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Deborah Shepherd of Merrill Lynch

Practice Management > Building Your Business > Leadership

3 Military Values That Drive Success in Wealth Management

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What You Need to Know

  • Those with a military background will find a career in wealth management allows them to serve in a way that aligns with their military values.
  • The strong work ethic learned during one's years of service allows veterans to have substantial control over their life path.
  • Honesty, integrity and ethical behavior are cornerstones of successful advisor relationships.

To serve one’s country is truly a privilege. When I raised my hand on a hot, humid summer day to take the Midshipman Oath of Office at the U.S. Naval Academy, I had no appreciation for the impact my military service would have on my future. 

Through the lens of time and reflection, I feel immense gratitude for the lessons of those years. While the lessons were many, three areas of focus guide me daily in my corporate endeavors: integrity, work ethic and teamwork.


From the first days of training, we were taught the importance of integrity in our decisions and actions. As officers, we were expected to embody the highest standard of ethical behavior, regardless of the potential consequences. Doing the right thing was tested under pressure, so it became the natural response. 

The wealth management profession exists because of clients and is built on relationships of trust. Acting with honesty and integrity in every interaction is the standard. Organizations that place integrity at the core of their operating model attract talented professionals, many of whom learn the profession from the ground up.

Work Ethic

Focusing on the most important tasks, optimizing resources, and doing the work required to be successful are enduring objectives from my days as a supply corps officer. Those days were long: early mornings, late nights, 24-hour duty rotations, weekends. Achieving success did not fit into a neat, 8-hour day or 5-day workweek. Aggressive execution deadlines were the norm.

Beginning a career as a financial advisor was much like my days as a naval officer. There were long days, weeks and months while I was building a career. While the markets are open during specific hours, one of our greatest values to clients is being available when they need us. Life simply does not happen in a 40-hour work week. One of the rewards of a strong work ethic in this profession is the ability to have substantial control over one’s life path. 


There are no “individual contributors” in the military. Behind every outstanding individual performance are teams of people who support the work. While a pilot may execute a mission flawlessly, there is a maintenance crew that prepares the plane for the mission, and a briefing team that prepares the pilot. 

The wealth management business is supported by teams of professionals, from system operations to research analysts to wealth planning specialists. We cultivate strong leaders who inspire our teams to collaborate on a singular goal: serving clients with diligence, integrity and care. 

Veterans — as well as others who have performed military service — pursuing a wealth management career find the profession provides many opportunities that align with the experiences of military service. It is an opportunity to serve people in a different way; a way that is supported by the values of integrity, work ethic and teamwork.

Deborah Shepherd graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984, in one of its first classes that included women. She then served in the Navy for five years before joining Merrill in 1990 as a financial advisor. Today, she is a member of Merrill’s senior leadership team, serving as Texas South Division Executive and leading the efforts of over 1,400 financial advisors across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Kansas and New Mexico.


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