Being bold has been part of Dawn Dupre’s make up since she started fishing on the bayou in her own boat at age six. This trait also helps the Louisiana native navigate today’s troubling times, as firms keep advisors at home due to the coronavirus.
Dupre, executive vice president of wealth management at Janney Montgomery Scott, had her all-female Philadelphia team begin working remotely about two weeks ago.
“We started making preparations about three weeks ago to test remote work [set ups] for the advisors … , but [also for] the administrative team that hasn’t experienced” remote arrangements, Dupre says. “That’s when we purchased laptops, made sure secure phone lines were available and just made sure [it all worked] properly.”
The five-member team she leads just moved over to Janney from Morgan Stanley earlier this year. Why Janney? “It’s a local firm with a national presence,” Dupre explains. “We were attracted to [Janney’s] experience and to its ability to execute and get things done a little quicker because of the size of the firm.”
(Janney has about 850 advisors vs. Morgan Stanley’s roughly 15,500.)
‘Born on the Bayou’
Born near New Orleans and raised by a Cajun-Catholic family, Dupre was among the first generation of family members to speak English as a primary language and the first woman on her mother’s side of the family to get a college degree and to leave the state.
Her father was a small business owner who left home everyday by 4 a.m., but she much preferred the work routine of a friend’s father, who was a CFP, “wore a suit to work” and got home by 4:30 p.m.
Good at math, she got an internship with her friend’s dad and ran errands, while also learning as much as she could about the business. The boss told her to study finance in college, which she did at Nicholls State University, becoming one of just two women to graduate with that degree in 1987.
While looking for a job, Dupre saw a financial advisor on TV, Marguerite Knight, who worked at a local bank and did a regular broadcast. She sent Knight a resume, then stopped by her office and sat in the waiting room several times in the hope of seeing her.
The efforts paid off. Knight helped Dupre get a job as an advisor at a branch of the bank. Knight went on to mentor her, challenge her and help her gain a foothold in the business, the advisor recalls.
Later Dupre began to travel around the country, helping set up investment firms within banks. She went on to become executive vice president of Citizens Financial Group and president of CCO Investments, its brokerage and investment advisor unit.
Constant travel, though, grew tiresome to Dupre, who had a growing family (two sons and a daughter). Seven years ago, she went to work for the advisory practice run by the father of Megan Keating, Dupre’s current business partner and spouse.
Who’ve been your role models?
Marguerite Knight was a person I really credit with getting me into the business, but in terms of role models, my world narrows.
The person who I’d [like to] go to — and it’s been tested in the last week — is my mom, now deceased. She was absolutely the person I went to, whether it was about running an investment firm or handling a situation with one of my kids. She was so wise.
In absence of that conversation, I speak to my sister-in- law, who is in South Louisiana. I’ve spoken with her every morning through [the coronavirus crisis]. And it’s the wisdom and the comfort of my family and the women in my family, who I know love me, who are my role models. … I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by very strong women and always have been.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
It was from my mom. I was a young manager, and it was the first time I had to let someone go. I was really struggling. He had a family and was older than me. I saw it as a personal failure that he wasn’t successful. I remember my mom saying “Dawn, you have to realize it’s your work ethic.”
She really leveled with me and … said: “Maybe 99.9% of the people out there are going to work as hard as you do. … And if you set [those] expectations of all the people in your lifetime who will work with you, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.”
She said it in the way a Cajun woman would say it. But that doesn’t mean I should expect less. I have to admit she taught me that, you know, that person is just not me.
What advice would you give to women looking to get into the business?
The first is be bold.
Second, choose wisely. Not every organization is equal; not every person who would mentor you is the right person. Some of my best mentors were men. Make sure when you come into this business, or any business, that you are careful of the company you keep.
Third, this business is a sprint and then a marathon. But once you get through that sprint, if you’re in the right organization, surrounded by the right people, then this business is a marathon. And you pace yourself, and you can have a very long, successful career as long as you do the right things for your clients and your family.
The last thing would just be to [find] balance. If we had created more work/ life balance during the journey, we would have more women around to help mentor the next group.
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