After slogging through 14-hour days during tax season as an accountant and missing time with her young daughter, Peggy Ruhlin decided she needed a change.
This was the 1980s—a turbulent time for the accounting industry, as U.S. tax codes were changing under the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and larger firms were going through major upheavals.
In addition, parent-teacher conferences and other school functions for her daughter went by the wayside. As a single mother for many years, finding a balance between her career and parenting duties was tough, she says.
“Sometimes I just couldn’t do it all,” Ruhlin says.
So she hit the books in late 1986 to earn her CFP designation, and eventually co-founded a wealth management firm in Columbus, Ohio, with her partner, Jim Budros. And she’s never regretted it.
She says she’ll never forget the first tax season after she made the jump to financial planning. Sitting at dinner talking about how much calmer work was without the tax prep work, her daughter said, “It’s like having a whole new mom.”
Ruhlin discovered that financial planning gave her the freedom to juggle her duties as a single mom with the opportunity for career satisfaction and client contact that first drew her into the financial services industry.
Today, the firm has 40 employees and more than $1.54 billion in assets under management. Both Ruhlin and Budros say much of the firm’s success can be attributed to having a female partner, as well as the firm’s willingness to bring in young talent.
Chief Investment Officer Dan Roe points to Ruhlin’s counseling abilities as one major area where having a female partner has benefited the firm. “As it relates to counseling clients, I truly believe that many women possess unique counseling skills, and listening skills, that are not innate to most men,” he says.
“I believe [female clients] recognize that Peggy is unique in this predominately male industry of wealth management advice,” Roe says. “There really are too few women still in our industry, but Peggy has worked hard to ensure that we hire and develop strong smart female wealth managers.”
Ruhlin and Budros raised eyebrows among friends and colleagues when they brought on Roe and John Shuman—Gen X advisors—a few years ago as partners through a two-year buy-in program. Ruhlin says that while they didn’t give away their firm, the two did get a discounted buy-in rate.
“I see so many and hear so many people who say they won’t sell unless they can get some extreme multiple in valuation, but who’s going to pay that?” Ruhlin says. “There’s got to be some enlightened self-interest.”