We're proud to spotlight one of our most successful female financial advisors and the chairwoman of the B. Riley Wealth Management Women's Advisory Committee, Lisa Marcelli. She provides a comprehensive approach to wealth management for her clients, and specializes in helping women through personal life transitions like divorce, career changes, and widowhood. Read on to learn more about how Lisa has changed her clients' lives for the better, and why she remains passionate about wealth management after more than 30 years in the business.
How did you end up in the wealth management industry?
Growing up, I watched my mother read the Wall Street Journal and invest in stocks, which she loved doing. A coworker of hers, a successful stock picker, inspired her to start early on. When we lost my father, I was 16, and my mother found herself alone and in charge of our household unexpectedly. She instilled in me the importance of women's financial literacy and independence, and I ended up studying economics in college. Given my life experiences and education, wealth management was a natural fit.
Where do you see opportunities for success in the wealth management business?
As someone who gives advice professionally, I believe it is important to meet clients where they are and have empathy for their needs. I find that all my clients initially lack confidence in their financial experience, so I educate them about the decisions they are making and their potential impact. When I work with couples, I go out of my way to involve the female partner; I include her on emails and invite her to meetings. I also try working with clients' children, including young adult daughters, to help them create financial stability and freedom, both in the "now" and for the long-term.
Have you observed any general differences in how male and female clients approach financial decision making and goal setting?
Over time, I've learned that male executives are usually looking for specific expertise from me and are comfortable delegating. Female executives tend to ask tougher questions and can be more skeptical than their male counterparts.
Women who find themselves forced to make financial decisions for the first time due to a divorce, loss of a spouse, or unexpected windfall present with a degree of discomfort about making financial decisions, or the consequence of making the wrong one. However, once they are educated and experienced, they are empowered.
What kind of impact do you think women can make in this business, and what kind of impact have you made personally?
My favorite aspect of this job is the way in which good advice can change lives. Approximately 26 years ago, I started working with a gentleman who was retiring from an engineering career at a large construction company. At the time, he was nervous about making his money last through retirement. Ultimately, he was able to pay for his daughter's wedding, live comfortably for 20 years, travel, play golf, and had plenty of money left over. In his later years, he was able to pay for assisted living for himself and his wife. He called me about five years ago to thank me, and that was meaningful. I now advise his daughter and her partner.
Several years ago, I advised another client to purchase a long-term care insurance plan. Ten years later, I learned from the insurance company that the client had stopped paying the policy. When I called the client to make sure it wasn't a mistake, she shared that the LTC plan had been invaluable, as her husband was in a nursing facility due to a stroke. Were it not for the plan, their savings would have been wiped out. When he passed away, the policy rider that was attached to the LTC plan allowed her to keep coverage without having to pay the premium, and she shared that this advice completely changed her financial trajectory.
What steps can women take to secure their financial futures while remaining dynamic enough to handle unexpected financial challenges?
I think the steps for both men and women are similar. Financial planning should always include a fund for short-term emergencies, mid-range and long-term goals. It can be easy to underestimate the amount of money needed in retirement due to the high cost of healthcare and inflation. I recommend that clients update their financial plans and budgets yearly, at a minimum. While many see budgeting as unpleasant, I see it as rewarding, especially when clients start to reap the benefits of matching their assets with their goals.
What, in your opinion, can we do in wealth management to attract more female financial advisors?
This is something I have discussed at length with the Women's Advisory Committee. I see equal opportunity for men and women in the industry, and I know there are people who want to hire women. While I think the doors are open, I would like to find a way to mentor younger female advisors. It's important to educate young women about what it means to be a financial advisor, and how rewarding it can be. It's also important that both men and women encourage and support other women in this business, so they will achieve advancement and stay in financial services.
What advice would you give to a young woman who is considering a career in financial services?
The advice I would give to any person interested in this career would be to face your fears. When the unexpected happens in the markets, a client's life, or in the industry, a financial advisor must be able to make the best decision on behalf of their clients and give rational advice. It takes fortitude to stay focused on key issues and think clearly. If you always do the right thing for your clients, you will create the right business for yourself.
If there was one tip you would share with a female business owner or individual investor right now, what would it be?
The one piece of advice I would give to anyone, especially a woman, is to never stop learning about money management. If you are unfamiliar with a term, look it up. If you are unsure about a strategy or piece of advice you've been given, ask questions. Subscribe to a financial periodical, read about tax law changes; do whatever it takes. Knowledge will always give you a leg up.