Women in Finance: Have you ever been pegged as an assistant or support person -- when you're not?
In a recent post on LinkedIn, Sheryl Hickerson, founder of Females & Finance (who is also a good business friend of mine and a super sharp marketing pro), asked: As a Woman in Finance, how many of you have you ever been mistaken as the assistant versus the advisor at a conference? This got me thinking about my humble beginnings when I actually was an assistant to a highly-successful advisor. In case this helps anyone, I typed up a few thoughts and will post them here. In addition, at the very bottom of this post, I will link back to the LinkedIn conversation that Sheryl started in case anyone would like to comment on the topic.
I have been working in the financial services industry for 30+ years.
When I actually was the executive assistant to the CEO / top producer at a thriving wealth management firm in Orange County, CA, I would proudly say:
"I'm the executive assistant to Tony Reguero and I am thrilled to support not only the accomplishment of his goals but also the success of the entire organization." That was my value proposition back then.
After rising through the ranks at the wealth management firm and eventually finding my groove as head of marketing and PR for this group of 20+ FAs, I adjusted my positioning statement a bit to something like:
"I am head of marketing and PR for a group of highly accomplished independent financial advisors led by million dollar producer Tony Reguero. We are rockin' it in Orange County, growing by leaps and bounds. I'm so proud to be lead a team of marketing support professionals who help this mighty organization be more visible and uniquely positioned with the right COIs and clients in Southern California."
When I set out on my own to build my own marketing and PR firm in 1993, my initial positioning statement was:
"I help a select group of highly-successful independent advisors scale and grow their firms through effective marketing communications. I am a marketing and PR pro."
Fast forward to today where I lead a mighty band of dedicated, discerning and driven marketing and PR professionals and my value prop is anchored more on the word "we" not "I".
It's the team effort that makes the difference for our clients and we now serve large financial services institutions and fintech firms as well as a select group of highly-successful independent financial advisors.
So if anyone today asks me if I'm an assistant to someone today, I might chuckle lightly and say something like:
"Well, actually, yes -- I guess you could say that. My team and I are proud to assist our clients in reaching some pretty lofty goals."
"I'm the founder and CEO of a thriving marketing and PR firm. We work exclusively with independent advisors and allied institutions -- and have done so since I started the company as me, myself, and I back in 1993 after having started with zero knowledge of the wealth management profession in the late 1980's. So yes, you could say I'm an assistant to many now -- even today. But it is leadership and focused team work that really makes the difference."
While I'm not an advisor, I am proud to assist them and all others who assist them in providing the very best services and solutions to their clients.
Side note on societal norms:
After enjoying a nice dinner out with my daughter and husband last night, the server (who happened to be male and in his 20's), looked squarely at me and as he put down the folio with the dinner check in it, said: "Thanks for joining us tonight. I hope to see you again sometime soon." After he walked away, my 23 year old daughter chuckled and made a comment about progress and societal norms. This server had looked us all in the eye, treating us all as equals throughout dinner, and not simply deferring to the older male at the table (my husband). And, of course, I gave the server a very nice tip.
Side note on building a solid public persona over time:
I got to thinking about my journey building a career in the financial services industry. And in addition to the words we use to communicate who we are in life -- and the roles we play, the value we bring, and how we fit into the equation -- it's important to remember that "who we are is the message" and that our composure and countenance come through long before we engage in any conversation.
I did a quick Google search and found these artifacts of me through the years (see below) still floating around on the Internet. Ironically the Internet was not even a thing when I started my journey at Worldwide Investment Network back-in-the-day.
My good friend Marion Asnes, formerly Editor-in-Chief at Financial Planning magazine who went on to serve as CMO at Envestnet and, ultimately establish her own consulting firm called Idea Refinery, reinforced for me (and many others) that "presence" and "credibility" hinge on The 3-L's:
As I look back at this 20-year photo array, below, I can certainly see how I've tried to rise to the occasion. And the posture, smiles, haircuts and attire are telling. Age and tread on the tires certainly has something to do with being more confident. But to all who struggle as I have over the years with lacking confidence, I'll just say that sometimes you have to be a little more courageous and bold than you normally might be, to step outside of your comfort zone, and let others invite and point the way.
There were many times I felt like an imposter, thinking "who me?" or "why me?" but I decided sometime ago that if people invited me to participate or lead something for them that I ought to show up as someone great to be around, even if I didn't know all the answers or worried that I wouldn't be good enough. But people kept inviting me back, so I just decided to quit fretting and do what I could to make a difference. Sometimes I still flub up, but showing up is, as they say, a big part of success.
I'd love to hear from others in the financial services / financial planning community on how they have overcome imposter syndrome and used The 3-L's to "show up" powerfully and meaningfully in business and in life.
If you'd like to comment on this topic, here's a link back to the original discussion on LinkedIn:
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