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“These pioneering ladies keep changing the landscape.” with Chrissy Lee and Tyler Gallagher

More and more women are coming into the financial industry space and are finding their footing. I think the tide is changing. As more women attain higher education and continue to rise up in every industry, the need for female advisors becomes much more evident. We are beginning to notice and acknowledge the responsibility that […]

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More and more women are coming into the financial industry space and are finding their footing. I think the tide is changing. As more women attain higher education and continue to rise up in every industry, the need for female advisors becomes much more evident. We are beginning to notice and acknowledge the responsibility that women hold regarding finances in the home. Women want more choices with their finances and the option to work with both female and male advisors. I think that has forced our industry to search for more women who can fill this expanding need. Women are continuing to push into industries that have been predominately male heavy, and these pioneering ladies keep changing the landscape. We are raising up generations of women that believe in change and have the confidence to break barriers, and that has created interest for women to come into the financial industry.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Chrissy Lee, Co-President and Chief Operating Officer of Kalos Financial.


Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?

I have been passionate about the finance industry since high school when I first started hearing about the stock market from my social studies teacher, Mr. Stevens. Mr. Stevens was a savvy investor who would research stocks and trade on his accounts and share his experiences with his students. I was blown away by the process and research, and how people were growing wealth through investing. I started working for a company that focused on fixed businesses (annuities, insurance, ie.) to get my feet wet, but my goal was always to move further into the securities side of the business.

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

I can definitely say that my experience at Kalos has been widespread. At the beginning of my career, we were a much smaller broker-dealer, and I was the IT/AV person for our national conference at one point. Bear in mind, I have never worked with AV equipment. Prior to the addition of ‘IT/AV’ job title, our CEO Daniel Wildermuth was the person in charge, so needless to say, I was pretty nervous filling his shoes. I had about a two-hour training session on how to mute lines, turn mics on, queue up presentations, ie. In between my AV duties, I was also giving a presentation as the Head of Operations!

To remember what I had to do during the conference, I put strips of masking tape with instructions on the AV system, but when we got to the hotel the day-of, I realized someone removed all of my masking tape strips.

How did I do? Well, let’s put it this way — I was only in charge of AV duties for that one conference before it moved on to another person! I accidentally muted our CCO in the middle of his presentation, I turned on the wrong mics at the wrong time, and I might have put up the wrong presentation for a speaker.

They say everyone has a unique ability. AV was not one of mine, but I wanted to help in whatever way the company needed me, and I did try my best!

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

I am working on developing a completely electronic processing system to help our investors, our advisors, and our back office. Our industry is not as advanced as it needs to be when it comes to e-processing and e-signatures. There are still investments that require wet signature and original paperwork, which I find to be inefficient. We file our taxes, and even sign mortgage paperwork electronically, so I find it perplexing that in our industry, we still run into issues. We are currently working with a company that brings e-processing/e-signature together very efficiently, from gathering documents for investors to sign electronically, to getting all forms submitted to the back office for final processing. We also created our forms to pick up on sections that need to be completed before submission, which helps reduce NIGOs. We think this is of great value for clients because it creates a streamlined process to have systems in place that captures NIGOs by creating alerts for clients, advisors, and the home office as to where the paperwork stands. Clients are no longer tied to hard copies that can easily get lost in the mail, making the entire process much quicker. Investors want to have information and documents easily available at their fingertips, and we believe this technology will help drive efficiency through easy access.

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

At Kalos, the driving force has always been innovation. It starts with our founders, Carol and Daniel Wildermuth, who have always been driven by ideas and expanding the offerings that are available in our industry. We do not see ourselves as a broker-dealer, but rather, a financial solutions firm. All of us in leadership at Kalos put a lot of emphasis on helping our advisors grow so that they can be helpful to their clients. We hold training sessions and are available as a resource to our advisors as they expand their business. We provide very sophisticated solutions using practices and products that are commonly utilized by institutions and endowments. We make it a priority to have a close relationship with our advisors because that puts us in a great position to help them when they have a need, whether they are expanding their business through mergers, offerings or even succession planning — our leadership team is right there with the advisors to guide and support them through their endeavors.

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?

More and more women are coming into the financial industry space and are finding their footing. I think the tide is changing. As more women attain higher education and continue to rise up in every industry, the need for female advisors becomes much more evident. We are beginning to notice and acknowledge the responsibility that women hold regarding finances in the home. Women want more choices with their finances and the option to work with both female and male advisors. I think that has forced our industry to search for more women who can fill this expanding need. Women are continuing to push into industries that have been predominately male heavy, and these pioneering ladies keep changing the landscape. We are raising up generations of women that believe in change and have the confidence to break barriers, and that has created interest for women to come into the financial industry.

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?

Collectively, we need to create better ecosystems for women to learn and grow into roles they may not have been considered for in the past. And as women, we need to help each other and create forums designed for women to coach one another. There is one that I am involved in through IPA (Institute for Portfolio Alternatives) where they have a specific forum designed for women executives.

Within companies, we need to implement management training programs that empower up-and-coming female employees to take on various positions of the firm with the intent to grow them into a management position.

Individually, as women, we need to have the confidence to start pursuing positions that have upward mobility, and not wait for our chance or wait to be noticed. There needs to be a concerted effort on our own part to forge our own path.

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.

· Open up a brokerage account and start investing! My daughter has a brokerage account, which has really fueled her interest in understanding the market and what investing means. Nothing beats personal experience!

· Get on earnings calls with companies and start understanding the language, the management of the companies.

· Ask a financial firm if you can come in and interview key employees. Come prepared with good questions!

· Start listening to financial advisors that are featured on the news.

· Get an app on your phone that tracks your investments and gives you key information.

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 four people that absolutely helped me achieve success. One is my faith in God and everything that He has taught me about perseverance, patience, and hard work. One is my husband, Alex who has supported me throughout my career. Alex is a very grounded person who understands that both of us have a career, and raising our children, taking care of meals and the home are equal responsibilities. He has never wavered in the thought that I could achieve whatever I put my mind to. Finally, Daniel and Carol Wildermuth, the two founders of Kalos have been tremendous resources for me. The two of them make a powerful team, and more importantly, they have been incredibly open to my ideas, thoughts, and abilities. For all the hard work I put into the company, they opened more doors and opportunities to grow. I started off at Kalos processing paperwork, and now I’m running the firm’s day- to-day operations and moving the company forward. It has been a humbling experience, but one that allows me to pay it forward by opening up doors and opportunities for others.

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

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”-Eleanor Roosevelt

I put an emphasis on what will change the world, what will bring value. When I have my mind on things that have happened, or what people are doing or saying, my mind shifts to the past and present — things I cannot change. But when I put my mind on ideas — my focus is on growth and opportunities that help people and shape the events in our lives. I want to put my focus on things outside of my life — to bring value. It is in those times that I have had my greatest “successes and accomplishments,” when it benefits others.

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 put all of my emphasis on a movement that benefits our children. We have a lot of resources and campaigns that focus on education and that is incredibly important, but what we lack is our own responsibilities as parents — to parent our children. I would inspire a movement that emphasizes our need as adults to create in our children a sense of community, social responsibility, and ownership of our own lives. Most adults I know who achieve success in their lives come from a strong family unit — one that taught them to serve others, dream big, work hard, and not to complain. This rarely comes by chance. It is a concerted effort that needs a great strategy, similar to how we run our businesses. To live a purposeful life that goes beyond your own ambitions — if that is taught early in life and shown by example, I think so much good would occur in the world.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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