In our series on Women In Finance, we speak of women who are leaders in the Finance industry. Wall Street and Finance used to be an all-white boys club”. Great progress has been made and this has changed a lot recently. Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to CNBC, less than 17 per cent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. The key question asked to all the leading Women in Finance is:
“In your opinion or experience, which 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and c) society to support the movement towards greater gender parity in the finance industry?”
In this article, we speak of Kathleen Murphy, the President of Fidelity.
Kathleen joined Fidelity in 2009 as President of Personal Investing, which provides a full range of investment and financial planning services to millions of individual investors including wealth management, retirement planning, and brokerage. Personal Investing is a leading provider of offerings such as mutual funds, IRAs, ETFs, college savings plans, and more. Murphy also oversees Fidelity’s life insurance and annuities business, its workplace savings business for tax-exempt organizations, all of the firm’s brand and advertising programs, and Fidelity’s digital programs. Prior to joining Fidelity, Murphy was CEO of ING U.S. Wealth Management, leading the Defined Contribution, Defined Benefit, Retirement Solutions, Annuities, and ING Advisors Network businesses. She began her career with Aetna, spending 15 years in a variety of legal and government affairs positions, eventually serving as general counsel and chief compliance officer, Aetna Financial Services. Murphy sits on the Board of Governors of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Board of Directors of the Markle Foundation, and the Board of Directors and Vice-Chair of the National Football Foundation. She has repeatedly been named one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in American Business” by Fortune magazine, one of the “Wall Street Top 50” and “Business 100” by Irish America magazine, and named as one of the “25 Most Powerful Women in Finance” by US Banker, among other honours.
According to her,
Open-mindedness. Hiring managers need to think much more broadly as to who they may consider as candidates for financial services positions. Don’t look at a candidate based on what your workforce currently looks like; you’ll never become more diverse with that old-school thinking. Understand your customers, their needs and preferences, and examine your employee demographics. Take some risks with smart, capable people who may not already have a financial background; they can learn!
Q: Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?
Well, there’s some irony in my story. Early on in my career as an attorney at Aetna, I was asked to work in the investment legal area to further my development as a lawyer.
I remember telling my boss at the time, “I’m never ever going to work in financial services during my career.” Obviously, I was wrong.
Looking back, I believe my hesitancy was impacted by the fact that financial services were (and still is though progress has been made) such a male-dominated field. I soon realized I was fully equipped to succeed in that environment.
The point is — — capable women should have the confidence to compete in any field of their choosing, whether or not it is dominated by men. That’s part of my message to women who are tentative about being actively involved in investing, too. You can do it!
Q: 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 what you took out of that story?
One story that continues to resonate with me, and those who hear about it, involves a little girl named Piper.
The daughter of a colleague who brought her to work one day, 6-year-old Piper marched into our offices and took charge. She boldly asked people about their jobs and sat in on meetings and conference calls.
By the end of the day, Piper had “earned” a corner office and was given the title “senior intern.” Fair to say, Piper didn’t lack in confidence, even at such a young age!
But will she stay that way? Soon after, I spoke at a high school on the topic of financial literacy and engaged a room of 9th graders on various related topics. Every time I asked a question, the boys were eager to answer. The girls pretty much stayed mute throughout.
Where was Piper when we needed her?
Too often, girls — before they are aware of “normal” gender roles — are bold and confident. But they sometimes lose that self-assurance in their teen years, and into adulthood, as they frequently become burdened by cultural stereotypes and expectations. That’s unfortunate, and why I’m so driven to get more women to take an active role in their financial lives and investing.
We need more Pipers in this world. And every person — especially woman — has it in them to become one.
Q: Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
In May, we launched the Fidelity Women’s Leadership Fund (FWOMX). It’s a perfect example of an initiative that is “doing good,” for our customers and business.
Fidelity’s research found that companies with women in leadership positions and initiatives promoting gender diversity generally outperformed the market over the long term. Numerous other studies have shown a direct correlation between gender (and other diversity measurements) and corporate profits. In fact, companies with more women in leadership generally have lower earnings volatility and higher returns on equity. McKinsey reported in 2018 that companies with more diverse executive teams were 33 per cent more likely to see better-than-average profits.
For these reasons and many others, we created the Fidelity Women’s Leadership Fund, which invests primarily in companies that prioritize and advance women’s leadership. We look at three primary criteria for investing in a company: the presence of a woman as a member of the senior management team; one-third or more of all board of directors members are women; or the adoption of policies designed to attract, retain and promote women.
It’s exciting to see the entire team bring something like this to life.
Q: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Fidelity is centrally focused on our customers and we back up our words with actions.
I think because we are privately held — which is quite unusual in the financial services industry — and have such scale, we can continuously reinvest in our business to research and develop new capabilities, improving and lowering the costs of our products and services and sharing the benefits of our earned financial strength with customers. We do all of this with a long-term focus, and not just based on our latest quarterly financial results. Plain and simple, customers come first.
And that’s the reason why, on my commute to and from the office, I regularly listen to calls from clients into our customer care centres. While names are blocked to respect the privacy of the customers and our reps, the calls enable me to get a glimpse into the customer experience — their questions and concerns, as well as their needs and desires.
For someone in my role, it’s one of the most valuable things I do. And while I get insights into what we can do better, I’m also regularly inspired by the dedication and empathy of our representatives. They care truly about our customers.
Q: 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?
Our industry is not unlike many others that were once male-dominated, from top leadership roles to entry-level positions. Great inroads have been made in giving women the opportunity — and confidence — to participate in any field they desire. While we still have a long way to go in financial services to be truly representative of the population, we have made substantial progress. Indeed, the landscape is much different from when I entered the industry.
I also believe women have become more interested in financial matters and wealth management, especially when compared to previous generations. Much of that is driven by the dramatic shift in wealth in this country. Research tells us that by 2020, women investors will have accumulated $22 trillion in wealth through inheritance workplace advancement. They want solid advice in managing their money, and many of them would prefer to seek out the counsel of women — and that’s tough in a field where only about 15 per cent of licensed financial professionals are female.
To serve this growing populace, we need more women in financial services. And Fidelity is dedicated to making that happen with wide-ranging programs and policies designed to attract more of them to our profession.
Q: 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 per cent 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 ongoing gap is an area Fidelity has given a lot of attention to, and it’s a personal focus of mine, too. Here, in my view, are some things stakeholders can ascribe to so they can provide women with the training, confidence and opportunity to shine in financial services:
· Open-mindedness. Hiring managers need to think much more broadly as to who they may consider as candidates for financial services positions. Don’t look at a candidate based on what your workforce currently looks like; you’ll never become more diverse with that old-school thinking. Understand your customers, their needs and preferences, and examine your employee demographics. Take some risks with smart, capable people who may not already have a financial background; they can learn!
By doing so, your recruiting, hiring, advancement and training practices will evolve accordingly.
· Fill the pool. Related to the point about open-mindedness, organizations are unable to nurture more diverse talent into the next generation of leaders if few women and other minorities are represented at lower levels of the company. It’s simple math: Women will have more opportunities to advance up the ladder if more women are in the workplace.
· Meaningful mentoring. Establishing and maintaining relationships with customers is incredibly important in this industry. And so, too, are strong mentoring relationships within our own house. Mentorship has long been a staple of the business world, but is it as worthwhile and effective as it can be? Leaders need to devote significant time to mentoring up-and-coming talent — especially underrepresented individuals, such as women. Otherwise, they likely will move on to greener pastures.
Q: 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?
These days, there’s a fine line between intuitive and non-intuitive with respect to finances. In general, young people are woefully unprepared to comprehend the basic tenets of finance, much less manage their money.
Sure, they may be independent as 22-year-olds, living on their own and working. But are they financially independent? That’s unlikely. Here’s some advice for young people eager to take control of their financial future:
· Take stock … of everything. Perhaps Mom and Dad started a savings nest-egg for you soon after birth. And perhaps deductions for 401k contributions are underway now that you’re employed. That’s all well and good unless you have no idea how much wealth you have and where, specifically, it is invested. Learn what you have before you start deciding how to manage it.
· Learn the fine art of moderation. Cut one “power lunch” out of your schedule each month, and earmark that money for your retirement account. Do that every month, every year, and you could have another $100K saved for retirement. No kidding!
· Time is on your side. The twenties are your prime savings years when every dollar saved can potentially multiply countless times by the time you reach retirement age. Start saving early, and often. And invest wisely.
· Don’t leave money on the table. Most corporate retirement plans include a “match” made by the employer, up to a percentage maximum. Make sure the payroll deduction you’re taking enables you to “max out” that company match. Otherwise, you’re turning away free money.
· Seek wisdom. Whether it’s your parents, a sibling or someone else you trust, get solid investment advice. Doing so will decrease the likelihood of making a misstep that could cost you plenty in the long-term.
Q: None of us is 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?
We all need role models and advisors, and I’ve been blessed to have many — starting with my parents. They imbued a strong sense of values in me and my five siblings, and the confidence to succeed at anything. And to take risks. Mom reinvented her career path three times, and continued to grow and prosper with every step.
Another great professional influence was Zoe Baird, Aetna’s senior vice president and general counsel when I began working there. Smart, strong, opinionated, capable — she was generous with her time and advice and was an outstanding role model as a trailblazer for women in leadership.
Q: Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Over the years, I’ve been inspired by one of the most quoted individuals in 20th century America — legendary football coach Vince Lombardi.
Few people have such a clear perspective on leadership and other capabilities that are so vital to a successful life and career. Here’s one of my favourites from his vast repository of inspirational quotes:
The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavour.
Work hard, stay focused and you’ll do just fine at anything you try. I’ve certainly found that to be true. Thanks, Coach!
I also keep this quote from historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich on my desk at work as a fun source of inspiration: Well-behaved women seldom make history.
It always pushes me to lean in and make the most of the opportunities before me. The most rewarding moments in my career have come when I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone, taken risks, and pushed myself or the team to reach new heights. Go for it!
Q: 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. 🙂
No surprise here … I would want to inspire more women to invest.
When my dad died, quite suddenly, at age 47, my mom suddenly became the breadwinner in our family — and the sole financial decision-maker. It was not a role she was prepared for, as my parents had a “traditional” (for the time) labour division: Dad invested the money. Mom paid the bills.
With three children still in college, Mom had plenty of catching up to do. Was there enough money to pay for everyone’s education? How many more years would she have to work? Would she need to adjust the family’s investment strategy?
Over time, she learned the ins and outs of investing and financial planning and became quite astute at it. But her life, especially during those traumatic weeks and months after suffering such a painful loss, could have been so much easier if she had been involved in those decisions all along.
Sadly, 30 years later, most women remain in the backseat when it comes to financial planning and investing. While women control 80 per cent of the purchase decisions in their household, less than 10 per cent of women think that they can invest as well as men.
There’s no good reason for that disparity. And it needs to change.