Women Leading The Finance Industry: “Women with the desire to go to work should not be seen as these ambitious creatures with cold stone hearts.” with Zhaneta Gechev and Tyler Gallagher

The biggest change needs to happen in society. Women with the desire to go to work should not be seen as these ambitious creatures with cold stone hearts. I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve heard other women bashing a mother going back to work and leaving her child in daycare. You […]

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The biggest change needs to happen in society. Women with the desire to go to work should not be seen as these ambitious creatures with cold stone hearts. I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve heard other women bashing a mother going back to work and leaving her child in daycare. You never hear someone ask that very question to the father. It is quite the opposite. If the father wants to take advantage of the paternity leave offered by his company, he is exposed to: why doesn’t your wife do that? Gender roles are changing. Society needs to change as well. If all of these components come together, we would have more women taking leadership roles and we will see that 17% rise up.

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zhaneta Gechev. Zhaneta is the founder and creator of One Stop Life Insurance, a strictly online insurance brokerage. She works with families across the US and helps them to secure the coverage they need. Zhaneta is an immigrant, who started her journey in the US when 20 years old. With determination and strong discipline, she became a college grad and successful business owner. She is a living proof to never give up on your dreams and keep on going despite the challenges.

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 am an immigrant from a small country in Europe, Bulgaria. I came to the US when I was 20 years old on a student exchange program and didn’t look back. I was young and naive, but I had a pretty good vision of how I wanted my life to be. At that time, I had literally $300 in my pocket. I am drawn to numbers. I knew how to be financially responsible and knew I wanted to pursue a carrier in the financial field. Because I was an intern at an insurance agency in Bulgaria, I interviewed with an insurance agency and started working for State Farm on a part-time basis. Not long after I became full time.

One thing was bothering me… the fact that I didn’t finish my college degree. So, I did. I was working full time and going to school full time. Even though I was in the top 10% of my class, I couldn’t qualify for any scholarship. My days were really hectic, but I knew if I quit my job, I would rely on student loans. I simply didn’t want to go that route. In 2012, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Las Vegas, Nevada.

It is funny how life doesn’t always go as planned. I had my degree in accounting but had zero doubts in my mind that I wanted to pursue a career in insurance. In 2017, I started my online insurance agency. I am currently licensed in almost 40 states and am helping families across the nation to secure the coverage they need.

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

This is a hard question to answer, simply because of the type of business I am in. Insurance is not interesting, nor amusing. I don’t have many entertaining stories.

So, I would share my biggest win: helping a family find a small insurance policy for their adult child, diagnosed with down syndrome. I was able to find her insurance when they were turned down countless times before. That feeling was priceless to me. The fulfillment I got made me feel I made a small difference in the world. It was the thing that re-confirmed that what I do matters.

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

I would just come out and say it: for many, insurance is boring and something that they don’t like to think about. Let alone life insurance. People would probably rather go to the dentist than to apply for life insurance. I’ve created a blog to help educate people on the subject and try to make the process of applying as easy as possible. I am currently working on creating a video series to outline key points. I’m personally really excited about that. If I am able to make the process easier, more people will take a second look at their financials.

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

My company is small enough to have a human touch and big enough to employ modern technology. This is my biggest advantage. Just a quick example, a lot of clients don’t want to talk to an agent. This is absolutely fine with us, we have the ability to let them self-complete their application. It is just the new normal. People want convenience and to shop or handle business at 11 pm while resting at home.

I personally enjoy talking to my clients. I am able to guide them and answer any questions they might have. I had a client who was coming to Las Vegas for her daughter’s birthday. She called me to ask about what the weather will be like and when she came, we met up for a coffee.

I believe this is what makes us unique. We understand that there are different people and we tried to address their needs and wants.

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?

Without a doubt, society is slowly changing. Women are no longer confined to the gender role of being a homemaker. We’ve realized our need for professional fulfillment and strive to build careers of our own.

I also believe that having access to more information at our fingertips, allows us to “see” all of the opportunities out there. I’m personally a member of several groups of women in leadership, where we all share our successes and motivate one another. It is extremely beneficial to be part of a community of like minded women.

Many of us read articles about successful women and how they are changing the world. We want to do the same thing. It is like right after someone watches “The Social Network” and have the immediate desire to create something.

I consider myself living proof. I was a young educated woman, who had a college degree and became a mother of 2 gorgeous little girls. Even though I love them more than words can describe, I wanted to start a business. I wanted to succeed and build a career. I also want to teach them to believe in themselves and follow their passion. I love my life and I am excited about where my business could go.

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?

Unfortunately, this statement stands true for the insurance industry as well. I believe women represent just about a third of total agency owners. Just to give you an example, last week I attended an awesome insurance event in Las Vegas (shout out to DigitalBGA for setting up). Out of 100 attendees, there were less than 10 women. I believe a lot could be done to change that.

The first change needs to happen on an individual level. Women need to stand up for themselves and pursue the career they want. I know that it is very intimidating to be in a room filled with men, talking about golf and to feel like you don’t fit. But we do fit. We need to stop thinking that we need to act like men to be accepted and just be ourselves. Women have a lot to bring to the table, but we need to free ourselves from the limitations that are holding us back.

Companies and company structure need to change as well. Employers need to wake up and see that women want to work. We are qualified and motivated to succeed, just as much as the next candidate. The biggest drawback is it our nature to be also the caregivers for our families. Many of us are taking a central role when raising our children or taking care of family members. Companies need to be more flexible about that. I am not talking about bringing your child to work, I am talking about better communication and updated family policies set in place.

And lastly, society. The biggest change needs to happen in society. Women with the desire to go to work should not be seen as these ambitious creatures with cold stone hearts. I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve heard other women bashing a mother going back to work and leaving her child in daycare. You never hear someone ask that very question to the father. It is quite the opposite. If the father wants to take advantage of the paternity leave offered by his company, he is exposed to: why doesn’t your wife do that? Gender roles are changing. Society needs to change as well.

If all of these components come together, we would have more women taking leadership roles and we will see that 17% rise up.

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.

I have 2 little girls and I am trying to financially educate them now, mind you the younger is 4.

5 non-intuitive things…. I would say that the first one is read, educate yourself — there is something about reading that makes your brain works a little differently. When you have more information, when you are educated, you can see the “bigger picture”; things are starting to take a shape. I would tell them: read, don’t just watch a video about it. Read different sources, to be able to get different points of view. We are losing our ability to critically think. This is leading us to many of the financial troubles we face as individuals, families, and country as a whole.

The second thing will be don’t follow your desires, follow your brain. Don’t buy on impulse. It is proven that it doesn’t lead to a financially sensible decision. The simplest example would be, don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. The same concept applies to car shopping, house hunting, carrier and etc.

Do your due diligence — research your options. Should you invest in that company, should you save the money for rainy days? Read the fine print and take the time to know exactly what are you signing up for. Just for fun, an insurance company created a secret sweepstakes contest and outline the rules of the contest in the insurance policy. How many of us read the papers from the insurance company: less than 5% maybe (just guessing here). Well, one woman did and won $10,000. This just comes to tell you that you need to be focused on your finances and be diligent. If you don’t do that for yourself, who will?

The fourth thing is to prioritize — people are failing here miserably. I am shocked how many times women, let’s pick on them, will choose to get their nails done over putting money towards retirement. I am not even going to address men’s spending habits and their desire to have sports cars, various toys or the latest electronics. We would not be young forever. It breaks my heart when a client calls for insurance and the only income they rely on is the social security benefit. This has to stop. It is fine if you don’t have it in you to create a financial budget. Not everyone is obsessed with numbers like I am. In that case, hire someone to do that for you, or get an app for it. Whatever you decide to do, you need to prioritize: bills, retirement, savings for a rainy day, essential and entertainment is last.

The last thing is don’t have the money, don’t buy — it is as simple as that. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. You become volatile financially and every little hiccup will lead to financial distress. Don’t buy the biggest house only because your loan officer tells you that you can. Think about can you afford the payments with just one of the incomes. What about the upkeep of the house? Here in Las Vegas, our A/C bills in the summer are quite substantial. Are you able to pay your mortgage, power bill and still have money to put food on the table?

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?

This is probably the easiest question so far. Without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest support comes from my husband. He was there for me when I made the decision to start a business, rather than apply for an administrative position someplace. He was the voice of encouragement when I was feeling doubtful. I won’t not lie, regardless of how much I wanted this, I had moments when I was second-guessing myself. He was hearing my ups and downs probably more times than he cared to. To be honest, discussing insurance and resources management is not the most interesting conversation. Despite that, he was still there for me. For that, I am very grateful and will always be appreciative.

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

There are 2 phrases that keep me going and staying on track, despite the challenges:

After every rain, the sun will rise. It would not always be challenging. Yes, it might be hard at this moment, but it is just a moment. It will not last forever. Something good will follow. I believe in that. I don’t let myself fall for a hard time. Quite the opposite, I try to stay positive and know things will improve.

The second “Life Lesson Quote” came out of Weldon Long’s book, “The Power of Consistency’.

The book teaches us to be consistent and not to deviate from the course. If you have a box full of bicycle parts and you are taking one by one out and try to put it together, eventually you would have a complete bicycle. This is life. Keep working towards a goal and don’t stop. Every successful person, male or female, has to be consistent. There is no question about 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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am passionate about helping people financially through education. My business centers around that, educating clients about their needs. I think we have the resources and if we are able to bring more education to young people, we would change not only on an individual level but the society. People need to be thought how to be financially responsible, how to work as a team to achieve a common financial goal. I would want that to be a required class in schools, as young as elementary schools and developed all the way up in college. The material needs to be relevant and presented in a way that makes sense to students. Without proper education, gender inequality will only worsen and as a nation, we will fall far behind.

Thank you for joining us!

About the Author:

Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and United Arab Emirates focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. Prior to founding Regal Assets, Tyler worked for a Microsoft startup led by legendary tech giant Karl Jacob who was an executive at Microsoft, and an original Facebook board member.

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