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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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Does Your Practice Have a High-Performance Team?

A high-performance team is a concept within organizational development which refers to a team, organization or virtual group that is highly focused on its goals to achieve superior business results.

A high-performance team is one in which you have the right people doing the right things the right ways for the right clients at the right times for the right reasons.

Do you have a high-performance team? The following checklist of behaviors and attributes of high-performance teams can help you figure that out:

  • Have a clear vision and are committed to a common purpose.
  • Have clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
  • Are committed to ongoing, honest and effective communication. Included in this is: having tactical daily huddles; weekly and monthly team meetings; and strategic quarterly and annual off-site meetings.
  • Have a compelling and differentiating story that all team members can articulate.
  • Commit to high productivity daily. Included in this is utilizing time-blocking strategies; consistently utilizing a contact management system; engaging in effective workflow among team members; executing a task priority system; being purposeful and intentional in daily work with a high focus on proactivity; systematizing and documenting all repeated activities as standard operating procedures; spending 10 percent of time on the business every week; embracing technological resources to drive efficiency; and being cross-trained and having back-up systems.
  • Consistently demonstrate a positive, can-do and will-do attitude. This includes: going above and beyond job descriptions; being solutions-focused and committed to problem solving; and innovating to drive efficiency and productivity.
  • Have strong personal accountability. This includes believing in self-leadership; having short- and long-term goals; owning mistakes; frequently evaluating individual, team, and business performance; embracing giving and receiving constructive criticism; understanding role and value in the vision and overall success of the group; and ensuring that words and actions are consistently aligned.
  • Are committed to ongoing personal and professional growth. This includes being masters of their craft; engaging in all firm-provided professional development opportunities; investing in themselves; subscribing to valuable online and offline learning publications; and seeking professional credentials.
  • Are committed and respectful to the leader, the team and themselves. This includes embracing autonomy within their role and embracing collaboration within the team; respecting the ultimate decisions made; and seeking ways to help each other and the team succeed.
  • Celebrate successes. This includes making time to “smell the roses” and have fun together and recognizing each person’s contributions to the team.
  • Master the fundamentals. This includes setting the highest standards for their work; displaying integrity in all things; always putting the clients’ best interests first and foremost; and maintaining mutual respect and trust.

As you consider your staff and team members, identify opportunities for improvements to drive high performance.

Sarah E. Dale, President of Know No Bounds, LLC

 

Sarah E. Dale
Partner
Performance Insights
Atlanta, Ga.

krista_sm

 

Krista S. Sheets
President
Performance Insights
Atlanta, Ga.


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What We Can Learn from Career-Changer Advisers

Do you know a career-changer adviser or have one on your staff? They bring a certain skillset that many lifelong financial advisers may benefit from.

One individual I know retired from the military and began his career as a financial adviser when he was in his 40s. He was quite comfortable in his role as leader of a growing ensemble firm. He was adept at enhancing efficiency through the use of consistent processes, attending not only to the firm’s top line but also to margin and profitability, delegating to staff, focusing on teamwork, mentoring young advisers and building a culture of camaraderie. These aren’t usually the responsibilities advisers say they excel at; instead, most say they much prefer spending time with their clients than managing the business.

Can we assume, then, that some career-changer advisers are better business managers than financial advisers who have spent their entire careers in this industry?

What Career Changers Bring
There is no actual data to validate my hunch, but if you think about it, there are a few reasons why an adviser who came from the military, engineering, health care or some other industry would find success as a business owner. Let’s look a little closer.

Lifelong financial planners often have no formal business training; after all, you don’t get CE credits for learning how to be better businesspeople. In fact, at conferences, there’s a built-in incentive to go to the sessions offering CE credit and a built-in disincentive for the practice management sessions. Consequently, developing or enhancing leadership and management skills or business acumen in general plays second fiddle.

When an individual starts a second career, however, there is an opportunity for a do over. You get to assess the new industry you are joining and learn best practices to apply from the get-go? (if you had the chance to start your financial planning career over, wouldn’t you do some things differently?) Plus, those who change careers have often learned from their earlier experiences and know how to avoid certain bad habits the second time around.

Of course, career changers are often older and more mature. That maturity may also be accompanied by greater financial stability than a newbie adviser just entering the industry would have. For example, instead of taking on every client to make ends meet, the more established individual can select the clients who best fit his or her niche and how he or she wants to present the firm to the public.

Last, there is something to be said for bringing external knowledge into this industry. That’s probably true for any industry. It’s not a leap to suggest that prior experience leads to increased wisdom.

If This Is True, What Difference Does It Make?
If you have a career changer in your firm, perhaps that individual has insight that could be useful to you as the leader of the firm. If you are considering a career changer as a successor, that individual may possess some valuable skills less commonly found in the financial services industry. Consider also that, as our industry shrinks, perhaps we need to recruit from non-traditional niches.

If it’s logical to assume that career-changer advisers often possess better business management skills, then it follows that financial planners who switch industries might be observed to have exceptional relationships and, of course, financial planning skills. It’s just that financial planners seldom move on to a second career. Why would they, when this one is so gratifying?

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.