Nineteen-eighty is distinguished as the year Ronald Reagan was voted 40th U.S. president, the compact disc was devised, and 83 million tuned in to get hip to who shot J.R. on TV’s “Dallas.” But for Paul W. Sanderson, 1980 is headline-worthy for this reason: It’s the birth year of both his only daughter and his career as a financial advisor.
Little did he imagine that 20 years later, baby Jennifer would be his business partner in the CFP’s highly successful private wealth management practice at Smith Barney.
Father-son teams are widespread, but father-daughter partnerships are fairly scarce, especially in the financial services arena.
Still, “for a very long time, I secretly hoped this might be possible. Jennifer is — I’m going to sound like a proud papa — an extraordinary, engaging person with a great mind. This field is perfect for her, and I felt she’d excel in it,” says Directors Council member Sanderson, from the team’s Walnut Creek, Calif., offices.
For six years now, the senior vice president, 56, and newlywed Jennifer A. Schneidermann, 26, a second vice president, have been partners in The Praxis Group at Smith Barney. Focusing on comprehensive wealth management, and with more than $350 million in assets under management, the two advisors cater to high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, as well as small to mid-sized institutions.
With their offices a couple of doors apart, “our hallway carpeting is worn very thin! Much of the time I’m in Paul’s office or he’s in mine. We’re collaborating constantly,” enthuses Schneidermann, who concentrates largely on personal financial planning and alternately calls Sanderson “Paul” or “my Dad” at work. “In the beginning, I thought I should say ‘Paul’ only. But it’s easier not to worry about keeping things so formal.”
The two share all accounts and all assets. They meet jointly with clients, who range broadly in age from late-20s to mid-90s.
Branch manager John Greaves, senior vice president-wealth management, says: “What impresses me most about this team is that they’re able to tackle the most challenging wealth management issues and put together very sophisticated, complex strategies. They’re both incredibly intelligent people.”
With a Ph.D. in political economy from the University of Toronto, then having joined the school as assistant professor in the same discipline, Los Angeles-born Sanderson says that at one point he was on track for a post at “a certain Washington, D.C., intelligence-gathering agency.” But the psychological profile they worked up on him showed he was better suited to the financial world. Sanderson took the cue and joined Bache & Co. as an advisor.
Schneidermann, a UCLA magna cum laude grad, made a similar career-path switch. As a second year pre-med, she realized how all-consuming the road to M.D. would be and sought a new direction. “The one pre-condition,” she says, “was that I’d be able to help people in some important aspect of their lives.”
Schneidermann had always been interested in economics and earlier interned summers for Dad. But she’d “never in a million years” thought of becoming an FA. Then came an eye-opening conversation with her father.
“I was feeling guilty about leaving [medicine], where I’d be able to literally save lives. But when Paul said that the No. 1 concern for people outside of their health usually is their finances, it clicked. I realized I could go into a field that interested me and actually help people in a meaningful way.” She ended up majoring in economics.
Every day, Sanderson arrives at the office at 6:30 a.m. Schneidermann takes “the late shift” and stays till 6:30 p.m. The senior advisor, who was previously in Smith Barney management for seven years and briefly with Arthur Young & Co. before returning to advisory in 1991, is a self-described “alleged workaholic.” And Schneidermann? “I’m more the work-hard, play-hard type,” she shoots back.
While the two get along splendidly, from time to time differences will occur. The key to resolving them? Mutual respect, says Sanderson. “I can’t assume that just because I’ve been around a long time and do things a certain way, that that’s necessarily the right way. I really have to listen to what Jen is saying when she bothers to confront me. More often than not, she’s right. I’m strengthened by her abilities. It’s almost as if I’m getting free business consulting!”
Greaves recalls sitting in on one Praxis meeting with an ultra-high-net-worth client. “I fully expected Paul to run it. But he sat back and let Jennifer do the whole thing. It takes a pretty big person to let go of those reins.”
Schneidermann, reared in Alamo, Calif., says, however, that being young and female in a predominantly male field was initially “a double whammy. You have to show you can ‘play with the boys’ and also that you’re capable and intelligent — and that you’re an equal part of the team and didn’t just happen to fall into the position because of the [family] relationship you have with your partner.”
Indeed, father and daughter have signed a formal partnership contact. “If something happens to me,” stresses Dad, “I want there to be no question about who’ll be working with our clients. They’re Jennifer’s as well as mine.”
He figures that in 15 years, Schneidermannn will be the team’s “primary advisor. I’m just delighted and thrilled that she’s doing so well. I hope it means she’ll be here forever and ever!”
The Praxis Group at Smith Barney
Paul W. Sanderson, senior vice president-wealth management
Jennifer A. Schneidermann, financial advisor, second vice president-wealth management
Location: Walnut Creek, Calif.
AUM: $350 million-plus