Mother Knows Best

If it were up to most of the broker/dealers Shelly Newman approached for a job six years ago, she wouldn't be a rep. She wouldn't have chalked up $500,000 in production last year. And she wouldn't oversee about $38 million in assets. But thanks to an opportunity given her by Edward Jones, she morphed from a stay-at-home mom to full-time rep. No longer was she part of the out-to-lunch bunch who, she

If it were up to most of the broker/dealers Shelly Newman approached for a job six years ago, she wouldn't be a rep. She wouldn't have chalked up $500,000 in production last year. And she wouldn't oversee about $38 million in assets. But thanks to an opportunity given her by Edward Jones, she morphed from a stay-at-home mom to full-time rep. No longer was she part of the out-to-lunch bunch who, she says, spent a lot of time worrying about wax buildup on floors.

Newman, who is 49, had other things on her mind. She had already devised a retirement savings program for her and her husband, Warren, an electrical engineer with no corporate pension benefits. “I was good at investing,” she says. And good enough to earn her CFP. She studied estate planning at a swimming pool while her family splashed nearby, and she practiced using a financial calculator at her son's tennis matches.

She was also good enough to study for a Series 7. One small problem: Without a job, she couldn't get a Series 7 and without a Series 7, she couldn't get a job.

“I couldn't get past human resources,” she says of the myriad rejections from broker/dealers. She says everyone tried to discourage her from a career in the financial industry; everyone except her husband. “He's my strongest supporter,” she says.

Then Edward Jones invited her to a face-to-face interview at a branch office in Syracuse, N.Y., a short plane trip away from her home in Commack, N.Y. Off she went in her new business suit, heels and a briefcase — her first trip without her husband. Jones hired Newman and sponsored her for the Series 7. As part of her coursework, she made three trips to the firm's St. Louis headquarters.

On one flight back from St. Louis, the newly licensed Newman chatted up her seatmate, and soon had her first client. The next day she bought a cell phone and shopped at a beauty supply store, signing up two more clients.

Since then Newman has added 570 clients, half of whom are women. “A metamorphosis happens with women,” she says. “I see them taking control and getting stronger over time.”

And she's added the Chartered Financial Consultant, or ChFC, and Accredited Asset Management Specialist, or AAMS, credentials after her name. She's studying for her MBA at Dowling College in Oakdale, N.Y.

“I am impressed with how much she knows about the tax ramifications of investments and how she is willing to work with accountants,” says Lisa LeFavi, a CPA with the Centereach, N.Y., accounting firm of Marciante & LeFavi, who met Newman at a local professional women's networking group.

Without ever making a cold call, Newman averages 15 to 25 new clients a month after just five years. Many clients signed on after bad experiences with other brokers. “They took their money and they never heard from them again,” she says.

Jones provides separate offices for individual brokers and pays for an assistant (in Newman's case, Terry Gill); reps pay half the phone and postage expenses. So Newman didn't have to suffer the humiliation of being a rookie dropped in a bullpen. But neither did she have an experienced broker on hand to guide her.

Help was, however, only a phone call away, she says: “Everyone was your mentor.” Since then, Jones has developed a formal mentor program, in which Newman plays an active role.

Newman has also started five investment clubs, and helped put together a manual on the subject for her fellow Edward Jones reps.

“Instead of just talking about stocks, she'd address specific topics she thought people needed to understand, like the difference between a traditional IRA and a Roth,” says Ben Worley, a Jones rep in Dexter, Mo., who worked at the St. Louis home office until recently and collaborated with Newman on the manual.

She considers herself a teacher. “I always figured that if I could educate people, investments would come along with it,” she says.

At the same time, she remains a student. She thoroughly researches the investments she recommends, visiting a fund family's offices and spending a couple of days interviewing managers and analysts. And she has an aversion to high-flying tech-related stocks.

She also spends time with clients. At the initial two-hour meeting, she often recommends a financial plan that the firm provides for free.

“If my investments keep on in the same direction they've been going, I'll be perfectly happy,” says Amy Seligman of Roslyn, N.Y., a client for three years. “Shelly is fun, she is professional and she is hands-on.”

Newman has met many of her clients, as well as accountants, attorneys and entrepreneurs through which she can network, at community groups. She has been president of the Smithtown Business & Professional Women's Network for two years.

She is a member of the Smithtown Industry Advisory Board and of the Suffolk County Women's Coalition as well as team captain for the Walk for Beauty Breast Cancer Fund.

Little has changed at home. Only now, her children are grown. Her daughter works for Goldman Sachs; her son attends college.

Her commute is five minutes and though she put in 10-hour days with half days on Saturday for the first couple of years, she has scaled back to four days a week, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. “I have the best job in the world,” she says.

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