Variety of networks key to success for women in advisory business

Female leaders discuss how strong professional and personal connections have helped them get ahead

Jun 26, 2014 @ 11:13 am

By Darla Mercado

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For women who want to succeed in financial services, the keys lie in the networks they create.

That message was shared by many of the successful female speakers at the InvestmentNews and Investment Program Association's Women's Forum in New York on Wednesday.

“Connect with people who have that same passion,” said Heather Ettinger, managing partner at Fairport Asset Management. “When you're a junior [employee], you're measured on your output and product. But as you move up in the organization, you're measured more on who you're connected to and who your sponsors are.

“I know when I started doing this in my 20s and 30s, it didn't seem like my group of friends was going anywhere,” she added. “But now we're CEOs. And that makes a big difference in what we can get done in the community.”

(More: Three steps to greater gender diversity in the RIA industry)

Women ought to seek three types of professional relationships in their lives in order to get ahead, noted speaker Jyoti Chopra, managing director and global head of diversity and inclusion at Bank of New York Mellon.

Sponsors are senior leaders with significant influence on decision-making processes and advocate for the career advancement of an individual. Mentors, meanwhile, provide guidance and advice to benefit the mentee in his or her role. Finally, coaches provide practical advice on how to improve or develop a specific skillset.

“Coaches will tell you what to do, and mentors will listen to you and speak with you,” Ms. Chopra explained. “But sponsors will talk about you.”

More from Ms. Chopra on creating a path to leadership for female advisers.

Panelist Louisa Quarto, president of Realty Capital Securities, recounted her decision to leave a 12-year career at W.P. Carey & Co. to join RCS in 2008. It was a risky call, she said, but the prospect of a strong mentorship helped her make the transition.

“As I joined, I looked to Nick Schorsch as a sponsor, a mentor to trust in the vision that was being presented to me,” Ms. Quarto said. “It was a huge risk I was taking professionally and personally to leave a comfortable spot and participate in something new.”

Indeed, those sponsors — leaders at firms — are listening when women step up to take on additional challenges and work collaboratively. Rebecca Pomering, CEO and principal at Moss Adams Wealth Advisors, recalled eagerly stepping up to try her hand at complex tasks early on in her career with the firm, even when she wasn't the most tenured employee.

“If someone left the company, I'd say, 'Hey! I can do that job. He had 15 years [of experience] and I have six months. But give me a try!'” Ms. Pomering recalled. Now as a leader, she extends those opportunities to other employees at Moss Adams.

“I'm not hung up on people's titles or track record of doing this same exact thing over and over,” she said. “We're trying to encourage people to take risks. Those are lessons I learned early in my career and I'm trying to translate them into my leadership role.”

(More: 10 reasons this is a great economy for female advisers)

Ms. Pomering added that “360-degree feedback” is essential for women leaders: Seek input not just from those above and across from you in terms of seniority and authority, but also from the people who work for you.

With success also comes the responsibility of maintaining support networks outside of the workplace, including family.

“Find that personal support network, be it a family member or a friend who can help you manage that work-life balance,” Ms. Quarto said. “When you are with your family, make that time valuable. Take the time away from your work, because work will be there when you get back,” said Ms. Quarto.

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