Spotlight Friday: An Interview with Financial Advisor Sam Lee

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Sam LeeSam Lee is a financial advisor, investor, and finance enthusiast. His experiences in finance include working working as a bond trader in Chicago, a risk analyst intern in Dublin Ireland for RBS (Ulster Bank is a subsidiary), and as an investment banking analyst intern at a boutique bank. Sam is interested in helping people with their personal finances and life decisions. He also has a variety of entrepreneurial experiences, including building and monetizing his own website. Sam recently completed a master in finance and has launched his own practice as a financial advisor.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here, find him on Linkedin here, and read more of his thoughts about finance on his personal website here.

1. Most job postings cite “X” years of relevant work experience and specific education criteria as requirements to be considered for the position. With this in mind, what prior work experiences and degrees/certifications/training helped prepare you for your current role?

My current role is a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch. When I think about the skillset and experience which helps me with this role, getting a college degree in a business related role such as finance, accounting, or economics helps. I received a BS in finance from the University of Illinois. This got me interested in the world of finance and investments. My first job out of college was working as a fixed income trader at a small firm in Chicago where I acted in a broker capacity buying and selling municipal and corporate bonds for clients. This helped me learn about the technical aspects of investments (in particular fixed income). It also helped me to practice watching the markets everyday, to think quickly on my feet, and have attention to the details especially when dealing with millions of dollars of client money. One thing in particular I learned more about is that money is an emotional thing, and building rapport and trust is required when working with families who are making decisions on their money.

The job was a great experience but I was looking for something more fulfilling. I decided to clear my head and travel for a few months so I booked a one way ticket to Korea and started traveling to different countries. You may not think this is relevant to being a financial advisor, but my experiences in different countries and seeing the stark contrasts in poverty and wealth, compelled me to increase my financial education and to help teach others about finance (I truly think that education is the way to lift people out of poverty in the long run). Upon returning to the US, I successfully completed a masters degree in finance and started an internship working directly with the former President of Charles Schwab (timmccarthy.com), who I now consider my mentor (not only is education and work experience important in finding your career path, but also the people that you meet that really guides your path). Because of this, I decided to become a financial advisor, so that I can utilize my experiences and education to help as many people I can with financial education, personal finance, and investments.

2. Some jobs require the incumbent to be very analytical. Others require one to be a strong communicator, and others still require traits like patience, the ability to multitask, self-directedness, comfort with ambiguity, and exceptional attention to detail. Are there any behaviors and/or attributes that you would say are essential to performing the work that you do?

As a financial advisor, one critical attribute to success is the ability to listen to your clients and prospective clients. Essentially the job is listening and figuring out the wants and needs of the person you are working with and providing solutions to their problems. Being trustworthy is also important as clients will not hand over their retirement savings if they don’t trust you. Generally, having a high emotional intelligence and good people skills is very important for this job. In addition, an advisor needs to be the jack of all trades in the aspect of also having a high degree of analytical skills. Analyzing an investment proposal, sifting through a personal financial statement, researching complicated tax issues for the client all require a degree of analytical ability and being good with numbers.

3. Jobs guru Lou Adler says there are only 4 job types of jobs in the world (producers, improvers, builders, and thinkers. Which type of job are you in?

According to those 4 job types, perhaps improver? Asset allocators and helping people improve their personal finances.

4. Does your job involve either directly or indirectly supervising or managing people? If so, how many direct (or indirect) reports do you have?

My job is pretty much independent. Many times I will be on the road or working from home talking to prospects and servicing clients.

5. How does what you do impact the business? Think complexity (different types of impacts) and scale (degree of impact). Put another way: Who and what would be impacted if your job wasn’t being done well, and why would it matter that they were impacted?

I am a revenue generator, so I add money to the company’s bottom line.

6. Is your job safe? Rate its safety on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” and 10 being “I’m an astronaut going into space”. If your job isn’t safe, what working conditions (specifically) make it hazardous?

My job is pretty “safe” in the sense that working conditions are in an office environment, air conditioned, I’m wearing a business suit, etc.

7. Is there anything I missed that people should know about your job? Is there anything else you want to say about what you do?

To put it bluntly, being a financial advisor, it is a tough business at the start, but the longer you are in this business, the better it gets.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Best,

Rory

Using Compensation to Drive Employee Development

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<www.employee-performance.com

<www.employee-performance.com>

…So this morning I read two great posts at Compensation Cafe. The first one is from Margaret O’Hanlon, and it examines the impact that an employer’s views on comp can have on plan design. It’s a great piece, and you can read it here. The second post is from Jim Brennan at the Economic Research Institute. It recounts one of the author’s experiences (written as an allegory) wherein he counsels a client on how to drive performance by withholding a benefit. It’s a good (and short read), and you can check it out here.

I share these pieces because – in aggregate – they made me realize that I haven’t been anywhere near creative enough in thinking about how compensation can be used to drive performance. A while back I wrote about how one of the biggest challenges to getting employees to drive their own learning and development is that the payoff is too undefined. The highest performers in any workforce are going to be self-starters that drive their own development simply because it’s a smart time investment, but for many people there needs to be a carrot of some sorts before they will invest the amount of time and deliberate practice required to develop competency in a new work skill.

…So why not incentivize skill development via rewards? I’m not suggesting all organizations implement skill based pay structures; rather, I’m saying that if there is a work skill or competency that an organization realizes it is deficient in, creating an incentive to develop that skill may be a great way to build a bench. Promising a job or a promotion isn’t always practical… but wouldn’t a one time bonus (if it was large enough) or base pay increase accomplish the same objective? These carrots could be offered within departments or across the enterprise – dependent on how needed the K/S/A is. Organizations are already spending a fortune on training programs and learning tools as is. Why not drive their utilization by offering the right incentives? In many cases it’s going to be cheaper than going out into the market and sourcing/recruiting/onboarding an external hire with the needed skills…

…Maybe there are a ton of organizations doing things like this already. And maybe the range of KSAs this approach could be used to cultivate is limited. As with my post yesterday, this is just a morning thought stream…

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Best,

Rory

A Culture of Transparency and Consistency

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<www.searchenginejournal.com

<www.searchenginejournal.com>

…So this morning I read a great piece from Gabrielle Garon wherein she talks about some of the biggest culture killers in organizations. She lists 6 culprits (doing a very good job of outlining how they can adversely impact a culture), that you can read about here.

With that said, one of the big culprits of culture killing she talks about in her piece is inconsistent values adoption. This is when (to borrow from the piece) “leaders choose when the (company’s) values matter and when they don’t”. I thought this was poignant because, ultimately, leadership sets the tone for what is and is not allowed in an organization. The rest of an employee population simply follows suit as a matter of course.

…I have been fortunate not to have faced too many situations like this on matters relating to values (because I’ve been fortunate to work with mostly strong leaders), but, conversely, I think consistent policy application is a challenge managers struggle with at all levels. This is because a policy cannot account for all situations, and being a good leader sometimes means knowing when to bend (or break) a policy to manage exceptions that warrant it.

…But managing exceptions comes at a cost.

In cases where this involves deviating from a policy I think that one of the big challenges is that the rest of the workforce only sees the policy aspect of a decision but (for privacy reasons) can’t always see the context behind why that decision was made. In these cases we can only be as transparent as we can while continuing to be as thorough, objective, and unbiased as we can in the application of policies all of the time.

When we do this right, we should be able to maintain a strong culture. Yes?

Just a thought stream…

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Best,

Rory

Quote of the Week: “Don’t spend time beating on a wall…

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…hoping to transform it into a door.” – Coco Chanel

<www.smithsonianmag.com

<www.smithsonianmag.com>

This week’s quote has been attributed to Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel (better known as Coco Chanel), a French fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand.

This is a timely quote for me because much of the personal learning and development that I’ve engaged in lately has been heavily steeped in the abstract. And as someone that has – professionally speaking – spent much of the last several years dealing with (mostly) concrete challenges, figuring out how to efficiently switch back and forth between these modes of thought has at times been… a trying process.

This is because – quite frankly – shifting between utilizing the work skills required to resolve people issues during the day to tackling much more abstract problems (for learning and development purposes) at night is a sharp departure from what I’m used to doing. But I also recognize that being able to use both sides of my brain at a high level will position me to maximize my ability to add value.

As a practical matter, this has meant being more purposeful in the way I use my time; specifically identifying which habits and behaviors help me quickly shift between modes of thought, and culling those which undermine that process. By doing this I’ve gotten much better at learning quickly from both my successes and failures, allowing me to transition quickly into the mental space I need/want to be in.

…So as we get started this week, I would encourage you adopt habits that allow you to learn fast. Be diligent about trying new things, and surgical in the way you examine the fruitfulness of your efforts. If something isn’t working then give it some space, then try another way. By constantly modifying your approach when you aren’t making progress, you will expose yourself to more points of view, expand your thinking, and ultimately be more effective in your problem solving.

think that I have this one right… but perhaps not? As always, one way or another please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Happy Monday,

Rory

Sunday Reading: Career Reinvention, Innovation, and Learning

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gregcantyfuzion.com

1. Josh BersinPrincipal and Founder at Bersin by Deloitte has a great post up on Linkedin wherein he espouses the necessity of continually reinventing oneself. As supporting evidence, the piece cites research conducted by Oxford Economics that shows the primary issue employees worry about today is that their current skill sets will eventually become outdated. He goes on to highlight that 50% of respondents in the study believe their current skill sets will be obsolete within 3 years. This is a staggering number, but the truth of the matter is that even it may be understated. As Bersin goes on to point out, no matter what industry you’re in, the speed at which jobs are changing today makes it imperative that we all continue to grow and develop. Bersin has some great tips in the piece outlining what such a learning and developing process looks like, making this one a must read. You can check out the full article here.

2. Dan Maycock, Director of Strategy & Analytics at OneAccord Digital has a great piece up on Linkedin outlining some of the many reasons it’s difficult for companies to continually be disruptive in their industries. Among them, Maycock points out that being disruptive carries significant risks since making changes to a core product (or introducing a new one) may alienate one’s core customer base. Simply put, as companies grow and develop a customer base, there becomes increasing pressure to improve efficiencies in an effort to retain them. These pressures discourage innovation at more mature firms, allowing start-ups to displace them and subsequently carve out a large segment of the market for themselves… often eventually repeating the cycle themselves over time. Maycock goes on to write that this is in many ways all well and good – once a company has identified a niche that gives them excellent returns they should focus on it – so long as that focus is centered on ideas and concepts that are permanent as opposed to products and services (which are by nature transient). This is a particularly powerful concept when one thinks about how it can be applied to one’s own professional development; the technology and tools we use to get our work done are always changing. But if instead of chasing hot skills (which are by mature transient), we focus on developing competencies that will allow us to fulfill needs – which have permanence we greatly enhance lengthen our careers (and improve theirs trajectories). This is a really, really good read that expanded my thinking in several different directions… check it out here.

3. In a solid Linkedin piece that you can read hereBraden Kelley, Improvement and Innovation Manager at Premera Blue Cross reminds us that while failure and learning are often strongly correlated, they are not directly linked. He goes on to point out that we can often all learn just as much from from ours failures as we can from our successes if we treat our innovation efforts as discrete experiments designed to test things. Essentially, by approaching our efforts as learning vehicles, we can not only ensure that we learn from both our successes and our failures, but also that we learn faster from them than we otherwise might.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Best,

Rory

Video Saturday: An Insider’s Guide to Compensation Committee Meetings

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<www.ernescliffe.ca

<www.ernescliffe.ca>

Guest Host Bonnie Kelly, CCP, Sr. Director, Executive Compensation, Hilton Worldwide, interviews Robin Colman, VP Compensation, Benefits and M & A, eBay, on preparing for compensation committee meetings. Included are tips for running a successful meeting, adding the most value to the process, working with consultants, and balancing the wants and needs of management and the compensation committee.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Best,

Rory

Spotlight Friday: An Interview with Raedawn Johnson, Corporate Recruiter at Solutionary

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RaedawnCorporate Recruiter with 10 plus years of Human Resources experience. She is currently a Technical Recruiter for Solutionary – the leading pure-play Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) delivering superior IT security and compliance solutions. With Solutionary Raedawn works with hiring managers across the company to find top talent for open positions. She is also responsible for increasing visibility of Solutionary through social media and college recruitment.

You can find Raedawn on Linkedin here and follow her on Twitter here.

1. Most job postings cite “X” years of relevant work experience and specific education criteria as requirements to be considered for the position. With this in mind, what prior work experiences and degrees/certifications/training helped prepare you for your current role?

I earned my MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. During my program, I started an internship in HR and I have been doing HR and Recruiting since. My first job out of college was an HR Assistant where I got exposed to all aspects of HR. Since we were a growing technology company, I was fortunate to be able to grow with the company and move around within the HR department. I found that my niche was recruiting, but I feel that having general HR knowledge makes me a better recruiter. I have since moved on to other companies, but in corporate recruiter roles.

1B. What (if any) additional knowledge or skills that you don’t currently have would make you even better at your job? 

Of course there are other skills that would make me better at my job. My position has evolved, and is more focused on sourcing than ever before, which means I am constantly trying to learn and stay up to date with what is going on in the recruiting/sourcing world.

2. Some jobs require the incumbent to be very analytical. Others require one to be a strong communicator, and others still require traits like patience, the ability to multitask, self-directedness, comfort with ambiguity, and exceptional attention to detail. Are there any behaviors and/or attributes that you would say are essential to performing the work that you do?  

Comfort with ambiguity and flexibility are probably most important in my position. I need to be able to easily switch gears. It is common that priorities change, and I have to then change my strategy. That is a part of being a recruiter. You have to deal with it and move on. In addition, I have to be a strong communicator and a relationship builder with my hiring managers and candidates.

3. Jobs guru Lou Adler says there are only 4 types of jobs in the world (producers, improvers, builders, and thinkers). Which type of job are you in? 

I would say a mix of all four, but more so Producer and Builder. As a corporate recruiter it is my job to produce. I also feel that to stay ahead in recruitment, you need to innovate, come up with new ideas, new ways to find top talent, etc. Not only that, but you have to mold it to your company and how you are as a recruiter. There are always trends that are claimed to be the latest and greatest in the recruiting industry, but it needs to fit your company and your goals. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon, but take a new idea and build it to fit you.

4. Does your job involve either directly or indirectly supervising or managing people? If so, how many direct (or indirect) reports do you have?

My current role does not involve managing people.

5. How does what you do impact the business? Think complexity (different types of impacts) and scale (degree of impact). Put another way: Who and what would be impacted if your job wasn’t being done well, and why would it matter that they were impacted? 

Our company is currently in growth mode, so it is imperative that we get the right people in key roles within our organization for success. Nothing like a little pressure in recruiting!

6. Is your job safe? Rate its safety on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” and 10 being “I’m an astronaut going into space”. If your job isn’t safe, what working conditions (specifically) make it hazardous?

Not only do I work in an “air conditioned vault” all day, I work at an information security company, so badges and finger prints are required all throughout the building. It’s like Fort Knox around here, so I feel very safe.

7. Is there anything I missed that people should know about your job? Is there anything else you want to say about what you do?

Since I have been working for technology companies my entire career, I have a passion for getting involved in the community and encouraging students to study STEM related fields. I also have been working with social media for our company. I have truly enjoyed this, and have been more active with my own social media accounts. Go ahead and connect with me!

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Best,

Rory

The Power of Consensus

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Image Credit: <cdkn.org

Image Credit: <cdkn.org

I am a huge fan of building consensus: More people buying into an idea means more people invested in its successful implementation: After all, as the old adage goes; “two heads are better than one.”

I am also a big believer in the wisdom of the crowds; or, rather, the idea that the many are smarter than the few. More often than not, people simply make better decisions together than they do acting alone.

…That’s why I love this article from HR Consultant Sharlyn Lauby on Peoplefluent that touches on the utility of using social collaboration in the hiring process. In it, she writes about the rise of various tools (including video) being used to educate hiring teams on evolving best practices around interviewing and screening. She also mentions using these same tools as a vehicle to facilitate discussion within a team on job applicants.

Such a process is a departure from the way recruiting is done within many organizations. Most hiring processes today involve a Generalist or Recruiter using phone screens to cull the applicant pool, followed by applicants meeting face-to-face with a hiring manager that then makes the final hire decision. There are some innovative companies like Google and Amazon that are breaking from this tradition, introducing more layers to the decision making process or even taking the hiring decision away from the manager entirely (making the final hire choice a team based decision). But these are the exception, not the rule.

With all that said, I don’t know that there is a “perfect” hiring process – such a process will (and should) vary by organizational culture and individual team. Conversely, I *do* think that as a general rule getting more people involved in decision making (hiring or otherwise) is a good idea. The trick here is doing so while avoiding analysis paralysis (as often happens when too many people are involved in a process) and/or bogging down your organization in bureaucracy (limiting its ability to be dynamic, which at this point is table stakes in most industries).

…This is just a thought stream, so I may have some things wrong here. If so, as always please let me know in the comment section below.

Best,

Rory

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