There is an evolutionary change that I see has occurred in the next generation and that needs to continue. I know from my own sons and daughter that the roles of men and women in the home and work are changing. When I was working and raising children, I felt I needed to do it all. The shared responsibility at home was lacking, probably partly because of my own preconceived notions of motherhood. Now my son cooks and my daughter doesn’t, I think that is great.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sue Crotty. Sue is a Senior Vice President at Segal Marco Advisors where she is a member of the management team as well as member of The Segal Group Board of Directors. She has over 35 years of experience in investment consulting. Segal Marco Advisors is a leading, independent investment solutions firm serving more than 600 clients with combined advisory assets over $600 billion.
Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?
I graduated from college with a business degree. My first job was with the GTE Corporation, in the Treasury and Pension Fund department. That started me on a path of finance and investments. I got my MBA and moved to General Motors Treasury and Pension which were located in NY, which cemented my career in the finance world.
Can you share the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
I’m usually the only woman in the room. When I attended a business meeting at a male-only club in New York City, they brought me in through the kitchen. Recently, a charity fundraiser raffled off golf at Butler, where a woman cannot step foot on the course.
I’ve been patted on my… head, (and on other places). As recently as two months ago, I was the only woman in the boardroom with 10 men. The head of a firm said, “You can all understand what I’m talking about, even the Little Missy here.” I just started laughing out loud. I was thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me, at my age?” The rest of the men had a shocked look on their faces, as in: “Did he just say that?”
I have attended many events and been in situations that are now considered legally and morally wrong, but used to be considered acceptable. Most men in today’s generation of men in finance are different from the previous generation. It is evolutionary, and changing norms are helping. Real problems still exist, the discrimination is still there, but I can tell you from my experience that it is so much better than it was years ago. You have to recognize that things are changing in a positive direction.
Are you working on any new/exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am currently focused on two especially exciting projects. First, I’m focusing on solutions to the retirement problem in the United States by assessing how we can ensure that people will have enough savings to retire. Right now defined benefit plans, aka pensions, are under fire and closing down. And 401(k) plans are not forecasted to provide sufficient income for the next generation to retire. We need to address the problem before it becomes yet another financial burden that increases the debt of our country. Second, I’m putting my years of experience to use in helping increase diversity and the role of women in the finance field.
I have had male bosses my entire career, not a woman to be found. Every single company where I have worked has been led by a man. There just weren’t a lot of women in finance. Years ago, at conferences there used to be, on average, three women in the room. At today’s conferences it’s visually clear there are a lot more women in the business. But it’s not yet at 50%.
When it comes to finance, women are even rarer in the investment world than in banking. The Segal Group and Segal Marco Advisors are proactively working to progress women upwards into senior leadership roles in all aspects of our company. Segal Marco has a corporate governance group where initiatives such as diversity on corporate boards are an important goal. Diversity leads to success on so many levels and studies show having women and diversity in the C suite and on Boards leads to better outcomes.
What makes your company stand out? Can you share a related story?
It is rewarding to work in a field and at a company where you can truly make an impact on people’s lives. This is the reason I have had such a fruitful career. I feel very fulfilled by what I do every day. The Segal Group’s mission statement brings it home for me, that is: “trusted advisors that improve lives”. My colleagues and I focus on making sure that benefits are available for current and retired employees. We help organizations develop plans that encompass retirement funds, health, compensation, rewards and organizational structures. I get to make people’s lives better while they are working and enable them to have financial support during their retirement.
Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all-white boys club”. This has been changing recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?
More women from the current generation are finding opportunities within finance. I think Title IX, in the sports arena, way back when, provided the ability for girls to learn teamwork and leadership at an early age. There are also more female role models in in their lives: their own mothers and other strong women. My mother never worked and I didn’t know a lot of other mothers with careers, that is not the case for my daughter’s generation. The choices of working or staying home are not binary any more.
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?
a) Individuals — Women need to advocate for themselves. This issue becomes more obvious for women in the financial world. They aren’t good at asking for higher compensation or promotions. Most women feel they have to be 100% sure that they can accomplish the job before they ask for it. Men will just go for it. Guys will always ask. That has to change. At industry events for women, key topics include the need for women to improve their abilities to negotiate, and to push themselves to ask for the promotion before they think they are ready. I tell women in finance, “Just throw yourself in and learn on the job.” These women are very capable of doing the job, but have learned not to take risks. That can be unlearned.
b) Companies — I believe that in order to change the system the workplace “rules” will need to evolve to support women during their childbearing years. I had to make a lot of job sacrifices as a single Mom raising triplets. That was my choice and I don’t regret it, but it meant stalling for many years and success in leadership roles came later in my career. But I think we lose too many smart accomplished women because the workplace is not flexible enough to accommodate the needs of job and home.
c) Society — there is an evolutionary change that I see has occurred in the next generation and that needs to continue. I know from my own sons and daughter that the roles of men and women in the home and work are changing. When I was working and raising children, I felt I needed to do it all. The shared responsibility at home was lacking, probably partly because of my own preconceived notions of motherhood. Now my son cooks and my daughter doesn’t, I think that is great.
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.
1) Be inquisitive about things you see or interact with every day. For example, take Uber, Facebook and Amazon, do you know anything about their stocks? Your IPhone is made of a million components, who makes those?
2) Use common sense, the old adage if it looks too good to be true, IT IS, not probably, it is. Same goes for any investment presented to you to make a million dollars.
3) Leverage people you know and ask them questions, don’t just google, most of the search results are probably not the best advice.
4) Keep learning, but from different sources and from different viewpoints. I worry about people going to same websites giving them one point of view
5) Save, Save, Save. Our society has forgotten that half of your paycheck going to savings will make for a good cushion against all kinds of hardships. The statistics are scary on how many people live paycheck to paycheck. Obviously, many of those statistics are people that are not making enough to save, but when you have the wherewithal to put money away you should.
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 father got me interested in investments. He worked for 25 years at IBM and then became a technology analyst on Wall Street. Two of the most important things I learned from him: one, he bought several high-dividend paying, high-quality stocks in his 20s and held them for 40 years. Those stocks paid for his seven children’s college educations. Two, there was a Lucite plaque on his desk that demonstrated the progression of computer chips over 25 years. Now this was years ago and the smallest chip was bigger than a silver dollar. Now the chip running your IPhone is smaller than you can see with the naked eye. That is an example of progress, and progress always results in winners and losers and applies to investments constantly. That is why watching, learning, being inquisitive is so important. Being aware of changing trends and adapting to change has been key to my success.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You have to fail before you succeed.” 2008 was a make–or-break-it year for many in finance. While I wasn’t fired, unlike so many that year, I was running client relations for a global hedge fund and the company went under. I spent a year and an half shutting it down. It was difficult but I’ve learned so much from experiences like that.
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?
Starting financial education earlier in life. Schools don’t teach you how to balance a bank account and the basics of budgeting. It should be part of a standard high school curriculum and a core requirement in college. Who understands how much money to put into their 401(k), or how to invest it? This is something I would like to dedicate my retirement years to changing. You can get kids able to change society by getting them interested in financial concepts early on. Beyond teaching, what is a stock, what is a bond, I would love to create apps to provide for financial learning needs, or create online communities for schools to access stock clubs. Gamifying investments can get the next generation excited sooner.
Thank you for all of these great insights!