In today’s featured Q&A, @PipMeHappy brings us another insightful interview, this time featuring a champion for women on Wall Street: wealth advisor and founder of the RegentAtlantic Wall Street Women Forum®, Jane Newton!
With over 30 years of combined experience in investment banking (JP Morgan), private banking, and now wealth management (RegentAtlantic), Jane has first-hand experience of what it’s like to be the only woman in a largely male-dominated industry. This experience has led her to found a community that supports women’s advancement in Wall Street.
As the Wall Street Women Forum celebrates its 10th year, Jane answers @PipMeHappy’s questions on the current status of women in the finance industry: What do women need in order to succeed? When it comes to financial services, do women need to be treated differently than men? Do we really need specific programs to help support women?
If you’re a woman interested in starting a career in finance or know someone who is, this is a really good Q&A for you!
1. Your tenth-year running the RegentAtlantic Wall Street Women Forum® shows, in the 2019 survey results, that women in executive roles put a lack of confidence as the main (35%) reason holding their careers back, followed closely by lacking a sponsor (28%): why do you think this is?
Every year for the past ten years I have surveyed the RegentAtlantic Wall Street Women Forum community - high-level women across Wall Street - to learn what is on their minds. To an outsider, these smart, busy, accomplished women may seem to have it all. Our surveys show, however, that the women themselves recognize the need for greater self-confidence and sponsors to advocate for them.
One of the biggest challenges for women building their careers on Wall Street 20 or 30 years ago was the dearth of role models, especially female role models. Like so many others who share their stories with me, I was often the only woman in the room. We had to figure out for ourselves how to get a seat at the table and use our voices effectively. And women were generally less supportive of each other than they are today. We’ve learned (and are still learning!) to be more comfortable taking risks, squash the negative voices in our heads, and get over the so-called imposter syndrome, all of which can hold us back from advancing in our careers.
At the same time, the women identify sponsors as key to their professional advancement. What’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor? A mentor provides helpful guidance and professional introductions. A sponsor, on the other hand, is a powerful advocate who sees your potential, opens doors for you, and pushes you to accomplish more than you may have imagined. A sponsor uses his or her personal capital to create opportunities for you to advance, often when you’re not in the room.
Our surveys consistently show that surprisingly few high-level women in financial services have a sponsor – only 14% said they do at our 2019 Forum. The main reason? Over half say they don’t know how to go about getting a sponsor. The thing is, you don’t “get” a sponsor, you have to earn a sponsor. You have to get noticed for your talents by those who could sponsor you. This isn’t about being someone’s best friend (a trap some women fall into). It’s about what you can bring to them professionally so they choose to invest in you.
Our Forum speakers highlight the benefits of cultivating the relationships that are key to professional success – especially sponsors. We also focus on what we can each do in turn to sponsor others, because I think there is a real commitment now among the women to give back. As the founder and leader of the Wall Street Women Forum, I’m sponsoring all of them in a sense, and helping them form connections to help each other. Collectively we can accomplish so much!
2. What has been the main reason for the success of your Wall Street Women Forum?
The Forum is designed exclusively for high-level women on Wall Street to help them advance professionally and personally. Part of its success is that our events are by-invitation-only (the Forum community has grown to over 850 women across all sectors of the Street) and part because the programs address the issues most on the participants’ minds. In short, the Forum is all about them.
As an advisor, I draw on my own background on Wall Street to help other women in finance. My whole career has been in financial services - first at JP Morgan in investment banking and later in private banking, and for the past 14 years at RegentAtlantic, one of the largest independent advisory firms. I know first-hand the challenging environment of Wall Street, especially as a woman, a wife and a mother. As the women say, I’ve walked in their shoes. From hundreds of conversations with my Wall Street clients and those I know in the industry, I’ve learned that the women are hungry for practical career advice as well as connecting with their peers. In 2010, I launched the Wall Street Women Forum to help them not just survive but thrive. We’ve held 10 annual Forums to date. The women attend not just because we put on fabulous events, but because the Forum helps propel their careers forward. The community has grown into what I now realize is a sisterhood. The Forum has touched a nerve, changing women’s lives in a way I couldn’t have imagined. And in turn, the speakers and the women have changed my life for the better.
3. Was the Wall Street Women Forum created after conversations with your clients? Did it grow organically from there?
The Forum was created for and by my clients on Wall Street. In 2008, my clients who worked on the Street, both men and women, and many of my friends and former colleagues all had the same concerns. They were anxious about jobs and money – and needed to figure out what to do about it. If you were on Wall Street then, you know just how anxious everyone was.
I set out to talk to Wall Streeters to learn what was on their minds. Men and women had similar questions. The women had further concerns, asking: “How am I going to reinvent myself, yet again?” Women who had already survived several rounds of industry consolidation wondered what was ahead. And what to do to stay ahead. I learned the women were thirsty for two things – practical information and connecting with their peers across the industry. I spotted an opportunity to address their problems, combining my industry expertise and RegentAtlantic’s extensive capabilities to hold an event for 100 hand-selected women. Thus was born the first RegentAtlantic Wall Street Women Forum in 2010.
The Forum community has grown to over 850 strong. All by word of mouth, as one woman asks to include another who may benefit. Our 90 speakers have generously shared their expertise to help women on Wall Street advance. Members of the Forum community are at a certain phase of their lives and career path where they want to make thoughtful decisions. They are eager to stay relevant in a rapidly changing industry, to get to their dream job, and to know what they can afford to do financially. They look to me and the Forum for the answers.
It’s amazing to see what happens by identifying a need and providing a valued solution! Interesting, this is exactly what I do as an advisor for my clients every day.
4. What effect, in your view, are programmes such as JP Morgan Chase’s women undergraduate programme and Deutsche Bank’s GROW (Graduate Outreach for Women), to name but a few, having on women’s progression into Wall Street careers?
I live for the day when we don’t need programs specifically to attract women to our industry. Sadly we are clearly not there yet. There’s a great saying: “You can only be what you can see.” When a young woman is asked to imagine what it looks like to work in financial services, what does she see? Rarely someone who looks like her. To attract and retain more women, we need to showcase more role models – real-life, successful woman in the industry. Especially women who are in client-facing, revenue-driving roles. Furthermore, success hinges on engaging the men as our allies in this mission. Individually and collectively we can do so much to move the needle. I just wish it would happen faster.
5. According to 2016 figures, women manage 51% of US personal wealth (= USD 14t), yet in the same year a survey by the Center for Talent Innovation showed that 44% of female clients of wealth management firms felt misunderstood by their advisors. Based on your experience as a certified financial planner at RegentAtlantic, what is your take on this?
I love this question as it touches on a question I am asked all the time – Do women need different financial services or solutions than men? In my experience, the answer is no. Please don’t think that using pink font in your marketing appeals to the women! What I find women crave is a safe and open environment in which to ask questions and learn at their own pace, without feeling judged.
It’s exciting to me that women are increasingly responsible for their wealth and thus want to be more engaged in their finances. But there is so much information out there that causes information overload. My work advising high-level women on Wall Street has taught me that women want clarity and confidence in making financial decisions. They look to me to cut through all of the information to tell them what it means specifically for them, to help them get unstuck. My mission is to provide that clarity and confidence to help them move from contemplation to action.
Maybe this is obvious - it all starts with understanding each client, really knowing the client, male or female. As one of my mentors once told me – People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. At RegentAtlantic, our work with clients goes way beyond the dollars and cents. It’s about building lasting relationships. This is especially important to the women, who tend to be more goal-oriented than the men. This is where I think there is often a disconnect between advisors and their female clients. Yes, women may want to talk about specific trades and technical information. But women are really looking for more holistic advice. They want to know, what does this decision or that mean for my family, for my ability to live life the way I want, for my dreams? As an advisor, I relish deeper, more personal relationships, which make all the difference in helping clients feel heard and understood.
6. Organisations like Girls Who Invest (founded in 2015) try to fill that space left by the lack of women-specific, on-campus programmes for women seeking a career in portfolio/asset management; you have talked previously about the difference between mentorship and sponsorship: do you think that finding in-work sponsors is what women in financial careers continues to struggle with?
College-age women interested in careers in finance and investing have many resources to draw on. Organizations like Girls who Invest and others are impactful. Not only do they provide educational opportunities, they also open women’s eyes to what’s possible on Wall Street. When I graduated college, there was no such career path as a financial planner. There were stockbrokers, a far cry from the relationship-oriented, planning-centric role I play today. Many colleges today have investment clubs and other activities to orient women to the world of investing and asset management. Several colleges offer well-regarded undergraduate and graduate degrees in financial planning – unheard of twenty years ago!
That said, building a career is about more than what you know, it’s who you know. Mentors are helpful but sponsors make the difference. Sponsors - those who advocate for you behind closed doors - are critical for women’s advancement in the male-dominated world of Wall Street. Cultivate at least one sponsor – in or out of your workplace, in or out of your industry, male or female. Think broadly to gain the support you need.
7. Finally, if you were to give any advice to women in the finance industry at the beginning of their career, in the middle of it, and approaching retirement, what would it be?
My advice to Wall Street women:
1. At the beginning of your career:
Hard work alone doesn’t bring you success. Hard work may get you noticed. However, as you build your career, it’s less about what you know than who you know. Make the time to network – proactively and intentionally.
2. In the middle of your career:
Break your own rules! Don’t wait for everything to be perfect or the world will pass you by. You don’t need to be 100% ready to take a new job or start a new venture or project. Put your hand up even if you know only half the job – that’s what men do! Take the leap and you will figure it out later.
3. As you approach retirement:
Know what’s possible for you financially. Busy professionals suddenly wake up at 50 or 55 or 60 and realize they don’t know what they can afford to do. Their financial anxiety naturally ramps up. If you don’t know your number – the amount of money needed to allow you to live life on your own terms – you will feel stuck. Take stock of what you have socked away so far and engage a financial professional so you can make significant decisions with confidence. Wouldn’t it be great to look back and have no regrets?
Also, think broadly about this phase called “retirement.” For some it’s a full stop, for others it’s a slower glide path, for others it’s shifting into something completely different, paid or unpaid. What does the next chapter of your life look like to you? Dream a bit and prioritize what’s most important to you. Your next chapter may last 30 years!
And that wraps up @PipMeHappy’s Q&A with Jane Newton!
We’d also like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to PipMeHappy who’s been tirelessly interviewing women in finance in hopes of inspiring more women out there to pursue trading and consider the finance industry. We absolutely look forward to having more women on the forums, too!