“All women, myself included, who have been on this side of the business for decades, need to mentor and encourage those who are just entering.” with Judith Villarreal and Tyler Gallagher

All women, myself included, who have been on this side of the business for decades, need to mentor and encourage those who are just entering. Compliance is a strange field which one tends to love or hate, in fact, my spiritual counselor used to use my job as an example that somebody will love every […]

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All women, myself included, who have been on this side of the business for decades, need to mentor and encourage those who are just entering. Compliance is a strange field which one tends to love or hate, in fact, my spiritual counselor used to use my job as an example that somebody will love every job, no matter how loathsome. In the early days of my career, I had to train people because there was no training to be had; today it is mentorship that is more important.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Judith Villarreal, an attorney working as a general counsel and chief compliance officer for CoreCap Investments, a broker/dealer and federally registered investment advisor in Southfield, Michigan. She has been in financial services compliance for more than four decades and has been a keen observer of the changes in that industry. Ms. Villarreal attended Eastern Michigan University and after leaving college moved to Chicago where she became employed with a variety of political action groups such as the League of Women Votes and the Merit Selection of Judges project. After the Merit Selection project ended, Ms. Villarreal worked in the Compliance Department at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the beginning of a lifelong fascination with regulatory compliance. After leaving the CME, Ms. Villarreal worked for futures commission merchants (the commodity futures equivalent of a clearing broker/dealer), commodity trading advisors and commodity pools operators. While at one of these firms, she attended Chicago Kent College of Law and graduation with Highest Honors and became a member of the Order of the Coif. She then joined the Market Regulation Practice Group at the Chicago law firm, Schiff Hardin & Waite. Following her departure from Schiff, Ms. Villarreal moved to Hawaii where she became Chief Compliance Officer for the bank’s subsidiary broker/dealer, Bancorp Investment Group. Eventually, as Vice President Legal & Regulatory Affairs, Ms. Villarreal also became involved with compliance in a number of the bank’s areas, including trust and international private banking. In 2000, Ms. Villarreal was recruited back to Chicago to work with ED & F Man (later Man Financial Group and later still MF Global). She served as Deputy General Counsel Compliance and Regulatory Affairs and as CCO for six of the company’s US entities. Since leaving Man, Ms. Villarreal has worked with another bank, and with broker/dealers and investment advisors in Michigan. Along with way, Ms. Villarreal has obtained thirteen FINRA licenses, held the Series 3 four different times, been admitted to the bar in three states and obtained credentials including the Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist, the Certified Information Privacy Professional (US Law); the Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager (in banking), and a number of other insurance and securities credentials. She is a great believer in continuing to learn as long as possible and thinks that compliance provides the perfect environment to do so because of its continual changes.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?

I had been involved in a political campaign for a merit selection of judges when a job, with no company name, appeared that required secretarial skills and political and lobbying experience. Responding to that ad, I ended up working for the Vice President Law & Compliance at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

I immediately loved the department and went on to work for member firms. Later, I graduated second in my class from Chicago Kent College of Law and joined the Market Regulation practice group at Schiff Hardin, which was unique in the country at the time. Since then, I have worked in-house with banks, insurance industry entities, futures commission merchants, commodity trading advisors, commodity pool operators, registered investment advisors and broker-dealers.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?

I would have to say that the most interesting part of my career is how I became a lawyer. I joined a particular futures commission merchant that was facing a significant, and in effect, life-threatening regulatory matter. After 18 months, I settled that matter for a relatively insignificant fine and no other regulatory sanctions. After the case was settled, I asked my bosses for a raise, who then offered to give me some of the money as a perk. I responded “sure, send me to law school,” and they did!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Like everyone else in the financial services field, I’m currently involved in working with privacy and cybersecurity. We’re in an era where it seems as though a three-year-old could hack the Vatican library, so protection of client information has become a vital mission of financial services. If a hacker can access that information, it becomes all too easy for that hacker to end of up with all of the client’s assets.

The next decade will require a great deal of compliance time and energy due to the aging population of investors and the transfer of wealth to younger generations.

And, of course, the recent vote by the SEC on Regulation BI will require all of us to respond to the mandates of that regulation and its interpretations. This will be a primary focus for the next year.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

CoreCap was founded with a very specific purpose — to optimize the time, talent and entrepreneurial spirit of the independent financial advisor. Our goal is to partner with those advisors who represent the best in our industry and provide them with competitive compensation, service, support, tools and technology they need to meet their clients’ goals and objectives.

At CoreCap, we provide independent advice and research on a wide array of products and services, which essentially allows advisors to compete with any full-service wire house. Products include equities, mutual funds, exchange traded funds, options and variable annuities, enabling advisors to help his or her clients meet all of their financial goals and objectives.

Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all-white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

An increasing number of women are attending and completing law school, and at the same time, regulatory compliance needs more people with complex legal skills. In my experience, women were often more eager than men to trade after the predictable hours and manageable commitments of in-house regulatory compliance. I also think that women can be better puzzle solvers, which is what regulatory compliance is: how can we make the pieces fit together?

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and /or c) society to support this movement going forward?

All women, myself included, who have been on this side of the business for decades, need to mentor and encourage those who are just entering. Compliance is a strange field which one tends to love or hate, in fact, my spiritual counselor used to use my job as an example that somebody will love every job, no matter how loathsome. In the early days of my career, I had to train people because there was no training to be had; today it is mentorship that is more important.

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.

1. Fall in love with Louis Rukeyser or Warren Buffett to learn and understand the business. I found Rukeyser’s Wall Street Week so interesting, it taught me the basics of finance.

2. Work with someone who is willing to teach you, or at least give you the opportunity to learn. This means taking on things not in your job description and expanding your skills, as well as risking failure.

3. Be willing to take risks. Not making a decision is a decision when the markets close in thirty seconds and your client has an open position. Again, you have to be willing to fail.

4. Ask for help; ask for an opportunity. Take advantage of those around who you know more. I was lucky enough to have contacts when I first entered the industry who were involved in the creation of financial futures. I took advantage of their knowledge and experiences to learn more about the business.

5. Get all the training and credentials you can. I have many different titles that follow my name, and often joke about being good at multiple choice tests because of the amount of schooling it took to earn those designations. Each designation represents a body of knowledge that will stay with you throughout your career.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The principals of Jack Carl Associates, Jack Carl, Steve Sukenik and Murray Halperin, paid for my law school. Burt Meyer allowed me to move on after law school, and Michael Weiner, formerly of CME, taught me that I can learn as much as I want in a new world. Notice that these are all men, who graciously mentored a woman. Help anyone who sincerely asks you for it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’m not a big one for slogans, but I do remember that the CME used to say “free markets for free men.” While some updating of the slogan to free “people” would be required today, I must acknowledge that there is a real connection between the existence of free markets and the freedom of the people.

I once tried to explain free markets to some individuals from the People’s Republic of China who were involved in the attempt to create a futures market there. I soon realized that they had no understanding of the free market principles behind a competitive financial market. It was one of the strangest conversations of my life.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It may sound ridiculous, but I would support basic literacy. As George Orwell noted, whoever controls the language, the history of a culture, controls its future. Today’s students are so careful to be politically correct that they don’t learn to write a simple declarative sentence or paragraph composed of such sentences. Let the others save the world, I would try to save our ability to see it clearly and write about it accurately.

Thank you so much for these great insights!

About The Author:

Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and Dubai focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. In addition to his role with Regal Assets, Tyler is a regular contributor to Forbes, Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global and Authority Magazine. Tyler has also been featured in many news publications and has been a guest expert on “The News with Ed Shultz”. Tyler is a proud member of the Forbes Finance Council a private invite only-group of hand-selected industry leaders.

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