The New Guard: Amanda Campbell on Empowerment & Niches

There’s a massive transition of wealth already underway in the U.S. as older generations retire and new generations set the investing course. Cerulli Associates estimates that 40% of financial industry assets, worth about $10.4 trillion, will roll over in the next decade. That’s 37% of advisors retiring.

This series takes a look at how that transition is already playing out as younger, more diverse advisors take the helm. It also looks at how younger clients with different values steer the direction of capital in the U.S., whether inheriting generational wealth or building it for the first time.

This month I talked with Amanda Campbell, CFP®, CDFA, AAMS®, senior vice president at Wealthspire Advisors and co-founder of The Health and Wealth Sisters. We discussed wealth empowerment for women, making your way as a minority female advisor, and the importance of finding your niche.

From Wedding Planning to Financial Planning

Karrie Gordon, staff writer, VettaFi: Amanda, thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me. Let’s start out with telling me about yourself and your journey to today, where you are a senior vice president at Wealthspire Advisors and the co-founder of Health and Wealth Sisters.

Amanda Campbell, CFP®, CDFA™, AAMS®, senior vice president at Wealthspire Advisors

Amanda Campbell, CFP®, CDFA™, AAMS®, senior vice president at Wealthspire Advisors and co-founder of The Health and Wealth Sisters

Amanda Campbell, CFP®, CDFA™, AAMS®, senior vice president at Wealthspire Advisors: I actually started out in college undecided with my major. I thought I wanted to be a wedding planner for awhile but realized brides are crazy — I’m allowed to say that, I was a bride. But I realized I loved the budgeting of a bride’s money and making her dream come to life within those financial constraints.

One of my college professors said I should try accounting, so I did, but I was not someone that wanted to sit by myself all day with a calculator. My business ethics professor let our class know there was an alumni dinner happening. I was working one of my three jobs that night but I asked my professor to take my résumé to someone there, a certified financial planner, Joe Garrison. I didn’t know what that was.

Joe called me and we set up a [meeting over]coffee and he told me about what it meant to be a certified financial planner and opened my eyes to a world that I didn’t know existed. I always joke that I fell in love with financial planning at that coffee [meeting].

I started working at StratWealth, the firm that Joe worked at. This was right after college and I worked as a client services associate for one of the founding partners of the firm, Jim Griesser. I learned an incredible amount from him — to this day, he’s the smartest financial planner I’ve ever met.

The Power of Compassion

Gordon: He sounds like he had a profound influence on you. What about working with him steered you to where you are today?

Campbell: The other partners used to joke that Jim’s book was full of all the sweet old ladies. I learned so much from him though because he never put a time limit on meetings. When Jim started to let me sit in on meetings with him, I quickly learned why he would take extra time.

These people wanted to talk to him. They were little old grandmas scared about something. He was so compassionate, but incredibly smart. Jim would show them all the support they needed but then still bring it back to facts. He would explain to them about why they have to stay with the plan, and some things he could do to help them. I was so inspired by that.

I started rising through the ranks after that to director of our portfolio management department, then director of financial planning. When I was stepping into being an advisor, I decided I wanted to help women. Only 23% of certified financial planners are female right now.

Women “Have a Valuable Seat at the Wealth Management Table”

Gordon: It sounds like an easy choice now, but I know that wasn’t the case even a decade ago. What was the environment like back then for a woman advisor wanting to help women clients specifically?

Campbell: No one was helping women. This was 13 years ago and even then it was still that the man of the house would come into the office. I remember thinking “this feels wrong.”

Women are important and have a valuable seat at the wealth management table. That idea was instilled in me when I was young. My father passed when I was 12 and I had to watch my mom figure out the family finances. There wasn’t another choice. She had to make sure we could stay in the house and keep doing all our activities. And, to her credit, our lives didn’t change financially. She didn’t show me that she was intimidated. She said, “we’re going to figure it out.” And we did.

All of that to say that when I got to the point where I was ready to be an advisor, I realized women weren’t being helped. Who’s going to help someone like my mom? Who’s going to help someone that’s going through this huge life transition? What if I was that somebody?

I decided to get my certified Divorce Financial Analyst Designation, and I already had my Certified Financial Planner designation. And it’s been what I’ve done ever since. I help divorcing women, women going through a big life transition like widowhood, or couples who believe the wife deserves a valuable seat at the wealth management table.

Creating a Value Prop Where None Exists

Gordon: It’s such an inspiring thing to see someone that recognizes a need and then seeks to fill it. Let me ask you about your practice specifically. You’ve built it focused on serving women, both those navigating divorce and those looking to create their own financial empowerment. Did you see an under-served need with this particular demographic?

Campbell: My best friend at the time I was becoming an advisor was going through a divorce and asked me, “You help happy people with their money; can you help me with mine?” It felt really bad to tell a fellow woman that I couldn’t help her, much less my best friend.

Some of the initial pushback about divorce financial planning was around how to charge for it. We didn’t charge for it at the time — no one did, because the service didn’t exist. You have to make a pricing model for your service, and you have to create it. And there is so much fear around “this is new” and “this isn’t something any of us are doing, so maybe you shouldn’t.”

It’s funny: One of the partners at the firm when I got my CDFA said I shouldn’t put it on my business card. He felt that if you marked one specific niche, you’re cutting out so much of the population. It’s funny because even 10 years ago, I really felt like he was wrong. I started building out this divorce branch and now it’s all of this and I thank my lucky stars every single day that I didn’t let that “no” or that naysaying stop me.

Understanding the Challenges Women Clients Face

Gordon: Are there any specific challenges that women clients in particular face that advisors should be aware of?

Campbell: Financial literacy is a problem but especially for women. When I turn on the news or look at the Wall Street Journal, or Squawk Box, it’s overwhelming for me, and I’m in the industry. My business partner and I always say that this is what we love to do but it’s not rocket science.

That’s why my sister and I wrote our book [The Health and Wealth Sisters 360° Action Plan: Total Self-Care for the Modern Woman’s Fiscal, Physical, and Emotional Well-Being]. I needed to make financial literacy directly for women that’s easily accessible and easily digestible.

Women have not only the right but should know about wealth. A thing I hear all the time from women is “I’m not good at math, so I won’t understand money.” And I always ask them, were they not good at math, or were they told they weren’t good at math because “girls were better at language”?

So many times women will tell me they’re about to ask a stupid question and I let them know there are no stupid questions. Think about how much scarier that might be for them to say sitting across from an old white man. I’ve had older male advisors be condescending to me — I understand where they’re coming from.

When women invest, we tend to do 1.2% better per year than our male counterparts. Around 40% of women out-earn their husbands right now, but only 60% feel well-equipped to make a smart financial decision. There’s such a juxtaposition in that.

“People Don’t Want a Generalist Anymore”

Gordon: I absolutely agree. OK, I’m switching gears a bit to talk about the industry. Over a third of advisors are set to retire in the next decade, meaning younger generations, including millennial advisors like yourself, will take the helm. Are there changes in the industry that you have witnessed since you started working?

Campbell: The biggest change is exactly what I fought against 10 years ago: the idea that if you were a generalist, that’s the way to do good business. People don’t want a generalist anymore; they want someone who’s “niched-down.” They want someone who looks like them, talks like them, or is specialized in a life experience.

I see it all the time in the business that I do. There was this reluctance to niche-down but now it’s all I hear at industry conferences. Make sure to know who your client is, that you’re specific, etc.

It’s been a 10-year change. When I started, you acted like you didn’t have a family, that there was nothing outside of being a financial planner. Being authentic is kind of a newer thing, but I get the best feedback when I’m sitting and having a conversation like this one.

Clients don’t want to feel like they’re at the dentist’s office and everything is sterile. You’re talking about money, and that’s emotional. Your clients want you to have a personality. We’re all humans; we just want to know that somebody else is going through or has been through the same thing. We want to know we’re not alone.

Fundamentally Different Views of Money Between Generations

Gordon: Let me flip that around now and ask you about changes you may be seeing on the client side. Is there a value shift that’s happening regarding investment priorities, either generationally or broadly? If so, how are younger clients thinking differently about investing?

Campbell: I think the biggest shift I’ve seen in younger clients is their absolute willingness to have you do [your job]. A perfect example is in 2022, most of my younger clients weren’t panic-calling me about the markets.

I get it; we’re younger and have time in the market, but there’s also an inherent belief that it’s going to be OK. They have 100 other things to worry about, so they let me worry about the portfolio and the financial planning. There’s such a respect for everyone’s expertise in the world from younger generations.

They approach it as, “I don’t need to be involved in it because my eye is on the prize over here,” whereas older generations [treat it as]“I need to have a hand in every single thing”.

The other thing I see is the younger generation views money as a tool, which is amazing. It’s just a way to get what they want, to further their life and enjoyment. They might say, “Oh, that account is for a beach house in 15 years” — they’ve already tagged it to a goal. They want to retire when they’re still healthy enough and young enough to do things.

With the older generation, money is money. They want to look at their money every day; they want to log in to the app and see it. They were taught to stockpile. I’m sure there is some generational trauma there, but I find they are less willing to enjoy their money. I’ll sit with my older clients and ask them if they want to go on a vacation before they can no longer go on vacations and they tell me no.

What money means to both generations is so vastly different, and you have to be able to switch back and forth in those lanes.

Making Space at the Table for All

Gordon: I want to spend a few minutes talking about your experiences coming up as a Latina advisor in this industry. What was it like to make your way as a Latina woman in the industry when you started, and have there been industry changes you have seen regarding inclusion?

Campbell: I can certainly say there aren’t more of me out there. I think there are more African American advisors than Latina advisors. When I would go to continued education at big conferences, I’d find myself going to the tables with African American women and saying, “You’re a minority CFP, I’m also a minority CFP. Tell me what you’ve done.”

At the beginning of my career, these were my mentors, because there wasn’t another Latina woman in the room. In a room full of older white men, no one’s pulling out a seat for you at lunch. It was made very clear to me that if I wanted to be here, I had to puff out my shoulders and make space.

Now when I mentor women, I try my damnedest to make space for them. It’s all we can do, as someone that came up in those experiences, just to make it a little easier for the person behind you.

There are some cool changes happening now. Before, I feel like you almost had to hide that you spoke Spanish, but now it’s very upfront and seen as this amazing skill set. It’s also gotten more inclusive with DEIB committees at work — we have one at Wealthspire.

It is interesting though that when you go to conferences now, it still looks very much the same as it did 10 years ago. Things aren’t changing that fast. All I can do is make sure that I pull up a seat for lunch for the woman that came with me, or for someone that doesn’t have anywhere to sit.

Advice for Young Advisors: “Niche Down”

Gordon: Amanda, this has been great. The last question I have for you is, what advice do you have for younger advisors?

Campbell: Whenever I talk to a younger advisor, it’s unfair to say, “be yourself right out of the gate,” because you’re still learning who you are. You’re going to watch different advisors, and sit in on meetings, and take bits of this and bits of that. Instead, I tell them to try and find their comfort as themselves as quickly as they can, because that’s what clients will be drawn to, is who you are.

Niche-down and find who you want to help and then go all in on helping those people. Whoever you want to serve, make sure you serve that client 100%. I know a young gentleman who went into helping families with special-needs children. That’s a demographic in and of itself.

Get your certifications, go to your continuing education, go to your seminars, and just go all in, because the generalist thing isn’t working anymore.

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