“It’s important to build out a firm that connects” With Tyler Gallagher & René Nourse

At the end of the day, it’s important to understand the importance of building out a firm that connects, represents, and looks like the community that they serve. An additional reason why the shift towards that objective makes sense is this: according to the US Census report, in 2045 whites who are currently the majority, […]

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At the end of the day, it’s important to understand the importance of building out a firm that connects, represents, and looks like the community that they serve. An additional reason why the shift towards that objective makes sense is this: according to the US Census report, in 2045 whites who are currently the majority, will become the minority.

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rene’ Nourse.

After 25 years as a financial advisor in the corporate world, René Nourse left Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in June of 2012, to launch Urban Wealth Management Group. Sensing that a shift was taking place in the industry, her intention was to build a platform that focused on strategic financial planning alongside investment management to better serve clients. Also recognizing that women face unique and complex financial challenges, the Smart Women~Savvy Money Club was formed in order to provide a supportive, secure environment where women are encouraged to learn, explore and feel confident about making financial decisions.

A frequent guest speaker and contributor on the topic of women and finance, she has been recognized as a trailblazer and financial expert. Between 2013 and 2019, she was a guest commentator for CNBC’s Closing Bell Report, one of twenty awardees for 2017’s Investment News’ Women to Watch, a Five Star Wealth Manager Awardee since 2014, recognized by the Los Angeles Business Journal’s as one of LA’s Most Influential Wealth Managers for 2018 and in 2019 became an honoree of the Marquis Who’s Who award.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Rene’! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?

Thank you for having me!

While I was never exposed or knew anything about stock market investing during my early years, I became fascinated when I discovered the concept of making my money work for me rather than me always working for money. I started in the industry back in 1986 as a “stockbroker” and over time experienced a shift in my practice from concentrating primarily on investing to focusing on assisting others in building out and strengthening their financial lives. Often times, clients asked for advice about other issues not related to managing their money such as tax planning, retirement planning strategies, managing their cash flow, etc. Clearly, that was a need for Financial Planning vs. Investment Planning. As a result, I acquired by CFP® designation in 2003, which gave me the strength and knowledge on two fronts: addressing both my client’s investments and their financial lives. The attainment of that designation resulted in a much more holistic relationship with my clients resulting in longer term connections. The average client has been with me 15–20 years. Additionally, the longer I was in the business, the more I realized that Women were being overlooked and underserved. The fact is that most advisors are men and didn’t realize the importance of engaging the wives, significant others or even other female family members in the investment and financial guidance process. Women were not being serviced appropriately- so I began focusing on the special needs of Women, which was held in high regards.

I remained with large brokerage firms until 2012, when I left and launched my firm, Urban Wealth Management Group. I wanted to make sure that our platform had an emphasis on financial planning first, since we can’t tell clients what to do with their money unless we know their goals, objectives, and timelines. As a result, our firm is focused on helping clients find successful strategies to improve their lives. I was always driven by the personal aspect of the work — the ability to get to know my clients and determine what is important to them. And then to put a plan in place to help them achieve their goals.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

Years ago, I worked with a couple where the husband worked — but the wife did not; this was his second marriage and her first. Due to this situation, I urged reviewing their personal and his employer provided benefits, recommended establishing an estate plan, and to revise his pension and retirement accounts since his former wife was still listed as beneficiary on these plans. Additionally, I pushed to have him increase his life insurance coverage. He stated that he had increased it, but did not share with me or his wife how much he increased it by and kept telling her- “Oh you’ll be fine, I increased it enough for you to be financially secure” One day while she was cooking dinner and he was sitting at a table, talking with a friend on the phone, he slumped over and passed away in front of her. Wow! That was tough, but what was even more difficult was that we learned he had only increased the life insurance coverage of $100,000 he had through his employer by $10,000. My client was so upset of course, that she made this statement: “I wish I could bring him back to life and then I would knock him out him since he didn’t take care of me!” Well, we both laughed at that.

But that event absolutely put me on track with recognizing the special needs of women — whether they are single, married, working, or not working. Furthermore, I learned more about the unique and tumultuous circumstances that women experience by beginning to work with and for them. For example, as we all know, women live longer than men, the average age of widowhood is 59, on average women earn 20% less than men, and while women are good at saving, we tend to have less confidence and guidance about implementing long term financial and investment strategies.

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

Within our firm, we have lots of projects and activities that are offered on a monthly basis. We have a club for Women, titled Smart Women~Savvy Money, where we offer monthly podcasts, videos, pertinent and relevant blogs as well as access to our vetted network of other women professionals. It keeps our network up to date on a variety of issues — especially this year — since we’ve had a multiple set of changes in the tax, retirement, and income regulations.

Next, as Vice-Chair of the Association of African American Financial Advisors known as QUAD-A, I’ve worked tirelessly to support this amazing organization, which was founded by the first African American to acquire his CFP® designation. My objective is broadening the scope of engagement and working with other organizations in the financial sector to share opportunities to work with and service our Advisors. Unfortunately, Black advisors are not seen as relevant and important as their White counterparts. The profession would be not be complete without us. Of the 85,000 CFP®’s in the US, only 1.5% are AA, although we represent 13% of the US population. QUAD-A’s objective is to open the door to many other African Americans to come into the financial services industry as well as supporting those who are already in the industry to ensure that they remain. We need to be recognized as integral members of this profession.

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

Well the answer to that question is easy. We are an all Women firm and founded by me, a Black Woman! There are not too many of us out there. Which is unfortunate.

All of the advisors at my firm are Women of Color and are CFP® professionals. The story? Women want to be served by professionals who look like them and know and understand what their lives are like. They may be the only woman in management at their company. They could be both a woman and a person of color. Our clients are professionals, are extremely busy and are managing budgets, people, and projects at work and home. We understand that.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. 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?

Has it changed? Just a little bit….The statistics are considerably abysmal when it comes to the number of people of color, or more striking, women of color in the financial services industry. And for now, I believe that the reasons why the numbers have shifted upward is due to the demands of consumers and in some instances, for publicly traded companies, by their investors.

There is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done.

  • We need to create and define a career path that is accessible to a diverse base of people
  • We need to establish mechanisms that support Women, Women of color and People of Color who are entering the financial services industry
  • We need to provide growth opportunities in financial services, similar to other professions, such as attorneys and physicians.

People of Color are just as competent as their White colleagues. We should be hired and/or considered for all C-suite opportunities as well as groomed, supported, and sponsored just as our White male counterparts are. Most financial services companies are still an “all-White boys’ club.” Or as we like to call it: “Stale Pale Males”.

At the end of the day, it’s important to understand the importance of building out a firm that connects, represents, and looks like the community that they serve. An additional reason why the shift towards that objective makes sense is this: according to the US Census report, in 2045 whites who are currently the majority, will become the minority.

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?

Of course, management in financial services firms should acknowledge that their current platforms are not sustainable and need to be updated. What this means is that not just Women, but Women of Color and People of Color, MUST be in the mix and should be in positions across the firm’s boards that matter — and not just in ancillary roles, such as Human Resources or Diversity and Inclusion.

Women of Color must be promoted to substantive roles where they manage major teams and projects. And, management has to understand and support these women which may bring a different style or emphasis. The standard of professionalism has to adjust to allow different people to bring more of themselves to their work. Bottom line is- recognize the significance of adjusting/changing your culture and environment in order to enhance and support one’s D&I initiative

One can view these issues for the challenges Women and Men of Color have come forward in the NYT, WSJ, LinkedIn, and Medium to discuss how they’ve succeeded despite so many forces working against them.

In essence, leadership in these firms have to get out of their comfort zone to see a world that looks drastically different from the one they are used to. In other words, there needs to be a change in the industry’s culture and environment in order to just not recruit but to keep us on board.

Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?

First off, given the fact that the US is a consumer-driven based economy, I believe that as a nation, we should be provided training, skillsets, and tools to assist in creating personal financial healthiness and wellness for all of us. There are some states that do provide financial literacy classes, which is great, but should be made available to the entire country. So, here are three things I would recommend:

  1. Begin offering financial literacy classes to kids, as young as kindergarteners. Why? Because even at that age, they are already in the money game, but only on the spend money side since they begin asking parents to buy things for them.
  2. Provide parents with ideas to keep kids engaged in learning about finances in real time based on their lifestyle needs and wants. And frankly, it will be a way for parents to not only teach their kids, but to learn, teach and or update their financial skill sets.
  3. Another financial segment to be addressed is learning about Investing. Understanding that one can create their wealth by having their money work for them.

(Choose) 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.


(Choose) You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

  1. Remove the frightening emotion when it comes to investing, since markets always go down, but they always go back up. Get excited when you see markets go down — because you always want to buy low.
  2. You only lose when you sell. Just because markets are down, does not mean that you have lost your money. If you sell during a market downturn- you definitely will have a loss.
  3. If interested in investing in individual stocks, start with identifying and investing in publicly traded companies that one is familiar with. It could be one’s favorite store, a service provider or food chain- just to name a few. As a consumer, you are doing a “natural” background check on these companies.
  4. Invest for your future. Be sure to participate in your employer provided retirement plan, and above and beyond what the employer’s match may be. As is usually the case, in order to receive an employer’s match, employees must put in a certain amount, which is often at a low participation level. While they are investing in you — you need to invest in yourself.
  5. Trading vs. Investing. Understand the difference between the two since trading means one is buying and selling — constantly. If you’re an investor, you’re putting your money into an asset that you will plan to own for some time- and that’s where one tends to build out their wealth. For example, 10 years ago, Amazon was trading in the $100 range. If you were an investor, you’d be so happy since Amazon is trading at $3200 per share as of 7/10/2020.

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?

I have been blessed by having several people support and promote me in my professional life as mentors and friends. At the top of the list was my Mom. When I first started in the industry, I was a “stockbroker”. My Mom was apprehensive about my selection of being in the financial industry since it was considered a non-traditional professional space for women and especially black women. And of course, there were times where I was discriminated against with people who did not want to work with me. But because I was fascinated about learning and sharing investment ideas with others, I stayed the course and she supported me by helping me keep my life in order, since at that time I was a single mom, and had just gone through a divorce. Couldn’t have made it without her.

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

Believe in yourself. There were many times during meetings with colleagues where I didn’t share my thoughts or ideas because I didn’t have confidence in myself. Ironically, the same ideas and solutions were brought up by male colleagues, were discussed and ultimately accepted by others. While it took me a while to gain confidence to speak up and share my thoughts, it made a difference by raising the bar in my ability to believe in me- both professionally and personally.

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. 🙂

Implementation of financial literacy platforms for our country. This would benefit so many people across the board, but will be impactful especially for communities of color, where creating a strong financial knowledge base would assist in building out generational wealth for families.

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