Chiu Fong Wu
Vice President-Investments, Wells Fargo Advisors, San Francisco
How She Built Her Business: “When you save money for people, you’re a hero. They spread my name all over. Referrals just flooded in.”
In the middle of an animated conversation about her advisory work, Chiu Fong Wu mentions her group of patients — then corrects herself. “I mean clients.”
It’s an understandable stumble.
Wu, a registered nurse, works 32 hours a week in the labor and delivery unit at San Francisco General Hospital. She’s also an advisor with the Hitchcock Rosenfield Investment Group of Wells Fargo Advisors where she manages $40 million in assets for 180 clients.
A diminutive woman with a huge presence, the 60-year-old Wu has an incredible work ethic that has catapulted her to the top tier no matter her calling. At the start of her career, she graduated first in her class from the prestigious National Taiwan Nursing University. Four decades later, she is still garnering firsts. Last year, she made more internal mortgage referrals that successfully closed than any other advisor in Wells Fargo Advisors’ vast network.
What is perhaps most remarkable is how Wu, a nurse since 1970, got her start in financial services. “We bought our first house in 1985 and bought a mortgage protection policy from Prudential. I paid the premium and on the back of the envelope there was a question: Do you want to learn something about insurance? I checked the box,” says Wu. “And they called me.”
Wu wasn’t looking for a job — just knowledge. But in 1987, she joined Prudential Life Insurance Co., working days as an insurance rep while pulling a night shift at the hospital. During her four-year tenure, she became a top producer. In 1991, with two boys ages 13 and 9, she stopped. “If my sons became gangsters, this would defeat the point of coming to America,” explains Wu in signature style. The nursing, however, continued full-time, as it still does.
In 1999 Wu received another direct mail solicitation from Prudential — this time saying the firm was interested in hiring financial planners. “I always wanted to be a financial planner and I wanted to see my own market value go up,” she says. “I talked to my head nurse and I said I have this opportunity if you can grant me the weekend shift. She said: ‘Grab it. Once an opportunity like this passes it never comes again. Go — come back and teach us.’”
Wu trained as a comprehensive planner with Prudential Securities and began targeting what she calls her “natural market:” nurses and doctors from the hospital, members of her church, and jewelry suppliers. Jewelry suppliers? “I buy jewelry to please myself,” she says. “I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I buy pearls.”