McKenna said he always had a strong sense of service, even when he was in elementary school.
“Instead of wanting to be student body president, I was president of the Key Club,” he said. “And I liked a lot of things about the military, but I was really interested in the service side.”
The son of a mother who worked as a mail carrier for more than 30 years, McKenna said he grew up having a very middle-class background – one backed by his mother’s hard work.
He wanted to make her and everyone who supported him proud. So he dedicated himself to becoming the first in his family to pursue higher education after graduating from high school.
“I was looking for different ways to get there, and the service academy was a really good fit for me. But I’m an only child and my mom was like, ‘You know. can stay in California and stay closer to home,” he said. “She and I started talking about ROTC (from the military), and when I looked into it, it actually seemed like such a good fit because I can satisfy that interest in military service and get a scholarship. and go to college in California.”
That decision led to a full ROTC scholarship that took him to the University of Southern California, close enough for his mother to come but far enough to establish his own independence.
As an undergraduate, McKenna majored in accounting. He knew he wanted a skill that would allow him to always put food on the table, but also to learn the language of business.
His time at USC ended with him being a Distinguished Military Graduate, a designation awarded to top ROTC students. McKenna met this honor with great enthusiasm as it meant he was more likely to be selected for active duty.
Interested in technology, he kept an extremely busy schedule over the next four years. He was a signal corps officer specializing in cyber command at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Then he went to airborne school to learn how to jump out of planes. Then he went to Alaska to train in warfare and survival. Then he went to Korea to work in military intelligence as a signals corps officer in charge of technology operations for his intelligence group.
“From there I went to Panama. I went to a language school to learn Spanish and ended up working for General Barry McCaffrey, who was the commander in chief of the American forces in South America. So I spent about a year and a half working in a four-star staff as a very junior officer… incredible experience,” McKenna said.This experience led him to work in a Cuban refugee camp in early 1990s, helping Cubans trying to get to the United States.
“I ran this thing called the Family Support Center, which was one of the most sincere things I did in the military. It was reconnecting Cuban families around the world with Cubans who were escaping tyranny. of Castro’s Cuba,” he said. “It was this wonderful connection between service and humanity and people trying to do their best. So my four years in the military have been amazing.”
With so many rotating and changing responsibilities in just four years, McKenna relied on his military training to stay disciplined. He was given responsibilities beyond those of the average college graduate in his twenties.
Now an Army lieutenant, McKenna continued his service with a graduate school at Georgetown University when he developed a keen interest in investment banking and gained official entry to Wall Street through JP Morgan.
The years that followed were just as action-packed as his four years in the military and included co-founding four companies, two investment funds and a non-profit organization.
“There were certainly a lot of things that I was probably inexperienced at. But that’s another thing about military service. You’re adaptive and you have a natural entrepreneurial orientation. And you’ll just spend hours figuring out how to achieve the goal,” McKenna said. “And then another cool thing was that there were other veterans in my class and a few others around the bank, and we had a way to find each other. The military network is really strong and people are ready to help each other. So I was able to access a very high level position on Wall Street thanks to my military experience and a few years of higher education.
Today, as one of Facet’s leaders, McKenna upholds his military values and quickly puts others first. He said he remembers making his mom proud and wanting to provide opportunities for other small-town kids who want to make an impact.
So when he thinks of the term “financial services,” he focuses more on the second word than the first.
“My mom worked hard. It was a really good upbringing. But we definitely didn’t have someone who was by our side when we were thinking about financial decisions,” McKenna said. “Everyone was a transaction. A mortgage. Or a credit card. Or a bank loan. Everything is a transaction, not a relationship. person of value and offer it in the same way, but at the right price, to a bigger market? And honestly, that’s the foundation of Facet.”