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Professionals share tips for business success at Dynasty Women’s Network

Margie Manning

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Shirl Penney, co-founder and CEO, Dynasty Financial Partners, speaking at the Women's Network event in St. Petersburg. (Photo credit: Dynasty Financial)

Shirl Penney, CEO of Dynasty Financial Partners, wants to be an advocate for women at the St. Petersburg-based firm and within the male-dominated wealth management industry.

Penney made that commitment as he kicked off the Dynasty Women’s Network. About 75 female professionals, ranging from students and interns to CEOs and board members, gathered in St. Petersburg Feb. 26-28 for the event.

It was the first of several Dynasty Women’s Network events planned for this year.

Women make up more than 40 percent of the workforce at Dynasty, which moved its headquarters from New York to St. Petersburg last year. In contrast, women financial advisors represent just 15 percent to 20 per of all advisors industry-wide, according to a report in Barron’s.

The event covered a wide range of topics facing female financial advisors. St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor and City Administrator Kanika Tomalin was a featured speaking, talking about her commitment to diversity and inclusion, and initiatives to increase the number of women and women of color in city government.

Sally Cates (left), Dynasty managing director, with Lori Hardwick, CEO, wealth tech, at RedRock Strategic Partners, and chairman at Riskalyze (Photo credit: Dynasty Financial)

Sally Cates, managing director of public relations and communications at Dynasty, provided a recap of the topics discussed for the St. Pete Catalyst, including advice that can in some cases span a wide variety of industries.

Different paths. Women often have different journey into the wealth management business than men do. For the most part, the women didn’t major in finance with a direct route into a broker training program. Instead, they had a very different career path.

One started as a nanny for a financial executive who urged her to consider a finance career. Another started as a receptionist at an international bank and maneuvered her way into becoming a financial advisor through hard work and networking.  Another started as a professional country singer who went home to support her mother with her finances during a divorce and realized she could make a difference supporting other women going through divorce.

Coming from these diverse backgrounds often gave the women a level of empathy that enabled them to relate to clients in a much deeper way.

A panel talking about career choices at the Dynasty Women’s Network event. (Photo credit: Dynasty Financial)

Mentors. One of the keys to the success of many of the women was having a mentor and sponsor. Navigating the complex wealth management industry requires input from experienced professionals — both men and women — who can provide advice and guidance on moving up the ladder.

While it’s important to listen to mentors, participants also were advised not to follow their advice blindly.

One advisor had an opportunity to leave her niche-focused bank to join a large successful financial services firm offering greater opportunities and resources. When she mentioned this opportunity to her largest client, whom she considered a mentor, he told her it was a big mistake and he wouldn’t follow her if she made the move. After considering this input, the advisor made the decision to take the new opportunity and ended up flourishing in the new atmosphere. Her client ended up joining her four years later.

Most of the successful women had a sounding board – a formal or informal group of people who they trusted who could advise them about new opportunities, upcoming decisions or how to handle complicated situations.

A panel on mentoring at the Dynasty Women’s Network (Photo credit: Dynasty Financial)

Making mistakes. It’s important to admit it when we have made a mistake, cut your losses and move on.

One top executive took a high profile position at a large firm and tried to institute a number of major changes very quickly. She ran up against the entrenched culture and longtime employees who abhorred change and ended any chance of moving forward. Her takeaway? Don’t try to move too fast. It’s best to listen and assess the culture before instituting massive change.

As the only woman in the room, her advice was to sit back and listen. Don’t immediately upset the apple cart. It’s best to get a sense of the team dynamics before you choose the areas where you can add value. You don’t want to be seen as a disrupter from day one.

Work/life balance. Several women spoke about physically collapsing. The combination of a big career, looking after an ailing parent while caring for small children, the added stress of constant travel on top of moving in some cases led some women to end up in the hospital after physically falling down. The takeaway? Take care of yourself. Don’t try to do too much at once. If you need help, ask for it. And outsource: hire help for housework, childcare.

Risk taking. Taking risks was an important aspect to women looking to move up the ladder. It’s hard to survive and thrive at a firm if you are stuck in the same low level job for years. Instead, the successful women made some calculated moves such as taking a job at a startup, taking business classes at night, volunteering for new projects, taking the series exams, or making the move to leave a large firm and launch their own firm.

Respect. For those women who are marginalized at work, there are a number of strategies and tactics.

Many women spoke of being the only woman at the firm and the humiliation of being left out of the firm golf event or the after-work event at the bar. One strategy is to change the topic: take the initiative and choose an activity that you can invite the group to, for example, organize a tennis event at your local courts.

There is no upside in whining and being the victim. The better strategy is to get creative and turn the situation around.

Other women discussed how they went out of their way to be a champion for other women at the firm. They all win if they advocate for each other.

What can men do? Mentor or sponsor promising women. By sharing valuable experience and insights, men can assist women as they navigate often complex firm cultures and can tee up important professional opportunities, enabling women to take that next step. Be proactive in including women in outings, events and in key meetings. Be sensitive to the fact that as often the only woman in the room, female professionals face many obstacles. Make an effort to shout out women’s successes and accomplishments. Be a model in how you treat and advocate for women at your firm.

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