Being open to new paths and not fearing challenges has helped create the mother/daughter-in-law duo of Johndrow Wealth Management in Farmington, Connecticut.
With close to $100 million in assets under management, the firm has the benefit of founder Lori Johndrow’s financial advisory and insurance experience, while daughter-in-law Magdalena “Maggie” Johndrow infuses economic/Wall Street elements as well as a millennial point of view and know how. Together, they have bridged many gaps, be it age, knowledge or careers.
Lori Johndrow started the firm in 2013, though she’s been in the business since the mid-1980s — when she began work for Aetna serving internal employees.
When Aetna decided to open a financial arm in 1994, Johndrow leapt at the chance to become a financial advisor. She went through the training and was able to bring her life insurance clients to her new role.
“Right as the [financial services] industry matured and the company moved in that direction, I followed that path as well,” she said in an interview.
Nearly a decade later, after changes in Aetna’s ownership, Johndrow moved on to look for an independent broker-dealer “that didn’t manufacture products and truly gave me the platform of what I needed to provide good service to my clients,” she explained. She selected Commonwealth Financial Network, which her team still works with today.
Daughter-in-law Maggie came on board a few years ago, after leaving JP Morgan with a deep knowledge of economics, trading and portfolio construction, but less hands-on experience as a financial advisor.
Earlier, Maggie earned an economics degree at Providence College and then went on to the London School of Economics. After graduation, she worked for Barclays and then JP Morgan. She enjoyed those jobs but missed client contact and “having a meaningful impact on people,” she said.
Over a family dinner one night, Maggie learned more about Lori’s business, and when her mother-in-law asked her to join the firm, she jumped at the chance. “I just did it, and I haven’t looked back since,” Maggie said.
Today, the two work as partners, each providing the other with important knowledge and perspectives.
Lori helps Maggie learn more about the advisory side of the business, while Maggie shares millennial insights and handles marketing and networking efforts. They also are part of an informal women’s mentoring group, which they both say is essential to their knowledge base and success.
What particular challenges and opportunities have you faced?
Lori: As far as challenges go, it wasn’t as difficult as sometimes people make it out to be, because if you just find good mentors, male or female, people who will be there for you and help you if something comes up, to be a second set of ears, [it helps].
What was lacking [30 years ago] was a real formal mentoring or training program. … Sure you got your licenses, but nobody taught you how to think of it as your own business.
[Opening my own firm] was so timely in how it came about. It was kind of like a door opening for me to say, “do you want to spend the rest of your career just selling products or do you really want to be working with people in a more holistic way?
Maggie: Another opportunity I saw with joining Lori was being a woman financial advisor, and now a woman-owned firm, is that a lot of women are attracted to working with us. We often get women who have been divorced or widowed or just single women who never married. It’s not by any conscious marketing; it’s just by being who we are.
Lori: The statistics show how much longer women will live and need that advice. We’ve even found couples come in, and the male counterpart recognizes that he needs someone comfortable to his wife, because if the day comes when he’s not there, he wants to make sure she’s in good hands.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received so far?
Lori: There are two things, and I’ve shared these with Maggie and she echoes the sentiment. One of them is if you’re struggling, just ask for help. What’s the worst that could happen? Someone can’t help you. So you move on. … Sometimes it takes longer to find a good source who can help you.
Also, my key mantra is don’t get caught up in indecision, especially as a small business owner. A lot of times you have to make quick decisions, and although they’re educated choices, we all know sometimes they don’t work out.
My feeling is if they don’t work out, just change it. If it’s not the right [way], you can stop and redirect it versus just being caught up in a quagmire of indecision. … I don’t mean being impulsive, but make a choice and go with it and try to make something work rather than sit back and wait.
Maggie: I can attest that Lori is a great listener. Anytime I brought something to her attention, saying we should try this or do that, for the most part she has said “do it.”’
One example is technology. We’ve started using two new software systems that I brought to Lori’s attention and, going along with her mantra, she [said], “just do it and if it doesn’t work, we’ll switch.”
What advice would you give young people about the business?
Maggie: A lot of [new graduates] reach out and ask me how I got to where I am. I just say you might not find your dream job right out of school, and that’s okay. Everything you do is going to build and you’ll eventually find it. Also, I was open to opportunity. And when Lori came to me with this job I hadn’t heard of, I decided to give it a shot … .
[Finally], shop around where you’re going to work, because you want to be paired up with [a firm] that has the same values as you do.
How should this business better support women?
Lori: Many women [I know] have been working moms, and as a mother myself, you have to be a master juggler of your time, [so employers should be flexible]. Flexibility is something that I don’t have an issue with. I embrace it wholly because I need the flexibility to be able to work remotely every now and then.
Maggie can speak to this as well, because her demographic isn’t about coming in at a certain o’clock in the morning and leaving at five. [But] she’s out there networking at night and on weekends.
Maggie: Because of flexibility this partnership was formed. Look at all the start-ups getting popular because of their flexibility.
What authors or Twitter folks do you follow?
Lori: I like [advisor and author] Nick Murray.
Maggie: We both follow [our BD Commonwealth], and I really like [digital marketing expert] Gary Vaynerchuk.