On Friday, I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of speaking at the Black Women in Asset Management Conference, founded by Jacqueline Taiwo.
A day later, and I am still buzzing for so many reasons.
Beginning with: When I started my career at Bankers Trust (now Deutsche Bank) in 1986 or when I started my business in 1995, you might have had a conference room full of Black women who worked in the industry.
But a full blown conference, with multiple hundreds in the room – representing the myriad disciplines of the industry: investment management, private equity, wealth management, legal, venture capital, impact investing, and pensions funds?
When the experience for many of us is that we are the “only” or “one of few,” the sight of seeing hundreds of us all gathered together was beautiful! It was definitely a sight to behold, and all I can say is wow!!
I am full, verklempt, and energized.
And proud. Proud of the collective vision, effort, and commitment to excellence to claim (or in some cases create) a seat at the table within an industry that (a) you, as a citizen, rely on (even if you don’t know it), (b) plays a key role in how you create and sustain wealth, and c) reflects how my colleagues and me help you do that.
I was invited to speak about the power of your personal financial well-being. One of the things I talked about was what’s changed in the personal finance space. Having worked in this part of the industry for more than three decades, I had a few things to share 🙂.
Five (Seismic) Shifts
Planning for retirement
When I started at Bankers Trust in 1986, I had a defined benefit plan. When I left in 1995, I had a defined-contribution plan. This coincided with the shift from employers being responsible for the retirement planning of their employees to the individuals taking on that responsibility.
The way we work
As a Gen Xer, I likely represent the tipping point of the shift from long-term employment to shorter job tenures. My mother worked for the federal government for 38 years; I have friends who worked at BT for about 20 years (if you account for them staying on when DB acquired the firm); and I was at BT until just two months shy of my ten-year anniversary.
Gone are the days when the goal was to stay at least 25 years so you can get your watch or clock; that was no longer a litmus test for loyalty, security, or success. Today, the average length of employment is 4.1 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The cultural change in how we work has an impact on your financial stability and security. And, oh, by the way, this is happening while you are now also responsible for your own retirement planning. And if you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, like myself, you are also responsible for your health care.
From the mid-90s and early aughts, you had two options for personal finance software. Both of which required a computer and a disc! Ironically, fin-tech exploded on the heels of the 2008 Great Recession. As a result you can now handle nearly every aspect of your financial life from your phone in the palm of your hand. That’s definitely a feat, as is the democratization of investing courtesy of this technological revolution.
Prior to the COVID pandemic in 2020, I hosted a dinner series designed to bring people together to talk about money, business, and life, over food and wine. It was also a way to bring folks together from various industries and professions for purposeful and intentional networking.
I love that this is the premise upon which Jacqueline initially founded the BWAM network in 2019, in London. Four years later, it’s now expanded to include an annual conference that is only destined to continue to grow – in terms of attendees, sponsors, and its impact on every aspect of the asset management industry.
Again, 400+ people, y’all! A far cry from what it would have been 30 years ago.
Relationship with money
The formalization of personal finance as a discipline is estimated to have begun in the early 20th century, and I can guarantee you, focusing on your relationship with money was not valued. In fact, it was considered new-age and woo-woo, because money was primarily viewed as a practical tool. Yet, just a few years ago, a major bank kicked-off a large advertising campaign around the concept of “your relationship with money.”
One of the reasons I was so amped and grateful for the opportunity to speak at this conference is because I’ve been advancing the culture of financial well-being for three decades.
Getting people to think and see beyond the numbers – to recognize how the role of their attitudes, beliefs, emotions, values, expectations, behaviors, and patterns of decision-making also play a role in their financial success – has definitely been my focus and mission since starting my own firm. A stark contrast from my academic and professional training.
From my vantage point, these are the five key ways the landscape of personal finance has undergone a profound metamorphosis.
What’s Remained the Same
And yet here’s the one thing that hasn’t changed…
We have a cultural tendency not to talk about money in family and friendship circles, and certainly not in professional settings.
And if conversations are held, it is usually at a surface level and focused mainly on what you DO with money. Leaving out the elephant in the room…your WHY, which is driven by your circumstances and the context thereof.
This is as true today in 2023 as it was in decades past.
Yet, what was refreshing about this conference for professionals in asset management – an industry that funds the: roads you drive on; public transportation you use; technology you use; innovation that is afoot in a multitude of industries; retirement of millions; and that provides the financing for start-ups – is this:
The recognition that just because you are skilled in raising, managing, and deploying sometimes trillions of dollars via your job, doesn’t mean you apply those same skills closer to home when it comes to your personal finances.
The numbers you see (or want to see) in your banking, investment, and credit accounts take on a variety of meanings – from status, power, self-trust, personal success. Along with your perception of the meaning you believe others attach to your numbers.
I love imagining the possible cultural and societal shifts if more industry conferences took a cue from BWAM and included personal finance in the agenda. What a profound impact this has the potential of having on the financial well-being of individuals, families, communities, and small businesses. The idea gives me goosebumps.
Fundamentally, I love the intentionality that comes with knowing smart, curious, high-achievers and high-earners also need support doing for themselves what they do for others.
And, I’m all in for that!
Besides, who knows, maybe in the process, we can even move the needle a bit in terms of what we talk about when we talk about money.