Named one of the Top 500 Millennial Financial Advisors on Forbes’ inaugural list, Katie Hancock enjoys the fast-paced, competitive, fun environment at Morgan Stanley and in her work helping others.
Financial Advisor Katie Hancock drives nearly 50 miles each way, each day to get to her Morgan Stanley office in Tuscaloosa, Ala., a town she fell in love with as a University of Alabama freshman playing women’s basketball.
Despite not wanting to leave town upon graduation, her mission work brought her to Mexico, where she spent a year launching a college sport ministry branch. “That's where I fell in love with relationships and people, which is why I love my job now so much,” she reveals.
Upon her return to Alabama, she found a job working on a family-run cattle and catfish ranch in southern Alabama. She labored on the farm for about a year and a half before deciding it was time to put her business education to use. The WHMZ Group at Morgan Stanley was hiring for a receptionist, and she took it. “I felt a bit overqualified, but there weren't a lot of jobs available in Tuscaloosa,” she says. “The position turned out to be the best education you can get in the industry. I honestly didn’t realize the caliber of team that I joined at the time. The WHMZ Group was growing, and I learned fast that if I wanted to be a part of something great, I needed to hang on tight. I immediately immersed myself with some of the best in this business, and tried to learn as much as possible as quickly as I could.”
Today, six years later, Hancock can say she’s learned the wealth management business from the inside out, working in roles covering nearly every part of a client’s financial picture with The WHMZ Group . Four years ago, she took over a book of business from a Financial Advisor who left the practice. In addition to managing an individual book of business, she oversees retirement plans for clients of the entire team, which is one of the largest in the region, comprising 23 professionals across the Southeast, including 11 Financial Advisors, and with $1.5 billion in assets under management as of March 2018. Uniquely positioned to provide value to their clients, each Financial Advisor is trained in a specific area of wealth management. Hancock’s focus is corporate retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, non-qualified plans and defined benefits plans. She enjoys working with business owners who want to help their employees reach their retirement goals. “I absolutely love building the relationships, and then formulating a plan with each employee. You really get to invest in the people who make each business successful.”
Many of those people are millennials, like Hancock. In fact, Hancock was named one of the Top 500 Millennial Financial Advisors on Forbes’ inaugural list in 2017. “It’s a testament to the strength of the team,” she says, adding that the designation is an honor as more millennials and women begin inheriting money in the coming great wealth transfer. “There’s a need for sound advice from a Financial Advisor who looks like you and is relatable.”
Hancock, who is also a member of the Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa and a volunteer with Junior Achievement, relishes the team atmosphere and support system it provides. “It's high-paced, extremely competitive, fun,” she says. “Somebody's always got my back, and you get constant encouragement and support. Iron sharpens iron, and I have truly gotten better because of the experience of our other Financial Advisors. In turn, I want to do my best in my focus area for their clients every day.”
Ask her what’s the best part about being on a team and she’ll say being the “librarian, not the library. We've got access to highly experienced professionals and resources, and I just need to bring the right people in the room. This is really what I was created for—to be that relationship-driven person who delivers access to world-class resources, which goes well beyond just me.”
Despite the commute, Hancock still lives on that cattle and catfish farm—with limited distractions that typically accompany city life. “It allows me to hit the reset button and remember what’s important, which are relationships and time spent with people you care about,” she says. “With technology and all the world’s distractions, it's easy to forget to have conversations. I am thankful for my time working here on the farm because it cemented my work ethic. As odd as it sounds, there are many similarities between farm life and the investment world. You have to wake up every day and work hard to be successful at either one. There are lives that are depending on me to put in the work this job demands.”
Her parents and brother, Jon-Jon, live back home in Tupelo, Miss. Six weeks before she stepped on her college campus as a freshman, tragedy struck. Her oldest brother, Josh Hancock, who played baseball for rival Auburn then went on to play professionally for the St. Louis Cardinals, was killed in a car accident in 2007—six months after winning the World Series. “He lived 29 years on this earth and got to relentlessly chase his dreams,” she says. “He really taught me how to pursue your passion and find meaning in life—not just get a job. Find something you love and commit to it.”
Coping with the loss, she found support on campus through a campus-based sport ministry, and participated in a mission trip to Mexico between her sophomore and junior years. Anxious to get back to that mission work, she returned to Mexico immediately after graduation, this time for a full year. That experience running several sports camps led her and a former teammate from Greensboro, Ala., to launch their own nonprofit for kids—this one in the rural area of Hale County.
Named “Hale County Bama Ballers”, the organization hosts week-long sports camps every summer for children of all different backgrounds. “Our goal is to give kids a chance to interact with other kids that don’t look, act, sound or see as they do,” she says. “Diversity is a key ingredient in idea promotion, open-mindedness and unity. We're trying to show the kids that they have a purpose and encourage them to use their abilities to better the community by working together. This cause is one of the things I’m most proud of in my life. It’s been a great way to serve the community that gave me a chance. Servant leadership is a principal our group is founded upon, and philanthropy is a core component of many of our clients. These opportunities to serve and give back have undoubtedly made me a better Financial Advisor.”