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Daily CSR
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Kimberly Etchings: A Risk-Taker’s Journey to Success in the Financial World


Kimberly Etchings is a person who is not afraid to take risks. She found her own way to attend a college she had never visited before, which was located across the country. She also built her own financial advising firm and took two years off to reevaluate her career. Etchings has never let fear guide her decisions, and this has led her to success.
“I can look back and say, yes, every time that I've either paused or took a risk, it has proven to be the right decision,” said Etchings.
Kimberly Etchings’ confidence in taking risks led her to become a regional managing director at Principal® nearly 10 years ago. She was tasked with building a financial advisor network from scratch. Six years later, she rose to the position of national vice president within the company. Etchings grew up in Boston, in a large family that had a lot of love but little means. After her parents divorced, she saw her mother work three jobs without ever complaining.
“A big motivator for me early on in life was making sure that she never had to worry,” said Etchings while adding, “and that I never had to depend on anybody else financially.”
Kimberly Etchings managed to find her own way to university without having money for a plane ticket. She arranged rides from Boston to Tuscan, Arizona, with friends and family. Etchings, who was an avid athlete and fascinated by how the body works, started her college career studying nutrition biochemistry. However, after being approached by someone who worked in the financial industry, she changed her focus to financial advising.
“I'm so grateful for him because he saw something in me that never would have been on my radar”, said Etchings.
After graduating, Kimberly Etchings worked for a corporation as a financial advisor for eight years. She then decided to start her own financial advising business in the Tucson area. After hustling for a couple of years, Etchings realized that she needed to move to a bigger city for greater opportunities. So, she packed her bags and moved to Los Angeles, leaving behind her book of business and starting from scratch once again.
“I took that risk and networked nonstop,” said Etchings. “And that's when I started to build out my team, brought in two business partners, and then we started to grow and built out a team of 11.” 
In the course of her business Etchings relocated to Boston and managed her practice flying from coast to coast monthly. However, eventually, it got up to her. “I kind of lost my passion for the day to day of being an advisor,” she said. “After about nine months of hemming and hawing about what I wanted to do, I sold my book of business to my partners, and I took some time off.” 
Kimberly Etchings set a strict timeline for herself to figure out how to translate her passions into her next career. She gave herself no less than six months and no more than 24 months. Was she scared? Yes, she was worried about being able to connect with and find her purpose. But did she fear that she wouldn’t be successful? Not at all.
After about two years of reflection and conversations with her business coach, Etchings realized that her passion was leadership. She cold-called a financial company and earned a leadership position. It was a huge financial step backward, but Etchings knew that if she took the risk and believed in herself, she would ultimately get to where she wanted to go. And she did.
Through her success, Principal got Etchings’ name and offered her a job to help build and lead a group of advisors in the New England area. Knowing that this was another career gamble with no immediate financial upside, Etchings wanted to make sure she got to know the people she would be working with. After talking to her potential future colleagues, Etchings was impressed by the fact that only one person had been with the company for less than 15 years. She thought that Principal must be doing something right if all these people were still there.
Etchings took the job on one condition: If she delivered on the expectations, she would be given the opportunity to take on more.
“I delivered after two years. And to the company's credit, I was asked to take on a regional vice president role,” said Etchings. “Two years after that, I was promoted to national vice president.”
She credits her ability to see past the short term as a key factor on the road to her success. 
“The short-term decisions really can help dictate that long-term growth,” said Etchings. “And I feel like a lot of people step over dollars to pick up dimes because they're more concerned about immediate gratification versus the opportunity to look at what a future opportunity can be.”
Kimberly Etchings’ success in the financial world is somewhat unusual. If she had not been educated by an acquaintance many years ago, she may have never even known about financial advising as a career option. Even with this exposure, Etchings remembers being the only female and one of only three out of 32 trainees in her class who successfully became licensed to practice. She felt that there was something fundamentally outdated in the way people were brought on board.
To address this issue, Etchings and her colleagues created the Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship within the Principal Financial Network. This program is designed to provide an additional runway for diverse financial advisor candidates.
“We need to create opportunities and a pathway to bring people into the industry so they can help create financial stability for individuals and families from all different backgrounds,” said Etchings while adding, “I’m always looking at what impact I can make next.”