The earlier you start the better it will be. There is no right answer but ask anyone older than you and they will all say they wish they would have started earlier.
As a part of our series about “Women Leading The Finance Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Judy VanArsdale.
Judy VanArsdale has the distinct ability to project a warm and positive attitude while addressing serious issues. She takes the fear out of investing and engages clients in planning strategies relevant to their financial success. Her clients value the encouragement and confidence they receive as they take control of their money and financial goals. Judy is an LPL Financial Advisor at Lakeview Wealth Management, and a Managing Partner at 3rivers.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?
I worked in corporate America in the healthcare industry for 20 years. The further I was promoted up the ranks, the farther away I became from working directly with the people that I was helping. This made me very restless. That direct connection with those I affect is very important to me and one of the facets I enjoy most in a career.
After 9/11, I realized I needed to make a change. As a single parent, getting on a plane for business travel no longer worked for my family. I explored other avenues and eventually I found my way into the financial services industry as an advisor. Advising allows me to help individuals achieve their financial goals and I have that direct connection with my clients, which I love.
I am also able to help other advisors grow into exceptional business owners through the development of 3rivers, an initiative that I took on with two other like-minded female advisors in the industry. The system we developed helps advisors grow into exceptional business owners. Bottom line, educating, mentoring and watching others thrive makes me happy and being an entrepreneur affords me the ability to do so.
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?
The way 3rivers came to be was pretty unique. As advisors we have the opportunity to be invited to speak at conferences and peer meetings. Most topics have to do with best practices for running a successful business which, in turn, provides exceptional client experiences and wonderful teams. We always knew that peer-to-peer learning was missing within the industry. We spoke to industry leaders we respected and they agreed with us and even encouraged us to move forward. We made the decision to move and six months later we found ourselves in a global pandemic, yet 3rivers still came fruition.
I think bringing this company to life gave us something to focus on as the world we knew changed overnight. It was fun and exciting and allowed us to share our real-life experiences with others as the state of the world started to change the way we ran our businesses and took care of our clients.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We continue to develop new content, adding 4 new training tools and videos monthly. The goal is not for other advisors to become us, but rather to be their best them. The new content is meant to continue to allow growth and development in a way that feels right to the advisor. Whether it is focusing on the numbers, creating new processes or sharing how it feels in certain situations, this is their journey, we’re just here to guide them.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think the biggest differential between 3rivers and others in this space is all three of us are still full-time practicing advisors. We are walking in the same shoes, sharing the same experiences and dealing with the same world as our clients. The pandemic forced us to adapt, modify and change, just like everyone else. Many advisors found that moving their team and enhancing their technology to work remotely was a challenge. That lack of direct connection with their clients was also an adjustment. Creating a tool that talked about the costs, the team, the clients and how we all felt in that moment was powerful. Admitting to the vulnerability we felt made us a standout in an industry that can be very emotionless and guarded.
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?
I think there are a few driving factors allowing this change.
- The face of the advisor has to look more like the face of the client to allow people to have more direct access to advice. People are living longer, which means they have to save more, work longer and learn how to be prepared for a world much different than the one their parents and grandparents knew. We have to think bigger and be better. If the industry really wants to serve and prepare people then the industry has to become more accessible to all. The industry is evolving to bring new people in, and is changing overall, for the better. I also think most in the industry are ready for change.
- While many advisors today have been slow to change, they are realizing and starting to put effort into the change. I do have faith that the “club” is changing.
- Society is demanding change, which is refreshing and exciting. The movement is working but we can’t stop trying or assume someone else is “taking care of it.” We all have to be a part of the solution.
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?
We have to start educating at a younger age. We can’t wait until young women graduate from college before we introduce them to this industry and offer it as a viable career path. We all need to be involved. We can mentor at the local college or university level, take a day out of our lives to talk about financial services at career day at a local high school, or offer intern positions at our office. We have to put our money where our mouths are. We can be the agents of change.
My team is an all-women team. This was not by design but it is wonderful. We have 2 biology majors, an education major and a finance major working here. I was a marketing major. If you are smart and care about people, I can teach you about the industry.
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?
- We need to teach advisors already in the industry how to be agents of change. If we only work with clients that have $500k or more, how does the rest of the world get advice?
- We need to invite the children of our clients in right when they graduate and help them get a jumpstart on saving, paying down college debt, saving for retirement and teach them how to plan.
- We need to make the experience more relevant by teaching through example, talking about our mistakes and not placing judgement. Everyone should have access to advice.
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?
- Saving $1 is better than not saving at all. It’s okay to work your way into this.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. You shouldn’t try to do this alone
- You can have opinions and ask questions. You are the client and there is always more than one way to reach a goal
- You are going to live for a very long time so you will have to save more and work longer than the generation before you.
- The earlier you start the better it will be. There is no right answer but ask anyone older than you and they will all say they wish they would have started earlier.
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?
My father passed away when I was 18. When I reflect back on my life I find it amazing in regard to the impact he had on my life in such a short time. He taught me to work hard, to be kind and that if I was going to do something, I needed to give it my all. He empowered me as a young woman. He was very forward-thinking at a time when change was just starting. I hope I have made him proud.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My father told me “you can do anything if you work hard and treat people fairly.” I try to live within the context of these words in everything I do. As a mother, a daughter, a sister, an employer, an advisor, trainer or friend. My life has been full of challenges, many of which I never saw coming but by the grace of God I hope to do something kind for someone every day. I try to grow and learn from my mistakes. My family is my rock. I try to give back when and where I can. I try to see the good in things and I feel truly blessed.
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. 🙂
I would try to help as many people as I could to be planners. Plan for their futures, plan how they want to give back and plan for change. One thing is for sure, change will happen. Some of my plans have taken a very long time to achieve but I get there. Some of my plans took a different path than I had imagined but it is so powerful when you get to fulfill a plan.
How can our readers follow you on social media?