When Sally Taylor was 18, she was encouraged by her family, who were resigned to small-town life in rural Ohio, to simply elope with her boyfriend rather than consider a higher education.

And while she did, indeed, elope with her high school sweetheart the summer after graduation, she knew she was destined for a life bigger than a town of 5,000 could offer.

Talk about an understatement.

On November 1, 2016, Taylor was formally announced as the CEO of wealth management firm KeatsConnelly in Phoenix. With nearly $7 million in revenues, KeatsConnelly is the largest cross-border wealth management firm in North America that specializes in helping Canadians and Americans realize their dreams of a cross-border lifestyle.

“Not bad for someone who didn’t finish her first college degree until age 35,” says Taylor, who got a late start at higher education, but now holds a master’s degree in financial planning and is a Certified Public Accountant, Personal Financial Specialist and Certified Financial Planner, not to mention the immediate past-president of Soroptimist International of Phoenix and appointed member of the Arizona College Savings Plan Program Oversight Committee.

Want to learn more about the winding road that brought Taylor here?

Az Business: What attracted you to the financial planning industry?

Sally Taylor: At first, absolutely nothing. As a child, money — specifically issues over a family inheritance — tore our extended family apart. I initially planned to be an artist. That was until I was recruited by a family office near Cleveland. Working with families to communicate with each other about money and getting the chance to educate them on how to avoid what happened to my family, really inspired me. By age 27, I knew I was in finance to stay and started down a path to higher education. Over the past 20 years, I worked my way up through the industry and eventually made my way to Arizona, joining KeatsConnelly in 2007 as a financial planner and then its director of financial planning.

AB:What led you to the CEO role?

ST: In 2008, KeatsConnelly announced its plans to transition ownership of the firm to a handful of employees gradually over a 10-year period. The deal was meant to allow next-generation team members like myself to take out loans from Fiduciary Network LLC of Dallas to purchase equity from the business’ principals, Bob Keats and Dale Walters, as they moved closer to retirement. Nearly eight years later, here we are. However, we are still lucky to have Bob and Dale continuing on with us, albeit moving to chairman of the board and executive director roles, respectively.

AB: What qualities do you think an effective CEO needs to have?
ST: Above all else — integrity. Beyond that, having both a clear mission and vision for the business is paramount. Also, deep down, if a leader doesn’t truly want to make his or her community — beyond just the business — a better place to live and work, then how effective will they ever really be?

AB: We have to ask: what became of that youthful elopement?

ST: We just celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary.