Want a flexible, rewarding, collaborative career?
Elissa Buie and Deb Kriebel – Certified Financial PlannersTM and MBAs – have many similarities. Both believe financial planning is a career in which women can excel, both have contributed to and benefitted tremendously from volunteer work, and both were honored on InvestmentNews’ “Twenty Women to Watch” list in 2015. Learn how Elissa – as CEO of Yeske Buie – and Deb – as partner and wealth manager at Pinnacle Advisory Group, Inc. – have applied their CFP® certification and MBA to do what they love.
Financial planning: The deets on the day-to-day
What does your job entail?
DEB: Pinnacle is a wealth management (financial planning and investment management) firm. As a Certified Financial PlannerTM I get to know my clients from the ground up – where they have been in life, their goals, priorities, and information about their family.
I work with clients 1:1 and get involved in cash flow management, college planning, tax planning, insurance needs, managing debt and saving for retirement. We work with our clients’ CPAs and estate planning attorneys – all as part of the same team.
ELISSA: Yeske Buie is a wealth management firm created by the merger of my firm and my husband’s firm. We lived on opposite coasts when we met, and when we got engaged we started talking about what to do with the businesses. We thought about not merging because we both like to be in charge, but a friend said, “If you can learn to operate your firm together, it can help your marriage, too.”
We have different skillsets – he likes to bring in new business and investments, and I like devising strategy for the firm and managing people.
What do you like most about your job?
DEB: It is challenging, fun and never gets stale. I develop close, trusting relationships with fascinating clients who share their life stories.
ELISSA: There is a reason I majored in business – I love finance, marketing, and dual entry accounting. Financial planning is a left/right brain mix. In addition to managing the business, I like working with clients.
The skinny on the MBA and CFP: Complementary skill sets
What inspired you to pursue your MBA?
DEB: I have an undergraduate degree in chemistry, and I was drawn to the MBA when I started working after college. I had some money to invest and took an investments class at the University of Virginia (UVA) at night. I absolutely loved it. About this time, my husband and I moved to Alaska, and I took business classes at the University of Alaska. When my husband decided to get a PhD, I decided to apply for MBA programs. We both were accepted to the University of Florida.
ELISSA: My father was insistent about a graduate degree to get ahead so I went to the University of Maryland to get an MBA. At the time, I was working at a tax shelter firm doing finance stuff so I signed up for a financial planning class at George Washington University. It crystallized the path for me to do comprehensive planning for people instead of tax shelters.
I decided to start my own business because of my MBA – I had the pieces to feel confident and understood the concepts of projections and budgets and accounting, bookkeeping, and managing employees.
What inspired you to pursue the CFP® designation, and how has it affected your career?
DEB: In my MBA program, I worked for a finance professor who wrote a textbook about financial management. I fell in love with investment management, and my professor suggested the CFP® certification.
Financial planning as a career is one of the biggest secrets out there. The CFP® certification requires commitment to a code of ethics and continuing education. One great thing about it is the flexibility – you can work from home or part-time.
ELISSA: My mentor at the tax shelter job was a CFP® professional, and he encouraged me to do it. It is the single best financial planning designation. While working at the tax shelter firm, I asked if I could provide financial planning services to clients. When I started working at a larger firm, my clients moved with me and I realized that they wanted someone to give advice, not sell them specific products.
I decided to start my own firm after someone recommended, “Do it now because it won’t get any easier.”
What does the combination of the MBA and CFP® certification prepare you for that you couldn’t with just one or the other?
DEB: The MBA has given me a great foundation in understanding business management, marketing, human resources, and corporate finance. It is more corporate oriented. The CFP® certification is about personal investments, retirement and college planning, estate planning and insurance. With the two, you have a more global vision.
ELISSA: I need both to run my business. Most financial planning firms are small. Unless you are going to do financial planning for a big company or big bank, you are going to be involved in the management of the firm and not just serving clients.
The finance profession attracts more men than women, and there are fewer female CFP® professionals and MBAs than male CFP® professionals and MBAs. Do you have any thoughts about why this is the case?
DEB: Women are very well set up to be fabulous financial planners. You need to have good collaboration and communications skills. Don’t be scared away from a math perspective because there are so many great software tools. If you like working with people, chances are you’ll enjoy it.
ELISSA: It’s a great career for everyone, if it is fair to generalize that women are naturally empathetic and women who like numbers are good at financial planning. It takes both. We need to figure out why more women are not attracted to this business because there is a huge opportunity for women.
Inspiration and wisdom
You volunteer significantly within the financial planning community and in other ways. What drives or motivates you to donate your time?
DEB: I want to leave the world a better place. You often get leadership skills when you volunteer, even without meaning to. It helps build your confidence.
ELISSA: I volunteer because I am shy, and volunteering is a way to get comfortable in my surroundings. It’s a time commitment, but you get back infinity-fold!
Any advice for young women, based on your biggest lessons in business?
DEB: If they are considering a CFP® certification or MBA, think of it as a tool – could it help you get to what you want to do and where you want to be?
My biggest business lesson: There is no success without failure. I learned in chemistry that failure provides important information. You will have failures that you can learn from, and move on.
ELISSA: There are financial risks in this business – if you start a business, you have to wait until you have clients. If you are going into a firm, you have to support existing clients or bring in new clients – but with these risks come great rewards, especially in financial planning.
Managing money is critical to someone’s health and life; helping clients with that helps make their lives better.
If you had to pick only one career “wow moment,” what would it be?
DEB: I remember jumping out of bed one morning, and my husband asked me why I was so excited. I realized that I get paid for what I love to do, I am following my dreams, and I work with amazing people. I will probably be doing this at age 90 in a nursing home.
ELISSA: Put yourself in environments and with people who can help you live your values. Financial planning is art and science, and our job at Yeske Buie is to balance the two with what the client has, what matters to them and why. If you are a financial planner who believes it is only about numbers, or only about relationships, you can’t work here. It goes against our worldview.
Is there a quote or book that’s had a lasting impact on your career approach or outlook?
DEB: I have three sayings that I live by:
- Hug the monster – conquer what is holding you back.
- We must be the change we wish to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi
- Do something that scares you a little bit every day. – Eleanor Roosevelt
ELISSA: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
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 www.CenterforFinancialPlanning.org.