Women in financial services should strive to succeed by effectively balancing their business strengths with their managerial style, as gender bias can cause the latter to be viewed warily, or often negatively. So argues Teri Shepherd, president of Carson Group, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
In the male-dominated world of financial services, Shepherd, 43, an industry veteran of 22 years, moved up from accountant to controller to Carson Group’s chief operating officer and then to president as of July 2019.
The multi-faceted firm comprises Carson Wealth, Carson Partners and Carson Coaching. Assets under management: more than $12 billion.
Upon joining the RIA, Shepherd took the lead in boosting its number of female advisors, now one-third of Carson Wealth’s FAs in Omaha. Later, she drove development of Carson’s Digital Client Experience platform for partner firms.
In the interview, Shepherd discusses the company’s new initiatives to increase gender and racial diversity and inclusion. She also discusses how important the trait of resiliency has been in both her personal and professional life.
Shepherd was born and reared in the small town of Chapman, Nebraska (There were 14 students in her high school graduating class). Her parents were teachers and operators of the family’s small farm. Teri was more interested in jumping into the world of big business.
After earning a B.S. in accounting from the University of Nebraska, she worked at a CPA firm, then joined a broker-dealer/RIA. In 2012, she came onboard Carson as chief operating officer.
ThinkAdvisor recently held a phone interview with Shepherd, who was speaking from Omaha. Her best advice to female advisors: “Be strong and confident and who you are,” she says.
Here are highlights of our interview:
THINKADVISOR: When you joined Carson Wealth in 2012, you became the firm’s first woman executive. Was Ron Carson specifically seeking a woman for the role of chief operating officer?
TERI SHEPHERD: Ron has always valued women’s thoughts and opinions. There was a woman on the leadership team; but when I joined, he created a board and formalized the business. He made a purposeful effort at trying to add a woman — some diversity — to the team.
In your career, have you encountered any obstacles because you’re a woman?
Absolutely. I think every woman does. Over the last five years, we’ve come a long way in the progress made with women in business in general. But women can be viewed as either overly confident and needing to control things — just a little bit too strong — or not strong enough to lead.
Was this an issue you’ve faced personally?
Finding the right balance throughout my career over the last 22 years has been the biggest obstacle. You don’t want to be viewed as overbearing, and I think many women can be. So helping drive success in the right way with the right approach has been an interesting balance [to achieve].
Are you referring to how women can be seen generally or just in financial services?
There’s an element of that in business in general, but it’s more that way in the financial services industry. Twenty years ago, there were [many] fewer women.
You’ve said that when you came to Carson, you “made it [your] personal mission to increase” the number of female advisors at Carson Wealth. How did you go about that?
When I came aboard, it was just Carson Wealth. We didn’t have any female advisors; it wasn’t even a thought. So we made a purposeful effort to focus on adding diversity to our team and added female advisors. Then we came across an opportunity and acquired a female-only [practice] and added them to the group. After that, we were able to hire a few more female advisors. That’s how it started.
How do you rate women as FAs?
Female advisors are fantastic. Women have such a way with clients — they’re advocates and great mentors. I focused personally on [adding] women advisors in my first two years. After that, I turned my focus to help build out Carson Partners. But I’ve also been coaching and mentoring the leadership team and adding women to it.
What’s your advice to female executives and FAs working in the industry or women who’d like to enter financial services?