We need to stop seeing womens’ different roles outside the office as a downside. Women are inherently caregivers and are often tasked with taking care of children and their ailing parents. If men need to take a step back for whatever reason, it’s often not viewed the same way as when women do the same thing. Women are still penalized for this. But the fact is that you can come back from that time away reinvigorated. It shouldn’t diminish your value to your employer. In fact, studies have shown that sabbaticals can positively impact productivity.
As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laurie Marchel, the founder and CEO of RoboWholesaler.com, a free platform for financial advisors that aggregates fund fact sheets and wholesaler information for the top 10 performing equity and fixed income mutual funds in dozens of categories, ranked only by performance and updated in real time. The idea for her company was sparked by the decades Laurie spent in the financial advisory world. She’s served on the broker-dealer side with A.G. Edwards and Edward Jones and on the asset management side with Russell Investments, BNY Mellon/Dreyfus and Invesco. Along with a group of fellow stepmoms, Laurie authored The Stepmoms’ Club, a guide for women in blended families. (Written under the pen name Kendall Rose.) Upon its publication in 2018, the book was listed №1 in Stepparenting & Blended Families on Amazon.
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 came out of college thinking I was going to go into PR. My aunt, however, suggested that I think about going into financial services. I knew nothing about the industry, but I was intrigued, so I went on an interview anyway just to see what it was all about. When I saw what was happening on the trading floor and the positive energy, I found it electrifying and I knew a career in financial services was something I wanted to pursue.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?
When I went on that first interview, there were two buttons to push on the elevator. One said “fixed income” and the other said “equities.” All I knew was that I was going to the high-yield bond desk to meet with the department head. I had a 50/50 shot of getting it right. I literally sat in the elevator and did an analysis and went with the fixed income button. When the elevator door opened, the manager was waiting there for me and said “Oh, you hit the right button.” To this day, I think it was part of the test.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m working on several projects, not just RoboWholesaler, in an attempt to drive the wealth-management industry into the digital world and give advisors’ greater DIY access to the information they need to serve their clients. One example is that we’re working to build private-label versions of RoboWholesaler that would allow firms and advisors to customize their own versions of the site.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
A wholesaler was recently in a broker’s office discussing a mutual fund. The advisor asked a question about it, and the wholesaler didn’t know the answer off the top of his head. The broker pulled the information up on RoboWholesaler.com within a matter of seconds. She was able to print the information off of her mobile device right then and there. Having that information so easily accessible not only helped the wholesaler but also augmented the relationship between the wholesaler and the financial advisor.
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?
Although it’s difficult to point toward one particular catalyst, the industry is indeed changing and evolving just as the world is evolving. Women are putting themselves out there and taking chances and interviewing for those roles. The result is that females are now in more prominent roles than they were a decade ago, when it was rare to see a woman in a top leadership position. The number of women in universities is outpacing men, and you’re seeing financial services start to catch up or at least realize that the industry needs to mirror what is occurring in the world.
Women today control the majority of wealth in the U.S., based on divorce and the generational movement of inheritance. So women are not only controlling a lot of money but we also know that they like to work with other women. To retain more women in the industry, companies are starting to be more open about flexible working arrangements or telecommuting. Companies are realizing that individuals don’t have to be in the office to be productive.
In comparison, a decade ago a friend was at a prominent financial services firm and cut her days to four 10-hour days when she had her first child. This arrangement was approved, but they told her that her career there was over and she would never get promoted. That kind of thing hopefully doesn’t happen anymore.
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 in the financial services industry can actively reach out to younger women to mentor. Teach younger women the ropes, share your own story and help guide them through their career. This can be done as part of internal or external training classes or by simply inviting someone out for lunch or coffee. I’ve found a lot of value in networking with local women’s groups, such as the St. Louis Women in Investments Network. No matter where you call home, there’s bound to be a similar group you can get involved in. If there’s not, start one!
Companies should be providing opportunities for women in senior leadership and executive committee roles. In 2018, California announced that public companies are now required to have at least one female director by the end of 2019. That’s a step in the right direction, and maybe other states will follow. Regardless of what is legally mandated, however, women are equally competent for these positions and absolutely deserve to have a meaningful role within topline decision-making groups. The key there is meaningful — women should not be added to the team merely as window dressing or to check a box.
In society, we need to see an end to the big media splash whenever a company hires its first female director or other top-level positions. If that candidate has the skill for that role, why is it a big deal that she is the first woman? Take Penny Pennington’s promotion to head of Edward Jones in 2018. Every story about her promotion pointed out the fact that she was the first woman in the role. That needs to end.
Finally, we need to stop seeing women’s different roles outside the office as a downside. Women are inherently caregivers and are often tasked with taking care of children and their ailing parents. If men need to take a step back for whatever reason, it’s often not viewed the same way as when women do the same thing. Women are still penalized for this. But the fact is that you can come back from that time away reinvigorated. It shouldn’t diminish your value to your employer. In fact, studies have shown that sabbaticals can positively impact productivity.
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? Please give a story or example for each.
First, read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Get the Skimm app. If you’re in the industry, sign up for Barron’s and financial trade magazines and publications.
Second, start investing as soon as you can and actually read the financial statements you receive because knowledge is power. The best way to learn is by being in it. The best thing for investing is time, so sign up for your 401K as soon as you get a job and start a college fund as soon as you have children, even if you’re just putting aside small amounts each month. Talk to your financial advisor to make sure you really understand what you’re investing in.
Third, avoid debt as much as possible and when it’s not possible, start paying it off right away. For instance, Suze Orman, a personal finance expert, suggests that you start paying off your student loans while you’re still in college. Get that part-time job and start chipping away at it.
Fourth, use your network and take advantage of the resources provided. I was lucky when I started my career. My boss sat me down and helped me fill out all my forms, suggesting that I max my 401K out. If your family has a financial advisor, go talk to them. Or use your company’s HR department. They are there to help you and may even have financial advisors they’re affiliated with that they can recommend. The bottom line is don’t blindly fill out your 401K and other financial forms — ask questions.
Finally, know what you’re spending and your dollar cost average. Sites like Mint.com can monitor your spending and help you know what number you’re working with each month. Too often I hear kids talk about how much they’re making, but that’s not the actual net income that they have to work with — they’ve never been taught personal finance.
Understanding personal finance is important. Use your parents, other family members, a mentor or whatever other resources are available to you to get educated.
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 aunt helped me more than anyone. She provided lots of guidance throughout my career and encouraged me to find other mentors as well.
Deb Ramsey, the president of a mutual fund company, was another major influence. She mentored me after my aunt retired. I specifically remember when I was in a national accounts role working with many companies, the head of the department left, leaving the role open. I knew I had to either try for that role or have someone else in that role over me. I wasn’t 100% sure whether it was a role I wanted or felt I could execute successfully, but Deb sat me down and we had a discussion about the necessary qualifications for that position and my vision for the role. She wasn’t necessarily saying the position was mine, but it was an exploratory conversation about the role and where there could be more collaboration across the organization. Afterward, she said, “You just articulated exactly what you can bring to this role.” I went on to become the head of national accounts and corporate event planning.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Alone we do so little, together we can do so much,” by Hellen Keller. My mantra has always been that we’re in this together and we work as a team. When I became the head of national accounts and corporate event planning, I ended up bringing a different level of value to not only the role but also the corporation. I’ve seen over and over again throughout my career how a team collaborating is so much more powerful than any one individual.
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’d like to pull the industry forward so that the financial services industry isn’t always lagging behind other industries. We need more diverse leaders in wealth management, we need a more diverse advisor population, we need to communicate with clients in a way that better mirrors the innovations in social media and news media, we need to provide greater access to investment solutions to all income levels and socioeconomic backgrounds, and much more. I’d like to see innovators working in this industry to help drive it forward rather than fearing the inevitable change that comes with progress.
Thank you for all of these great insights!