From the May 2009 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

May 1, 2009

Getting to Know You

A former auditor, Edward Jones advisor Amber Seale probes clients and their families as much she used to probe corporate officers.

You're acquainted with "The Money Honey" on TV. Now meet "The Money Lady," CFP.

That's what clients' kids duly dubbed financial advisor Amber Seale, 34, because she hips them to the principles of personal finance -- kids even as young as five.

To their parents, the Edward Jones FA is more like "The Money Skeptic," conscientiously scrutinizing their potential investments with acute awareness and a questioning mind. Four years as an auditor with Ernst & Young gave Seale a bird's eye view of big companies -- and not everything she saw was pretty. Now that educational experience is helping her invest the assets of smart -- and skeptical -- doctors, lawyers and CPAs.

"It's very important to be cautious with money. I saw corporate scandal from the inside, so I don't necessarily believe what companies report. When the market went straight up in the '90s and the media were saying everything was great, I was coming home like Chicken Little: 'The sky is falling!' I tell clients not to have more than a certain percentage in any one company," says Seale, an advisor for seven years, all of them with Edward Jones, in Dallas.

With her well earned reputation as a straight-shooter, she gets to the point alerting clients to unrealistic goals and financial risks when spending means overextending.

Much of her secret to success is a talent for connecting with clients on a deep level. It is the stuff that builds trust.

"As soon as I met Amber, an immediate comfort set in," says client Chuck Goodman, president of Goodies from Goodman, in Dallas. "You never get the feeling she has a sales hat on. She's very sharp -- and an advisor about anything that comes up, not just my investments."

Indeed, Seale is an ace problem solver. "That's what you're trained to do as an auditor -- look at all the facts and see if things add up," she says in her native Texas twang. "You're trying to prove if people's numbers are right or wrong. When a company [reports] a good rate of return, I show my clients the raw numbers. I don't just say, 'Trust me.'"

Seale has always been at ease with numbers -- and just as at home with folks.

"I love talking with people, and I'm really good at questioning them to help them figure out: Now that you have some money, what are you going to do with it? I help them dream a little bit. People tend to do better when they have a goal," she says.

The CFP spends lots of time getting to know clients' families -- and they learn about hers too. "Sharing about my life," she notes, "makes clients trust me more."

For instance, last Christmas, she gave $3 to each of her pre-school-age children -- Katrina, 4, and 3-year-old identical twins Ashley and Kayley -- to buy $1 gifts for one another -- and Grandma, too -- at the dollar store.

Seale told some of her clients. "They thought it was cute and hilarious," she says.

"The Money Lady" believes that it's necessary for all youngsters to get a grounding in saving and investing. She gives clients' kids ages 5 and up the scoop about mutual funds and how $2 can be turned into $20; kids older than 10 are taught about giving to charity.

Why does she bother? "The primary focus is not that they're going to manage their parents' money at some point and I want every dollar of it. It's just that I care about my clients," Seale says. "Children see money going out the door but never see how Mommy and Daddy save money. I want them to be financially responsible and realize that putting money in a piggy bank is part of what you do."

The Seale girls have a newfangled one that's clueing them into asset allocation at an early age: The transparent pig has four separate slots labeled "Save," "Invest," "Send" and "Give." Their choice each time.

Born in Houston, Seale spent her teen years on the family ranch -- complete with pet goats -- in Allen, 30 minutes north of Dallas. In elementary school, she'd already shown a bent for business, starting up a variety of ventures including a tiny day care center and selling Dad's pre-used undershirts -- with her added artwork -- to next-door neighbors.

At the University of Texas, Seale simultaneously earned a bachelor of business administration and a master's degree in accounting. Two years before her 1996 graduation, she had an offer from Ernst & Young in hand.

The auditor post suited her. "I loved being nosy and asking corporate heads how they ran their businesses," Seale says. "The nosy stuff is the same thing I do in my job as a financial advisor -- only now it's knowing about my clients' parents and children."

She left Ernst & Young to work for a client in telecommunications. But ultimately finding the world of spreadsheets confining, she declined a comptroller promotion and sought a new profession.

Dad suggested lawyer or financial advisor because, Seale recalls, "he said I had a very good sense of right and wrong and that people listened to me and took my advice."

She zeroed in on an advisor job at Edward Jones partly because that's where her granddad once had a buy-and-hold account and largely because she was impressed with the firm's lack of proprietary funds. ("That was really huge!")

Now, so inspired was husband Dax Seale by the close client relationships Amber has forged, he's on the way to becoming an FA too. Last January he quit his sales job and joined Edward Jones as a trainee at a nearby branch.

Flooded with referrals, Seale employs two assistants to help her run things. With a demanding career and three young kids, she is striving to perfect a juggling act.

Pregnant again soon after Katrina's birth, she was nervous lest clients assume she was planning to close down shop.

"It was hard to figure out how people would take it. But they were so welcoming. I think my business blossomed because of it," she says.

---

PHOTO BY Jonah Light.
---
Freelance writer Jane Wollman Rusoff is a Los Angeles-based contributing editor of Research and is the founder of Family Star Productions.


Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.