When Kimberly Kropp chose to major in special education at Wayne State College in Nebraska, she had little idea her eventual career path would take her so far from the classroom – or that her teaching skills would become so critical to her success.
“When I was growing up, girls became nurses or teachers,” Kropp recalled. “Looking back at my scores on aptitude tests, my interests clearly showed that I’d end up in business, but my high school advisor never even mentioned that to me. I taught for a couple of years, but realized I didn’t have a passion to keep learning more about my field. I wanted a career where I would be constantly hungry for new information.”
After working temp jobs in different industries for a year, Kropp discovered she liked banking. From a starting position as a teller, she became a personal banker and then a loan officer. At her next career juncture, Kropp chose investments over branch management. She and another bank employee, John Moylan, spent the next 10 years as the management team for two bank brokerages. In 1996, the two started their own firm, Moylan Kropp Retirement Planning, affiliating with Securities America.
“I was very excited about going out on our own,” Kropp said. “My father was an entrepreneur and realtor. I was always amazed by how happy he was in his job. He always said I needed to have my own business someday. My mom was sick when I was growing up, and I had three brothers that I helped raise, so I was very involved in the family finances. I wasn’t afraid of starting a business. I often told John that, as long as we worked hard, we would make it.”
The path between teaching special education and running a financial practice that manages about $255 million in assets has been anything but smooth. Married in 1980, Kropp and her husband, Bob, welcomed daughter Chelsea in 1987 and son Andrew a year later. Born deaf, Andrew began to have issues the Kropps believed went beyond a hearing impairment. Working at the second bank full time, attending her daughter’s activities and spending her nights researching her son’s symptoms and behavior, Kropp’s own health began to suffer. Kropp’s research eventually put her in contact with a doctor in Australia who diagnosed Drew as having Aspergers Syndrome. Relieved to finally have an explanation, Kropp soon faced a new issue.
“When we told our babysitter about Andrew’s diagnosis of deafness, she quit. She thought he should be institutionalized,” Kropp said. “Our best friends had a child nine months younger than Andrew, so the four of us arranged our schedules so one of us was with all three kids at all times. We each had three car seats in our cars.”
In 2002, Kropp faced another life-changing challenge when Moylan, her business partner, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The two discussed succession planning and created a plan for Moylan’s three sons to enter the business. Patrick joined Moylan Kropp in 2003 with a degree in finance and marketing; Sean in 2004 with finance and legal degrees, specializing in estate planning; and Devin joined three years ago with a degree in finance and the Certified Public Accountant designation. All three have become Certified Financial Planners, guided by Kropp’s philosophy and teaching skills along with the legacy of their father, who died in 2011.
“Each of John’s sons has a different learning method, which I recognized because of my training as a teacher,” Kropp said. “More important than teaching them the technical aspects of the business, however, was teaching them about customer care and humility. I feel as a team, we are instrumental in our clients’ lives. When someone comes to us, we should help them. I feel blessed to be in this profession. When you serve with humility, you put clients first. At the end of the day it’s about how well you served your clients and how you made them feel.”
Kropp is transitioning the Moylan sons from the operations roles they’ve performed until now into more active business building. The firm will hire additional staff to fill those operations roles as the sons spend more time meeting with clients and prospects. Over the next three years, the Moylans will each become partners in the firm.
Over the past 18 years, Kropp has relied upon Securities America as her broker-dealer partner. She’s never second guessed that choice.
“I know I can always pick up the phone and top management will talk to me,” she said. “I also value the networking and peer learning of the National Conference and the formal coaching programs like Next Level. Throughout everything, I knew everyone at Securities America had my back.”