Practice rejection weekly. Ask for things that you don’t think you’ll get. Ask the coffee shop to give you a 10% discount. Ask for the bike shop to throw in a free helmet when you buy a new bike. Ask your employer to contribute to an IRA for you even though they don’t have a work retirement plan. The idea here is to realize that if they say no, you’ll be okay. Become good at recovering from rejection. Help your kids survive rejection frequently in order to help them become better negotiators.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberly Shappee of RBC Wealth Management.
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 attended Babson College in the early 00s, and I was lucky enough to go to South Africa and teach entrepreneurship courses and microlending with the University of Stellenbosch in South African townships during my undergraduate career. It opened my eyes in a new way to what I had learned in basic economics classes: how the lack of banks and access to capital undermines an individual’s ability to rise above their current economic station or job situation, and break out of the cycle of poverty.
Without any banking institutions, our University-sponsored microloans via our business plan competitions made a huge difference in these communities and helped people, especially the women, create work for themselves, and employ others.
I thought I might stay forever in South Africa until my father pointed out that people in the United States also need help with banking and building their businesses. I came home and became a founding partner and co-owner in a private business bank called Bank of Montana, the first of its kind in our state.
We opened our doors in 2007. I was the youngest female Senior Credit Officer in the country, and I helped steer the helm of one of the most successful private banks in the United States during the recession (as measured by safety and soundness, and also profit margins). During my tenure as Senior Credit Officer there, we had zero loan loss and we were rated among the safest banks in America.
At Bank of Montana, I heard many stories about Americans, including women, who were confused about their adjustable rate loans at other institutions. That led me to host a free gathering at my house for women on the basics of personal financial management.
This gathering turned into a four-week free class for women about managing money. I wrote the content, and covered budgeting, credit scores, car insurance, shopping for cars, buying a home, the difference between saving and investing, the basics of a work-sponsored retirement plan, how IRAs work, and basic investment semantics: expense ratios, industry jargon to be aware of, the difference between a stock and a bond, asset allocation, and diversification.
Within a year, the Montana Governor was writing me notes around the class, and the Washington, D.C.-based Women’s Institute for Secure Retirement invited me to partner to teach more free financial education for women. Eventually, I decided to leave commercial banking and become a full time financial advisor focused on helping business owners and women clarify and achieve their financial dreams.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?
I’ve attended more than one client meeting with my male colleagues and had older male executives asking if I was my business partner’s assistant, when I was often the person facilitating the meeting or leading the particular project.
I often say that life optimization and financial optimization are different. Today, most people want both at the same time.
My favorite stories involve helping people dream up their best lives and through smart financial planning, live those lives much sooner than they might have otherwise. This involves helping people ask better questions. Truly clarifying their values and thinking through financial tradeoffs to optimize their lives.
I recently worked with a couple who were burnt out, and thought they were very far away from living the life of their dreams. We took a step back, and were able to ask bigger questions around their dream lives. It turned out their dream life was to work on projects that they were passionate about, mountain bike four days a week, not worry about their finances, pick their kids up from school, have someone else do the grocery shopping, and be able to eat out a few times a week. By working through their budget we realized that we could BUY THEM TIME now to do those things. I love the mental shift that happens for people when they realize they can invest for their future selves, save, and live the life they want now, versus delaying their dream life and “slogging” away now because they feel like they have to in order to retire later. Financial confidence makes people feel proud and strong, versus nervous, intimidated and scared.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
My passion project is the Athena Pack, a two-day women’s leadership and business event in Bozeman, Montana aimed at women from around the Rocky Mountain West. The fundamental idea is that you are the company you keep. We spend two days working with women, helping them reflect on who they spend the most time with, what their leadership roles are in their families and communities, and strategize with them on how to become better leaders and financial managers in order to live their best lives. We encourage more women to run for elected office, and offer direct ways to close the pay gap. Women leave Athena with better skills to ask for the salary they deserve, negotiate pay, mentor other women, and improve overall financial literacy.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Peter Drucker said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I love working at RBC Wealth Management because in my experience, the company walks the walk in terms of an innovative, kind, women-friendly culture. As a Financial Advisor at RBC Wealth Management, I have a business partner and a team to support my work. I recently asked RBC if they would consider supporting and partnering with me on the Athena Pack, and they didn’t hesitate to send three of our top female executives and experts to co-present with me at the event.
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 love the James Baldwin line, “Your crown has been bought and paid for, all you have to do is put it on.”
So many women, and men, who came before us have fought long and hard for women’s rights and greater opportunity in the workplace. For me, the cultural shift and perception around my husband being willing to support me in my career as the primary breadwinner is huge. I love that our community and his workplace is so supportive of his role as a dad and spouse, and allows him more flexibility to help care for our three children than earlier generations of men.
Wall Street and finance as an industry win when more women are involved in these careers — the data is very clear on that. Women are typically excellent financial managers and leaders.
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?
Individuals need to be willing to speak up, and be brave often, in moments of micro-discrimination or cultural normalization of a workplace anything less than friendly to women, particularly toward women of color who often experience racism in addition to sexism at work. I encounter inappropriate comments — meant as jokes — quite frequently in my work. Each of those moments is a chance to stand up and remind others what is appropriate and helpful, versus what can be hurtful, intimidating, and repressive.
When I had my third child recently, I had a client who told me multiple times that she would quit/leave/fire me if I chose to have this child. She sent me articles from newspapers saying that my choice to not stay at home full-time after my baby’s birth would lead to long-term attachment disorders. This was painful and really hard for me and it often led to self-doubt for me. I had to politely hold my ground on my life choices and explain to her that I appreciated her concern for my family, but that I was choosing to work and have another child and leave it at that. I felt so lucky to have a husband, business partner, workplace, and community that was supporting me in that decision.
I’m a strong advocate for at least 12 weeks of paid parental leave. Either the government should pay for this, or individual companies, or both, because having children and parents who have the time to bond with and raise our children benefits society at large.
Companies can and should also offer more flexible work schedules so women who are mothers can be great in both important roles and not have to make the painful tradeoffs that most women continue to experience even today. I also believe, like former Secretary of State Madeline Albright said famously, that there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women. We all need to be less judgmental and more generous with one another.
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. Practice rejection weekly. Ask for things that you don’t think you’ll get. Ask the coffee shop to give you a 10% discount. Ask for the bike shop to throw in a free helmet when you buy a new bike. Ask your employer to contribute to an IRA for you even though they don’t have a work retirement plan. The idea here is to realize that if they say no, you’ll be okay. Become good at recovering from rejection. Help your kids survive rejection frequently in order to help them become better negotiators.
2. Buy a publicly-traded company’s stock, and follow that stock.
3. Start first, be an expert later. 80% of long-term financial success is often based on starting a plan or a strategy. Just start.
4. Once you have that first job, or the first good job, be slow to spend and acquire. Don’t let stuff own you and your freedom.
5. Start a money club with your friends. Talk about money. How you talk about money and wealth influences how you act. Think in terms of: “I can, I am, I do.”
6. Talk about the meaning of money with your partner well before you get married. Then talk about money in even more detail. I often help couples navigate decisions around prenuptial agreements, and if these are done well, the conversations around meaning and money can be very helpful to long-term financial success for the couple.
7. When you’re in your 20s, don’t compare yourself to people in their 30s or 40s. When you’re in your 30s, don’t expect to be in the same financial situation as someone in their 40s. Time matters.
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 parents have been incredibly patient and sound advisors throughout my life.
At one point in my career I was preparing to ask for a raise, and as I practiced my ask with my father, I explained that the problem with my receiving the raise I wanted (and deserved) was that I would then be making more than a male colleague of mine who I greatly respected and was close friends with. My father pointed out, “Well that’s his problem now isn’t it?”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Might I give two?
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
I love this line in my practice, and in helping my clients get focused on living their best lives, and I also love it when I look at my life choices and realize that what’s for me is most likely not for very many others, and the same of friends, colleagues, and other’s decisions.
“It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently that matters.” ~Tony Robbins
I am privileged in that I get to work with high performers, and I also get to work with very smart people. That being said, I also get to see how people build, protect, and often destroy and erode wealth. I see people who know a lot about finances, a lot about business, a lot about their company or line of expertise, but just because you know something, doesn’t mean you have great habits, or great systems that support your goals.
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. 🙂
Women’s agency is the single biggest issue of our coming century. I think there’s already a movement to end the pay gap between men and women. That’s a huge one in our country. Internationally, I’m most passionate about the movement to educate girls and economically empower women. To me it is the simplest way to solve the many other problems that exist.
Thank you for all of these great insights!