Kara Fransted is a graduate of Villanova, a Navy veteran, and Chief Operations Officer at the financial guidance firm KMH Financial Services in Bethesda, MD. She discusses her experience in the inaugural cohort of Columbia's Wealth Management program, her role as a COO at a small business, and how the program is helping her develop a client-focused mindset.
What drew you to Columbia's Wealth Management program?
Columbia has a reputation of excellence and if I was going to go back to school, I didn’t want to waste my time—I wanted the best. I knew Columbia would pull out all the stops and get the best experts in the field. Why pursue anything but excellence?
What are you enjoying most about the experience?
Hard to pick just one thing! I’m a people person so I’d have to say the cohort. You can’t put a price on friendship and collaboration and that has been my favorite part. I now have a fabulous network of people who I can call on and bounce ideas off of at any time. When I have something going on in my business, I call a member of the group who I think has expertise that would be best for the situation and ask them.
Tell us about your career path and your leadership role at KMH Financial Services.
After college I spent five years in the Navy, which set me up with some excellent leadership skills at a young age. I deployed back-to-back and had many opportunities to learn and develop those skills. When I wanted to transition to the civilian world, I decided that I wanted to go into Finance. I simultaneously found myself pregnant and a family-friendly company became the most important criteria in my job search. KMH Financial Services was founded by my mother with a focus on women and the family. Even though I hadn’t originally wanted to work in the family business, it was a natural pick for my situation. Turns out it was the best decision I made. I started out in the operations department, which was a good translation from what I had done in the Navy. I’m results-oriented, so “making things happen” was a good next stop in the business world. In 2018 I was promoted to COO and now I coordinate all of our departments with our back office and operations. It’s similar to any other COO role, but as any small business owner knows, you wear a few more hats and take care of a few more details.
One of the things I so love about this program is that I can learn a new skill on Monday and put it into practice on Tuesday. It’s immediately applicable.— Kara Fransted, '22SPS, Wealth Management
What type of skills are you learning? Are you applying them at KMH?
From the beginning of my career at KMH Financial Services, I’ve been more concerned with the running of the company, but I want to transition to be more client-focused in the long run. I know our clients quite well, but I would like to do more of the investment and financial planning with them in the future. The Wealth Management program is allowing me to learn the skills necessary to become a part of that process. One of the things I so love about this program is that I can learn a new skill on Monday and put it into practice on Tuesday. It’s immediately applicable.
What advice would you give future students in the program?
Dive in head first! There is so much to learn and get involved in and so many people to get to know. Make use of all that Columbia and your fellow cohort members have to offer.
Have you found any veterans resources helpful at Columbia? What advice would you give other veterans who come to Columbia?
I have to admit that the GI Bill and benefits process made me nervous but I shouldn’t have been. Columbia’s veteran’s office handled everything and was so helpful in answering questions not to mention quick to respond. I must have asked a thousand questions but they were so patient with me. I would tell any other veterans that it’s a very veteran friendly community and their veteran’s office knows what they are doing.
Learn more about Columbia's Master's in Wealth Management program.