Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, CFP®, is a woman on a mission. Although she has many roles – including president of Charles Schwab Foundation as well as positions at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. and Schwab Charitable; book author, speaker and weekly columnist; former advisor to two U.S. Presidential Councils on Financial Capability; and member of the Board of Governors for Boys & Girls Clubs of America – the thread that ties together Carrie’s many activities is her passion for financial literacy.
She doesn’t just talk the talk. She takes action to help people become more knowledgeable, spreading her message of financial literacy to people across all walks of life – including teenagers at Boys & Girls Clubs, professionals through the workplace, and not-for-profit organizations that need financial guidance.
In this interview, Carrie shared examples of her daily work activities; why she believes so strongly in financial literacy; how her MBA has helped her accomplish her goals; and why she doesn’t always follow other people’s advice.
Please give a few specific examples of daily activities in your various roles.
Most of my time is spent with Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. and Charles Schwab Foundation, where I focus on our volunteer outreach programs, strategy development, and governance and Board relations. Some of the more interesting examples of what I do on a daily basis include:
- Talking strategy with my team. We’re always trying to think big to figure out how we can reach more people and create greater social impact, as well as how we can best execute our plans.
- Publishing a weekly syndicated personal finance column (Ask Carrie) and additional career and business-oriented columns for LinkedIn.
- Brainstorming on how we can extend the reach of our joint program with Boys & Girls Clubs of America. In addition, I’m always weighing in on other Foundation-sponsored programs that promote financial literacy for Americans.
- And, finally, since a big part of my job is about influencing people, I regularly take advantage of public speaking opportunities across the country.
How does Charles Schwab Foundation fulfill its mission to make investing more accessible to the American public, helping men and women from all walks of life take better control of their finances?
We have several programs that facilitate financial literacy, but I’ll talk about a couple of them:
- Money Matters: Make It CountSM with Boys & Girls Clubs of America:
We teamed up with Boys & Girls Clubs to educate teenagers about the basics of money management as a means to create better economic opportunity for them. We wanted to have a big impact on society, and the Boys & Girls Clubs serve four million children nationally. As of this year, close to 800,000 kids have gone through Money Matters, which is the fastest-growing program that Boys & Girls Clubs offer. Financial education gives young people the ability to make better financial choices when they enter college and launch their careers.
- Schwab Employee Volunteerism Programs:
Schwab Volunteer Week – Our employees volunteer in their communities on an ongoing basis throughout the year, but during one week every year, we rally our employee volunteer forces, several thousand strong, to team up on projects for charities across the U.S. Whether they are providing financial literacy training, gardening, painting or serving food, all the projects we sponsor provide the less fortunate with resources to achieve a better life. This year, 5,550 employees participated in nearly 460 projects for over 300 charities across the country.
- Pro Bono Challenge:
We match employees’ skills with not-for-profits to solve specific challenges. For example, if a not-for-profit needs marketing help, we match them with employees at Schwab who work in marketing. This year we held our Pro Bono Challenge in eight cities, invited 58 not-for-profits to participate, and had over 320 Schwab employees sharing their professional expertise to help address the organizations’ challenges. Employees love it because they can provide such meaningful help to the nonprofits, and it gives them a lot of pride in what they do.
What inspired you to pursue your MBA, and how has it helped in your career?
If you’re interested in leadership, an MBA gives you the nuts and bolts of how business operates. It allowed me to see the big picture and connect the dots across an organization. An MBA can be applied to any organization – for example, the Boys & Girls Clubs can have an idea, but how do they bring it to fruition? The MBA gives you a lay of the land and an understanding of how leaders think, what’s important to them and how to get people to follow you.
Biggest Business Lessons
If you had to name your biggest lessons in business to date, what would they be?
- Relationships matter. It is important to have relationships with peers internally and externally and with leadership. Influence is necessary to get things done.
- Keep leaders informed. They don’t always know what’s going on, so it’s critical to communicate clearly and effectively.
- Don’t always take others’ advice. Check your own mind and your gut first.
Career “Wow” Moment
If you had to pick only one career “wow moment,” what would it be?
Being appointed to serve on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability is a great source of pride because I got to serve alongside some of the greatest leaders and researchers in the behavioral finance space. As chair of the Partnership Committee, I was able to bring people and organizations together to apply the best competencies to create change. The next frontier of financial literacy is through the workplace, and we created a “best in class” financial capability framework for companies of all sizes.
Words of Wisdom
Is there a quote that’s had a lasting impact on your career approach or outlook?
Lately it is “be your authentic self.” Sometimes as leaders we feel like we have to be someone we are not, but the way you lead and effect change is to be yourself.
About the CFP® Board Center for Financial Planning:
The CFP Board Center for Financial Planning seeks to create a more diverse and sustainable financial planning profession so that every American has access to competent and ethical financial planning advice. The Center brings together CFP® professionals, firms, educators, researchers and experts to address profession-wide challenges in the areas of diversity and workforce development, and to build an academic home that offers opportunities for conducting and publishing new research that adds to the financial planning body of knowledge. More about the Center and its initiatives can be found at CenterforFinancialPlanning.org.