From the June 2010 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Leadership Case Study: Geri Pell

By anyone's measure, Geri Eisenman Pell's career has been a success. She has been a financial advisor since 1986. For the past five years she has been in The Chairman's Advisory Council for Ameriprise, which comprises the top 1% of all Ameriprise financial advisors. She has appeared on CNBC and CNN, and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the trade press.

Notwithstanding her past accomplishments, Geri is in the process of a significant rebranding of herself, as an advisor and as a person. A few years ago, she had an epiphany of sorts. She came to realize that financial planning, when performed strategically and well, was a "healing modality." Said another way, rather than being a source of teeth-gnashing and undue stress, Geri has come to understand that the development and discussion of one's financial future should be a well-spring of happiness and health.

Consequently, she is leading the brand of "Geri Pell" in a new, and fascinating, direction. She is articulating her newfound conviction to all of her clients and finding that the idea resonates very strongly with many (but not all) of them. Geri plans to further segment her client base, and intends to focus on those clients who share her vision.

Additionally, she is redesigning her office to include two meeting rooms for clients. One is more traditional, with the standard meeting room setup. The other is much more casual and relaxed, without a formal meeting table, but with comfortable chairs and a door that leads out to a garden. The new office space will also contain a yoga studio--Geri happens to be a certified yoga instructor--which is completely consistent with Geri's belief that financial planning heals, not hurts.

Geri Pell feels that mentors need to be mentees first. Over the course of her career at Ameriprise she has been the beneficiary of a culture that embraces continuous learning and development. In return, she often has advisors who shadow her movements throughout the day as she "models" the behaviors of a top-performing advisor. Moreover, Geri has mentored seven to eight advisors (on a formal basis) over the course of her career.

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