Susan Ganz calls herself a financial services professional, but you might call her a disaster preparedness expert. As a strategic advisor at the Center for Wealth Preservation, a Syosset, N.Y.-based financial planning, estate planning and wealth management firm, she spends a lot of time making sure her clients are able to withstand the financial “tornados and termites.”
“Financial tornadoes,” she says, “are life changing events like pre-mature death, being out of work, or a financial market meltdown. Termites are the things that slowly eat away at wealth like taxes, inflation, having to replace Blackberrys and cell phones because of new technology.”
Whatever you call her, Ganz helps women, families and small businesses make more informed financial decisions and navigate their financial worlds through a very simple philosophy: protect, save, invest. And while her tenure at Center for Wealth Preservation is short—she came to the organization one and a half years ago—she has been in the financial services industry for over 20 years.
She began her career as a middle market lender at JP Morgan Chase where she realized she wanted to play a role in helping people build sound financial foundations. To make the change to consulting, she went back to school—The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, to be more specific—to get her MBA, majoring in strategy and corporate finance. While there she worked at the school’s Small Business Development Center.
She continued consulting at Ernst & Young in financial advisory services, but realized she wanted to be more involved in strategy.
“I wanted to settle down and impact strategy long term,” she says. She began working for Merrill Lynch where her background in financial and strategic analysis made her a valuable addition, despite having no technology background. She struck a deal, she says, with her colleagues.
“I asked if they would teach me tech, I’d teach them analysis,” she recalls. That led to 10 years working in tech—seven at Merrill Lynch and three at Credit Suisse.
In 2008, Credit Suisse eliminated Ganz’s position. In the fallout from the market meltdown, though, Ganz was able to step back and understand what she wanted to do next, she says. To her, “next” meant making a personal impact in people’s lives through self-discovery.
Ganz works primarily in insurance, which is no surprise given her philosophy. “Protection first, then savings and investments,” she says. “You have to make sure families are covered.”
As a strategic advisor with the Center for Wealth Preservation, Ganz has ample opportunity to do just that, but it was her involvement with another organization that brought her to her current position.
Ganz is new to CWP, but she has been involved with the Financial Women’s Association, a New York-based non-profit organization with over 900 members, for 11 years.
Ganz is the president of Financial Women’s Association. Prior to her current position with the organization, she served on the executive board as vice president, as well as co-chair for the organization’s educational funds group.
“As part of the leadership there I was given a broader opportunity to empower and educate women and their families,” she says.
In her role as president of FWA, Ganz’s approach is similar to her work at the Center for Wealth Preservation, but on a grander scale. At her “day job” as she calls it, she works to empower and educate people one-on-one, while at FWA she reaches out to the broader community.
“It’s important to set a foundation,” Ganz says, “so people aren’t so impacted by the market, and they aren’t so dependent on risks inherent in the market. Strategic allocation isn’t just equities, income and cash, but also different insurance products and how these assets are protected.”
“The process is not for everyone,” she says. “To organize their financial picture people need an open mind, and need to devote time to taking care of these things.” It’s a process some people walk away from, she acknowledges, but many of them come back.
“They sleep better by taking care of the what-ifs, and there’s a feeling of liberation as people take a look at what they have. It helps people make some decisions like taking a new position or taking some time off when they have transparency in their finances. It’s a guidepost to the next steps in their lives and to see where gaps are and what they have to do to fill them.”
It’s a strategy that works whether she’s working with a man or a woman, a family or a small business.
Danielle Andrus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.