Hannah Basil Bryant, CFP®
Growing up with a mom who worked as an accountant and financial planner, Hannah Basil Bryant learned lessons about financial literacy early and often. It wasn’t so much that Hannah’s mom set out to teach her about the financial world, instead the knowledge was passed on in that natural way kids absorb information from their parents—in casual dinner table discussions. Well before she graduated college, Hannah understood the basics of personal financial planning, from building a cash cushion to saving for retirement. They were lessons she figured everyone else had learned too. But when she started her first post-graduation job at Fifth Third Bank, she realized that many others in her cohort did not have the basic understanding of how to budget strategically and utilize their benefits.
Hannah’s role at Fifth Third Bank was a foray into the corporate world. She learned how to be a commercial lender and banker and how to analyze credit risk, company cash-flow, debt level, and balance sheets. In short, she was applying the economic tenets she learned while getting her degree to real-world scenarios. However, about a year and a half into the job she began to bump up against the limitations of the position. For instance, some deals involved fracking in North Dakota, but her superiors barred her from including in her risk assessments anything that involved regulatory bodies such as the EPA. “It’s not that I was interested in making a political statement; I just didn’t like the feeling that I couldn’t fully assess the risk of a project,” she says.
As Hannah began to plot her next move, she thought about her young coworkers, the ones who hadn’t benefitted from dinnertime financial lessons. She considered what it would be like to give them access to what her mom, Lois Basil, had been focused on for years. “I thought about how to adapt the principles Lois used with clients so they could be delivered to younger people.” Inspired by this idea, Hannah quit her job and enrolled in a coding and technology bootcamp. She envisioned building an app or web-based platform to connect younger clients to the information they needed.
Before launching her own project, Hannah decided to get familiar with the world of startups by interning at one. “Startups were very romanticized at the time,” she says. “There was this notion that you could have an idea, build a company, exit, and be a millionaire within 10 years.” The reality Hannah found was different than she had imagined. It wasn’t the people with ideas steering the projects, it was the investors. There was often tension between the founders and the people funding the project. Hannah recognized that launching a startup would not give her the freedom she was after.
While Hannah was in college her mom transitioned her accounting business into an ACP practice. “Since I wasn’t there for the dinnertime conversations, she had to keep me updated on our phone calls,” Hannah says. By the time Hannah had decided to exit the startup world, Lois had set up a successful practice. “That’s when we started exploring what it would look like to have me join the firm,” Hannah says. After seeing the ways that investors could add too much pressure, Hannah liked the idea of moving forward slowly and steadily. “We weren’t trying to grow at some unsustainable rate,” she says. Being a family business, they also focused on communication and boundaries, making it a priority to maintain their healthy mother-daughter relationship.
Joining an ACP firm meant Hannah could learn the system from the inside. She’d been to an ACP conference before and had the chance to hear Jack Bogle and Michael Kitces speak about the fee-only model. “I knew that it made sense to me as a philosophy,” Hannah says. “Plus, for me, it’s a really nice mix of qualitative and quantitative work. I love helping people and bringing harmony to their lives, but also I enjoy the nuts and bolts of the math itself.” Since joining the firm and earning her CFPÒ, Hannah has been focused on right-sizing fees to industry levels, systematizing the business with workflows, and staff/talent development. She’s moved everything into the cloud, which has made the recent move to remote work seamless.
In October of 2019, Hannah and Lois’s firm, Basil Financial Group, moved to a new office. The new larger space has a multipurpose room that will allow for outreach inspired by the very clients Hannah first envisioned serving—those young professionals who needed help with basic financial skills. Over the next year or two, the firm will be launching Basil Academy. This seminar-based group training will provide affordable education for young people who are navigating many firsts. With different tracks dedicated to new graduates, young families, and small business owners, Basil Academy will allow the firm to deliver the ACP philosophy to an even wider client base.
Within ACP, Hannah has served on the Advanced Planners Retreat Committee, helping to shift the format to a more conversational tone. She’s also served on the Compensation Committee, focusing on helping ACP align its fee structure with the market. Hannah appreciates how essential ACP was for Lois when she started the firm, but she’s also excited about the inclusion of second-generation advisors like herself. “There’s still so much to learn, but the organization is dedicated to moving forward, and I can’t wait to see what’s next,” she says.