Leadership is hard. And uncomfortable.
I used to have a boss who would say "It's better to cross the street in a crowd." By this, he meant we should mostly just do what others do, when they do it. He also meant: It's much harder to lead. To be first. To do something different.
Need proof? When Merck & Co. CEO Kenneth Frazier resigned from President Trump’s manufacturing advisory council, he got rebuke-tweeted at by Trump. Not the later ones. They were able to cross the street in a crowd.
Another observation: I have a colleague who noted that it historically hasn't paid to "do the right thing" on Wall Street. I've learned both of these lessons the hard way a couple of times.
But when we founded Ellevest, our team wrote core values that put you at the center of everything we do.
Even when it’s easier to stay in the pack and play the game the way others are playing it.
Here’s a great example: Other advisors claim that you can get "guaranteed" higher returns through “automated tax loss harvesting” — when in fact, taxes are not "saved” but only pushed later in time. And even that is not guaranteed — there is no guarantee in investing. (If you ever hear that word in investing, run far. Run fast. And if you ever hear "free," run farther, run faster.)
But it can be hard when Ellevest refuses to play this game.
As in this recent interview with a service comparison-ranking digital advisors:
Them: "Do you have automated tax loss harvesting?"
Us: "No, and let us tell you why we believe its benefits can be wildly overstated."
Them: "We don't have time. You're going to get dinged for this in your review."
Us: "But, please let us tell you OUR customized approach for minimizing taxes."
Us: "But but but…"
So we weren’t able to tell them that we don’t take a “one-size-fits-all-accounts” approach.
But we do implement tax-smart strategies to help reduce taxes.
This not only means investing in low-cost, tax-efficient ETFs, but also selecting which investments go in taxable and which in tax-deferred accounts; when rebalancing your portfolio, we sell investments with the largest losses and minimize taking capital gains, so more of your money keeps working for you.
We've also found that introducing new concepts to investing — like taking into account women's longer lives, introducing a service that works to get you to your actual goals rather than outperforming some market index, alerting you if you fall off track to reach your goals — that process of bringing higher quality and innovation to investing may not be immediately appreciated or fit onto an easy comparison page.
But I know that we aren't going to do the best job for you and close the gender investing gap by doing what everyone else is doing and simply trying to do it a bit better. Or just trying to be the "cheapest" out there. We are only going to do it by getting out of the herd and going deep on making a better product. A higher quality product. One that we build WITH you.
So while it would be easier for Ellevest to go along with the crowd — believe me, so much easier — we’re committed to building a company by helping you achieve YOUR goals, not letting reviewers tell us how to manage your money.
And that boss who wanted to cross the street in a crowd? He’s no longer in his job.
This piece was originally published in the Ellevest newsletter, What The Elle.