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“Technology and media has made it so that it’s easier to create a community and movement for change” with Julia Pham and Tyler Gallagher

There’s been this big societal and generational shift, where more and more women are getting a higher education, having kids later and participating in the labor market. Naturally, as a result, we’re seeing more women — although still not enough — coming into finance. I also think a lot of change is coming from companies […]

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There’s been this big societal and generational shift, where more and more women are getting a higher education, having kids later and participating in the labor market. Naturally, as a result, we’re seeing more women — although still not enough — coming into finance. I also think a lot of change is coming from companies and employers are realizing that women bring a level of talent and strength that companies need in order to survive in today’s diverse market. Lastly, I think technology and media has made it so that it’s easier to create a community and movement for change. Change starts at an individual level, and when that one person’s story or message gets retold, it can help inspire others.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Pham of Halbert Hargrove.

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 first got into banking, and now wealth management, through friends that I went to school with. I started not knowing what types of jobs there were for someone with my background. I majored in Economics and Sociology, so at the time — in my mind — it made sense to do something with numbers. I had a friend who did asset-based lending for a large bank and I thought, okay here’s my opportunity to work with a big player and learn all I can about different types of industries.Why not? I learned a ton and had great exposure to some really exciting deals, but something starts to happen when you stare at excel spreadsheets for too long. You go a little crazy!

I wanted to connect with more people and feel like I was doing something to help someone, versus something that felt very transactional. At that point in time, I was talking to a grad school friend who told me he could see me doing something in the private wealth management space, and so he introduced me to someone was head of fixed income for a firm down in Orange County, California. After chatting with her and eventually with the chairman of the firm, I started my career in wealth management.

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

Wow — when working with so many different clients over the years, there are so many interesting stories. My favorite recent one is of an older client in her 80s, who had been with the same husband for basically her entire adult life. She had been unhappy in her marriage for quite some time, and finally built up the courage to decide she didn’t want to continue living a life that left her unfulfilled. She’s filed for divorce and started a new life. Even though she did make her own money, this is someone who has depended on her husband to make a lot of the financial and life decisions –. She’s starting over and learning how to be completely independent, and I’m just thinking, “Yas girl, live your best life!” Gray divorce is becoming more common now with lifespans getting longer, so it’s interesting to witness those societal changes play out before your eyes.

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

Right now, I am working on contributing some pieces to different websites that I’m very excited about. I think a lot of advisors go into the business in part because they like to help educate people. Writing does just that, but you are able to reach many more people at once. In fact, I just published a piece on best practices on budgeting for a wedding that was super fun to work on, but also very impactful. I think one of the most important things to help this generation learn is the value of savings. I love writing pieces that help people to plan the best and happiest days of their lives, in an efficient and economical manner, as well as allows them to plan for the future.

There’s this funny meme that I’ve come across that says, “After 12 years of education, I still don’t know how mortgages or taxes work, but hey at least I know about the cells inside a leaf.” I chuckle every time I see this meme because I think it’s so true and exactly how a lot of people feel when they graduate from school — completely lost on how to manage “adulting”. My goal is to help people how to figure that out by writing in a way that’s relatable and practical, and that people can apply to their own lives right away.

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

It sounds a little cliché, but our culture is really what sets us apart. We like to have a good time and eat… a lot. What other financial services company can say that they’ve held a blind taste test of Del Taco and Taco Bell tacos for all its employees for fun!?

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?

There’s been this big societal and generational shift, where more and more women are getting a higher education, having kids later and participating in the labor market. Naturally, as a result, we’re seeing more women — although still not enough — coming into finance. I also think a lot of change is coming from companies and employers are realizing that women bring a level of talent and strength that companies need in order to survive in today’s diverse market. Lastly, I think technology and media has made it so that it’s easier to create a community and movement for change. Change starts at an individual level, and when that one person’s story or message gets retold, it can help inspire others.

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?

At the individual and societal level, we can continue to challenge our deeply held beliefs about how we operate the workplace and even our personal lives at home. In the past, the male was the breadwinner and the female stayed at home with the kids. More and more, we’re seeing those roles reversed, so being open-minded and accepting of that would help achieve parity.

At the company level, the first thing that can be done to achieve parity in senior positions may sound a little obvious, but simply hire women for those roles. If you want more women in your company, go out and hire more women. If you think there aren’t enough female candidates, then keep looking. Companies can also help achieve parity by implementing gender blind benefits and policies. Companies such as Etsy are starting to implement mandatory maternity and paternity leave for new parents. Being a working mom myself, having that level of support is crucial. The third thing isn’t groundbreaking but has made a big impact in my life and I know for other people is having a mentorship program or even a professional group dedicated to women supporting other women. I owe a lot of where I am today to the few people throughout my career that have known me well and believed in me.

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. Get a job — the fastest way to learn how to manage your money is to start making it.

2. Talk about finances with your parents — a lot of our beliefs about money come from how we were raised, so learn where your money values and triggers come from.

3. Listen to financial podcasts — they’re free and easy to listen to while you’re driving or at the gym.

4. Pull up different articles on your favorite websites. Many lifestyle sites or magazines will have a finance section with articles that are a quick read and easy to understand.

5. Read financial blogs — like podcasts, blogs are a fast way to learn, and also tend to be very relatable.

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’m really lucky to have worked under a great advisor after graduating from The UCI Paul Merage School of Business for grad school. Changing career paths is not an easy thing and there’s a huge learning curve, so having someone that was invested in teaching me everything he knew and the knowledge that he had gained in the 25+ years was invaluable to me. He made everyone he met feel like family and always treated people with nothing but kindness, respect, and integrity. He reminded me of Mr. Rogers, if Mr. Rogers was also an expert in investments and financial planning. You just don’t meet humans like that anymore. Seeing and being a part of that set the bar for the kind of advisor that I want to be.

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

I go through different seasons when it comes to my favorite life quotes. They really depend on what resonates with me at that moment. I wish I could say that my favorite quote at the moment was by some cool poet or writer, but it’s actually something a Soul Cycle instructor in LA said: “If it’s in front of you, then you’re ready for it.” Oftentimes we talk ourselves out of opportunities because we feel like we’re not ready, or we don’t have the right experience, education or whatever, and this quote is a simple reminder — just go for it.

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.

Wow, this is a deep question. I feel like I need to channel my inner Oprah for this. Some kind of movement that increased the level of empathy and compassion among people would be pretty incredible and would probably make a large impact. As an advisor, I could see how it could only deepen my understanding and relationship with the people I work with, and as a member of the human race, I could see it having a profound impact on how we treat each other.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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