Thriving in the Field

Michelle Owens, Financial Consultant, Salomon Smith Barney, Member, the National Association of Securities Professionals, Bethesda, Md.Salomon Smith Barneys Michelle Owens has had numerous jobs in the field of business and finance. The rep worked for IBM, HBO, Riggs National Bank and even for Goldman Sachs as a trader. But she says being a financial consultant suits her best.People have been coming

Michelle Owens, Financial Consultant, Salomon Smith Barney, Member, the National Association of Securities Professionals, Bethesda, Md.

Salomon Smith Barneys Michelle Owens has had numerous jobs in the field of business and finance. The rep worked for IBM, HBO, Riggs National Bank and even for Goldman Sachs as a trader. But she says being a financial consultant suits her best.

People have been coming to me for financial advice most of my adult life, Owens says. I love telling people what to do, and I love talking about money.

She got into this career relatively late--at age 37, after earning an MBA from Harvard and pursuing several other jobs. She says her education and maturity are assets. She is able to talk about the details of investing, as well as handle the emotional issues financial consultants face.

Dealing with peoples money is really heavy stuff, Owens says. Its not an arms-length involvement. You have to be comfortable with it. I dont know how I would have done that at 25.

She has counseled clients on everything from how to deal with investment loss to family planning issues. Ive had some unbelievably high-trust conversations with people, Owens says. People talk to their brokers perhaps more than any other professional. Youre really involved in their lives and knee-deep in their personal business.

Owens believes that women are wrong to think they are at a disadvantage in this traditionally male-dominated business. She says women may actually have an advantage in some ways--especially with the growing trend away from transactional selling and toward consultative relationships.

Women have an advantage in that were listeners and weve been socialized to be nurturers, Owens says. To the extent that being a financial consultant requires getting people to be comfortable talking to you about their issues, this plays to womens strength.

Nevertheless, women and minorities in brokerage often feel lonely and create self-imposed barriers, Owens says. When you come into this business as a visible minority, youre alone. Youre on no team. So its easy for some to assume that people wont do business with them because of their gender or race, she adds. The white guy doesnt worry about being rejected because hes a white guy, Owens says. But it enters the mind of women and minorities. Its there.

To that end, she says organizations such as the National Association of Securities Professionals (NASP) can help by providing women and minorities with role models who have overcome barriers. She has been involved with the NASP for three years and has taken part in panel discussions for the organizations annual Retail Development conferences.

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