What happens when you need to find a new job in the profession, but the opportunities out there aren’t quite right for you? If you’re investment advisor Nina O’Neal, the answer is simple: you create your own.

In this latest episode of YAFPNW, Nina shares how she “accidentally” found financial planning, what makes a successful business partnership, the reality of work/life balance, and more.

Finding her calling in personal finance

Nina is an “accidental advisor” as she put it in this episode. As an English major and creative writing minor, Nina thought she would have a great career in publishing. However, after working as a client relations liaison in New York City, Nina learned about investing as well as the client-advisor relationship. She fell in love with personal finance during her time at Merrill Lynch in her home state of North Carolina. 

“It was totally by accident,” said Nina. “And I’ve found a real calling and career that I’ve loved.”

After leaving Merrill Lynch, Nina partnered up with Matt Archer for Archer Investment Management in Raleigh. At Archer, Nina was able to build the firm she wanted and choose the clients she wanted to serve. While Archer serves many Gen Xers and Gen Yers, she has a passion for helping entrepreneurs of all sizes. Thanks to her and her partner’s personal experiences getting a small business off the ground, their firm is able to help business owners grow and find success.

What makes a successful partnership?

Nina talked about Matt, her business partner, and what makes their partnership a success. One thing she credits is their very different skill sets. While Nina runs the operations, marketing, and financial planning side of the business, Matt handles the analytics and the investment management. 

“He’s responsible for certain things and so with that, nobody’s overlapping,” said Nina. “We could both do each other’s jobs, but we don’t really enjoy it.”

Though Nina and Matt “stay in their lanes” as she put it, and every member of their team has clear expectations of their individual roles, disagreements are bound to come up. How do they handle those disagreements? Nina and Matt decided that, in a disagreement, the person who felt the strongest about the issue won. Period. 

As an example, Nina explained that she wanted to bring on eMoney early on, which was an expensive investment, but she knew it would be worth it. Nina felt more strongly about it, and so they went with her decision. It may sound like an odd way to operate, but it ultimately means putting trust in your partner to make the right decision.

Working in finance as a woman

No matter the profession or industry, female professionals are often pressured to “have it all” and strike that perfect “work/life balance.” Nina brought some refreshing perspective to this topic and talked about how she’s integrated her career and home life in a way that works for her family. As busy as she is, Nina has found ways to get more work done by changing her schedule, asking for help, and generally slowing things down. It’s the “antithesis of hustle culture” as Hannah put it in the episode.

On top of all that pressure, women in finance typically lack the support and resources that they need. Which training programs can I join? What happens if I get pregnant while working, and how do I break the news? How can I talk to other women in finance? That’s why Nina founded the Female Advisor Network, a national membership organization for female financial advisors. Female Advisor Network is a community of women that offers mentorship programs, accountability programs, retreats, speaking engagements, and so much more.

Nina had a lot of great stories and insight to share in this episode, so be sure to tune in and listen to the full thing!

 

 

[tweet_box design=”box_10″ url=”https://buff.ly/34jkL0h” float=”none” excerpt=”You do have to prove and demonstrate your knowledge, but have confidence and conviction in it as well. – @noneal510 on #YAFPNW”]You do have to prove and demonstrate your knowledge, but have confidence and conviction in it as well. – @noneal510 on #YAFPNW 201[/tweet_box]

 

What You’ll Learn:

  • How Nina got into financial planning
  • The ideal client
  • Growing a successful partnership and firm
  • Handling disagreements and decision-making in a partnership
  • Working in finance as a woman
  • The reality of work/life balance
  • What the Female Advisor Network does
  • Why Nina created Female Advisor Network
  • Nina’s advice for new professionals

 

Show Notes:

In this episode of YAFPNW, Hannah Moore, CFP®, and Nina O’Neal, investment advisor, discuss:

Want to keep up with Nina on social media? Check out her LinkedIn and Twitter page at @noneal510.

 

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Episode Transcript


Hannah: Well, thanks for joining us today, Nina.

Nina: Absolutely. Thank you.

Hannah: So I am so excited to have you on this episode. You have such a great story and all the different things that you’ve built throughout the years from your practice to what you’re doing for women and families, really redefining what it looks like to have a family in the workforce today. Let’s dive in first to, can you tell us about how you got started into financial planning?

Nina: Yes, I am an accidental advisor. I was an English major and creative writing minor and thought I would have a great career in publishing. But I moved to New York City and through some friends that worked in finance, found it fascinating and with some of their encouragement, spoke with a recruiter and got a job in institutional finance as really a client relations liaison between the investment management firm that I worked for and the clients that they served. And so that was a really great experience learning corporate finance where I guess it really a disciplined approach to investing, but also the relationship side.

Nina: And so I really wanted to move back to North Carolina where I’m from and had an opportunity with Merrill Lynch and just really fell in love with personal finance and taking my institutional approach and working with the everyday person and helping them to make good financial decisions and financial planning. So, it was totally by accident, unexpectedly and I’ve found a real calling and career that I’ve loved.

Hannah: So you’re at Merrill Lynch working for this, were you able to really serve those clients that you really wanted to work with at that point?

Nina: Not in the way that I do now. And it’s just basically the companies are just structured so differently. They did have financial planning tools and a Monte Carlo simulation that we could use. I used mostly third party money managers or some of their investment platforms for managing money, but I was more limited than I am now in some of the products and services that we currently deliver. And then also with any program in financial services at that level, because I was in their training program, you have sales requirements, you have account opening production. So it’s a very high stress environment to meet your, at the time they called them hurdles and it’s just a different approach to building your book of business. I really felt like I had to take anybody that was willing to work with me.

Hannah: So you left Merrill Lynch and then you ended up partnering up with somebody, is that right?

Nina: I did, yes. My training program was terminated when Bank of America purchased Merrill at the very end of 2008.

Hannah: So that got terminated. And so I mean that was basically your job, everything was just gone, right?

Nina: Yeah. And I mean I built a client base from scratch. They had training and they had some resources, but like with most people, it’s kind of, “Here’s a computer, there’s a phone, go build your book.” And so I had to really figure out how to do that and think about how to work smarter and not harder because I had really high requirements of me, but we were also, in my opinion, in a flooded market, there are a lot of advisors in the area where I am and so a lot of competition with established people. So, I had to figure out how to work around that and then lost all of that because they were considered Merrill’s clients and it was the financial crisis. And so I had to start from scratch again. So I’ve done it twice.

Nina: But that was a huge learning opportunity because I said, my partner and I really, when we decided to partner, we really defined the vision of the firm that we wanted to have and the types of people we wanted to work with. And we really stuck to that. We turned people away or we just don’t pursue referrals once we establish that maybe it’s not the right fit. And that’s been a wonderful thing because I work with people that we genuinely like and care about and enjoy working with. And instead of feeling like I have to just work with anybody, whether I like them or see longterm opportunity with them or not, I just had to meet requirements.

Hannah: When you guys were building this firm, you guys designed the person that you wanted to serve. Number one, who is that? And number two has that changed over time?

Nina: It’s really not changed over time, which is interesting. It’s actually, I feel like the industry has come to us versus where I think we were a little early in the working with millennials and Gen X and Gen Y in general, but 10, 11 years ago, that wasn’t a conversation you heard very much. People thought you were nuts and it was all, you have to have this high minimum, but what I saw was a huge opportunity that I could not serve friends and some of my own demographic. I’m 38, my partner’s 42 or 43. When I was at Merrill, I would have friends that had great future earning potential and current earning potential, they were maybe doctors or lawyers and had great jobs but really needed financial planning and help, but they didn’t have the assets for me to be able to take them on and when Matt and I sat down and were looking at the people we wanted to serve, we defined it in three buckets and some fall in multiple buckets. But it was from day one and it’s who we serve now and that is Gen X and Gen Y.

Nina: It’s usually but not always two income earning families. We do financial planning, investment management, life insurance, college planning and saving with 529 plans. Anything we advise on their corporate benefits if they have them, if they’re a partner in a firm or anything, we also help with tax minimization as much as we can. And then some of them fall into the second bucket, which is business owners. When Matt and I started working together, he was asking me questions, what would I want to do? And I said, “I really want to be a business owner and help business owners.” I’m from a family of business owners and I’ve always felt like I was an entrepreneur. So we really have a passion for helping entrepreneurs of all sizes. A lot of our clients have gone from one person to now some over a hundred and have fast growing revenue and we’ve really loved watching their success, but we also speak their same language.

Nina: I deal with payroll, I deal with HR, I deal with office space, things that you’re not just an advisor where that’s all taken care of for you at a larger firm, you have to wear, as you know, all of those hats yourself, which comes with, you have to make the right hire, you have to choose the right space. These are all very serious decisions you’re making without a lot of experience necessarily or training in that. So we’re able, based on our own experience ourselves and having worked with other businesses, able to help business owners. And then the third bucket is what most of the country works with, which is your Boomers. So 55% of our book of business is Gen X and Gen Y, 45% is Boomers. Our average client age is in the fifties, I don’t know exactly what it is today, but it’s pretty young. So even our boomers are a pretty young demographic. They’re pre-retirement or I would say early retirement.

Hannah: So having this clearly defined clients of who you wanted to serve, how did that change how you approached building your practice and finding these clients? Because I mean, when you’re starting out, that is a huge piece of what you have to do.

Nina: For one, there aren’t a lot of people serving the Gen X and Gen Y, so it’s mostly referrals from friends. And ironically, because the media talks about, you have to get the next generation, ours happened kind of the opposite way. Those clients were sending their parents to us. The parents are moving closer to the grandkids. They’re retiring, their advisors are retiring, so we have a multi generational practice. Last year we could officially say we had four generations of a family, which was pretty neat. It was a 529 for a baby, but still we counted it. It was technically an account for the fourth generation, so that’s pretty cool to be able to experience that with the families.

Nina: We’re marketing to centers of influence, most of whom are actually our clients or have become our clients because they’ve seen what we’ve done for mutual clients and really like what we do and have actually ended up moving their assets and work through our process and they continue to send folks and that’s going to be real estate agents, mortgage lenders, payroll providers, loggers, people that are working with the same type of demographic. And then retirees, there’s a couple of companies that, actually we have a lot of tech here. So for some of the Gen X, Gen Y, we worked with a few companies that we know their benefits really well and so we’re going to get clients from them based on referral amongst the employees, especially if they have a major event like an IPO or a buyout or something. And then a lot of them have stock options and want advice on that. And so that’s sort of a natural demographic for us as well because a lot of them are around our same age.

Nina: And then the Boomers, there’s a couple of companies that have a older employee base and through different ways, we’ve gotten to know the company and the benefits really well. And a lot of the executives when they retire, they know we’ve worked with their colleagues and they’re happy and so they’ll just let us know, “Hey, I’m about to retire. Can we start the planning?”

Hannah: Did you consider going and working for somebody else?

Nina: I talked to many people, Matt was the last person I spoke to because I’m working with him. But when I was at Merrill, they made many introductions to me for advisers that were looking for transition or a junior partner. I’d never found the presentation to be attractive to say because it was, “You take my C and D clients, work that book and build me some A clients as well.” I was already bringing in what were considered A clients and great clients for a longterm book of business for me. So I didn’t see why I would change that. There was really never any true value add on my end and no true commitment on a transition or promise that I would even end up with the books or the opportunity to be a true partner.

Nina: So I always kind of politely declined it. And then when I was interviewing, I looked at other firms and I just felt like I would really like to do my own thing. I didn’t know at the time that it would be in finance, I didn’t know what it looked like and I couldn’t really figure that out. And that was frustrating. So when I met Matt, the timing was perfect and his conversation was different. It was all focused around what did I want? What did I want to build? What did that look like? Who do I love to work with? And he was like, “I’m already doing all of this.” And so it was a lot less of a conversation of, what can you do for me? As, what do you want and how can we accomplish that together?

Hannah: So let’s talk about your partnership with Matt, because you guys have different skill sets. So tell me about that partnership, how you guys have seen that grow over the years and what really has made your partnership uniquely successful?

Nina: Yeah, so there are I think a couple of main things that have been critical in our success. One is that we do have very different skill sets. I run a lot of the operations of the business and I love systems and creating systems and training team members. I love marketing. I actually, my first job was in public relations. I enjoy all of that and I love the male/female aspect has been great. Matt really loves the analytics, the investment management. I do the financial planning. He’s responsible for certain things and so with that, nobody’s overlapping. We could both do each other’s jobs, but we don’t really enjoy it. And I think that’s important because I’m staying in my lane doing what I love and he’s staying in his lane doing what he loves.

Nina: And then I think one thing that’s been beneficial is from day one, even without any need really, we started a organizational chart for the firm we wanted and what we envisioned and all the needs it would have. And we backed ourselves and the assistant we had at the time into, or we put a TBD on, we didn’t need it now, but maybe later, on who was responsible for what. So it was very clear. And every single year, we just celebrated 10 years together in 2019, but every single year we have reviewed the organizational chart, looked at who’s a member of the team and who’s responsible for what based on their skill sets. And so that’s evolved over time.

Nina: The other thing we did is we very, from the get go, very first part of our relationship said, “What have we seen that have ruined other partnerships?” It’s fighting over money, it is who’s spending more time on the business than the other? And potentially people going out and doing something else in addition to the business and then losing track of what their wealth management business is. And that’s what I saw at Merrill Lynch, a partnership fall apart because of a similar situation where a partner opened a retail store outside of the wealth management and was spending a lot of time there because she had to, the partnership fell apart.

Nina: And then we spoke with a partnership that we really respected and still do. Hanson McClain, it’s Scott Hanson and Pat McClain in California and they discussed with us something, so we created a rule that if one person wants to go into another financial commitment, whether it’s a business or buying a building or whatever that looks like, the other person has to have a 50/50 vested interest in both the money upfront and then the revenue, if any coming out of that as well as the expenses. And what that has done is eliminate any… So if someone’s spending time on that business, the other person’s benefiting from it either way. So, that’s been helpful.

Nina: And then the other thing is we knew we would be making a lot of big decisions if we stuck together longterm, whether it’s employees, technology, office space, broker-dealers, regulation changes in how we manage clients that we may not both like or want to keep working with or bring on board. And so what we decided was, how do you end every fight before we even knew what they were? Or disagreement. And what we decided was the person that felt the strongest won period, which has been a weird way to operate, but it’s worked for a decade and we’ve had many disagreements.

Nina: And for example, I wanted to bring on eMoney really early when we started as a technology platform for planning because I didn’t feel like I had a great tool at the time with what we were using. And it was expensive, very expensive for us at that point in our business, it was a financial commitment we were a little concerned about making, but I really strongly felt the ROI would be there and it always has been. It’s been a great investment for us. And Matt said, “You feel the strongest, you win.” When we were changing broker-dealers, he felt the strongest, he won. We’ve had thing after thing, and that’s when a lot of people don’t want to lose control. You and I touched on that earlier as we were talking, but that’s the only time I felt like, yeah, I lost control but also I had a say in the conversation and the decision and all of them have been, I trust the person that ended up making the last call, he trusts me and they’ve ended up being the right calls.

Nina: And so you have to learn to, when you get all of the benefit of the partnership, you also have to trust that person and know that you’re in a partnership with them, you have to trust them to make great decisions, but that can break and really strain relationships. And so we upfront decided we wouldn’t fight about money, we would invest in anything and everything together, and if we got in disagreements, the person that felt the strongest, as long as it wasn’t unethical or illegal, they would win. And that’s kept us together. So it’s worked out. It’s difficult sometimes to remember that when you’re in a heated argument, but at the end of the day, we’re both in the same vision of serving our clients well and doing the best thing for our team, the people that we serve, and the short and longterm vision of our company.

Hannah: You said that you guys don’t argue about money, is that just something that you guys just agree that you’re not… I’m curious to know more about that.

Nina: Yeah, so when I say that, I mean we just every client is 50/50. There’s one client that Matt has little to no interaction with that’s one of our more significant relationships. I would never go to him and be like, “Well, you didn’t really deal with this and we made X revenue from the fees”, because he’s still running the investment portfolios. So because of the way our relationship… I’m actually talking to the client, but Matt still runs a task that has to do with every client. I still run tasks that have to do with every client. So we just said, “We’re not going to ever nitpick on…” Or if Matt spent more on flights last year than I did, we don’t care. We’re just not going to let, as long as there’s nothing way out of line, then you have to just have a conversation about it. But we’ve never had to. I mean we trust each other and just said from day one we don’t want that to start to be a conflict because money can tear apart any relationship.

Hannah: You’re right. Partnerships are really, really hard. I’ve seen a lot of them go awry unfortunately. I’m curious, you also talked about the time that you spend in the business. How does that balance out, especially as like, I mean, I know you’ve had kids and there’s been different focuses I’m sure, in your guys’ lives. Do you guys find that you guys had the same level of commitment or ambition around your financial planning practice?

Nina: We do. So one thing that we’re both very similar in, probably to a detriment, is that we’re probably driven to a fault. We actually had a conversation, we just had lunch together and I said, “Matt, I feel like every time we’ve hit these goals, I’m almost depressed because I need the next goal. Why can’t enough be enough for me? And for you? Why are we like this?” And just trying to talk through like, “Why can’t we just enjoy what we have?” But we’re both so self-motivated and driven and I think that comes from a lot of similarities and things we’ve experienced in life, wanting to really provide a life and experiences for our children and ourselves that are not necessarily driven around money, but they are driven around income and lifestyle.

Nina: And so I think that’s a very similar just personality that we have. And so therefore, that’s never been an issue. But Matt’s daughter is in her late teens, early twenties, in college. My children are five and eight little boys, so our current lives have been very different. I’ve had kids during our partnership, I renovated a house three times. Matt went through a divorce. When we started working together, he did have a young daughter. He went through years of having a teenage girl, which I’ve heard is a challenge at times. And his daughter is wonderful. I mean we’re great friends, we’ve just supported each other and that has the benefit of a partnership. When I have to be out with my kids, he can support me. He’s an Iron Man and marathon and cyclists enthusiast, he’s obsessed with it. But he spends a lot of time training and doing traveling to accomplish these personal goals of these Iron Man and different competitions. So, he’s got the ability to do that and be out of the office, because I’m here as backup. So we’ve just supported each other through lives stages. And we’ll continue to.

Hannah: Have you found yourself having to build your business differently because of your kids or because you are a woman in finance?

Nina: No, I mean I’ve really built the business exactly the way we wanted to, we both have. This is a general statement, I love working with women, but I find myself working better with couples. I get assumed because I’m a woman in financial services, I’m a female advisor, that I work with women or have women as a niche and that’s not the case at all. In fact, in our practice, most of the, not all, but most of the single women work more closely with Matt for whatever reason, and I’m definitely involved with them, love them, love to go have wine. I think it’s just personality type, I don’t know. But our male/female dynamic has worked really well in a couple situation and I think, not even just male/female, it’s two people in the room, one listening, one talking, Matt and I observing different things or hearing different ways. I think it’s just the benefit of two heads is better than one sometimes. And clients have liked that.

Nina: I haven’t seen where I work more with the wife than the husband or anything like that. It’s about 50/50 for both of us. So, I’ve been able to, my family and my children have not changed the way I’ve built my business. I really just am working with what’s my favorite… I work with people that I like, frankly. And I’m so glad to be able to do that, which is a benefit… You know as a working parent, that work life balance is such a joke. I’ve just brought my family into my business, my kids will be in the office this afternoon. I share with them that mommy helps people. I don’t like to talk about mommy’s working all the time. I had a client event Wednesday night and was able to put them to bed at the very end, just kiss them goodnight. And they usually go to that event, but they had baseball practice and they were bummed they missed it. My clients love seeing them all dressed up at the economic presentation dinner.

Nina: So I think being an independent advisor, building a business the way that we’ve been able to, I’ve had to work hard and it’s been a struggle very often through pregnancy and having young kids. But I’ve also had the benefit of flexibility and support from a great team. And so I can go pick them up from school this afternoon, bring them back to my office, get plenty of work done, be with them, and they see a different female than I think most people in the past have grown up with. And I love that they’ll be little men that watched a female entrepreneur in finance find success. And I share with them my podcasts and videos and they’re bored to tears, but they think it’s cool I’m on YouTube sometimes.

Nina: But I’m very transparent with them about everything that I both benefit from, struggle from, enjoy, money, and that what they have is from hard work from their parents and nothing was just handed to us and they’re very lucky little boys.

Hannah: I love how you’re talking about how, instead of trying to figure out how to balance everything you’re saying, how can I integrate everything? And I think that’s a really cool perspective on how to have it all.

Nina: Yeah. And actually it’s funny, after I was saying, I was de-motivated, Matt and I had this business coach and I was like, “I’m having rough days, I’m just demotivating. We hit this goal and need another big goal and blah blah blah.” And he said, “Well, tell me about your day. What do you mean you’re having tough days?” And my kids were much younger and I said, “Well, I need to get up and get makeup, heels, I need to look great. I’m in front of people all day and I need to be on. But I’ve got these toddlers running around, I’m trying to get them ready for daycare or school. Then I’m dropping them off, rushing them in, carrying a kid and all this stuff in heels and by the time I get to the office at 08:30, I’m in tears. And sometimes they’re crying on the way to school or we’re late and it’s just really stressful.” And he said, “Why do you have to be at the office at 08:30?” I said, “Well, that’s when we open.” He said, “You’re the boss, change your day so that it’s better for you to be productive and happy than to come in a wreck.”

Nina: And so I completely changed my day and my productivity and we actually, from that point, I set the next goal, which we hit in less than 24 months, which was to double our assets under management, which is a huge goal. And our coach was like, “Okay, you should set a goal, you shouldn’t set a crazy one.” And I said, “No, you know what? If I only get halfway there, we’ve still grown.” But we did it in 22 months and super proud of that. But what happened is, I didn’t worry about getting me ready in the morning anymore and I had my husband mostly take them to school and then once they left, I have my coffee, I work on my emails, I take my time getting ready. I might listen to a podcast I need to catch up on or a motivational one or I do what I need to at the house.

Nina: I hired a young college girl that for 10 hours a week she babysits and she runs errands. I stopped stressing about, is the house neat when I leave? She comes by every day, tidies up and it costs me a few dollars a day for my mental sanity when I walk in the door, everything’s kind of straight. And little things have been done. My dry cleaning was dropped by today. I’m in the office less, I get more done. I was already very obsessive about time blocking, but when we wanted to grow our business that fast, I knew I had to get more obsessive over time blocking. So, we put in client meetings and prospective client meetings and marketing things before we’d even planned what they were or who they were. And so we knew we just had to fill those spots.

Hannah: This sounds so like the antithesis of this hustle culture. I mean, you’re still doing all this work and getting all these things done, but you’re getting more done by slowing down.

Nina: Exactly. I mean people brag about, “Oh, I was in the office 12 hours a day or I was there at 07:30”, I think for certain roles that is important, you need to show hustle and commitment when you’re moving up in a company or the lackadaisical, show up at nine and check out the door at 07:01, if you’re trying to get ahead, I don’t think that’s super impressive, but I think it’s also not impressive to work yourself to death where you don’t enjoy what you’re doing and you’re not a… I need to be a good mom when I’m home, not worn out and stressed out. And I see them in the mornings and the evenings and that’s when I’m not a morning person, but in the evenings I’m tired and they are too. And I just found changing some things that seemed counter productive, made me more productive.

Hannah: So you created the Female Advisor Network. Can you tell me a little bit about what that is and what spurred you to create that?

Nina: Yes. So the Female Advisor Network is a national membership organization for female financial advisors. Those are the only people we allow into the organization and it’s really just a community of women that we all do the same job, it’s by advisors for advisors. The goal is to be industry changers and voices through support, education, mentorship, and collaboration. We have a lot of different features and benefits in the program. Kind of a quick overview without going into the details of any, you can go to femaleadvisornetwork.org and check out more, but we do have a mentorship program, an accountability partner program. Those are 12 month guided workbooks where you’re partnered and paired by us based on a lot of questions that a survey goes through, if you fill out the form that you’re interested. We host an annual retreat or there’ll be periodic retreats.

Nina: We have a speaker and media where if you are interested in either beginning to have speaking and media engagements or want to increase or be a resource, then I have a spot on the members only website where you can fill out a form and share your expertise or what you would talk on and we’re contacted by people all the time, actually am also contacted by people that want to sell their business or buy their business in certain areas so we have opportunities for that or partner. We have conference connections and community connections, those are either locally female advisors getting together hosted by an ambassador and members can write in if they want to be an ambassador for their local area, just getting those kicked off.

Nina: And then the conference connections are a meetup during whatever national conference and been trying to work with conference organizers and make sure there’s an opportunity for the women there to get together, ideally at the beginning of the conference just so they can make friends and network and have a buddy system along the time that they’re there and get to know each other further. And then as soon as a member joins, they’re sent this really pretty, but discreet leather squared, it looks similar to a luggage tag that goes on their bag that they can wear at industry or local events that identifies them as a member of the Female Advisor Network, ideally to help connect members that may not already know each other at events or just to identify someone to have a quick, it’s a conversation starter.

Nina: So lots more to come. We’re starting webinars and we have a partner marketplace where lots of FinTech and other types of companies that offer products and services for either women or advisors have discounted and promotional pricing within our partner marketplace. So, a lot more exciting things to come this year. We celebrate our one year anniversary in April and just have had such amazing response. I’ve met so many incredible members, each week we do a member spotlight, which has become my favorite part of the week, just seeing what all of these incredible women are doing and then to create an online community, we have a closed social network called A Mighty Network where it’s almost like a chat room and there’s different topics and we share questions or successes or someone can say, “Hey, I’m looking at this technology versus that technology.” People can feed their responses into that.

Nina: So it’s been fun. I hope more women continue to join. The bigger the network is, the more beneficial it is for all of us together. And so every week we see more and more members join in and start to begin to engage. I just can’t wait to see what happens.

Hannah: What was really the driver behind you wanting to start this group?

Nina: Having been looking for it for so long. I mean, when I was at Merrill Lynch, I really didn’t have a lot of female colleagues when I first went independent, I was an island and I’ve started these groups as more women in business locally. And for different reasons, started them and then let them move on. Some of them just morphed out of the initial thing, but they really… It’s hard to understand our business and it’s nice to talk to someone that does and that has the same unique challenges or struggles. And so I really kept seeking out other females in the industry, but I don’t have a lot in my current community. And so it was like, I go to an event, meet them, see them for a little bit, and then you’re out of touch again. And so I thought, “How can I create a continued relationship with multiple ones other than just being Facebook friends or something?” So that’s where the retreat came out of. I was like, “Oh, we could do an annual retreat, really uncharge, rewind.”

Nina: And then I thought, well, a three day retreat isn’t creating really that ongoing thing that I’m trying to. So then I just thought, well, why not me? I knew I had enough industry relationships, I made a business plan of what things would have benefited me throughout my career and where I am now and where I’ve seen other advisors that are past me or beyond me in different stage? And so when I looked at that, I thought, “Yeah, I really think I can create this. And then I think I can get the word out through different organizations and relationships that I already have and try to benefit other advisors that I know have already been through or are going through or will go through the same things that we all have.” And that I found the same common conversations over and over and I thought, “We can be doing more together.”

Hannah: So is Matt a partner in this as well?

Nina: He is. He 50% owns a woman’s organization and he is not allowed membership. But, yeah, that’s been one of the cool things that I didn’t… When we made that rule 10 years ago, I never in a million years thought it would be first having to approach it over this. We always thought it would be buying another business or a building or something. But yeah, I mean I was able to go to him and say, “This is my dream. This is a passion project. It needs X investment.” It did require quite a lot of money up front investment, especially the retreat. So I basically went to him and said, “I need a substantial amount of money upfront from you that you will get no benefit from, could potentially lose money, but I still want to do it.”

Nina: And so we did and we have lost money. But I mean in that there’s a lot of startup costs with any business. And we hired someone to actually run that organization because I can’t do it day to day. I’m kind of the face and vision and we’ve added a incredible woman, Claire Edward, she interned with us for a summer. I brought her back on last Spring. She helped me create the network, so it’s kind of her baby too but we’ve both been in a huge learning curve, but we hired her full time to run the network. So, there’s costs to run any business, but he’s lost money on it but I appreciate his support.

Hannah: Oh, that’s so great. Well, every time I hear somebody who just sees a need and goes and just does it, doesn’t ask for permission, just does it, it’s so inspiring to hear. And I hope that the listeners are inspired by that as well. If you see a problem, you can be part of the solution right now.

Nina: Yeah. And I mean this is not critical in any way because I was part of it, but I got to a point of like, “I’m sick of hearing that there are so few females in the business. How do we get them there? Why are we losing them?” And it’s, there’s not a lot of support out there and where are the training programs? How do they know that they have a lifeline? How do they know questions they may not feel comfortable asking their manager or in a larger forum like, “I’m pregnant. How do I break the news?” I’ve talked to so many women at wire houses that are terrified to get pregnant in a training program because they genuinely have no idea what will happen to them. And we’re going to come out with some other programs that are designed to support, I’m in process of finalizing them now, pregnant, postnatal, and working mothers.

Hannah: Oh, I love it. It is so needed.

Nina: Don’t sleep a lot but like to get [inaudible]. But just trying to add value where I see the need as I’ve talked to other women in the networking community, so I appreciate the support and the opportunity to even talk about it because it’s been a grassroots movement. I don’t have a lot of marketing expertise other than growing an advisory business. So it’s been sort of the Wild Wild West going, “How do I get the awareness out?” And so any way I can, I’ve been grateful for.

Hannah: Thank you for joining us today. One final question for you is, if you were starting over or looking at somebody who’s starting new right now, what would be your advice to them?

Nina: I don’t know that there’s any way they could do this, but have confidence. Our industry thinks anybody that doesn’t have, I feel like 20 years experience is a baby and kind of gets discredited. But I always tried to fight for my voice and stand up for what I believed in for what was right for my clients and to just have confidence that I knew the knowledge that I had. And if I had questions, I still have questions 14 years in, I constantly say, “I don’t know, I need to get back to you.” And so just having that knowledge that you can do a great job, you don’t have to have 20 years or gray hair, a young advisor… I’ve been the senior advisor for clients since I was 25 years old and I’m still only 38. And you do have to prove and demonstrate your knowledge but have confidence and conviction in it as well.

Nina: I lost that in the financial crisis and it hurt me rebuilding. And that was the biggest difference in rebuilding the second time versus the first, because I lost total confidence. And once I got it back and got that fire in my belly, it was amazing, the change in our business and we can see that in I track assets every month, I track revenue every month, and have for 10 years. I have spreadsheet in P&L that show you where our business changed a couple of times. And evidently when I go on maternity leave, we have a growth in referrals, I don’t know what happens. That was just as a joke, but I would say that was the biggest thing I would just really press on because I see that happen so much and then people kind of fall out.

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