To hear the way she speaks of Memphis, and to know the many ways in which she works to better her community, one would never guess that Kathy Fish was not born and raised right here.
Originally from Rochester, N.Y., where she was the third of eight children, she first visited the South after a free-spirited, cross-country trip after high school.
“I fell in love with this city,” she said, explaining her return here as an X-ray technician student at the Baptist College of Health Sciences, and then to the University of Memphis to study biology with the plan to become a physician.
Upon graduation, however, health care in the country was in transition and so was she, determining that what she wanted was “to have it all: work, job, family, own a business. I just felt like I needed to go in a different direction.”
She altered her path and eventually earned an MBA from the University of Memphis.
It was a degree – and a passion – that would eventually lead her to found the financial planning service Fish and Associates.
“We do comprehensive financial planning to include investment management; we work with people on estate and tax planning, (and) income planning.”
Fish felt all along that she wanted to work for herself and “to somehow be able to control my own destiny,” and her boutique firm works to help people with a similar mindset, those who also find themselves in transition – whether it be from a change in career, death, divorce or any other life event.
Her client list is extensive and diverse, yet, she said, “I have a special desire to have meaningful conversations about money with women. I don’t exclusively work with women clients, but I do have a good amount, probably at least 40 percent of my clients.”
She maintains a financial and philosophical blog called “A Man is Not a Plan.”
Her first job in the business was working with the Memphis office of Executive Financial Services Inc., which was closed only a year and a half after her start. Fish continued to share office space with others from the firm and to grow her own client list within the industry, going out completely on her own in 1996.
With nearly a quarter century of experience, Fish and her team of two, which includes daughter Kerry, and office manager Beth Miller, oversees $95 million in assets. She acts as coordinator for an overall financial plan and hires investment managers that align with clients’ goals and risk tolerances.
Earlier this week she traveled to Chicago to serve on a conference panel and to accept a Best Practices Award from Investment News for overall innovation and profitability in a financial advisory firm.
It’s a recognition she appreciates from an industry she loves; one that has as its goal an outcome she believes in and takes to heart.
“We’re all responsible, ultimately, for our own happiness and for making sure that, whether you’re single, married, divorced, in a relationship, that we all should take responsibility for our own well-being.”
Fish also feels that “it’s very important to give back to the community that has done so much for me.”
As evidence, she has served on the board for Project Green Fork, and is the new board chairwoman for Playhouse on the Square. She maintains her love for biology, anatomy and physiology by serving as an ambassador for the Baptist College of Health Sciences and teaching yoga at Midtown Yoga.
But it’s not all business.
“I like to have fun,” Fish said, and she integrates this playfulness into her philanthropy. She hosts Cocktails for a Cause on the first Friday of every month at the Central Gardens home she shares with her husband, Kelly, a professor of computer and information technology at Arkansas State University, and daughter Adele, a student at Hutchison School.
Attendees are served a signature beverage by a well-known personality in the community, and are asked to donate to the night’s nonprofit. Past beneficiaries have included Dorothy Day House, the Memphis Food Bank and the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. The next one scheduled will help the Wolf River Conservancy.
Fish’s own life experiences led her to an epiphany of self-reliance and she now advocates for independence, whether it’s financial, vocational or philosophical. She has a passion for empowering women, for bettering her community and for helping her clients to find their own happiness.
“There are a lot of people out there looking for advice and looking for a partner to help them map their future.”