Finance, like any other industry, has benefited from previous pioneers. Brave women through passion and dedication have broken through barriers for the next generation to follow. Women need to continue to step out, take charge and take the lead. When I was growing up, my mother owned her own business, separate from my father, and from a very young age, she always told me to “walk in like I own the place.” This piece of advice is something that’s stayed with me throughout my life, and something I’ve instilled in my daughter. Women have the ability, be confident!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Carol Wildermuth. Carol has over 30 years of experience in financial services, has founded multiple financial firms and currently serves as the President of Wildermuth Securities and Chief Financial Officer of Wildermuth Advisory. Prior to founding the companies, she supervised the Private Client Division of Lehman Brother’s Southeast Asia branch, with offices in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?
I started my undergraduate studies in engineering, which ended up being a disaster. During my first year on campus, I took an elective course in Economics and loved it! The material came naturally to me, and I quickly changed my major to Economics.
Upon graduating, I went to work at Morgan Stanley New York for a couple of years, and eventually transferred to Morgan Stanley Los Angeles, where I worked with one of the largest wealth management teams. I later accepted a position with Lehman Brothers Hong Kong where, at the tender age of twenty-nine, I was Vice President of the SE Asia Private Client Division.
After leaving Hong Kong, I moved back to the United States to open the first financial service company I started with my husband, Daniel. Since then we’ve started six companies in the financial services industry, all with a commitment to serving the client first.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?
Working in Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to work with and manage a diverse group of people. One of the unique things about the Hong Kong stock exchange is that it shuts down for a lunch break. Once, in an effort to create good Feng shui, some of the staff suggested a pig should be slaughtered during a lunch break. While a cultural norm to some, many of the staff members found it offensive and it became a contentious issue. After much discussion, we determined that a previously slaughtered and cooked pig could be brought into the office during the lunch break to address the Feng shui while others could take their lunch break at nearby cafes. Fortunately, it appeased everyone and the issue of slaughtering an animal in the office didn’t arise again.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m excited about the educational materials we’re developing around interval funds and how they’re changing the culture of investing. We want to be a go-to resource for our investors, and part of that is not only introducing them to new products but ensuring they’re educated around those products. We want to provide advisors with the resources they need to better their client’s future returns. We want them to know how and why they should be using the products. What’s most exciting about being that resource is that we continue to look for what’s on the cutting edge. We’re always in search of what’s next so that advisors can make the leap forward.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We believe we are the champions of individual investors and always trying to bring advanced portfolio management and allocations to individuals that may not have previously been available. Using strategies similar to Endowments, we provide directions on how to better diversify performance assets away from solely U.S. stocks into a combination of assets with low correlation with each other. The goal of the endowment model strategy is to increase portfolio performance while lowering portfolio volatility.
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?
Finance like any other industry has benefited from previous pioneers. Brave women through passion and dedication have broken through barriers for the next generation to follow. Women need to continue to step out, take charge and take the lead. When I was growing up, my mother owned her own business, separate from my father, and from a very young age, she always told me to “walk in like I own the place.” This piece of advice is something that’s stayed with me throughout my life, and something I’ve instilled in my daughter. Women have the ability, be confident!
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?
· As individuals, we simply need to keep pushing, striving and working hard. To get our fair share of opportunities, we need to fight for them and take appropriate risks. We can’t be afraid to step out of our comfort zone.
· As companies, we need to continue to offer resources and open doors for whoever has the talent and ambition to walk through them. When we’re hiring, we’re looking for raw talent and a drive to succeed — not your gender.
· As a society we need to have a more conscious awareness of the benefits to women-lead organizations. Women are able to bring different perspectives that should be valued. As my husband and business partner says, whenever there is a female involved, things seem to go a little bit better.
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. “Go Long” by opening an investment account. Don’t worry about the size of the account, just open one! When you own investments, you’ll naturally pay more attention to the news and start to learn and understand how the market works.
2. Find someone who is financially successful and ask questions. Most people are very happy to share and provide wisdom that you can act on easily.
3. Save 10% of your income from the day you start your first job.
4. Every time you receive a raise, take 50% and add to your savings. Use other 50% for lifestyle.
5. Everyone should take a basic economics course in high school and/or college.
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 grateful to my husband, business partner and life partner, Daniel Wildermuth, who has always encouraged and supported me. In my corporate career, he always told me that I could accomplish the task in front of me and to strive for the next level or promotion. Business-wise, we are truly partners in all aspects of growing the companies and making an impact. As partners in life, there were many times that we played rock/paper/scissors to see who would pick up the kids or stop at the grocery store!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right” Henry Ford.
When I first got married to Daniel, the guests at our reception would ask — where will you be in the next five years? We were young and didn’t know what we had in front of us, but we told them we wanted to move to Hong Kong. We didn’t know how we’d do it but knew that’s where we wanted to be. Over the next five years, we worked our way up and eventually made our dream a reality. The point being, you don’t have to know how to get where you want, just get there.
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.
Three qualities we’ve tried to instill in our children are personal responsibility, continual learning and persistent self-betterment. Often times, we taught these lessons at the family dinner table. When my son failed his first test, it wasn’t about the bad grade, it was about why he failed and what he had to do next time to get a better grade. We also didn’t just ask our children about their day, but told them about our days. So from an early age, they realized the work and struggle that goes into success, which takes dedication and effort through many little improvements.
Thank you for all of these great insights!