Meet The Female Leaders Of Finance: “We need to be less concerned about the boxes that aren’t being checked and more about the boxes that might not even be listed with unique qualifications an individual brings to the role.” with Andrea McGrew and Tyler Gallagher

We need to hold ourselves responsible for the biases we all have and decide that under-represented people have not only a right to have a seat at the table, but actually raise the caliber of the table itself. We are missing out by not including people of different genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, and experiences. When interviewing […]

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We need to hold ourselves responsible for the biases we all have and decide that under-represented people have not only a right to have a seat at the table, but actually raise the caliber of the table itself. We are missing out by not including people of different genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, and experiences. When interviewing candidates, we need to be less concerned about the boxes that aren’t being checked and more about the boxes that might not even be listed with unique qualifications an individual brings to the role.

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea McGrew, USA Financial Chief Compliance Officer/Chief Legal Officer. Andrea started working for USA Financial directly out of law school in 2004. Initially, she reviewed advertising exclusively, but quickly began taking on more compliance tasks. In 2006, Andrea was named USA Financial Securities’ chief compliance officer. As an undergraduate — first at Texas A&M University and then Michigan State University — Andrea studied broadcast journalism. She worked for Fox Sports Detroit during college and after graduation, turned down an on-air reporter position for a Lansing news station to pursue her legal education at Michigan State University College of Law. During law school, Andrea focused on business and securities law, competing in securities-related moot court competitions in front of some of the country’s most renowned judges. She also worked as a law clerk for the Michigan Senate Majority Policy Office and the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation. Andrea focuses on creating effective compliance procedures that are relatable. She is responsible for supervising all aspects of USA Financial’s compliance structure, including but not limited to, transaction suitability, regulatory examinations and inquiries, advertising and correspondence, conflict resolution, and general compliance troubleshooting. Andrea prides herself on developing relationships with USA Financial’s advisers and clients, and breaking down antiquated compliance stereotypes. She also enjoys being part of a team and cultivating USA Financial’s team-centric environment. Andrea was an All-American swimmer who attended both Texas A&M University and Michigan State University on full-ride scholarships. She swam butterfly and sprint freestyle and was named to the Big Ten All-Stars team. Outside of work, Andrea enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and working out.

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

Like many of the amazing women I’ve worked with in this industry, this was not my intended career path. (I hope that the change we’re promoting will make it so that more women join our industry with intention and purposely seek out these amazing and rewarding careers.).

As for me, landing in the securities industry was serendipity. I majored in broadcast journalism and during my senior year of college, I started working on-air for a local Fox Sports show, Spartan Sports Zone. Upon graduation I had a decision to make: accept an on-air reporter position with a Lansing news station or go to law school. I chose law school because having been a scholarship swimmer at both Texas A&M and Michigan State University, I thought it would be fun to work as a sports agent. But that all changed during my first year of Moot Court. I was placed on a team representing MSU at the Kaufman Securities Law Moot Court Competition held at Fordham University. Initially, I was unhappy with this decision; I incorrectly assumed that I was going to be bored to tears. Much to my surprise, I found the issues and the supporting law fascinating, complex, and satisfyingly salacious. Our team did well, and I was hooked. I competed in the Kaufman competition again the following year and in between, took every securities- and corporate-law course MSU offered. My business and securities professors, including Cliff Haley, Daniel Barnhizer, Elliot Spoon, and Hugh Makens challenged me and helped me see the impact our industry makes at the corporate and investor levels.

I graduated from MSU Law in 2004 and immediately started working as in-house counsel for USA Financial. I’ve been here ever since and I can honestly say that even after 15 years, I’m always learning, growing, and finding new challenges to overcome. This industry is complex, fast moving, and ever changing. And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

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

I try to find the funny in each day — I love to laugh and I seek it out whenever and wherever I can. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by so many funny people who I can always count on for a good laugh. I have some really amusing stories but, sadly, most of them are not fit to print.

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

Yes! We recently launched an initiative, UnNiched, aimed at helping promote women advisers and increasing information and services provided to women investors. We also hope that UnNiched will help male advisers create more meaningful and long-lasting relationships with their female colleagues and clients.

I think the more awareness we have around the issues plaguing women advisers and investors, the better we can address their needs in a meaningful way — a way that actually helps them meet their objectives. Women are perfectly suited for the financial services industry because this business is not defined by an adviser’s gender. It’s defined by intellectual strength, resiliency, and ability to form and cultivate relationships. All of which make women, by and large, perfectly suited for this industry. And statistics show that confidence issues plague women on a larger scale than men — and this necessarily includes female advisers and investors. I want to foster and create support communities for women in our industry so that they have a support network that builds confidence, rallies around common experience, and helps all of us be the best that we can be.

Naturally, there is discourse. There are voices wondering whether these types of initiatives are needed. And I respond with a resounding, “YES. They are.” Quite honestly, the simple fact that I get asked that question tells me that these types of initiatives are needed. Since launching UnNiched, I have been amazed by the number of women who have raised their hands to share their stories and volunteer to join the conversation. And I have heard from men who want to support their female colleagues and investors and recognize the importance and value in doing so. These men are unbelievably important to advancing change because we, as women, can wave our flag and advocate for ourselves, but when we’re not at the table or in the room, we need these men to advocate for us. I’m so thankful to the male advisers and professionals who have volunteered to carry the flag, as well.

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

There’s a significant amount of homogeny in our industry. Not in a bad way; it’s simply a byproduct of the services and features that we offer. But just because everyone plays in a similar sandbox doesn’t mean that there aren’t differentiators.

At USA Financial, relationships are number one. Our advisers aren’t just a number. And because our company has so many diversified services and subsidiaries, each adviser’s experience ends up feeling like it was customized just for them, their business, and their unique goals. Also, one of my main objectives throughout my tenure at USA Financial has been to upend the antiquated idea that advisers and compliance are adversaries. It doesn’t have to be that way. Too often these days, “disagreement” becomes synonymous with “dislike.” Before an adviser joins USA Financial, I clearly explain that we will not always agree, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get along. My team makes a point to communicate with respect and understanding that we’re building partnerships not partisanships.

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 we’ve made significant strides toward making our industry more inclusive, but there’s still work to be done. Meaningful change can be slow and arduous. But it’s worth it. In my opinion, there have been many catalysts that have sparked progress. Social movements, in general, can move the needle and start important conversations that can change minds and create opportunities.

It’s also not lost on me all of the women who paved the way in a much-less accepting environment than we’re in today. Everyone’s heard about the “wolf of wall street.” But amid all of that, we can’t forget that there was also the Lone Wolf of Wall Street: the woman who stood alone, defied convention, climbed the barriers intentionally placed in her way, and pursued excellence even when no one else in the room looked like her. I’m incredibly grateful for their grit and perseverance and for being the tip of the sword.

I also think that moral courage by many of our male counterparts is a big factor. I applaud the male veterans of our industry who didn’t continue discriminatory hiring practices just because it’s how it was always done. The men who recognize that a woman of color can bring the same intellect, drive, and skills to the table as a white man. Marginalized groups don’t always get offered a seat at the table. It’s so important and refreshing when our male colleagues offer the seat and value contribution, debate, rhetoric, and discussion regardless of whether it comes from a man or a woman.

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?

I think the various legislations that are being proposed to force companies to place women in c-suite positions is interesting and brings up a very important and healthy debate about earning a spot based on merit. But there are so many talented women and minorities who are passed over for positions that they could do and do well.

Promoting individuals to change their biases is hard. It’s one of the reasons I also applaud my profession: lawyers are the salespeople of ideas. Imagine how hard it would be to change your mind on a controversial topic. People get entrenched and they cling to their opinion so it can be hard to sway someone to think or respond in a different way. So, on an individual basis, I would challenge everyone to be more openminded. Realize that you approach a problem or a situation through the lens of your experience leading up to that moment. Someone else may view that same situation completely differently based on their lens. Don’t be afraid to analyze and reassess once you’ve had a chance to look at the facts and talk to others who have had different experiences than you.

We need to hold ourselves responsible for the biases we all have and decide that under-represented people have not only a right to have a seat at the table, but actually raise the caliber of the table itself. We are missing out by not including people of different genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, and experiences. When interviewing candidates, we need to be less concerned about the boxes that aren’t being checked and more about the boxes that might not even be listed with unique qualifications an individual brings to the role.

On the corporate level, I would encourage companies to embrace mentorship programs for underrepresented groups. If you see someone like you doing the things you didn’t know were possible, you’re more likely to see those things as options for you, too. And if there are women in senior positions, I encourage those women to support all of the women in the organization.

I think society is doing the work that will promote the change in people’s minds and hearts which will then lead to corporate change.

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.

My husband and I think very differently on many topics. When it comes to financial literacy, he likes to break things down in terms of “needs vs. wants.” For me, it’s not that easy. I enjoy being financially responsible, but I also believe that life isn’t just about meeting needs. And I know I wouldn’t feel fulfilled if I only tried to meet my financial needs while largely ignoring my financial wants. Especially because now that I’m a mother, most of my financial “wants” center around creating the life experiences I envision for my kids. But here are five non-intuitive (I think) pieces of advice regarding financial literacy that I would pass on to my kids:

First, know yourself and your objectives. While it might seem intuitive, I actually don’t think it is for many people. Knowing yourself and what you want to accomplish with your money is a very personal journal. What are your needs and what are your wants? Make a plan so that you can check off the needs while also leaving room for the wants. Otherwise, you’ll get discouraged.

Second, find a skilled financial adviser to help you with your plan at an early age. My parents had a financial adviser from the time they were in their early 20s and that was when there was much less awareness around preparing for retirement and as investors, the public was by and large less savvy than they are now due to limited news outlets, absence of social media, and fewer investment options. Mom and Dad were so smart to seek out professional advice and that has always stuck with me. Now, finding myself working in this industry, I realize even more so how important it is for younger investors to find a financial adviser. This resonates with me not only because I’m in this industry, but because studies have suggested that financial literacy education doesn’t work because the education is not close enough in time to the knowledge point. For example, we can teach high schoolers all about mortgages, but if they don’t buy their first homes for 10 years, they’ll remember very little. Case and point: if you ask a good portion of the population to recite the order of operations for complex math problems, you’d probably see a lot of people frantically turning to Google, Siri, or Alexa. I believe that the same applies to education designed around financial decisions. It becomes an unpracticed skill that’s applied to a complex and ever-evolving industry. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t educate people on basic financial literacy; I think we should. But younger investors should seek out a qualified financial professional who can connect them with resources assistance.

Third, try to take an unemotional approach to investing. It’s hard to do but creating emotional attachments to certain companies or products can potentially lead to unwise decisions. Sometimes in life you need to follow your heart; other times you need to follow your head. When it comes to investing, follow your head. If you’re not sure how to do this, look for a financial adviser who has access to investment advisers whose strategies attempt to make investing decisions practical, not personal.

Fourth, edit the things you let into your life and your heart. You are not your salary and if you’re fortunate enough to be in a position where your salary increases over time, do not fall into the trap of thinking that you need to keep raising the bar on how you live. Be grateful for what you have and use your resources to live a life rich in experiences. Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

Fifth, and finally, my dear child: please do not stop at every credit-card-offer stand you pass on your college campus. Establishing credit is great and you should do it, as long as you’re smart about it. There’s a price to pay for opening every credit card thrown your way. Dad and I will be happy to help you find a card that works for you before you head to college. And if you ever find yourself tempted by the lure of a free t-shirt in exchange for filling out a credit card application, once again, walk away, pick up the phone, and call me or your dad…we can send you more t-shirts if that’s what you need.

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?

There are so (so, so, so) many people in my life who have influenced me and shaped me into the person I am today and the lawyer/executive that I’m proud to be. This could end up sounding like an Oscars acceptance speech.

Obviously, my parents. Growing up, I never had any idea that the world expected different things for me or placed limitations on me because of my gender. My parents were blind to gender — we could be or do whatever we set our minds to as long as we showed up and worked hard. I am so incredibly grateful for that foundational experience because it has made me less willing to turn a blind eye to stereotyping.

My children. I literally wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. You change once you become a parent and I’m a different person now than I was 7 years ago thanks to the littlest people in my life who have made the biggest impact on me. They have taught me how to be patient in the face of incredible frustration. They have unknowingly honed my focus because it’s my mission to make the most out of every moment I have to be away from them. And they’ve made me want to pursue bigger dreams; watching them navigate this world has made me realize that I want it to be everything they hope it can be — and I want to do whatever I can to make that a reality. When my son was four, he and my husband dropped me back off at work after daycare and he said to me, “You have to go to work and save people, right mommy?” It stopped me in my tracks. And in that moment, I wanted to be the person my sweet boy thought I was. I’m not a doctor, nurse, soldier, or first responder; I don’t literally save lives. But I wanted to do what I could so that I could get closer to answering yes to his question. Yes, I save investors from people intent on harming their hard-earned savings. Yes, I save people from fraudsters who try to steal from them. And yes, I save advisers from making decisions that will negatively impact them or their clients. But I still want to do more. My kids make me want to be better and do better.

My husband. I’m lucky enough to have found a partner in every sense of the word — we live, work, and parent together. Working with my spouse has been such a gift. Watching my husband work is incredibly inspiring. He’s brilliant, intuitive, caring, practical, and forward-thinking. He’s my sounding board and he makes me laugh — belly laughs that bring tears to my eyes and make me laugh again and again whenever I recall what he said. Laughing is my favorite thing and my life would be filled with so much less laughter if my husband wasn’t in it. Just knowing he’s sitting in his office down the hall gives me a great sense of confidence and comfort as I go about making my own day-to-day decisions. In many ways we are polar opposites, but because of that we push each other beyond our comfort zones. And that’s a beautiful thing.

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

I’m fortunate to have two very wise parents who have passed along many valuable life-lesson quotes. The first is from my dad and, as far as I know, it’s a William O. Stewart original: “Be it big or be it small, do it right or not at all.” (Extra points to dad for making it rhyme!) To me, its genius lies in its simplicity. It encompasses all of the things I strive to do and teach my own children:

· Work hard.

· Always show up and do your best.

· Shortcuts are not the path to success.

· Even things that seem small matter. Your work and your relationships are your legacy even if they don’t seem monumental, they deserve to be done well and with the same focus and attention you would apply to the big things.

My other favorite life lesson that has served me well, especially in business, came from my mom. Even before email was a thing and certainly well before social media, she always told me, “Never put in print something you wouldn’t want read aloud in a public square.” I have followed her advice and to this day, I have never had a moment where I’m panicked because I sent an email to the wrong person or said something embarrassing. I have never felt unkind in my words. And even when I’ve had to send hard-nosed emails or deliver bad news, following my mom’s advice has always ensured that I do it respectfully and with decency and kindness.

And that brings me to my last life lesson quote that is so applicable to USA Financial’s UnNiched initiative. This one also comes from my mom: “Be kind. You never know what someone else goes home to or has to deal with.” We’re all fighting battles that can wear us down. We’re all struggling with adversities. We need more kindness. We need to get to know each other and try to understand our unique perspectives before we judge. And we need to use basic human decency and kindness. Let’s debate…respectfully. It’s healthy to listen to other viewpoints and it’s ok if someone disagrees with you. That doesn’t make them a bad person and it doesn’t make your views any less valuable. But we need to take the time to understand other peoples’ journeys because their journey shaped and validated their views. We can all learn from each other if we’re willing to listen.

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’m so fortunate to have been able to start UnNiched. Is UnNiched considered a “movement?” I don’t know, but I do know that we’re doing what we can to tackle the ideas of gender equality among financial advisers and gender parity for investors. That’s a powerful thing in my opinion and I commend the bold and brave women and men who have joined the UnNiched conversation and have supported the initiative — they’re the change makers. They’ve raised their voices, told their stories, and encouraged ongoing conversation. Hopefully, one day, UnNiched will be described as a movement. For now, I’m happy to be doing my small part to shine a spotlight on all of the incredible women in the financial services industry.

Thank you for joining us!

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 United Arab Emirates 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. Prior to founding Regal Assets, Tyler worked for a Microsoft startup led by legendary tech giant Karl Jacob who was an executive at Microsoft, and an original Facebook board member.

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