Our third-annual list features the top 400 mothers working in wealth management today. We asked some of the best how they overcame obstacles to become successful in their field while raising children. find out why these advisors are the best of the best.
“Becoming a mom was a struggle, and it has made me a better advisor and a better parent. My husband and I tried for years to get pregnant. That experience made me appreciate that you can never fully understand what someone else is going through—and that financial assets do not solve many of life’s challenges. I am a better advisor now because I listen out for what isn’t being said. In order for us to be effective, we need to understand what drives and concerns our clients. I used that obstacle to connect on a deeper level with clients and help build a team with a shared vision.”
Maria D. Colucci
“I started my career in wealth management as an assistant in 1987, and was placed with a busy advisor who spent a lot of time out of the office. His male assistant had quit. In his absence, I had to be ready to handle a host of client issues and concerns, some of which were complex, especially given the lack of technology in the ’80s. I took the workload as an opportunity and accepted the responsibility of helping clients with more than simple administrative tasks. This required me to do research and speak to specialists in various departments of our firm. If I had worked with an advisor who had given me less of a challenge, I never would’ve developed client relationships that I still have today.”
“I started in the financial-services industry in the ’90s, and it was challenging to find other successful women advisors in my community at that time—other than my mother, who was also a financial advisor with Ameriprise. We would support each other, but it wasn’t until this past decade that I found more networking opportunities, structural systems, and processes for us.
It’s a different culture and climate now—our firm has always fostered an environment where we are encouraged to come together, connect, network and support each other, but now it’s to a greater degree. Technology also plays a key role in staying connected with successful women across the country.”
“Since the daily balancing act as a working mom is just a fact—my boys are 8 1⁄2 and 12 now—there are a few things I’ve done to make it work well.
For one, I moved our office much closer to home. This lets me offer more-flexible meeting times for clients, and I’m also more available to run to school to help with projects. Plus, we’ve provided opportunities for simultaneous work and kid time. One Saturday morning, for example, we rented out a movie theater during the opening weekend of a kid-friendly movie. From a work standpoint, it was a great marketing tool. We were able to invite clients and prospects with their families. My children were there too, so we spent time together.
Finally, I usually avoid checking my work email at night or on weekends. It works because I’m very responsive in the mornings. But when clients are buying a house, I’ll say, “I’ll check email this weekend; it’s no big deal.” I think they appreciate this because they’re aware that it is a boundary for me. If anything, it looks like I’m going above and beyond for them.”
“As a mom to a 1- and 4-year-old, wife, an equity owner of a $3.2 billion private wealth-management business, and a woman trying to stay physically fit, it often feels like there are not enough hours in the day. It takes an exorbitant amount of planning, time blocking and discipline to ensure I am present, focused and dedicated to each of the priorities in my life. Though it often feels like distributed mediocrity, I dive in and enjoy every second of the journey (minus the workouts).
Each moment I can spend with my children or husband is priceless—and fleeting, so I try to leave my phone in my purse and not even look at it when I’m with them. Why does this help my career? Because if I go to work knowing that my time at home with my family was concentrated and undivided, I can be more productive and focused without feeling like I gave up precious time with those I love the most.”
“One of the biggest obstacles to my success is ‘mom guilt,’ or the amount of time I spend worrying about taking an evening appointment, traveling for work, or—gasp!—sending store-bought treats to school. For years, I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to be perfect. Coaches helped me step back, reflect and reset my priorities. I came away with a clear idea of my top professional and personal goals, along with concrete plans to achieve them.
Building a strong network of working mom friends has helped too. We feed and chauffeur each other’s children. We set aside time to work out together to prioritize our own health. We have monthly coffee dates to talk about business development. We volunteer together in the community. We share books, podcasts, life hacks and the best new Costco snacks. We hold each other up, and also coordinate a spectacular soccer carpool.
I remind myself that being a good example for my daughter is my most important job. She sees me helping others reach their goals, supporting charities that align with my values, making time for my own health, and not sweating the small stuff.”
“When I started my career, I was often the only woman in the room, and it was necessary to have the courage to speak up and not be intimidated. I asked lots of thoughtful questions and was always the first to volunteer to take on new projects. Pursuing growth opportunities gave me exposure to senior partners and clients, and helped me to learn quickly. It showed that I was a strong team player and confident in my ideas.
The senior partners I worked with believed in me and my potential, and they became mentors. Their support helped guide my growth, and within two years, I too became a partner. After making partner, I had to learn to man- age my career while starting and growing my family. Communicating to my team what I needed as a new parent was essential to my success, and that of my team and my family.”
Debra Brennan Tagg
“The financial-planning industry has been male-dominated for my entire career. Instead of viewing that as a negative, I realized early on that it was an advantage because I am so different from the traditional advisor. My natural instinct is to focus on my clients’ experience, as opposed to trying to make a sale. I introduced technology into my planning, for example. I created a proprietary financial plan that provides a framework for my clients to make thoughtful decisions about their money, including the effects of their decisions and the possible paths their plan can take.
By moving away from the old ways of doing business, I established myself in the industry—on my own terms—in ways that benefit my clients. I am also focused on helping younger women entering the field, and on closing the wage gap in our industry through talks and events centered on teaching women how to negotiate for higher salaries and bigger opportunities.”
“When my kids were younger, I struggled with the same issue every mom struggles with: balance. I tried to keep my work life separate from my home life, and it was impossible and incredibly stressful. As I’ve grown into my role as a working mother, I’ve learned that the skills required to be an effective financial advisor are almost identical to those required to be a good mom. I need to be a dedicated caretaker who can anticipate needs and successfully multi-task to get those needs met. Both jobs require the ability to actively listen and to be decisive when making tough decisions. Finally, I need to try to provide an oasis of calm when things get bumpy. Defining these skill sets and understanding that I’m providing the same services to all of my ‘clients’ has helped to blend my two worlds together.”
“One of my greatest challenges—maintaining a successful practice while remaining highly engaged with my family—is all too common for working mothers. To overcome it, I shifted my focus away from conventional measures of success and defined my own version: I want to be a fully present mom for my 6-year-old daughter, and also want to be fully engaged and committed in helping my clients with their financial well-being. In part, this has meant being more selective about the clients I take on—I don’t take everyone who asks anymore. What started as a way to maximize time with my daughter has freed me to focus on those clients. I achieve the best results with passionate clients who want to make a difference in the lives of others. They are energizing, comfortable dele- gating, and want a trusted partner who will work proactively to help them achieve their financial goals. Now that I’m more selective, I can even go above and beyond for their financial well-being.”