Being WISE in the Financial Industry, with Nicole Spinelli and Lucila Williams
Episode 124: Being WISE in the Financial Industry, with Nicole Spinelli and Lucila Williams
Nicole Spinelli and Lucila Williams of Lincoln Financial Group, one of our #MobilizeWomen Summit Sponsors, share their expertise in both the financial industry and the diversity and inclusion space as champions of women’s equality. With Nicole majoring in women’s studies and transitioning to a career in finance, and Lucila having a background in the United States Military, the dynamic duo share their stories about their transitions in the workplace. They discuss being women in the financial industry, mentors they have had along the way, as well as The WISE Group - the multidimensional women’s network within Lincoln Financial Group.
00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate podcast, this is your host, Kristy Wallace, with my co-host Maricella Herrera. I'm very excited for our guest today. Nicole Spinelli and Lucila Williams from Lincoln Financial Group. But before we get to that conversation, let's check in with Maricella. How are you doing today, Maricella, in that amazing shirt?
00:35 Maricella Herrera: Oh, thank you. Yours is pretty too.
00:38 KW: Rent the Runway.
00:40 MH: Outlet.
00:41 KW: A little plug for them.
00:44 KW: So, did you say, outlet?
00:45 MH: Yeah, it comes from the outlet.
00:46 KW: Which outlet?
00:47 MH: Well, actually it's from an outlet in Sicily.
00:50 KW: Well, okay, so you were completely downplaying that. You got some pretty spectacular clothes on that trip.
00:56 MH: Yeah, I did, I was... I didn't even know it existed, and it was the best thing I could find. I wanted everything. I regret not buying a few things, but it's okay.
01:08 KW: You'll just have to go back now.
01:10 MH: I would happily go back to Sicily. It's so pretty. It really, really, really is.
01:14 KW: Is that the favorite, your most favorite place you've ever been?
01:18 MH: No. My most favorite place I've ever been is Nepal.
01:23 KW: Really?
01:23 MH: Yeah, I loved it, I absolutely love it. I wanna go back. It's just the whole vibe and feeling of it and just, it's different.
01:34 KW: That's really cool.
01:35 MH: Yours?
01:36 KW: New Zealand.
01:38 MH: That is cool.
01:40 KW: Yes. All of it is beautiful, actually. Yeah, mountains and green and beautiful.
01:45 MH: Wait. That's where they taped Lord of the Rings, right?
01:49 KW: Yeah, we were there back in '09 when Jake and Benjamin, little seven-month-old Benjamin and I traveled around the world. So we spent time in Australia, and New Zealand, the Philippines, Europe, and New Zealand just blew me away. It was so beautiful.
02:07 MH: That's awesome.
02:07 KW: And the people are really nice, and it's just a great place to be. And then after we left a few years later, they had some earthquakes in Cristchurch and some other areas, which is really sad, but I would love to go back there.
02:22 MH: That is awesome and that's awesome that you did that with Ben and when he was such a little tiny baby.
02:29 KW: I know. It was great. We had so much fun. We talk a lot now about getting back into some more substantial travel with the kids. They're three, five and nine, and we... Once... [chuckle] We started going to the easier beach route, where you just bring kids to the beach...
02:49 MH: Right.
02:50 KW: And it's pretty low-key. But now that they're getting older and they have a love for travel as we do, so we have to start planning some trips and taking them around. It's expensive though.
03:01 MH: I'm sure.
03:02 KW: Flying a family of five around is not cheap.
03:08 MH: I'm sure, I mean, five.
03:10 KW: Yes, so we are very fortunate to even be considering that as an option, but we may have to do one of those things like going to... Going to Antarctica in December.
03:27 KW: Like just going somewhere totally off-season. You're like, "Bundle up kids. Let's go." But, [chuckle] we'll get them somewhere.
03:36 MH: I'm sure you will. There are so many deals to go everywhere. Honestly, from New York, we're pretty lucky to have access to just go wherever quickly and sometimes cheap.
03:46 KW: Yeah, it's a very different world. That's something else that's changed. I always try to make myself sound really old talking about the pace at which technology has changed. And there was no email back in my day, and there was no cell phones and all of that. But travel's changed so much too. When I was growing up, we didn't fly places. We got in the car and we drove and we took the train down to Disney World in our land 24-hour train trip to Disney.
04:15 MH: What?
04:15 KW: Yes, yes, so I just... The accessibility and commonality of travel now and exploring different places, has just really evolved.
04:30 MH: So, that just blew my mind. I did not know that train travel in the US was a thing. Or I mean, I know it exists, but I didn't know that it was like that was the one and so close. I mean, you're not that old.
04:44 KW: Thanks Maricella.
04:47 MH: I'm just being annoying. I've been thinking about age a lot lately, as you know.
04:54 KW: Well, we both have birthdays coming up.
04:56 MH: Yeah, and I'm feeling it, I'm feeling it. But back to travel, I was just talking to my cousin who was 18 about... I do remember when I was younger, and there was a smoking section in airplanes and it was gross, and it was just very different. I did not get any train time in El Salvador, though, I will say that.
05:22 KW: Yeah.
05:23 MH: It's too small.
05:24 KW: No trains, no trains in El Salvador.
05:25 MH: No, it's too tiny.
05:25 KW: Well, back to our... Our guest today, actually, we had a lot of fun with this. Sometimes during a conversation with two people can be tricky, especially just the dynamics and all that good stuff, but Nicole and Lucila made it quite easy. And you could tell because they have such a dynamic and they're really aligned around this passion for supporting women within Lincoln Financial and being champions of that which we need. We need women in positions of leadership who are going to take the reins and drive change and bring others along with them. And I know Lincoln Financial has also been a big supporter of our summit which we talk about a lot, so we appreciate companies that put their money where their values are and support internal programs and external companies that are all fighting for a change. And so it was pretty amazing to meet Nicole and Lucila and have a really fun conversation with them.
06:28 MH: Yeah, we... It's exciting to see. Well, first, it's exciting to hear the conversation and hear that it really is focused on advancing women and then to have Lincoln Financial sponsor both the first year of the summit and the second year. It's good. They really, really were huge supporters this year.
06:51 KW: Yeah, and that's what makes all this happen, right? So we... We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to do the Ellevate podcast, and Maricella and I have a lot of fun with it, but in our day jobs, it's around creating impact for the women in the Ellevate community, creating impact for women in companies, everywhere, and for really amplifying these stories, and changing the conversation, and moving the dialogue forward and it's... A big, big stress of ours, is how we're gonna make that happen financially, so appreciate the support that we get from companies that believe in our mission as much as we do.
07:38 KW: Alright, well, let's get to the conversation. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and we'll see you back here next week on the Ellevate podcast.
08:00 MH: Nicole and Lucila, thank you so much for joining us today on the Ellevate podcast.
08:07 Speaker 4: It is our pleasure.
08:08 Speaker 5: Absolutely.
08:10 MH: We're really excited having you both here and talking about the ever, ever important conversation around women and business, how we're supporting each other, and how companies are really focusing on creating diverse and equal workplaces, and the support for everyone to succeed. But I wanted to start off and just learn a little bit more about each of you, so Nicole, if you wanted to start and just share a bit about your background and how you got to where you are today.
08:42 S4: Sure. So I actually studied Women Studies in college and, although people ask me all the time, what am I gonna do with that, I didn't really have an answer, but I did know that I was passionate about it and I think that I always knew that there would be a place. I didn't find that place until I was changing careers in about 2001, and I... I live in St. Petersburg, Florida and found a job opening at a local financial company and I didn't have a lot of background in finance, but I did know that the foundation of any business is relationships and people. And so I applied for the job, got the job and learned that I really did have a passion for the financial world and advising and planning but I also learned very quickly that in the role of financial planner there was very few women, and that was surprising. The more that I learned about the career path, and how it really is about relationships, and being bad, that go-to person for families and businesses. And so, it looked like after a short time, I finally found something to do with that background in Women's Studies and was able to work with an internal organization that had been created to provide support for women advisors.
10:24 S4: And so, I was active in growing and developing that program, which was actually already in existence when I joined, but just taking it to the next level with women advisors was also active in the the internal corporate women's program, which was just launching when I started at the company and found that I was able to put my passion to work, and see how I could apply some of the concepts and some of the exciting networking and support that women can provide for each other on their career path into my profession. And so, I actually joined Lincoln about three and a half years ago, and was able to carry over some of that experience from being a part of that first organization to Lincoln and the WISE group.
11:23 MH: That's great, thank you. And I can resonate with that. I was an English major in school that went into investment banking. So and yeah, everyone was like, "What are you gonna do with that major?" Yes.
11:35 S5: But obviously investment banking.
11:38 MH: Yes.
11:38 S5: Obviously.
11:38 MH: That's a part of diversity, too, right?
11:43 S4: Right.
11:43 KW: I approached everything in a very different way than all of those business majors who thought the same way. Lucila, how about you? What brought you to this point in your career?
11:53 S5: Yeah. It's been circuitous, to say the least. So I was in the Army. I was a Korean linguist in the Army and I was transitioning after my five years out, and I was recruited by a financial planning firm. And I really considered becoming a financial advisor and I just felt like, "You know what, now is not the right time. I need to go finish my education. I don't wanna get caught up in my career." So I did that. I got out of the army, I moved to Denver, finished my education and I was actually... I got one of those business degrees. And I was actually in transition, I was gonna go to law school, I was trying to figure out what was next for me, and I got called again by that same company. This was years later, and they said, "You know, one time you thought this would be your dream career, would you like to talk?" And I just happened to be in this moment of transition, waiting to see if I got into law school or not.
12:45 S5: So I went in an interview... Well, not even an interview, just had a chat with one of the guys in leadership. And when I sat there thinking about, I had been self-employed and I knew that for me, self-employment was important. I was a mortgage broker, but I wanted more collaborative relationships. I wanted long-term positive relationships. And so when I did a little soul searching, I realized that becoming an attorney, I probably would be a successful attorney but I didn't know if I'd be a happy person. But as a financial advisor, I had the opportunity to help other people to build these long-term collaborative relationships. So I ended up getting into law school, turning it down, becoming a financial advisor, and that was the single best decision I ever made in my life, in my business life. And then about eight years later, I went from, I would called it a semi-captive environment to a fully independent, using LFS, Lincoln Financial Securities.
13:41 MH: Thank you for sharing that story. And we don't often hear about the people working in the military and then transitioning to corporate life. But I actually... It's something I'm incredibly passionate about in Ellevate Works with American Corporate Partners to help match mentors between professional women and women transitioning out of the military. Could you touch on that quickly just how valuable it is to have that type of background and how that translated into your professional life?
14:15 S5: Yeah. Well, first I'd like to say that it's really hard to trans... To make that transition between the military and the corporate world. And the problem if you were in a field like mine, which was I was in the intelligence field as a Korean linguist and I knew I didn't wanna work for the government. So what do you do with that? And it is so wide open. You have all these educational dollars, so you can go do anything but wide open is even harder. We know, research shows, when you have 100 million things to choose from, it's really hard to choose any of them.
14:47 S5: And so I am also passionate about the challenge of helping people transition from the military to the civilian world, and it is very... For many people it is very alien. The civilian world, especially if people actually go all the way 'til retirement. I was only in five years, but just really seems like a foreign land to them. So as far as how it's impacted me, I'm now... I'm not only an advisor, I'm also a practice management consultant and I work with advisors throughout the country. And interestingly enough, I think the roots of that consulting come from my time in the military. My practice management consulting is all about structures and process and building up all the deliverables that you need to deliver on the promise that we make to our clients and I think that's the military standard operating procedure mentality of running a business. You can't say you're gonna do something and then not have a documented way of doing that thing.
15:41 S5: So... And also a discipline. I would love to say I'm incredibly disciplined; I'm not, but maybe it has impacted me. The discipline to follow through to do the things as a business owner, when no one is looking over your shoulder; to do the right thing when no one's looking. That's a military tenet that we all learn.
16:00 MH: Thank you for sharing that. It's something I'm super passionate about, and I know as we start to talk about why's, and the group that you're such supporters of and advocates and drivers of, that is a big component of just diversity. Overall, is how we can look at the different backgrounds, we all have, including being in the armed forces, and how that translates into a stronger workforce. Nicole, could you share a little bit more about why is this. I feel like I'm in on the secret and would love for our audience to learn some more too.
16:37 S4: Yeah, absolutely. So the WISE group is an organization within Lincoln Financial Network that was started by a group of women advisors who really wanted to share best practices, collaborate, provide support for one another. And it was created by a small group of successful advisors and what they did is they looked at other organizations that had similar groups, and tried to pick out the best practices from each of those and create a program that was multi-dimensional. So it included the mentoring aspect of it and supporting one another, peer mentoring, the aspect of education and continual growth and development, as well as the aspect of just camaraderie. And, looking at career path as, "I've been there. Here's what I did." Or, you're not alone when advisors are faced with a challenge. Again, they're independent business owners, so the challenges are numerous and that's to be expected. But sometimes just knowing that someone else has experienced that, and they made it out okay is powerful enough to inspire people to get to the next level and to put their heart back into it and to regain their passion for their business and continuing to build their success.
18:24 MH: Nicole, if you wouldn't mind, what is a financial advisor? I'm not sure that everyone, all of our listeners know what that means. Particularly as you're talking about individual business owners. I would love to hear more about what this career entails.
18:43 S4: So I actually worked with someone who spoke about the needs in life and said that we all have the need in our life for a health professional to help us with that aspect. And then there's the spiritual or faith or whatever. There's one aspect that everyone also has. A need to believe in something. And then almost like the third leg of a stool for someone that is looking for balance in all aspects of their life. Money is essential. Health without money is, without having the financial means to support your life can be very difficult. And so, a financial advisor's role is to actually be that health advocate, that partner in making certain that that part of your life is balanced. That you are paying attention to it. You don't need to be the expert if you are working with a financial planner or a financial professional advisor because they have the expertise. And they partner with you and the goals that you have for every other aspect of your life to make certain that you can meet those goals, that you have security as your life goes on, that perhaps dreams and aspirations you have, whether they're for family or for charitable or all of the above, that you're able to make those come to fruition through planning. So essentially they're your partner in the wealth aspect of your life.
20:34 MH: Thank you, I love that description. That made total sense to me. So that was a wonderful synopsis. Lucila, now that we know what being a financial advisor is all about, and you're such a champion for the WISE group, why is this? What is it about being a woman advisor that makes a group like this so valuable?
21:01 S5: Well, I think there's a couple of things, one is that there aren't enough women in the industry and that is a travesty on several levels. Women make fantastic advisors. And the relational skills that Nicole was alluding to earlier are the key to really helping people guide them through their lives to accomplish their goals and to partner with them over time through that process. Women do that really well. So, there aren't enough women doing it. And a lot of it is the education of understanding that this is a career path, it's really great for women and that mentoring and providing them kind of that first step into their career. So for me, I'm passionate about advocating for women in the industry 'cause it's good for the clients, it's good for the women, it's good for the industry. Also, the WISE group just goes about it differently. The way that we interact is so collaborative there's no sense of competition. It is really just coming together as some of the older, more mature in their career advisors are mentoring the younger ones, the younger ones are bringing new and fresh ideas to the people who had been doing it a while.
22:09 S5: It is really this collaborative environment that is so uplifting to everyone. And as we know, especially as business owners, as independent business owners, the mentality, staying positive day in, day out can be challenging. But having a network of people to lean back on when you're running into a challenge, you just need to be uplifted is really valuable. That mindset of being a business owner isn't easy and when you're not alone, you feel like you can kind of push through obstacles that come up.
22:39 MH: That makes sense to me as a business leader here at Ellevate. I'm always looking for my crew, my squad, my peer network to lean on, help navigate situations and just provide support and advice and particularly a network that understands what you're going through. So I can see how WISE can be so powerful. There's been a lot of commentary around women's groups within companies and particularly around the need for that is their gender inequality. Why should women have this group to support them? How have you seen the WISE group really support Lincoln Financial in terms of the employee retention, the client retention, really drive those business KPIs?
23:33 S5: Nicole and the leadership team within Lincoln has done a great job of making sure that WISE is not just about women. And we go out of our way to make sure that we're developing content and educational materials for our male advisors, for all advisors, really to serve the female market better. We know that there's a massive wealth transition that's going on and to really poise everyone to be in a better position to take advantage of that. So, done correctly, it's not about excluding the women from the men, it's about giving the women the support that they need because they often are looking at things differently and their approach may be different. So it's a little bit harder to measure sometimes a woman who's driven by different variables against her male counterpart.
24:18 S5: She's playing a long game, she's very relational, he's very goal-oriented etcetera. So giving her a place where she can come and be measured by similar metrics of people thinking the same way. But then also to use the experience of the female advisors as a tool to educate the male advisors to serve women better in the marketplace. So to that end, if we're capturing more of that wealth to manage, if we are taking care of families needs via different insurance products, if we are charging financial planning fees to help more families, many of those are women, women in transition, single women that maybe had been served as well previously. It's going to drive the bottom line up.
25:00 MH: Nicole who. Can you share a story about a mentor who's played a big role in your career or life?
25:11 S4: Yes, absolutely. So early in my years, I was going for a promotion and the first person that I mentioned that I wanted it to, another female, said to me, "No one will ever take you seriously. You're too young. They are a bunch of guys. It's just... It's not gonna work." And so, I decided not to go for it. And several years later, this mentor took me aside that the position was open again and she said, "Why are you not going for this promotion?" And I told her what this other individual had told me several years before, and she laughed and she said, "You can't let that define you. You need to put yourself out there. And if you don't challenge yourself, then you're never gonna get to the next level, you're not gonna be satisfied."
26:16 S4: And one of her favorite sayings is, "If you're not growing, you're dying." And it definitely resonated with me and she stays with me. I got the position, I got the promotion and she still serves as that voice in my head, that supporter, that person that said, "Don't let anyone else define you, especially the people that say you're not going to be, or you're not good enough. Make certain to push and seek the things that you want." And if you don't ask, and this is a Lucila quote for certain, "Ask and you shall receive. If you don't ask, you're not gonna get it, you're not gonna get... You're definitely not gonna get a yes and you may not get a no." So that's my mentoring story.
27:14 MH: I love hearing stories like this. Lucila, do you have a special story you wanna share?
27:20 S5: Yeah. In some ways I think early in my career I felt like I was going it alone. I was fighting the fight and kind of... They're running up the hill [chuckle] I hate to use army analogies, but kind of running up the hill, and I was at the front and there was no one there with me. It is a bit cliche, but I would say Nicole has been a huge mentor for me. And though she's not a financial advisor, she has really brought a different perspective to my life and to the business world, and really been an advocate. The reason Nicole is so powerful as the director of the WISE group, is that she's a natural champion. She sees in everyone their super power, and then tries to set up circumstances where they can use that power to the fullest extent, and she's absolutely done that with me. She kind of tapped me on the head to be the chair of the WISE group, which has been a huge blessing in giving me the opportunity to speak throughout the country, and to really share a message that's really important to me. Building your practice, your business with purpose and on purpose, and just seeing the positivity, the ability to see.
28:34 S5: You don't have to be good at everything. What is that thing you do so well and then giving you a platform to do it? That has been really meaningful to me and that I've started to look at people that way as well. It doesn't have... You don't have to be across the board amazing. Let's find the way to really play on your strengths. And that's what Nicole does amazingly well and she has done that with me.
28:55 MH: Yay. This is so much fun.
28:55 S4: You're gonna make me cry, Lucila.
28:58 S5: Yay.
29:00 MH: This is so much fun. Well, thank you so much to both of you for joining us today on the Ellevate Podcast. It was really fantastic to talk to you, to hear more about the WISE group and Lincoln Financial, and just the work that you're doing to advocate for women, to support women, and to create change in business. So thank you again for being our wonderful guests.
29:23 S5: Thank you, Kristy.
29:24 S4: Thank you, Kristy.
29:29 MH: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out. Subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes. Give us five stars and share your review. Also don't forget follow us on Twitter @EllevateNtwk N-T-W-K, that's Ellevate Network, and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, www.ellevatenetwork.com. That's Ellevatenetwork.com. And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller, she rocks, and to our voice-over artist, Rachel Griesinger, thanks so much, and join us next week.
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