For Suzie Eyrich, CFP®, working within a bank has opened many career opportunities (and paths!) that are not readily available in other areas of financial planning. In today’s episode, Suzie shares how she navigated the banking environment from starting out as a teller to her role now as a financial planner.

Suzie also dives into what it means for a new planner to advocate for themselves and their career, how to find mentors who will guide you, and what it means to network well. Suzie shares how she has grown professionally from volunteering in various professional associations and how stepping outside of her comfort zone has impacted her career positively.

Now that she’s a decade into her financial planning career, Suzie now has a wide range of experiences to guide clients in her role as a financial planner. She earned that experience while working for two banks, a RIA practice, and now with a big bank – BMO. In this episode, Suzie shares her experiences at both an RIA and a bank that leads with financial planning, how to grow your experience as a new planner, and the best ways to confidently (and respectfully) advocate for yourself and the career you want!

What You’ll Learn:

  • How to get started as a financial planner at a bank
  • The best way to approach your boss about the job you want, or new opportunities you’re interested in
  • The benefits of shadowing a financial planner as a new professional, and how to find a mentor in the workplace
  • What financial planning at a bank looks like
  • The pros and cons of working with both a smaller RIA and a larger bank


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Episode Transcript

Ian: All right. Thanks for joining me today. We’re here with Suzie Eyrich, who is a Wealth Planner at BMO. Hi, Suzie, how are you?

Suzie: Hi, I’m good. Thanks for having me on.

Ian: So, I think it would be great if we started this conversation off hearing a little bit about sort of how you got to where you are right now. So you were in college, you graduate, you get your first job, you’re working at banks, how did that process go for you?

Suzie: Thanks. It was actually kind of interesting. I feel like my entire career has just been a series of meeting the right people and being in the right place at the right time to get me where I’m at. But when I started, I just was doing my undergrad in business, and I was taking accounting courses, and my degree was actually in Global Business. So I found myself really interested in global financial markets, just working with people from different cultures and different backgrounds. And so, I was looking at different careers and I thought that financial advisor would be a really good fit.

Suzie: Working with people, I get to work in the financial markets, and what I understood, they got paid really well too, so of course here I am, I’m early 20s and I’m looking at that too. I started looking at how do I get into that space. I interviewed and got accepted to a Morgan Stanley internship and a Northwestern Mutual internship here locally in Scottsdale. I hesitated because they were both internships, which didn’t pay at the time, and I was living on my own, I was actually living with my now husband, so I was a little bit hesitant and I just didn’t have that real confidence in myself that I could go out there and be okay without having some sort of salary.

Suzie: So I didn’t decide to go that route, and I thought there might be something else. So, I started looking at where else financial advisors work, and I found out that there were some in banks. I was like, “Okay, maybe I’ll try this.” So, there was an interview at Wells Fargo, and they didn’t have an internship to work directly with financial advisors, but they said I could come in and maybe get a job as a teller, get my foot in the door. So, I was like, “Okay, that sounds great. I’ll get paid, I can learn, see what’s going to happen.” So that’s how I started in banks honestly.

Suzie: By being a teller, I got the opportunity to work with a financial advisor who was in the branch where I was working. I told her what I wanted to do, so I would just sit with her. So if it wasn’t busy at the teller branch, or at the teller line, I would go sit in her office and just watch her have conversations with clients, understand what she was doing every day, and then go back to my other job. I was lucky enough to get into a licensed banker program, so they paid for my seven, my 66, while I was working in the branch and still getting a salary, which was nice too.

Ian: Nice.

Suzie: Yeah. So, I really got all of these opportunities to see what I wanted to do, I didn’t necessarily have the pressure of having to produce right away as I was 22 years old, and didn’t feel ready. So that’s kind of how I got started. So, there was an opportunity in the private bank, in Scottsdale, to be a support person for three financial advisors. Of course, I thought, “What a perfect way to really learn the business without having to produce.” As you can see, I was never really confident going in. But I moved into that job, was there for a few years.

Suzie: It could’ve been timing, so this was July of 2007, and I was in that role through 2009. So probably not the best time to try to get my foot in the door being a financial advisor. So, I thought, I don’t know that I can stomach the ups and downs. I just don’t know that’s for me. But the one part of the job that I love doing was running the college analysis, running the cash flow analysis for the financial advisors while they were onboarding clients, that was the part that I really liked. So, I shifted to financial planning instead.

Suzie: I went through, we had a financial planner in the office, and I started sitting with her. I just said, “Can you just let me just sit with you, I just want to see what you do. I want to absorb as much as I can from what you’re doing while I’m still doing this other job.”

Ian: You asked for that, to be clear.

Suzie: I did. Yeah.

Ian: Awesome.

Suzie: I just sat with her, and I said, “You know what? This is what I want to do, I want your job eventually. I know it’s not available yet, so tell me how I get there.” And so that’s one thing if I can pass on anything to anyone who’s listening to this, is even if a job isn’t there, ask for it. If you see somebody doing something that you really want to do, ask them for it. And I think I even did that for you, being in my role in NexGen. I said, “Hey, I want to do what you do. How do I do it?” That’s what I’m doing now.

Ian: How do you ask that question appropriately? So we all dream of the day where we can walk into our boss’ office right and say, “Look, this is what I want.” Then all of a sudden it happens. But we know that isn’t the case in real life, and asking questions in the right manner makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. You need to be respectful in asking for these kinds of things, right? You need to be understanding of where everyone who above you has come from. So, when you ask a question like this, you’re really asking for sort of a favor in a way, right?

Suzie: Yeah.

Ian: So, how do you approach that question with someone who’s above you in the office, who maybe even is responsible for your paycheck in a way that is respectful and shows a mutually beneficial goal at the end of the day?

Suzie: You just hit on it, is the mutually beneficial. That’s a really good question too. Anytime I asked for these opportunities, I always came in with what can I do for you? So it wasn’t always just sitting with them, it was also how can I help you. Is there some sort of task that you’re doing that not only can I learn from you but it’s also going to help you? So when I was a planner, and to back up just a moment, these opportunities didn’t just come up, I said, “Hey, I want to be a planner.” They sat me down and, “Sure, here’s a job, you’re a planner.” It took time. I mean, I sat with this particular planner for probably almost two years before a position opened up.

Suzie: So, I was just trying to get integrated. And what I would do for her is just some medial administrative tasks that for her took a lot of time, but for me was giving me the opportunity just to see what document she was looking at. I would start looking at tax returns. She would say, “Hey, can you take a look at this really quick and see if you see something?” Whatever the case may be, but it was helpful for her. There was a senior planner as I eventually got an assistant role to the planning department.

Suzie: So, they created a role actually, I was lucky enough where I knocked on a door enough, and the planner said they needed help enough, where they made a support role for that position. So, then I really got in there, and I would do anything. If she needed me to do research on one piece, I would say, “Please, let me do the research and I’ll do it for you.” So, I think going in, and saying, “I want to learn, but I also want to help.” Is how you can get in the door? And being very clear on why it is that you think you’re good for this role, or why you want this.

Suzie: We can all say we want something because it looks pretty on paper, but what is it about yourself and what is it about the things that you’ve learned about yourself that you think actually fit that role? And be very clear about that. I think that’s respected if somebody is going to be working with you.

Ian: If I could ask, do you remember what was your why during that time frame?

Suzie: That’s a good question. I’ve always loved working with people. And just seeing the end result of something. Being able to really help somebody and being in a meeting and that person saying, “I really appreciate what you did.” I say this all the time. I know I’m not moving mountains and curing cancer, but at the same time I think what we do is really valuable and giving people peace of mind goes a long way. So that was always my why, is I want to help people and I want to see a tangible result from what I’m doing, and I can see that in people when they have a positive interaction. That was always my why.

Ian: Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. So, we can head back to where you were sort of in your career progression. So, you’ve asked for this opportunity, and then you were given the name of the boss, right?

Suzie: Yeah.

Ian: So, take us from there.

Suzie: Yeah, I just started emailing the boss. At the time, I’m working in a big bank, there’s a lot of regions. So, I was at Wells, Wells is everywhere, in that time the planning department covered all of the Southwest region. So, our boss was in California at the time, and I would email him and let him know that I was interested in being a part of the planning group. I knew there wasn’t an opportunity yet, but if there was something, please keep me in mind. Then I would continually follow up with him every so often, not to be annoying, but just to keep my name on the radar.

Suzie: Again, eventually, there was the need for a support role, and I got the job. So I think just because my name was in his email enough. So, yeah, so then I got the support role, and then from there I just kind of kept moving up. So, while I was in the support, then when I moved to the planner role, I decided that it was important for me to get additional credentials. If anybody was going to use me, and I wanted to move up, I was working with CPAs and attorneys. At the time that wasn’t my path, so I decided to get my master’s degree while I was a planner and kind of in the baseline paraplanner-ish type role, that’s where I stayed.

Ian: So, can you talk a little bit about that career path? What has been your experience with the career path? Any kind of track, or has there been training or certain requirements as you’re attempting to move up?

Suzie: You know, kind of go back to why we’re doing this. In a bank, there’s a lot of levels to what we do, especially at Wells. Maybe not here at BMO, which I’ll talk about a little bit later, but at Wells there were a lot of levels. So you would go in as a paraplanner, then you’d be kind of your next level up, then there was a senior planner, then there was a strategist. There were four levels within planning, and then there was managing above that. Not uncommon in any large institution. So it was a very defined path. There was step ups each way.

Suzie: So, I found unless you had a certain type of experience outside of the bank, then your ability to move up was hampered. So I talked to a bunch of mentors, and one of my mentors encouraged me to look outside, to expand my expertise. Because if those folks, and maybe I could come back. But getting experience outside of the bank, outside of that particular role, would increase my earning potential, would increase my ability to move up, and then if I wanted to come back I could, but I was kind of stuck at that point. So, it was based on that mentor’s encouragement that I decided to look outside the bank and look for other opportunities.

Ian: So that opportunity came at BMO where you sit now?

Suzie: It did. Actually, I had a short stint at the RIA that BMO owns, so it’s Stoker Ostler. So, at the time, there were quite a few colleagues that were at Wells Fargo that had moved over to BMO. So, I knew about the company, I started to hear about the opportunities that were there, but opportunities didn’t exist for planning at the time. So, it’s based on actually a lot of people that I met through FPA that I got introduced down at Stoker Ostler, which was the RIA here locally. They had a planning opportunity that had opened up. I thought, “What a great way to be a part of an organization for people that I know that I’ve worked with for so many years.” But also, to get experience in an RIA, where I could feel a little bit of a different way that planning is done.

Suzie: I heard great things about the company, and so I decided to make that switch. The other thing that I think is really important is optics. In the banking industry, I had been in the same place and a lot of people have talked to have experienced this, but I had started as an admin, I had worked my way through, but I’d always been in the support role most of my career. It wasn’t towards the end of my career at the bank where I was in more of a professional status. But the people that had known me for so long always saw me as an admin. So, it was hard for me to get out of that, honestly, unless I left.

Suzie: So, I got this new role at the RIA, and I was coming in as a professional, not as the admin that had moved up. So that was great for me for personal growth. So I spent a few months, actually only seven months there. And I just happened that an opportunity opened up while I was there at BMO. It was an internal transfer, but I moved into the private bank, and I’ve been in this role ever since. So, it’s been just about three years that I’ve been with BMO.

Ian: So, let’s come back to your current role and spend just a little time thinking about the RIA space versus the private bank space. So, seven months in RIA and you’re back in private banking. So, what is it that drew you back to sort of the private bank style of things as opposed to the RIA understanding they were both owned by BMO at that time?

Suzie: Yeah. That’s a really good question, and something that I always think back. But I don’t know if it’s because I just grew up in the bank, where I felt comfortable, but the overrunning factor for me was in an RIA, particularly there, the most clear career path was to be a portfolio manager. They have very successful portfolio managers, and they also lead with planning too, so planning was very important to them. But that’s where I saw my clearest path, was portfolio manager. That took me right back to 2009, when I decided I didn’t want to be a portfolio manager.

Suzie: So I’ve decided and I was very clear on where I wanted to go and I wanted to continue to grow. When the role at the private bank opened up, it wasn’t only just a planner role back in the private bank, but it was also a planning group that was not in its infancy, but younger. So, they had only really been doing the type of planning that we were doing for just a few years. So, I saw it as an opportunity to be a part of something that was growing, and that I’d have more opportunities to grow in planning.

Suzie: And I also, honestly, for me, being in a private bank, in a bank in particular, there’s a lot of paths you can take. If I had decided to go to trust for example, I could go that route. If I wanted to do management, there’s so many management opportunities, there’s just a lot of places where I can go. If you think about it, there’s, in BMO there’s 46,000 employees. It means just 46,000 jobs. So, there’s a lot of options that I have versus in RIA, where there’s … I usually see, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but a lot of individuals might wear a lot of different hats. But you’re wearing a lot of hats in a smaller space. So, that’s where I think I always felt comfortable my career being in the bank.

Ian: From your first job until now, have you gone through a progression of gaining different positions over time?

Suzie: Yes. So, I think I’ve had, man, I hope this answers your question. But since I started at Wells in the beginning until now, I’ve had I think seven different jobs. All in the same capacity in terms of doing some sort of planning. So always on planning in some sort of capacity in those roles. But I’ve had seven different jobs. Whether they were support, or whether they were in a different area. Since I’ve been at BMO in the last three years, I’ve been in the same role. So, I actually started as a planner, and moved up to senior planner. But essentially in the same role. So, I’ve tried a lot of different things. I think you have to though, right?

Ian: But you had the opportunity, too right?

Suzie: Yeah. Again, I’ve had the fortune of ever working for institutions that had given me platform to try different things and to see if it works or not, and then I’ve decided that what has worked for me, and what I felt comfortable doing and sometimes what I felt uncomfortable doing, but I found that, “Hey, I hadn’t thought about that before now, I really like this aspect of the job.” So, I’ve really been fortunate to try a lot of different aspects, and work with a lot of different people too to kind of find my niche.

Ian: Yeah. So, I’m curious. As you think about sort of your time with Wells, and then you’re asking your employer whether or not you can sit in meetings and become a financial planner one day. And you’re starting to go through this process of doing what you describe as menial task, but important ones, someone has to do, right. And you’re helping them by relieving them of hours they’re not spending doing these tasks that you’re capable of. How did you start yourself up for success when you consider the amount of patience it takes to sit through maybe years of doing that kind of work hoping for the next step to come?

Suzie: I’ll admit, there were times where I was so frustrated that I felt like I was continually doing remedial type tasks so to speak, and I wasn’t yet in the role that I wanted to be. I can very clearly remember binding papers for the umpteenth time and I thought to myself, “Am I ever going to stop doing this and actually get to do the work?” So, I questioned it for sure. But I also am a person with a lot of patience. I knew that I would eventually get where I needed to be, and that I just had to take some time. I talked to a lot of mentors, and that’s another thing that if I can get one message across is talk to people that have been in this job, talk to people that are in the job you want. Find mentors that really care about you, and that will give you straight advice.

Suzie: I talked to quite a few that said, “You’ll get there. I did the same thing, it will take some time, but it’s there.” I was always looking for opportunities, though, to be honest. You always, I think, should be open to what’s out there, and understanding what you should be doing, or what maybe you shouldn’t be doing based on how long you’ve been in that role. So, always just having your eyes open to potential opportunities.

Ian: So, let’s talk a little bit about that. How do you advocate for yourself in other ways than asking for more opportunities from your direct reports?

Suzie: Honestly, I think that’s probably the hard thing in a bank, because unless your direct management is very purposeful, and very invested in you, it’s hard to have people advocate for you. At Wells, there’s 200,000+ employees, right. You were a number, the people that I worked with were fantastic, so I didn’t feel like I was a number in my office. But at the end of the day I was, because it’s just a massive organization, there’s no way they can have a vested interest in everybody, just the way that it is. So, I had to do my own research. I had to go out there. I focus a lot on making connections outside of the bank, so I can understand what the landscape of financial planning looked like in the bank, outside the bank, what people were doing, what type of education they were getting.

Suzie: I spent a lot of time getting education and getting myself up to speed, so I could prove that I was invested in this, and that I wanted to move forward, and that I wanted to move up. I thought the way that I could show that was by diving into a master’s program, and to CFP, and to every license I could get, to show this was where I wanted to go. Then taking that once I got through that and saying, “Hey, I’m done with this. I’ve gotten the education, I have the experience, I know that I can do this job. Now how do I get there?”

Ian: So you’ve mentioned a few times meeting the right people and being in the right places, how do you network?

Suzie: It’s hard. I don’t know if I’m the best person to give this advice, because I probably stretch myself too thin, a lot of people who know me will appreciate that. But I started in, I actually started with NexGen. I’m of course biased, but that was my first intro in networking. They actually had, they had a meeting in my office. So, I said, “Well, I don’t have to go very far. So, I can just sit in the meeting.” So, I met those people and then I started going to other meetings, and then I met people who were involved in estate planning councils, and so I thought, “Well, shoot, if they’re included in those organizations, maybe I’ll go over there.”

Suzie: So, I started going to those meetings. And any young advisor group that I could find that was local, I tried to go to those meetings. Once I started down my tax program, I was introduced to the AICPA, so I started to spend a little time there, and then with philanthropy as well. So Junior Achievement, I started to become more involved in, and if I started getting on committees. So, with NexGen, I mean, you know my history there, so I just started volunteering to help with planning events, because I really like to plan.

Suzie: So that got me introduced to people, then I wasn’t just going to meetings, but I was involved. I was involved in the conversation, I felt like I was meeting people and having meaningful conversation versus just going to a meeting and then going on my merry way. So, I spent a lot of time just giving my time to different organizations to show that I was also very interested and vested in what they were doing too. That has led to a lot of really good connections, and I’ve continued to try to keep up on those connections as well. So, I think staying very involved and connecting, reaching out to people. If I see an article that is something, I know someone’s involved in, I’ll send it over and say, “Hey, I was just thinking of you. I hope you’re doing well.” Just little touch points here or there. That’s how I built the network.

Suzie: Now that I’m over a decade into the job, now I am really focusing on those relationships that are meaningful, and that are impactful, and that I’m bringing value to them, and they’re same bringing value to me. So, it’s no longer just as many people as I can meet, now it’s really focusing on those relationships that are important.

Ian: Sure.

Suzie: But that evolves over time. You got to kind of fill the bucket before you start picking things out.

Ian: Yeah, exactly, exactly. So, I’m hearing you say this takes time.

Suzie: A lot of time.

Ian: Yeah. I’m hearing you say that it takes a lot of time for your network to get to a point where you’re sort of comfortable in your own network. So in creating your own network in that way, would you say there was a big sort of capital outlay in order for you to be able to do that?

Suzie: Yeah, you know, there was. Time is capital, and I think building the network, building my brand, even working in a bank where the bank is the brand, and I’m an advocate of that brand, and I’m out there in the marketplace advocating. Today, I’m waving the BMO flag, that’s my role, that’s my job, that’s what I’m paid to do. But I’m also a brand. So, building that took a lot of time and energy, and through mid, late 20s, or late 30s, that was my focus. I’m lucky enough to have a husband who is very supportive. But it took a lot of time, a lot of happy hours, a lot of lunch meetings, studying. Just there was a lot of commitment, but I knew it’d pay off in the end.

Suzie: I think any role or anything that we do that’s going to have any type of significance, you have to put the time and effort into it. It will pay off in the end for sure. But you have to believe enough in yourself, and you have to believe enough in what you’re doing to know that it will pay off in the end.

Ian: From a monetary perspective, basically the only monetary cost to you was joining these organizations, which don’t get me wrong, from time to time can get pricey. Does BMO support you in joining some or all of these organizations?

Suzie: Yes. They do. I will say both organizations were very supportive. BMO is very career centric. And career minded for their people. Probably because we’re a little bit smaller. We’re still a big bank, but smaller compared to the bank, you know, bank three, bank five. So, they believe that if they support their people, and they give us enough opportunity to grow, that we’ll stay. It’s just investing in your people, but I think that is one of the benefits of being a part of a bank, and a business with a lot of resources, and it’s called resources for anybody who works for a Canadian bank.

Suzie: But there is capital that’s available. So, I didn’t have to personally spend a lot of money for these organizations. My organizations always paid for my annual dues, my CFP. My master’s program, I had to pay for that, but they supported a portion of it, honestly, so that wasn’t all a capital outlay, even though part of it was on me. So, there’s a lot of support, and there’s some benefit to working for an organization that will pay for that. I know it’s hard for people that are on their own. I get that. So not everybody can go out there and be a part of four different organizations and pay those dues. And still try to build their bulk of business.

Ian: Sure.

Suzie: It’s also really important if you don’t have the financial capacity to look at which is going to be the most impactful? Where can you find the most benefit? What resources can you tap into for those organizations? And be strategic about it.

Ian: If monetary restrictions are a concern, then working for a bank certainly opens up a few more opportunities for folks.

Suzie: It does. I will say that they’re not just going to pay for anything. I have to make a valid case for it every year. I’m not a part of 100 different organizations and just charging the card. Everything that I do has to, I have to be able to show a return on that investment. How many continuing education credits I get to support the CFP, which is supporting the business? So, it’s not just a free for all by any stretch of the imagination. But they do have the resources to support it.

Ian: Are there any sort of pros, cons, that you’re thinking about from working at a bank perspective that you want to make sure we touch on while we’re here?

Suzie: You know, the pros definitely I think we’ve talked about, it’s the flexibility and job opportunities. If you decide you want to make a shift, there’s a lot of places you can shift. It still stays within the same organization. Which is nice. So, it gives you a lot of flexibility and still have a lot of opportunities. I will say, some of the cons just working in an RIA for a short period of time, so I can’t speak to folks who have been there for a long time. But it’s also hard to effect change when you’re in a big organization. There’s a lot of things that I would love to do, and while working in a smaller organization has given me the opportunity to be a part of this big planning shift, where we definitely changed our model and how we deliver.

Suzie: It’s also, I have a lot of bosses above me. Then we roll up all the way to Canada. So, there’s a lot of people that make a lot of decisions, and sometimes it’s hard to be a voice in a big organization. So that can be a con for sure. So, you just have to decide where you want to be. I’m definitely not an entrepreneur, I don’t have that entrepreneurial spirit, I’m not building a bulk of business here in my role, so that also, if that’s something that’s important, a bank wouldn’t be a good fit at all. You’re better off working in a smaller place where you can really grow your own business.

Ian: So something that’s interesting to me is I consider the fact that you’re a financial planner within a bank, and then you’re talking about on some level you’re not building a bulk of business. So how is it that you work with clients with investment advisors, or however they’re called at BMO, how are you called in? How are you a part of the client process sort of soup to nuts, what does that look like for you?

Suzie: Thank you for asking that question, because I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t really know how we work. So, first I’m just a salary employee of the bank. So, I’m not incentivized for any of our clients to open a checking account, open a credit card, anything like that. I am a part of the private bank team. That team consists of a relationship manager, so they are the ones who are fully responsible for the client experience and what that looks like. Then they bring in all the special Ts.

Suzie: Special Ts are a trust administrator, an investment portfolio manager, a planner like myself, and then a private banker. So, all of us know, we’re all on our own swim lanes, and then the relationship manager brings us in as they see the need arise with that client. When there is a new client relationship bringing them on, planning is a part of that process. So, if we’re going to be bringing on a new investment relationship, they’ll bring in planning, so we can really understand that client and any of that investment recommendations are based on what we look at in the planning side. So, we’ll do very similar to an RIA, that’s definitely leading with planning.

Suzie: Again, this is based on my experience in an RIA. But we start with the cash flow, we start with understanding their full picture. We look at what their needs are, just from a baseline level, and then we work with the investment portfolio manager to make those recommendations and how they’re going to be allocated. Then we go further. If we’re a part of the ongoing process, if something comes up in the client’s life, where they need to re-look at whatever we prepared for as they came in as a new client, we’ll take a look at that. So if there was a life event, if there’s health event, anything that we as planner typically look at, the relationship manager will come back to us and ask us to revisit the planning.

Suzie: So we’ll be brought back in if we need to rerun analysis. We’re also part of annual conversations or if there’s a need we’ll be a part of more. But when they do the annual reviews, planning will come back in, we’ll just see what’s going on in their life, see if there’s anything that we can help with, and then update the analysis just to help again, with the investment discussions if that’s a piece of the relationship. Trust administration, a lot of times they bring us in if they’re doing beneficiary distributions, and they want to make sure that the recommendations they’re making are going to sustain that portfolio and the life of those assets for those beneficiaries, because we do have a fiduciary responsibility to those clients. So, we’re brought in there as well.

Suzie: So, part of the relationship, also specialty, if a client is selling their business, that happens a lot, we’ll come in and we’ll do analysis for them, work with them very intensely to help them through that process. Then again, on an annual basis check in.

Ian: So when you come in to meet with clients, since your compensation is not tied to any kind of product sales, are you brought in as the fiduciary to provide that sort of lens when recommendations are being given to clients?

Suzie: That’s absolutely it. So, I’m coming in as the CFP, as a fiduciary, and I have that fiduciary responsibility to make recommendations that are most appropriate for the client. It’s not for the bank. It’s not for me. I’m not compensated again, if they, like I said, if they open a checking account, if they buy a product that that’s not where I’m compensated or incentivized. My incentive, of course, like any of us, is to many that relationship, to make sure that if they’re bringing in their investment, if they stay with us, all of us want the bigger share of wallet, right, no matter where we’re working. So that’s important and we’re going to do that by the service that we’re providing.

Suzie: My recommendations are to support what the rest of the team’s recommendations are, and we work on a fiduciary platform. Again, nobody is compensated if they’re buying a bank product here, they’re a widget, that’s not what we’re doing. It’s really to support the relationship, just like any of our businesses are.

Ian: Before we let you go, Suzie, I have a question about your participation in the bank outside of financial planning. If you were to work at a smaller RIA, or something like that, you would have opportunities to maybe sit on a committee or have some other responsibilities that don’t necessarily pertain to client things at all times. So are there ways in which you’re involved at BMO or somehow involved with the bank maybe outside of working directly with clients?

Suzie: Yeah, from my perspective, I think I’ve had a lot of opportunity there, and I think sometimes that’s why I like working in the bank space. I’ve had a lot of opportunities. So I sat on a committee for Women in Wealth, and I’ve been lucky enough to do some of the presentations for our Women in Wealth ventures that we do. So, we’re doing I think two a year now. Where we’re trying to reach out to our clients and doing presentations. So, I get to be a part of putting that together, and actually presenting at those, so that’s been a nice avenue to take me out of my comfort zone.

Suzie: But I’m really diving into that. I had another opportunity to do a speaking engagement. So, BMO as a whole was asked to do a speaking engagement for business succession, and so I got the tap on the shoulder to do that as a resource. So, I don’t know that I would’ve had that opportunity had the bank not been tapped on the shoulder to do that. So, I’ve had some speaking engagements. There’s a lot of committees within the bank, there are some career committees, growth committees, things like that, that I’ve been a part of. There’s what we call pulse, but it’s essentially the way that we make sure that employees are satisfied in their job. They do an annual review, and then a committee is put together to make sure that anything that as a bank we weren’t taking care of our employees in the way that they say they want to be, so for example, if they don’t feel like their manager is asking them enough about career progression.

Suzie: They’ll say that in the survey at the end of the year. And then a committee will be put together to decide, “Okay, how do we do this?” So, I’ve been put on one of those task forces to identify one of the areas that the employees said they didn’t feel that they were getting enough satisfaction in that area. So, that’s been interesting, because I’ve gotten to work with people across the country. So, there’s a lot of ways that I’ve been able to utilize my role in the bank to grow myself, do things that I probably would never have done outside or put myself in those positions. Like the speaking engagement for example. And have that career growth. It’s been a good platform to do that.

Ian: Are these opportunities that were available to anyone and you sort of applied, or was it something where you asked for an opportunity to become more involved, or committees opened up and you asked to be a part of them? What was the progression? How did you get involved?

Suzie: The Women in Wealth one I did ask to be a part of, because I really firmly believe in the Women in Wealth initiatives that we have and I thought that I could be a voice for that. Honestly, I was voluntold, as they say around here, to do the business succession speaking engagement. However, that turned out to be a really good thing for my career, gave me a lot of growth opportunity, and I’ve had a lot of follow-up after that from different organizations. So, I would say, if you’re ever given an opportunity to do something and you’re totally not comfortable with, but you think it might lead to that, take it.

Suzie: I did not want to do it, I pushed, and pushed. But I ended up, nobody could do it, and so I was sent. But it probably was one of the better things that I’ve done for my career. So, sometimes I’m tapped, sometimes I raise my hand. But every time I’m tapped, probably for better or worse, I usually say yes, which again, a lot of people might say is not a great thing because sometimes I spend a lot of time doing that stuff. But again, I’m learning, I’m seeing where I can maybe take my career next, I’m seeing what I’m good at, what I’m not good at. Then going from there. But there’s a lot of availability within the bank, and they give me a lot of flexibility to say what I want to do.

Ian: So, listening to you, it sounds like you volunteer or voluntold for some things to participate in. Do you have tips or thoughts on how folks can put themselves in positions to be tapped? Or maybe just sort of getting comfortable being uncomfortable when asking for volunteer positions? How does that work for you?

Suzie: Yeah. I may have made it sound easier than it was, but there were a lot of things that I have been asked to do, like I said, the speaking engagements, I hated public speaking. I’m still not a huge fan. Writing papers that are being published, I’m not a very good writer at all, or at least I never thought that I was. So anytime I’ve been asked to do these things, I will ask other people who are not a part of the conversation if they think this is a good use of my time. So, people that I respect, and that again are kind of in a mentor type role to me.

Suzie: I’ll ask them if this is a good use of my time. Because I’ve also learned over the years that while I might have the time, because maybe I don’t have other responsibilities, doesn’t mean necessarily that I have to give all of my time to this. I still like to do a lot of things outside of work. I have a lot of personal activities, and things that I like to do and sometimes just not do anything. So, I think it’s really important to balance first of all. Not say yes to everything, but be strategic in what you’re saying yes to, and then what you think it will actually do for you.

Suzie: If you’re looking at trying to be the person who is being tapped, I would say be involved. If there are organizations that are available to you, again, FPA has given me so many platforms and I’m not just saying that because of this podcast, but it really, really has. And so being involved, being in committees, just being in front of people, you might not be the most outgoing, or you might not think that you are, but just being involved in different organizations where you’re comfortable. People get to know you, people see your face often enough, they’ll think of you when opportunities come up. If they know what your brand is, what you’re interested in, which is something that you have to take on yourself, to tell people what you’re interested in, or at least showcase what that is.

Suzie: If they know, “Hey, I know she’s a planner, I know he’s a planner.” Or, “He’s mentioned before that he wants to start writing. Or he’s interested in being a blogger.” Whatever that is, if you say that enough in front of their face enough, you’ll get tapped. People always need something. People always need a volunteer. There’s always opportunities that arise, and so it will come. You just have to be patient, but you also have to be your own advocate, nobody else is going to do it for you. So that’s what I would say is the biggest thing.

Ian: Great. And for those of you who don’t know, Suzie is our National Local Leader Coordinator for NexGen, and is the former Local Leader in Arizona for their FPA NexGen community out there. She’s gone from being the Local Leader to the National position, and will be … and this is your last year, right, as a volunteer, at least in this capacity, until you volunteer for something else?

Suzie: Until I have no more time left. And then I’m still volunteering, but yes, this is my last year in that role.

Ian: We’ve been happy and lucky to have you.

Suzie: I appreciate. That’s what I do have to say is while I may have advocated for myself, I could not be where I am without people giving me opportunities and just being nice and letting me come in. You, Ian, even gave me the opportunity, and believed in me. So, I much appreciate all the people that I’ve been surrounded with.