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René Nourse on Supporting Women, Finding Your Niche and Mentoring for NexGen Success

Rene NourseWhen you need to know more about how to be a successful woman in financial planning, you go straight to one of the profession’s pioneers, René Nourse to see how she did it.

Nourse is the founder and managing director of Urban Wealth Management, which started in 2012. She’s a guest commentator on CNBC Closing Bell and, to top it off, she’s the tenth president of the Association of African American Financial Advisors. She’s also a trailblazer in the profession, advocating for women, people of color and inclusive leadership.

Nourse’s Path to Urban Wealth Management

Nourse didn’t always own Urban Wealth Management, and she wasn’t always a CFP® professional. She started out in the insurance industry, working for Mutual of Omaha. While she was there, she developed a niche where she offered a special discounted rate for disability to government employees. Her manager, who was also African American, took notice and really worked with her to build that niche and her skills.

He was one of only three African Americans working at Mutual of Omaha at the time, and he became Nourse’s mentor.

“I was very blessed to have someone who actually had my back, he was my mentor and he also supported me,” Nourse said in a recent episode of the You’re a Financial Planner Now What podcast.

Under his guidance, and thanks to Nourse’s own driving force, she got her Series 65, which allowed her to sell mutual funds. That got her pretty excited, and she left Mutual of Omaha to start working for a deferred compensation plan company in Los Angeles County. After her experiences there, she decided she really wanted to become a stockbroker (the term at the time), so she got her Series 7.  

During this same time Nourse took time off to be with her new baby. When she was finally ready to go back to work, though, nobody wanted to hire her.

“I was turned down by everybody except one firm,” Nourse said. “It could [have been] because of the culture, because I was a woman. This was back in the 80s, the percentage of women in the industry was very, very low … and then being a person of color, they were like no, you’re not a good fit.”

But then she found Dean Witter, a family-owned company she loved. When the firm was acquired by Morgan Stanley, though, she left for Prudential Securities. She stayed there for seven years and then went to Smith Barney. And when Smith Barney was eventually acquired by Morgan Stanley, Nourse said enough was enough—and she started Urban Wealth Management.

Supporting Women Through Leadership and Service

Since then, she has been devoted to supporting women—both in the profession and the clients her firm works with. At Urban Wealth Management, there are four female CFP® professionals, including Nourse. With her all-women team, her firm focuses on giving women the option to be in a safer, more supportive space, where it’s not just about investments—it’s about their life and their hopes.

At her women-led firm, Nourse also creates a space for female planners entering the profession—and she encourages other planners and firms to do the same.

As she explained in our conversation, women can be aggressively recruited in the profession, but once they’re in a firm, they’re often the only woman, they’re offered little support, and they’re at sea during this massive transition. 

“One of the challenges—and I hear this a lot from women—is when they come into the industry or they come into a firm, it’s very sales oriented,” Nourse explained. “That’s difficult for women. We’re great with relationships and developing relationships. And if you’re planning to work with women in particular, we don’t tend to make decisions right away, we’ve got to trust you, so, that takes a little bit of time to develop that relationship.”

She advises that if you want to attract these new planners, regardless of gender those in leadership should step up and create a culture that offers the right environments.

“Women, to this day, still are mostly responsible for managing our families,” Nourse said, which includes things like taking the kids to the doctor or their soccer games. “Women need to have the flexibility to come and go as they need to manage their family and manage their lives.”

Focusing on culture within a firm is one of the best ways to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table, and so that everyone can bring their real skills to the surface.

The Importance of Mentorship and Community

Nourse said she believes that new planners need a mentor, someone to help them navigate what can be an overwhelming and complicated industry. That’s part of what she does in her own circles and firm, but mentorship is something she thinks everyone in the profession should seek (and provide). 

She explained that mentorship doesn’t have to be a formal affair, like a mastermind or a paid coach. It can be inside or outside of the profession. It could be a group or a single person. But finding someone who can answer your questions, calm your worries and help hype you up is essential for new planners, professionals and future leaders.

“Have a mentor—or mentors—to be able to assist and provide you with some guidance so that you can be groomed to be strong and feel confident and be a leader,” Nourse advised.

Because she’s a firm believer in the power of mentorship, she joined the Association of African American Financial Advisors in 2015. Her initial call to join was to stay connected with other women and people of color in the profession.

Over the last four-plus years, Nourse has been very involved—even joining the AAAA’s board, most recently as its president, because she wanted to continue the legacy of the organization’s founder, LeCount Davis, CFP®. This year she is helping the association focus on the three M’s: messaging, mentorship and membership.

Nourse is guiding the launch of Quad-A’s mentorship program, which she believes will connect many professionals—new and veteran alike. 

But there was a major thread through our discussions with Nourse: how community, leadership and mentorship all lend themselves to finding a niche and doing the best work we can do as financial planning professionals.

How to Find Your Niche

Are you looking for your niche—the thing that makes you a truly unique professional in your space? Nourse’s quick and easy answer to finding your niche is exploring the questions: who are you? What are you passionate about? What is your specialty?

One niche could be serving the many younger clients coming into the profession looking for an expert who have student loan debt. They need someone who knows all about student loan options, or who can help them manage other debt while paying that down. Another example, she said, is working with people in the tech field. Identify a specific company that you are familiar with in terms of their services, their products, their employee benefits and reach out to its employees.

“Who’s naturally knocking on your door,” Nourse posed. “Cultivate that group and start making sure you narrow your focus in on working with them.”

Because at the end of the day, serving a specific niche makes you a better planner, and potentially a better leader and mentor down the road.

“You really have to start from who are you. And I think once you do that internally, it’ll be easier to answer that question about who you want to work with,” Nourse said.

If you want to hear Nourse’s great insights into the progress of the profession, the role of inclusion, and how to find your place in all of it, take a listen to this episode of the “You’re a Financial Planner Now What” podcast.

Alexandria Davis

Alexandria Davis is the 2019 FPA NexGen president-elect, a host of the “You’re A Financial Planner Now What” podcast. She is a current CFP® candidate professional and is passionate about the financial planning profession and participating in nonprofit financial workshops to help educate her community. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from California State University-Sacramento.

 


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5 Things about Creating Equitable Hiring Practices in Your Financial Planning Firm

Cait Howerton, AFC®, is relatively new to the financial planning profession—but she’s already making waves. Howerton is an advocate for inclusion and equity in the financial planning profession. She’s an LGBTQ-plus and student loan money specialist. 

Howerton is passionate about helping other people find purpose and meaning in their finances and wants to help the financial planning profession grow to start connecting with people from all backgrounds and sexual orientations. In a recent episode of my podcast, Howerton shared her story about how she interviewed at a larger firm and immediately connected with the interviewers. However, upon meeting her in person, she was told she wouldn’t resonate well with their clients, and they thanked her for her time.

Discriminatory hiring is still happening in the financial planning profession (and beyond). Unfortunately, many firm owners aren’t sure how to align their hiring process with their diversity goals. Howerton recently gave us actionable tips to implement better hiring practices and other ways financial planning firms can start to pursue inclusivity.

1.) You almost left the planning profession. What made you stay? 

I almost deuced out of the financial planning profession because of that experience. It had already been challenging for me as I grew up in Arkansas a member of the LGBTQ-plus community—which isn’t really readily accepted still, even in 2019—so seeing myself in the profession and having visibility was something that I didn’t have at that time.

I think my own passion for what we do [made me stay]. I didn’t want someone else to be the end of my story. That wasn’t a period, it was a semicolon, like Project Semicolon, just keep going. It gets better. For me that was the point that I was like, I have to keep going because there are people out there who need help with their finances and they need help with their money scripts and they need to be able to see people like us in this profession so that they know that they are not alone.

2.) You’ve interviewed at different firms and have some knowledge around hiring practices. What are some of the best practices that you can share from the firm you’re with now?

First start with yourself. Go take an intrinsic bias test. Harvard offers a good one. We all carry biases within us that were ingrained since we were kids. It’s very hard to break those things, but we can at least start with being aware of them, addressing them, seeing how those subliminal things pop up within us to see how we would see someone else and then how we present ourselves.

From there, the next place would be your job posting. Check out the language you’re using when you’re running your job posting. Is it heavily feminine? Is it heavily masculine? There are feminine words, which are lighter, and there are masculine alert words, which hit harder. When you put a lot of words like dominate, aggressive, things like that, it starts to lead the job posting in a more masculine direction. You can throw those through an online screener—there are several available.

Studies have shown that by using fewer masculine words, you attract more women and other minority group members, but it doesn’t have a negative impact on men.

If you’re focused on gender equity, which you should be, that’s where you want to start. The next thing is your posting location. More men are hired based on word of mouth. They use their network, versus more women and minorities who more use third-party listing sites. So, make sure you have an online presence.

3.) Most jobs are found via word-of-mouth in your community—so if your community is homogeneous and everyone looks and thinks just like you, then you’re going to just hire more people just like you. What are some of the other things that these firm owners or people who are in the hiring space can do now? They’ve posted the job, they’ve made sure they posted it at various locations. What’s next?

The next thing is your screening and interview process. Are you doing an open resume or a closed resume? What [a closed resume] means is when you get resumes or applications coming through, and they are passed off to an assistant or someone who’s not involved with the hiring process—or even if it’s you—print them off and go through every single paper copy, then have them cut [or you cut] out the name. If you’re going through resumes in a digital form, which is a little more difficult, have someone else screen those resumes or even print them off. Take the name off of resumes because a female or someone who has a black or brown name, there [might be] that intrinsic bias that’s going to pop up again and they have less of a chance to get hired just because of their name.

4.) You’ve gone through the recruiting process, you’ve posted the description, they’ve gone through the interview process and now the person is hired. What type of benefits should firms be looking at to include the planners we want to bring into our profession?

The first thing that comes to mind is parental leave. I say parental, you’ll notice, I didn’t say maternity or paternity leave because it’s parents and we have a bunch of diverse family types. This isn’t just about LGBTQ family types—you’ve got a single mom, you potentially have a mom and aunt, you have a nuclear family, you have an extended family. So that is something that’s very important when you’re considering drafting out your policy.

If your parental leave policy is that if a woman carries a child and she gets 12 weeks, does their partner also get 12 weeks? Do they get to be home when that baby is brought into the world? And what about adoption? That can be for female individuals, for male individuals. Do you offer the same benefits to people who are adopting and even if it’s not 12 weeks, is it four weeks, six weeks? I’ve seen things like primary caregiver and secondary caregiver. What does that mean? Because I know for sure that both people or all three people are caregiving in that house.

I think it’s really important to visit that because what you’re doing there is making sure that it’s a level playing field. Everyone’s receiving the same financial benefits from your company, but you’re also making sure that their family unit is tended to so that when they come back to work, you know that they’re good.

5.) What about the client side? What should we be thinking about when we’re thinking about our website and wanting to be planners to all types of clients?

You have to understand what your website is for. Your website is your front door to your business. In this day in age, we have a presence that is larger than just the town or city that you’re currently in. So you’re able to generate clients and show who you are online in a way that we never have been able to before. The thing to start with is who and what are on your website? Go look at that copy and go look at those photos on your website. You want to see that you have representation of white, black, brown, Asian, Middle Eastern, everybody, if you want to show that you are willing to work with any person, and not just someone who looks like you.

That leads to other things also, such as do you have any LGBTQ individuals on your website? Do you have any people with disabilities on your website? Seeing yourself within a page and within a space creates an initial safety in your [potential clients’] subconscious. Same thing with your copy. If you focus on working with women, you’re probably going to say something about it. But if you also want to let people know, hey, if you’re LGBTQ, you’re absolutely welcome here. Throw that up within a diversity statement and potentially even create a landing page. Talk, write some articles, write blog posts, show that you understand the issues that that particular community faces.

Rianka Dorsainvil

Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP® professional, is the founder and president of Your Greatest Contribution (YGC), a virtual, fee-only comprehensive financial planning firm dedicated to serving entrepreneurs, first-generation wealth builders and thriving professionals in their late 20s, 30s and 40s. She also hosts 2050 TrailBlazers, a podcast aimed to address the lack of diversity in the financial planning profession by engaging industry experts and leaders in conversation.


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Reviewing Financial Infidelity in A Financial Planning Context

Financial infidelity is one of the more complicated issues that financial planners face when meeting with couples. The hurt and betrayal that often comes up in the planning room is made even more complicated by the different perceptions that planners have about it.

Therefore, here is a quick overview. Financial infidelity does not have any real set definition, but Brad Klontz, Kristy Archuleta and Anthony Canaly broadly defined it in Financial Therapy: Theory, Research, and Practice as, “purposeful financial deceit between two or more individuals wherein, there is a stated or unstated belief in mutual honest communication around financial matters.”

Financial infidelity can include financial cheating including, “hiding purchases from spouses, having secret credit cards or keeping secret personal bank accounts,” according to a 2018 Journal of Financial Therapy article titled, “Financial Infidelity in Couple Relationships.”

Understanding your beliefs about what is and is not financial infidelity will have a huge impact on how you handle it when it comes up and how much your clients will trust your help. So let’s dig into this a bit.

It is important not to minimize “small” incidents of financial infidelity as it can reflect larger relationship problems. It may be more about how individuals assert their needs, manage conflict and trust each other more than the actual money.

Rates of financial infidelity vary by definition, but the 2018 Journal of Financial Therapy article referenced above found that 27 percent of individuals admitted to keeping a financial secret from their partner. The effects of the financial infidelity can vary from financial planning problems, interest on hidden debt and postponing major life events, to decreased marital satisfaction, loss of trust, depression and defamation of character.

Steps to Address Financial Infidelity

What can you do if you discover financial infidelity? Here are some steps that are likely to help you as you help your clients move forward:

1.) Ground yourself. Notice your own feelings with this issue. Are you angry? Sad? Scared? We all bring ourselves into our work with clients. It is important to process your own feelings and thoughts so that you can be grounded when you interact with your client.

2.) Be direct, there is no point in delaying. If it does not come out in session, it will later. So do not postpone a conversation because it is uncomfortable.

3.) Try to be open-minded. It is best if you can look at the reasons why this happened without judging the person. The more you know about the clients’ emotions and thoughts, the better you are going to be at addressing their needs and helping ensure that it does not happen in the future.

4.) Normalize and validate. Both partners are likely feeling hurt and need to know their feelings are normal and okay to have. Try to empathize with both partners’ experiences, while holding accountability and not taking sides.

5.) Problem solve. This is an opportunity for you to instill hope. Most tangibly, you will help them come up with a plan, but you need to know everything to help them. This will not only make them feel more hopeful about their work with you, but also help them see their role of disclosing as part of the healing. Remember everyone (at some level) wants to be the “good guy” so let them help you by coming clean.

6.) Tell them to do their research before disclosing to their partner. The partner who has not disclosed is probably fearful of the reaction. It is crucial that you discuss and prepare them to approach the topic in a way that will not incite violence.

Financial infidelity does not look the same and does not come from the same motivations. It can come from addiction, abuse, an affair, fear, shame or pride. Your actions will not be one-size-fits-all but should reflect what your clients need from you. Doing your own research on how to handle these topics or by watching a replay of our webinar for the Financial Planning Association and Financial Therapy Association (which will be available soon), you can gain skills in approaching these situations.

This is a challenging topic, but as you address your own emotional reactions and learn to connect with clients in pain, you can effectively navigate this issue and others. Most importantly, you can and will provide your clients with support in a helpful way.

On a final note, remember that you do not have to do this alone. Financial infidelity is a complex issue that may provide the need for a couple counselor or marriage and family therapist. There is still a stigma against therapy in many places, so you can be an invaluable resource to your client by doing your own research and finding a mental health professional you trust near you that can serve as a referral source.

Editor’s note: The authors of this post explored this topic more in-depth in a Financial Planning Association and Financial Therapy Association webinar called: “Difficult Conversations 3: Couples Dealing with Financial Infidelity.” The other two parts of the three-part webinar series dealt with ambiguous loss from Alzheimer’s disease and financial enabling. All three webinars will be available on-demand for members in the fall of 2019.

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Nathan Astle is currently pursuing a master’s in couple and family therapy from Kansas State University with a graduate certificate in Financial Therapy. He is currently researching the interplay of couple attachments, financial transparency, and money scripts on financial stress.

McCoy

 Megan McCoy, Ph.D., LMFT, is an adjunct faculty member at Kansas State University where she teaches courses for the financial therapy certificate program. Her research focuses on financial therapy and has been published in several journals including the Journal of Financial Therapy and the Journal of Financial Planning. She serves on the board of the Financial Therapy Association and is associate editor of book reviews and profiles for the Journal of Financial Therapy.