinct, it’s more than an instinct. For me, it’s, I’m guessing it’s that you listen well and really get it and understand it and know how to translate that.

Kelly Waltrich: Yeah. I think, you know, when I when I pitch I talk a lot about what it means to understand this industry and the nuances. You know, I hear marketers say all the time, like, I can jump into any industry and learn something and teach myself something and I just, in my bones don’t believe that to be true. I feel like there is, this is complicated. Money is complicated. Finance is complicated. And when you throw in the different regulatory bodies and the different types of firms and fee structures, and it is a lot. So I just sort of made it my mission, that no marketer was going to understand it better, and was going to know the ins and outs better. And I think that helps, you know, when firms come to us looking for messaging help, we know the landscape better than a lot of the firms that come to us, because we’re living it, we’re breathing it, we’re paying such close attention. So I just try to, I’ve tried to pay attention to everything. I try to read everything, I try to immerse myself in everything. And it does help that my husband works in an RIA, so you should know that too. So, so our dinner conversations are not all that interesting. They are very much aligned to what we do every day, but I also I live and breathe the RIA culture and life and challenges through him. So that’s sort of a continued learning experience as well.

Jack Sharry: It sounds like you have a wide array of client types and sounds like you have a pretty, pretty big client list. What are some of the things you’re excited about now? And you don’t have to name names, but just stuff you’re working on that you’re particularly interested in, excited about?

Kelly Waltrich: Yeah. Okay, so eight, it was January eighth, so what was that, two days ago, I said to my team, I said, “Let’s just… we’re eight days into the year, let’s just identify what we’ve done so far.” And so eight days into the year, we had launched two new websites, we took a new fintech to market, we hit a third of our registration goal for an up and coming event that we were hired to drive attendees to. The list was a mile long. So I, for a second thought that my employees were gonna question the things that I’m making them do as they were reading it, but we’re just having so much fun. And my favorite of the things that we do is take new firms to market. And everybody questions that decision, because obviously, the startups do not have money to spend on marketing. But I go into it, assuming that they will, if we help them grow. As ridiculous as that may sound.

Jack Sharry: Doesn’t sound ridiculous at all.

Kelly Waltrich: So I love it. I love the new stuff. I love the innovative stuff. I love watching people try to, try to change the things that have always been the way they’ve always been. So that’s sort of what gets me up in, up in the morning.

Jack Sharry: Interesting. So if you can, this is a tough one to articulate. But how do you do that? In other words, I… my ideas, I make stuff up all time on the topic. And sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn’t. But I’m always looking for an edge in, in communicating, so people can understand for in our cases, it’s particularly complex, it’s very deep inside legacy systems and all the whole nine yards. So we have our own challenges. But how do you do that? How do you translate the bright idea? Talk about the dynamics of working with a client, working with your team. In other words, how do you come up with something?  Intentionally, that gets people to say, “Yeah, I want to know more about that.”

Kelly Waltrich: Yeah.  You know, it’s funny, I think everybody thinks marketing is sexy. And it’s like, the really creative idea. At the end of the day, it’s taking complex things and trying to make them simple. And it’s as simple as what you’re doing to me right now. It’s like asking the right questions and digging a little deeper and getting people to identify truly the root of the challenges that they’re solving. I love going on somebody’s website and reading, we’re gonna help you scale, we’re gonna help you grow, we’re going to help you become more efficient. Those three things make me want to run for the hills. Because the challenge is for all the firms out there, that the RIAs are saying that, the fintechs are saying that, the custodians are saying that, firms outside of our space are saying that. So, guess what? Those are not your differentiators. Surprise! They’re not it. So I think the magic to what we do is we push hard, and some people like us for it, and some people don’t. But you know, as a firm the other day, I see everything that goes out the door of When we get bigger, who knows if I’ll be able to to continue to do that. But I do love making sure that I get to lay my eyes on everything. A new message platform came through my desk the other day, and I said, I just sent it back, and I said “No.” Like, they cannot claim any of these things without telling us exactly how they are different. They cannot claim that they’re newer and more modern and more efficient and more connected until they tell us exactly how. So I think the trick is, I don’t mind making people mad. I’m testing their, their value proposition a little bit. Because I feel very strongly that people deserve to know what they’re getting. And not after they buy it.

Jack Sharry: It’s interesting, I want to ask you about… so I’m trying to figure the best way to do it. Because I think you’re spot on. It all comes down for our, for our faithful audience. If you want to if you want to make something happen, you got to point out why you’re better or different, right. I mean, that’s seems to be fundamental,

Kelly Waltrich: Fundamental. But hard, right?

Jack Sharry: Oh, it’s hard. It’s work. It’s work. Talk about that. I mean, you’ve had a whole variety of experiences. It sounds like you’re just more rigorous. Is that, is that fair to say? Is that what’s at play here?

Kelly Waltrich: I think rigorous is one thing. But I think knowing the ins and outs and details of the majority of the firms in our space helps too because then I can say no, that’s not different. Orion has that. Envestnet has that. This firm has that. So you may not have done your homework, but I have so we need a different differentiator. You need to try again.

Jack Sharry: Yes.

Kelly Waltrich: You know. So I think, I think it’s the rigor. I think it’s the pushing hard. But I also think it’s like the very in depth understanding of everything that surrounds the firms that we that we take on as clients.

Jack Sharry: For our listening audience, you just heard gold. That’s… marketing is about differentiating. I mean, I’m a student of it much like you. That insider industry, outsider industry and basically, so much of what I see wherever I see it, and I see it all over. It’s blah blah blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Like you were saying earlier, modern and kindly… whatever the words were, and it’s so hard to get at it. And so tell me a little bit about your structure. How do you go about it in terms of a, clearly you get it, but you, sounds like you got a a bunch of clients, and you got a bunch of folks you’re working with. How do you, how do you organize it? How do you manage it? How do you make it happen consistently?

Kelly Waltrich: Yeah. So the beauty of the team that I have is that the majority of us have been together for a long time. So I have folks that were on my team at eMoney, folks that are on my team at Orion, that worked with me at Gregory FCA, like we, I find good people, and I try to keep them forever. So my process is our process, like we build it together. So it’s not a matter of having to teach, like they get it and they’re in it just as strongly and as deeply as I am. I will say that I think one of the things about us that makes this process a good one is we tug of war internally.

Jack Sharry: Yeah.

Kelly Waltrich: And we’re not, you know, I, somebody asked me like, what’s the key to your process? And I say we put the messaging out on the chopping block. And it’s like we we give each other a hard time. And we say, even today, this doesn’t make any sense. Try again. Or this, these five companies have the same thing. Nope. Or this is jargon. We’re not, we’re not, you know, like we would give a tug of war to each other in the nicest way possible, right? But you kind of need, you kind of need those checks and balances. You need somebody who’s going to tell you the truth of the matter.

Jack Sharry: I love it. Love it. Very cool. I had high expectations for our conversation today. You’re exceeding them, Kelly, no surprise, no surprise. So what are some key takeaways? What would you tell our audience who are either marketers or work with and for marketers? What are some key takeaways you’d share? I think I know what they are, because I’ve, you’ve said it now… very, you’re very consistent, very disciplined, rigorous in terms of how you convey what it is you do,

Kelly Waltrich: I believe what I believe, for sure. Okay. So the first thing is, because we are living in this loud, noisy, content crazy world, your brand has never been more important. Never been more important. And I think this is a message that RIAs really need to understand. Because up until this point, it really hasn’t, it hasn’t been the deciding factor, whether they’ve been successful or unsuccessful. I think that that will change. I think that it needs to be personal to you, you need to feel connected to it. And people need to have an understanding of the experience that they’re gonna get when they read about you, when they see your, your… I just think we’re in a moment where you can’t afford to blend in to everything else. So I, my team and I, we decided to dabble in a little bit of fintech ourselves and built something that we’re calling Advisor Brand Builder, and that helps firms build beautiful brands and beautiful message, messaging frameworks. Because we think that this is a major issue. We think that advisory firms go straight to “I need a website,” instead of to, “I need a brand and I need solid messaging, and then I’ll apply it to my digital channels.” So we’re, I’m sort of willing to die on this hill of we need to rethink how new firms are being brought into the space. Okay, my second thing, my second takeaway is financial technology. I serve a lot of financial technology firms. My background is in financial technology, we are in the most wild time for financial technology. If you’re seeing what’s happening in at Envestnet. Eric Clarke is no longer at Orion. I don’t even know what Orion is without Eric Clarke. Aaron’s out. I think that we’re in a moment where…

Jack Sharry: Meaning Aaron Klein at, now, Nitrogen.

Kelly Waltrich: Yeah. I feel like we’re in a moment where the largest and the most well known brands in our space are gonna fade into the background. Because those brands were their leaders.

Jack Sharry: Yes.

Kelly Waltrich: Whether we, anyone wants to admit that or not, right?

Jack Sharry: Yes.

Kelly Waltrich: The PE firms certainly don’t. So we’ll see how they figure that out the hard way, but… So I think that those large firms that were so used to being the go tos are going to fade into the background and give way to an amazing wave of innovation. I’m hoping for that. I’m starting to see that. I’m feeling it in my bones that it’s coming. And I just want to tell listeners that, don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t be afraid to put it on your list to every month, do a demo of something new and cool. Because you might just find a way to do something better than you’ve always done it. And that would be a wonderful surprise. And then the last thing, my number three is I think this industry is ridden with bad marketing advice. I think firms have been told for a long time that marketing is cheap, and it’s canned, and it’s templated, and it’s scalable. And it’s not. It’s just not. It’s hard and it is something that you have to put time and energy and emotion into. And you have to be willing to do it consistently. And you have to be willing to invest in it, whether that’s money or resources or people, whatever it is. And I think that over the next couple of years, we’re going to see a shift. And, you know, you’re going to be able to tell the ones that made the conscious effort and the investment and the firm’s that didn’t so, and obviously, we’re here to help if you’re one of the ones that want to.

Jack Sharry: That’s great. Very interesting. Very interesting. Anything else to add before we move to our final question? This has all been most instructive and illuminating.

Kelly Waltrich: No, that’s, that’s it.

Jack Sharry: Yeah. I got it. I got it. I didn’t ask that as in, “There must be more.” You’ve nailed it. No, it’s just, that’s the way it is. That’s how it goes. So, Kelly, this has been a blast. I’ve really enjoyed it. I had a high expectations. And here we are, you exceeded them. No surprise. You’ve done this, as I’ve observed you for over the, over the many years I’ve been a fan. Now I know you don’t do this on your own, you carry the, you’re certainly the leader…

Kelly Waltrich: For sure.

Jack Sharry: And then some, but I know you got a pretty good team. So tell me about those folks.

Kelly Waltrich: Oh, my gosh, I feel very lucky every day to come to work with the group of people that we have here. Like I said to you earlier, I try to find good people, and then never let them leave. So a lot of the team that we have here, we’ve been together for 10 years. I was on the phone with one girl, we were working on a messaging exercise for a company today, we’ve been together for 15 years. So I, I love this group of people like they’re family. And I feel very lucky to come to work every day. And I feel like my advice to everyone listening is try to find that because you spend so much time at work that you gotta love it, you know, and you gotta surround yourself with people who make you better and you know, who you adore. So I, like I said, I feel I feel lucky. This group of people is lights out. And they put on a show every day. And I’m just lucky to watch it unfold.

Jack Sharry: That’s great. No surprise that you’ve together created that kind of feeling. So good stuff, shows in your work. So, congratulations. So, Kelly, it’s been a real pleasure to spend this time with you.

Kelly Waltrich: Yeah, you too.

Jack Sharry: I’ve enjoyed our conversation very, very much. So, and as we do on each of our podcasts, my favorite question is coming at you: What is something you do outside of work that you are excited or passionate about and people might find interesting or surprising?

Kelly Waltrich: Oh my gosh. Okay, so I have a almost two year old and a four year old. So my life is 100% centered around my kids at this point. But the interesting thing that I claim and it’s actually about my husband, but he is one of 15. Irish Catholic family, one of 15. And so my kids, I think they’re up to 50, maybe 53 cousins. And so we spent a lot of time, as you can imagine, at birthday parties and christenings and confirmations and everything in between. And I feel you know, when I when I met Steve, I thought that that was very weird. And now I feel very blessed to have such a large family and so many built in friends for my, for my kids.

Jack Sharry: Love it. We actually, believe it or not.. another guest on our show has 13 kids and 20+ grandchildren. It’s like, how do you… I didn’t know that was done anymore.

Kelly Waltrich: I know. I can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine it. Saints for people for sure.

Jack Sharry: So, thanks, Kelly. This has been a great conversation. Really appreciate it. Really enjoyed it. And I can’t wait for our next one.

Kelly Waltrich: Yeah.

Jack Sharry: Quite excited about what I learned today. So for our audience, if you’ve enjoyed our podcasts, please rate, review, subscribe, and share what we’re doing here and WealthTech on Deck. We’re available wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks, Kelly. This has been a lot of fun.

Kelly Waltrich: Thanks so much for having me.