Charles Schwab Chief Investment Strategist Liz Ann Sonders has had some stellar Wall Street mentors, including greats like Louis Rukeyser and Marty Zweig.
Her first job out of college was with the Zweig/Avatar Group in New York. During Sonders’ 13 years at the firm, she earned an MBA at Fordham (paid for by Z/A) and became head of stock selection. She then left to join U.S. Trust, which promptly was bought by Charles Schwab.
While at Z/A, she met Rukeyser and became a regular on his PBS show “Wall $treet Week.” Before her first appearance, the host asked if her parents were in finance. “No,” she said.
Rukeyser advised her to address the audience as if she were speaking with her parents. “‘Get them to understand what you’re talking about.’ And that has stuck with me since that moment,” Sonders said.
“It’s always something I try to do, whether I’m up on stage speaking, sitting down with a small group of clients or writing. I keep it simple,” she added.
Reflecting on her 30-plus years in the business, Sonders said: “I’ve had the great fortune to have worked for and with icons in this business. They just happen to be men.”
Zweig helped her learn about the markets, Rukeyser taught her the ropes of financial media, and Schwab let her grow and do what she wanted to do all along — be an investment strategist.
What about career challenges? In 1996 at Avatar, a PR consultant said Sonders’ age and gender might “cause a credibility issue,” and suggested that a newbie male colleague handle media work for Z/A.
“That blew their age [excuse],” she said. The firm’s marketing head insisted Sonders represent it in the media, which she did — leading to her regular appearances on “Wall $treet Week.”
But overall, the strategist said, “I really haven’t faced much in the way of gender discrimination. And I haven’t had anything that would be classified as #MeToo related.” (Both firms that she’s worked for have diverse cultures, she adds.)
Sonders thinks being a woman in this business “has been a huge advantage” for her and her career. The industry hit a milestone two years ago when “we crossed the 50% threshold where now more than half the wealth in the United States is controlled by women,” she explained.