When you look at the higher percentage of women coming out of college, companies are recognizing that the make-up of the talent pool is more diverse than ever before. Meaning that, it’s not just males that are going to move in to these available opportunities, you have bright females that are put in front of you every day. You had bright females in the 70s as well, but with the battles that have been fought and continue even today, I think there’s been a lot of progress.”
As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pamela Stross, CEO of TruClarity. With more than 35 years of combined experience as a senior executive in the financial services industry and as a small business owner, Pam is the Chief Executive Officer of TruClarity. With her strong operational, administrative, and project management background, Pam brings a unique combination of skills to the TruClarity team. As past Chief Administration Officer for a Florida-based financial institution, she navigated the daily operations, including adherence to strict regulatory requirements while ensuring an unparalleled level of customer service company wide. Pam earned a B.S. in finance from the University of South Florida.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?
“When I was in high school, my dad said ‘you can have a car or I’ll pay for you to go to college’. I was very bored in high school, so I said ‘I’ll take the car’. So, obviously, when I got out of high school, I needed to find a job until I was ready to start college. My best friend and I took 2–3 days and went to downtown Tampa and, for whatever reason, went from bank to bank, with no experience, no resume, no real skills. My typing skills were beyond atrocious as well, but we put in our applications everywhere. There was a gentleman I met with in Human Resources at First Florida Bank, which at the time was one of the largest banks in the state. He saw something in me, this 18 year old kid with no skills, and he got me an interview in one of the support departments in the bank. I started at an entry level position and everything kind of took off from there. I felt like it was meant to be; I really enjoyed what I did. I enjoyed the people I worked with, got my degree, and never looked back.”
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?
“I have had a pretty interesting career and I’ve held many positions within the industry, but probably the thing that stands out to me the most, and comes back to me on a regular basis, was my very first interview in the industry. At that time, there were no women in the C suite of the financial industry. This was in the mid 70s, so there were a small number of females in management positions, but those were more or less in the operations and administrative divisions of the bank. I was an 18-year-old kid so as I sat there in the interview, I was really nervous. I had no idea how to answer interview questions, and the manager, who was a female, said to me ‘what are your goals?’ And I said, ‘I’d like to find a position where I can grow professionally and attend college at night. And her response to me was, ‘then this is probably not the position for you as I do not intend to go anywhere so opportunity growth is not a part of it. You will never go anywhere in this department if I’m not going anywhere.’ Which as I look back at those times in Banking, that was the female mindset. I really needed a job, so I took the position. At 21 years old, I was managing that department and my career continued to grow after that. I always felt like I really needed to prove myself. So now when I interview someone, that original interview comes to my mind. When I listen to somebody’s goals, my mantra is, ‘water seeks its own level, and I hope someday you’re sitting in my chair.’”
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
“TruClarity is always looking for ways to improve its offerings and expand the way it can help advisors. The latest addition to our offering that we’re really excited about is launching our own RIA. If it’s a smaller advisor that really wants to move to independence, maybe they’re not at the size yet where it really makes sense financially to go on their own. Or if it’s an advisor that wants to be in the independent space, but doesn’t want to be a full-fledged business owner, they can “tuck into” or become a member of our RIA. It gives them an opportunity to move to independence, and it can be a stepping stone for the advisor instead of initially going completely independent and having their own firm. We make it a point to really listen to what advisors say that they need and what they want, and so we think this is something that is going to help even more advisors move to independence. It’s not like it’s really unusual in the industry to have the tuck in option, but the service level that we provide is really unique. To be able to get our platform with this added feature allows the advisor to go ahead and make their move to independence earlier.”
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
“Throughout my entire career, I’ve always been a part of organizations that were of the mindset that there are many organizations out there that do technically what we do, and mechanically what we do. The difference you can make is the service level you provide in doing it. I think what we really pride ourselves on is the level of service we provide. White glove, high touch. It’s really hard to pick a specific story, but it’s really gratifying when you hear from your client partners that, ‘we never could have done this without you’. And as they continue to operate, ‘we couldn’t do this without you.’ I think our service level is really starting to gain traction out there in the market place. We’re seeing more prospects come to us because of the story that we tell and that our advisor partners tell. They can talk to any of our clients and hear the level of service that we provide. It’s engrained in all of us within the organization, and I think that is something that is hard to quantify. Somebody has to experience it. When you have well respected industry professionals that go out and speak about your company and its service levels on your behalf, that also makes a big difference.”
Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?
“Well obviously, it has changed very dramatically in the last 40 years, and I have seen it and experienced it. Look at some of the things statistically over those years. If you look at the number of college graduates back when I started in banking in the 70s, the percentage of the population that had college degrees for women was only 10–12%. In 2018, it was 35%. So, there is a huge change in college enrollment. Actually, women today outnumber men in college enrollments. And I think that trend will continue. So it’s hard to ignore those numbers, and I think that the makeup of the pool of bright people has changed. There are more and more bright and articulate women that are out there, and I think companies recognize that. There’s more opportunities that are being created. When you look at the higher percentage of women coming out of college, companies are recognizing that the make-up of the talent pool is more diverse than ever before. Meaning that, it’s not just males that are going to move in to these available opportunities, you have bright females that are put in front of you every day. You had bright females in the 70s as well, but with the battles that have been fought and continue even today, I think there’s been a lot of progress.”
Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and /or c) society to support this movement going forward?
“I think one the of most important things that an individual can do and companies can do, or society can do, is look back at the opportunities that were available to you as you worked your way through the ranks. Look back at the people who mentored you along the way or maybe even the mentors that you didn’t have that you wish you did. Maybe you had to scratch your way through with no help, maybe you didn’t have a mentorship. Remember all those things and what they meant to you. If you use those as a guide post, you can look at how you can play those same rolls for bright young minds today. You pass along and provide for others what you benefited from or offer them opportunities that you didn’t have or that you wish you had. Also, take a look at your college intern program. Really utilize your college interns to fullest extent. If you can get them excited about the industry and what you do, I have seen many of them return upon graduation and become very vital parts of an organization — and it was because someone took the time to make their internship meaningful. That is an opportunity to really take a bright mind and show them how great the industry can be and how much you can enjoy what you do. Also, be aware of your surroundings and the people you come in contact with every day. Many of them are telling you a story, and if you listen to them you can see how you might be able to give them a boost as well.”
You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.
“I don’t have children, but for all young adults I would recommend, regardless of your educational goals, if you are in school, be it the Arts, Engineering, Sciences, Education, take some basic business courses as electives where possible. Start to get a basic understanding of the financial world. Very much the same as when you’re in the business school as a major, you need to take some writing courses, and they don’t offer that in many of the business schools. It is important for your overall growth to take those business electives and learn the basics of accounting and economics for example. You will use those tools for the rest of your life.
In addition to that, I would tell young people to look at those who were influencers on your life as you grew up — in most cases you don’t learn from the mistakes of others, but I think when it comes to handling financial situations, you can learn a lot from seeing how others handle financial situations. Sometimes by looking at those influencers you can see what worked and what did not work and look to understand why. You’ll see people that came from a home where financially, the parents never made good decisions. And yet the children end up as adults making strong financial decisions because they learned from their environment. Sometimes they do it intuitively, and sometimes they really have to look back and see what worked and what did not.
One of the things that happens is that finances in general can be intimidating to some, and people are afraid to ask questions and look uninformed. So, it’s important to find someone who can guide you through those processes. Whether you buy a car or a house, or whatever the case may be. Never be afraid to ask a question if there is something you do not understand about your finances. Find a mentor to guide you through those times.
I spend a lot of time with my nephews in particular, guiding them through and helping them learn how to make some financial decisions. I have read studies that millennials are not as inclined to save for retirement like some of the other generations. Although I will say the millennials that I work with are all very financially sound in their thinking and I am very proud of them, It is important for young adults to understand it is NEVER too early to participate in financially funding your future. Regardless of how small the contribution. If you have an employer who’s giving you an opportunity to participate in a plan, especially if there’s a match involved, take advantage of looking out for your future. Even if it’s the smallest amount, it’s going to add up to something as you get older.
Overall, I think that getting the education early on, learning from the experiences of others, if you don’t know, find someone that you trust and ask questions, and it’s never too early to start thinking about your financial future are all important pieces of advice to know.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
“I have been so incredibly fortunate with the number of mentors I have encountered in my career. It’s really hard to pick just one. I think the most important of those who influenced me from the beginning would have been my late father. He always set an example of working hard, doing your best and treating people well. I was raised in a military family so loyalty was always huge. However, my dad did those things silently. He never said ‘I expect you to get good grades’ or ‘you need go to college’ or ‘you need achieve a certain goal’. You just intuitively did it because you knew he was there to support you. He was always proud of all of his children, and every accomplishment I make even today — I think about him and how grateful I am for the example he provided.”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I have this plaque on my kitchen counter and every morning I see it. It says, “the biggest mistake you can make is being afraid to make one”. I think it is important to always push your limits. Over the life of my career, I have pushed my limits. I’ve held positions in many areas within the industry over my career Over the life of my career, I have pushed my limits. It is important to recognize that everyone makes mistakes — and we all hopefully learn from them. I have done so many things in my career that are new and different and at times those leaps have been scary. But I have always grown and learned from my missteps. I was stronger on the other side. I think if you’re constantly afraid that you’re going to make a mistake, that’s a mistake. You have to look for how you’re going to grow yourself.”
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
“I think paying it forward is huge. Whether that is mentoring somebody, or even — my original employer put me through college, and so I didn’t have to pay. Because of that, I have tried to help others get through college as I have gone through life. I think if people looked at life as, ‘this is an opportunity I was given, and I want to give it to somebody else’, it would just make for a better place. It sounds cliché, but it’s something I really believe in. I look at people and say, how can I help them really grow? Because maybe sometimes they don’t believe they can do it. So for lack of a better term, I would say to pay it forward.”
Thank you for all of these great insights!
About The Author:
Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and Dubai focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. In addition to his role with Regal Assets, Tyler is a regular contributor to Forbes, Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global and Authority Magazine. Tyler has also been featured in many news publications and has been a guest expert on “The News with Ed Shultz”. Tyler is a proud member of the Forbes Finance Council a private invite only-group of hand-selected industry leaders.