TD Ameritrade Institutional’s Kate Healy: “Why we need to raise awareness that it is OK to ask for help with finances”
Raise awareness that it is OK to ask for help with finances. While financial planners don’t always have to manage money, there are resources available at all levels of complexity and cost. Some financial planners however will give advice on your overall financial picture and provide a financial plan for you to follow. You can use them as a check-in every few years, or as an everyday trusted advisor to help you make decisions affecting your financial life. The Foundation for Financial Planning expands access to financial planners, providing pro bono services to people including those affected by cancer or natural disasters, to our military, to victims of domestic violence, and to those who don’t have access to a planner.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Healy Managing Director, Generation Next, TD Ameritrade Institutional.
Kate Healy is the managing director for Generation Next at TD Ameritrade Institutional. In this role, she is responsible for the helping solve the talent crisis confronting the industry by opening the RIA career path to fresh faces — including new graduates, career changes, military veterans, and other groups that aren’t traditionally represented in the financial advice field. In this crucial role to industry sustainability, Healy promotes diversity and inclusion initiatives to bring more women and underrepresented minorities into the profession. The goal isn’t just to increase diversity — but to equip RIAs with a rich talent pool to grow strong for the long term.
Healy joined TD Ameritrade in 2008, most recently serving as a director of marketing responsible for promoting the firm’s technology and investment products offerings, as well as supporting the firm’s advocacy and client loyalty efforts. Prior to joining the firm, Kate served as vice president of IRA product strategy at Merrill Lynch. She has spent more than 20 years in a variety of roles supporting the program development and marketing of financial and estate planning services in the financial planning industry.
Healy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Rutgers College and has completed the Securities Industry Institute program, sponsored by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) at the Wharton School of Business.
Thank you so much for joining us Healy. Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
Well, there are many stories. But one that sticks with me was something that happened over 15 years ago. I was heading up marketing for financial services firm and that was hosting a conference for our employees. I was also an attendee and speaker at the event. At one point, during a break, one of the hotel employees, a woman, came up to me and pointed out that I was the only woman in the room. She told me she thought I must be really smart to be in that room — and, I remember thinking that maybe I was stupid to be in that room. Why would I want to be in a place that didn’t have more people that looked like me there? It really got me thinking about how few women were at the table, how few unique and diverse points of view were being considered. It also crystallized the “you can’t be what you don’t see” concept for me. If people weren’t seeing women in business, they didn’t think that women could be in business — and we all know that’s wrong. I know it was meant to be a casual comment from one woman to another, but it actually planted a seed to get more different and compelling voices at the table in our profession — and all industries. I wish I could go back to that woman at the hotel and let her know what she sparked in me.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
The most exciting things I’m working on now are all about connecting people.
In my role heading up Generation Next for TD Ameritrade Institutional, part of my goal is to bring the next generation of advisory talent into registered investment advisory firms. Since these are small businesses, there is no centralized recruiting or human resource functions. Advisory firms work with their business partners, like TD Ameritrade Institutional, that provide a range of tools and resources. We at TD Ameritrade are working on an online solution that can connect young professionals seeking jobs or internships with advisory firms all over the country that are looking to add new talent .
I’m also Vice Chair of the Foundation for Financial Planning, or “FFP.” Our mission at FFP is to help people in need improve their financial lives by expanding access to pro bono financial planning. Our profession is full of advisors who want to give back, and the Foundation is looking at ways to help them become more aware of opportunities to provide pro bono. The Foundation recently launched a volunteer matching platform, CFPVolunteerMatch.org, where advisors can sign up and look for opportunities. Nonprofit organizations, who often serve people who need financial help, can register their pro bono programs to the platform so that advisors can find them and sign up to volunteer. It’s an exciting new model that we think will eventually propel the activity in this space in a significant way.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
TD Ameritrade has always been known for its great culture. We’re an entrepreneurial firm that thrives on doing what is right for the client — whether that’s the independent registered investment advisors that custody assets with TD Ameritrade or the retail investor who invests directly with us.
Because of that client focus, we push decision making to the people closest to the clients instead of making decisions top-down.
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?
We, as a profession, are talking about it. I’m not saying that it’s just talk that is making it happen, but the awareness around it shows the support we are getting — from other women, from diverse ethnic and racial groups, from career changers — and, most importantly, from white men. Additionally, there are a multitude of people and groups who are challenging this status quo in the industry.
I often speak about how important perception can be, especially for those on the outside looking in to consider having a career in financial services. So, when I talk now, I speak about the fact that almost half (46%) of the advisory industry is women. Many of them are in operational and administrative roles — not in high profile roles such as advisors and CEOs. However, there is still an opportunity for talent and career development for the women who are already here — we, as a profession, need to make them less invisible.
The story for people of color is not so easy either and comes nowhere near representing the demographics of the country. While this profession has a long way to go, the demographic change is happening in this country — the United States — — we will be a majority-minority country within a generation. It’s already happened with school-age children in ten states. Sheer numbers alone won’t change the club, but the commitment of firms and individuals to find, hire, develop and retain diverse talent will help.
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?
The defining foundation of a company and/or the society are the individuals contributing to its existence. So when we look for what can be done, it has to be at the individual level. For companies to bring about a change for equality, we must look to the leaders — to the people — who can actually solve this. Human emotion is what propels change and individual actions can create the momentum needed for parity. Mentoring diverse talent is crucial to helping more unique individuals develop the skills they need to grow their careers. More importantly, leaders need to sponsor diverse individuals — give them the chance to succeed by promoting their accomplishments, teaching them agility, and enhancing their leadership potential. Investing in potential is one of the biggest things we can do to develop and promote women leaders.
Companies need to be deliberate about how they are going to make this change. It’s not simply hiring more women. It’s solving for what makes them leave, for why they don’t get promoted, for who they are perceived by your — yes, your — leadership team.
Collectively, individuals can help create the toolkit that can be used more broadly within companies and societies. It’s up to individuals to drive that change.
According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?
We don’t talk about money in this country. It’s a more taboo topic than sex or politics. Money by nature is mysterious and causes embarrassment for people who don’t understand it. That shame further stops them from asking questions and getting the help they need.
I don’t know that it’s a shift in the comprehension of finances today, or whether it has now become a necessity that you understand your personal finances. With the decrease in defined benefit plans, Americans are on their own in saving for retirement. College costs have increased to the point where education likely needs to be financed. Life expectancies continue to rise so more attention needs to be paid to outliving your money. These are issues prior generations didn’t necessarily face. Your company paid you a pension in retirement; you lived with your family as you grew older. The skillset required to manage these issues has not been taught.
How can we improve this issue?
- Required financial education starting in preschool. Understand that financial literacy is a life skill, like learning to walk and swim. From the earliest ages, children must be taught to understand money, how credit works, and simple compounding and investing skillsets. Money and credit are tools people use to create the life they want, and they must know how to do so.
- Understanding the why. It is important to know why we make the financial decisions we do to create transparency in decision making. Many adults also don’t understand basic finance, so they can’t reinforce concepts with their children and open up conversations about why decisions were made. For example, explaining why you chose to buy a pre-owned car to reduce debt so that extra money could be used to invest or pay down mortgage debt can be important information to help people think through the pros and cons of different kinds of debt. We need to take the stigma out of talking about money decisions, so people begin to understand the effect your decisions have on your money and ability to build wealth.
- Raise awareness that it is OK to ask for help with finances. While financial planners don’t always have to manage money, there are resources available at all levels of complexity and cost. Some financial planners however will give advice on your overall financial picture and provide a financial plan for you to follow. You can use them as a check-in every few years, or as an everyday trusted advisor to help you make decisions affecting your financial life. The Foundation for Financial Planning expands access to financial planners, providing pro bono services to people including those affected by cancer or natural disasters, to our military, to victims of domestic violence, and to those who don’t have access to a planner.
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.
- Educate yourself. Take control of learning the basics — how to budget, the importance of saving, the effects of compound interest — on both your savings and on your debt, and why saving for retirement needs to start so early.
- Understand that your finances are your responsibility. How many times do you see a monthly charge from iTunes on your bank statement for a “minimal amount,” but you aren’t sure you can remember what you subscribed to? Multiply that “minimal amount” by 12 and it might not be so minimal. No one else, but you, is looking at that statement. The vendor is certainly not going to say — oh, well, you haven’t really used this product in 6 months, maybe your needs have changed, so I’ll just go ahead and cancel that for you, to help you save money. That doesn’t happen — only you are responsible for changing that.
- Think for the future. Once you have educated yourself on your finances, you will begin to understand how to use money and credit as tools. Think about how to use those tools to get what you want. How is a part-time job going to provide extra income that will let me finance part of my education? How does my decision to live on my own in an apartment affect my ability to save money for a down payment on the house, I may want to buy in 5 years? Some of the most important financial decisions you make should help to provide options for the future. So use the online tools and calculators to help you think about how the decisions you make today are going to affect your finances in 5, 10, or even 15 years.
- Understand the role of marketing is to sell products and services. Advertisements and sponsored placements and media can affect your mindset. You need to be aware that you should think about whether you really need this or has this promotion created a want that you did not know you had prior to seeing this ad. Don’t get caught up in the latest social media movement or event just because everyone else is.
- Listen. It may seem like people are talking at you about your finances, giving you all sorts of advice that doesn’t seem like it applies to your life. Advice from your parents, your teachers, your bank, credit card company, even your social media feeds — it won’t all apply to you. At least not right now. But listening and paying enough attention to know that this may be something that affects you down the line is important. And if it is about investing for your future — it does affect you now.
You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
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?
There have been many people who have helped me get where I am, so I am not sure I could choose just one person.
I will say that my parents were extremely influential in making sure I understood the power of investing for the future, understanding the power of compounding when it came to earnings and making your money work for you. Having that knowledge made me understand that money is a tool we use to invest in our lives — whether that is education to help us in our careers, or investments that allow us the freedom to choose how our life plays out — the ability to wait for a better job offer, for example, because we have money to tide us over.
I have also been fortunate to work with people who invested in my career. Sometimes that meant providing transparency into how a business worked or advice on how to create better relationships. Sometimes it was pointing out where I was expected to do better. Sometimes I didn’t even know it was happening because I had a sponsor who was promoting me to others when I wasn’t in the room. All of them taught me that to be successful, you had to focus on relationships and keeping an eye on the future.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Be here now. Learning to own and experience the moment you are in, and focus on what is happening is the best way I’ve learned to give your best effort and to appreciate and be able to give gratitude for your life.
This has become so much more important recently for many reasons, including the distractions of our “always-on” culture: social media, the news, instant messages and the amount of disruptions that occur on a daily basis.
It is important to look ahead, to plan for the future and to have a broad view of things. But it is so important to be in the moment of what is happening right now.
I’m a big fan of deep breaths to slow yourself down and bring yourself into the moment. Centering myself with my breath and a focus on right now allows me to have a clearer focus on what I’m doing, while pushing distracting thoughts and worries to the back of my mind, where — surprise — my subconscious often sorts them out without me even realizing it. Then when I go to focus on that next thought or task, my brain is full of ideas. It’s kind of feels like cheating!
Financial planning for everyone. Not only would it help each individual person to better understand their finances and how to use them to build their personal life and wealth, but it would also profit the society as well. People who understand their finances become able to purchase homes and pay property taxes, essentially investing in their town’s infrastructure. They may also invest in education, creating opportunities for career advancement and wealth gain. Investing in themselves may also mean creating a business that provides employment, additional community investment through taxes and the multiplier effect of employee’s salaries.
The work that the Foundation for Financial Planning does is so important in helping people improve their financial lives by giving them access to advisors offering pro bono financial planning. Many advisors got into this career because they wanted to help people. FFP allows people — regardless of their financial situation — to get the financial planning and advice they need. And financial planning creates the ability for people to live their best lives. Everyone deserves that opportunity.