Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a career change and wondering which direction to follow? Join us for this explosive conversation with Shannon Spotswood, President of RFG Advisory and Founder of StrongHer Money, which is dedicated to helping women take control of their financial lives. Shannon shares stories of the grit, passion, self-awareness and discipline that have led her to where she is today, and why she is dedicated to helping women “live financially fearless.”
Olivia Hails: On this episode of Invested in Connecting Women:
"Women have been underserved in our industry, and yet by the year 2030 women, will control 67% of wealth."
Hails: We have an explosive episode with Shannon Spotswood, president of RFG Advisory. Shannon has had one of those superhuman careers. She knew at age 14 that finance was something she wanted to pursue, and WOW, did she do just that. I came across Shannon on LinkedIn and knew that I had to meet the woman behind that screen and behind the powerful words that were coming from her. So today, I could not be more excited for Shannon to share her journey with us and how it has led to the start of an incredible movement, especially for women, with the founding of StrongHer Money.
So, buckle up and get ready to learn how to live financially fearless with a servant heart and a warrior mindset. I’m your host Olivia Hails, and this is Invested in Connecting Women.
Shannon, thank for being on the Invested in Connecting Women podcast today. We are honored to have you.
Shannon Spotswood: Could not be happier. Thank you so much for inviting me onto your podcast.
Hails: I’m so excited for today because you are a woman … just, your story is incredible. Your resilience. This combination that you have of just spunk and tenacity all wrapped into one.
Spotswood: Thank you.
Hails: This is like the first time that we have ever met in person…
Spotswood: I know.
Hails: And I feel like we have known each other, which is crazy.
Spotswood: I felt the same way. I walked in the door, and I was like “Hi, you’re here!”
Hails: Which is crazy, to me, but I’m so excited for this conversation today.
Hails: I do want to start with telling our listeners how I found out who you were. And, you know, I’m just a wholesaler covering Tennessee and Alabama. I sell during the day, right? But what I’m really passionate about is following the trends of this business and who’s making headlines and why are they making headlines and what are they talking about. And, you know, after a couple of years ago, you saw all these corporate initiatives for women, right … “You’ve got to start talking about women,” and you saw it plugged in everywhere. And so I really started listening to panels all over, I signed up for webcasts. I mean I just sat in bed at night and watched webcasts just out of the sake of curiosity and really trying to educate myself as a young female in the business. Now, as a part of that process, your name started popping up everywhere, “Shannon Spotswood, Shannon Spotswood, Shannon Spotswood.” So, I was like, “Who is this Shannon Spotswood?” And there was one panel in particular that you were on, and it was such a breath of fresh air, because you weren’t regurgitating corporate jargon, you weren’t talking about the looming numbers and statistics that exist around women in the financial business. You were like, “Yes, it sucks, but here’s where we can go and here’s what we’re doing about it and here’s what my action steps are.” So, you know, I feel like I have gotten to know you from afar, and what a privilege that has been. So, let’s let everyone listening find out who you are and how you got here? It’s not a quick story.
Spotswood: And it’s so fun, because one of, you know, to just put an exclamation mark on a point you were making, it’s so exciting that the world of financial services is really being intentional about engaging women in these conversations. And what I love about it most is women are the ones who are really taking the lead. So, what you’re doing with your podcast, about amplifying our voices, is what it’s going to take for more women to feel welcome in the financial services industry, engage, and, quite honestly, wanting to be a part of it.
I do have a long and twisty path to land here as the President of RFG Advisory, which is just, I mean, truly, a tremendous gift. I have loved the financial services industry since I was 14 years old. I knew, and it’s funny now because I have teenagers, I have a 16-, a 14-, and a 13-year-old … And so as a mother, I look back on that and I think, “Gosh, that really was so odd to be so clear-headed about what I wanted to do,” and I have really maintained that focus and passion for our industry. So, my story about finding myself in this unbelievable seat at RFG, and I am just, you know, kind of on a daily basis grateful for our team and for what we’re building here and for my business partners and for really the intersection of opportunity and talent and the gift of building something bigger than yourself. And it is that, if I was going to look back through the lens of my career, it is that commonality that really weaves together all of my experience. I have been incredibly blessed to be at that intersection of talent and opportunity and the gift of building something bigger than yourself. Because what’s going to get you out of bed in the morning is hugely important for me. I’m all-in, like 110% all-in on everything that I do. So, I don’t have that gear that is like, “I’m checking a box,” or “I’m just showing up,” or “I’m going through the motions,” or “Good is good enough.” I’m not wired that way. So, I have never had that job. And so that would be something that I think is fun to think about for women in their careers is that good is not good enough. Like we’ve got to be full tilt into what we’re doing, and there has to be a real passion and love for the work that you’re doing. Because the bottom line is, we spend one-third of our time, one-third of our life … we will prioritize work above everything else. Above our health, above our mental health, above our family, above our loved ones, above our husbands, above…
Hails: And why?
Spotswood: …our community. So, let’s be honest about it. If we don’t love it and it’s not helping us and really fueling us in a way, then what is truly the point of it? So, you know, I jumped head-first into the industry. I started out at one of the first hedge funds in San Francisco. I then joined an investment bank as an analyst in an investment banking program. That firm was Volpe Brown Whelan. A couple of months into that job, I got to sit as a part of the deal team, taking Netscape public. And that was the very first Internet IPO. And that was one of the most fun chapters of my life.
Spotswood: I mean, we slept under our desks, we worked hundreds of hours… We were, you know, taking redeyes to New York for a meeting and flying back. We were all super-young. And we were really on the front lines of defining what is Silicon Valley today. And it was just a really lucky time.
Hails: So cool.
Spotswood: I mean, it was … I look back, it was such a gift, because, you know, our logo was a T Rex with an X through it. We were anti-Wall Street. You know, we were like, “We are here to disrupt something.”
And we would drive up and down in Silicon Valley and knock on doors, you know, “Have you thought about taking your company public? We can help you do that.” So, that was just an unbelievable opportunity to have, you know, everybody who knows anything about an analyst program, you get the crap kicked out of you, you get pitchbooks thrown at your head, you stay up all night. You learn more in those programs than you can learn anywhere. And it really is a testament to, “It’s all about attitude.”
Spotswood: Right. Like, you can choose to complain and say, “Oh, it’s so hard and it’s so unfair and the managing partner or the managing director is mean to me,” or whatever … I’m crying in the bathroom or I haven’t slept, or all those things, or you can be like, “How lucky am I to have this seat?”
Spotswood: I’ll tell you one of the … there are funny things, funny tics that come from that. I can look at a 200-page pitchbook and tell you if the font size is wrong on a footnote. It’s just like you get trained in a way to think that I think is so incredibly important. From that I moved into M&A, got to have some experience working for that investment bank in M&A. And then was really given what was my dream job. I joined Symphony Asset Management as a hedge fund portfolio manager. That was my golden ring. That had been what I was striving for. I wanted to run a fund. I wanted to be a PM. I had worked at a hedge fund when I first joined the industry, I had a tremendous mentor in a female portfolio manager there and knew that’s what I wanted to do and was given this tremendous gift to do that at Symphony. So, for six years I ran a long-short equity fund investing in UK and European companies, which meant I got to spend a significant amount of time over in Europe; several weeks a quarter for six years is a long time. So, I got to do some really interesting things. We were acquired by Nuveen Investments, and it was once Nuveen acquired us that I actually glimpsed around the corner into the retail wealth management space. So, once Nuveen acquired us, we developed some strategies that we then distributed through the Nuveen wholesale channel.
Hails: Got it.
Spotswood: Which, you know, being in that industry, it’s all about the power of those relationships and distribution channel. And if you’ve got those relationships, and Nuveen was just, you know, phenomenal at that, we had a lot of success. But I’ll never forget, you know, the hedge fund sales cycle is two years, I mean, at the time. And now, my experience is now out-of-date. We’re going back some time. But at the time, it was a two-years sales cycle of just hard-core number crunching and all the rest of it. And the very first year, we had some really interesting long-only strategies. We go into an office in Beverly Hills, I’ll never forget it, and we walked out of there with like $200 worth of tickets, which this was all like a new language to me. And I call the partners at Symphony, I’m like, “We’re the biggest fools on the planet,” like a two-years sales cycle or a sales pitch of a really great strategy and doing something really interesting for those advisors’ clients. So, I kind of glimpsed around that corner but really didn’t think, “Oh, I’m going to land there.” I thought, “Oh, this is just an interesting part of my journey.”
Hails: I was wondering how you kind of first saw retail.
Spotswood: I first kind of saw that…
Hails: That makes sense.
Spotswood: And then, you know, for me, and this is something that I think really resonates with a female audience in particular, having loved this world of finance, having spent 10 years at this hedge fund, having had this investment banking experience, really, I was … I had everything I had ever hoped for. Like the narrative and the dream that I had visualized for, you know, the better part of 14 to 37, 38 years old had come true. And it was really the totality of my professional identity. And then one day it wasn’t. And I got to a point where I literally couldn’t get on an airplane anymore. I had three young children. It was becoming almost physically impossible for me to leave them. And it was so disorienting. It was such a moment that I never expected to happen because I had always been so clear-headed in what I wanted to do. And I think this was part of what I hope to see for you and younger women in our industry is that it’s not a straight shot, it’s not like you’ve got to stay on this train forever and if you don’t, you’re now off the train for good and there’s no hope of you having a career in this industry. You have to honor that voice inside of you. And that voice has served me very well in guiding the opportunities and the positions and the … You know, in that analyst class, I was the only one there who didn’t have an Ivy League degree. Why did I get that job? I hustled my way into it.
Hails: You fought for it.
Spotswood: I fought for it. I took a year, worked in that hedge fund, was able to show them like what I’m able to do. And so I feel like that voice really served me. And I got to that point, I knew I wanted to keep working. And it’s a little bit like, “To thine own self be true.” I would not be a good mother who didn’t work. Like I would have so much misplaced energy into my children that it would just not, like no-one would benefit from that. And I also had kids later. I didn’t have my first baby until I was 34 years old. So, by that point, like my professional identity was so defined and such a part of who I was that I couldn’t just like opt out, I couldn’t just become … And I don’t say “just become a stay-at-home mom.” I knew that internally I didn’t have that ability to be completely out of the workforce. So, I knew I wanted to do something. I had the opportunity to partner with the woman who had founded Busy Bees. So, I took a hard left turn and left, you know, the tallest building in San Francisco, one of the largest funds in San Francisco, and built a luxury children’s clothing company for three years. And, you know…
Spotswood: …out of a garage, upside-down boxes of inventory, everything that is truly a start-up. You know, you’re sweating every dollar. Just completely radical change from working in institutional finance. And it was while I was running that business that we made the decision to move to Birmingham, Alabama, to raise our children and to really just be in the South and have that as an experience. And what I think is important about that is we wrote a business plan, we checked every box, it was immensely successful and a ton of fun, and again that voice creeps in. And I found myself, like, “I’m a builder, I am that intersection of opportunity and talent, build something bigger than yourself.” And when we had gone through the business plan of Busy Bees and really done everything we wanted to do, for me, it was like I had to really look back on my experience and say, “Who am I?” And that’s where I really realized it was that intersection, I’m a builder of companies, I am a change agent, I really thrive on that opportunity to be a part of a team doing something that is much, much bigger than the individual. And when I was looking in Birmingham, I wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m going to go intro retail wealth management.” My whole thing was, “I’ll talk to anybody.” I was seeking the intangible. I was seeking this intersection.
Hails: I have so many questions that I want to unpack from that. The one that is top of mind, and then I will kind of go from there because it’s such an incredible journey you have had… This voice, did you just wake up one day and you were like, “Family, oh my gosh,” or was it this voice that got louder and got louder and then it got so loud that you had to deal with it? Which way was that?
Spotswood: It gets louder and louder. Because you want to push it down. You have cultivated this professional … not only resume but persona, and when the seeds of doubt start to enter, you’re like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, I must be having…” like, “I ate something,” or “I didn’t get enough sleep,” or “I must be having a bad day.” And then you start really seeking to really repress that. Because as we know, you know it to be true, you cannot open a new door without closing one. But man, is it hard to close those doors. It is so hard to take that leap into the unknown. You know, I love that Buddhist saying, “Leap and a net will appear.” But we’re not conditioned for that. We’re not, we don’t develop that skill set. Our society does not naturally embrace that.
Hails: Especially not in what you were doing.
Spotswood: You tell people you want, like… when we told people we were moving to Birmingham, Alabama, from San Francisco, they were like, “You’ve lost your mind and been kidnapped by aliens. Clearly something is wrong.” So, I think that I really repressed it. And then you get to a point… And for me, it really was the physical symptom. Like I found myself almost on like the verge of a panic attack packing my suitcase to go to the airport and seeing these small children and just like “Something is off here.”
Hails: Which it’s so good that you listened to that. Because, you know, as you said, we repress it, we try to push it down, but that’s something that is important for us to pay attention to. And it’s funny just how aspirational you have always been in your entire life, and when I was 14, I wanted to be elected class president, and that was my, that was aspirational, I was like the go-getter of the class. But the markets, I would never have known, you know, I didn’t even get a checking account probably until I was 18, so I was way behind in terms of numbers and monitoring money and allowance and what have you. So, it’s so incredible to me that you have always had this love for the industry and you followed it through and you have done this. Now, I have to ask you, because any woman listening to this is like, “All right, Superwoman.” We’ve got her, we know it, here she is in the flesh. How did you do this emotionally and mentally? I want to know those sides of it. Like, how did you get yourself through this journey where you are in life and not combust?
Spotswood: Oh, gosh, great question. I tell this to my children all the time. I picked a really great spouse. Like one of the most important decisions you make as an adult, and I might argue probably the most important decision you make as an adult, is who you choose to spend your life with. And you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. And I was really clear about, you know… And it was funny, during the investment banking days, we were dating at the time, but my husband knew, he was this at the time, boyfriend – second priority. My career was my priority. So, there was a tremendous amount of clarity about, “Who am I, what is this journey together going to look like?” So, I have been really lucky that I don’t have that tension in my marriage. I don’t have that, “I can’t believe you’re working.” It’s always been a partnership. He ran a hedge fund, so the pendulum has swung where he is working the crazy hours, I’m working the crazy hours, and you kind of swing the pendulum. So, I think that I haven’t had to fight against that cross-current of in my family life there is tension with my spouse around professional ambition. That makes a big difference, that makes a really big difference. The other thing I really attribute it to is, one, I’m super-competitive. I love to win.
Hails: Oh, I couldn’t tell at all.
Spotswood: I love to sell, I love to win, I love to compete. And I am ruthlessly positive. Like, it is not… I believe that there is a 24-hour expiration on positivity. So, every day I go through a process of prayer, of intention, of setting my mindset around ruthless positivity. It doesn’t mean that I’m Pollyanna-ish and that difficult situations don’t come up and certainly things don’t happen, but that commitment to being ruthlessly positive informs my outlook. And that is … how do I get through all of that, how do I chart this journey, how do I take these blind leaps of faith, how do I embrace risk. It is the counterbalance of all of those factors of having a supportive foundation, of having really an intentional mindset practice so that I have a framework by which to process through those fears and concerns and hopes and dreams and aspirations, an orientation of positivity. And then, I think, “We’re here to win, we’re here to have some fun.”
Hails: It’s crazy what perspective can change about someone’s attitude and how they approach their life. I mean, I have seen that all too often, when you wake up and you’re like, “Oh, it’s Monday,” then you’re probably going to have that kind of Monday, right? Because it’s the way you set yourself up and your perspective. So, it’s not surprising that you get up and have intentional time for yourself to really set the expectation for the day for yourself and kind of what’s going to happen. I love that. I try to do that consistently. I’m getting better at it. Actually, just talking about how you’re doing all of this, I just had a life coach approach me. She was like, “I love you, you’re great energy, but let me know if you ever want to talk.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh, am I getting to that point in my life where I have just said ‘yes’ to too many things that now my peers are starting to recognize this, that maybe I need to really figure the balance thing out?” And that’s something I think I try to pride myself on is that consistent balance and positive perspective because I think that opens up way more, so many more doors than the opposite of that, the kind of, “Woe is me.” You don’t get far with that.
Spotswood: There’s just no room for it.
Hails: No. Not at all. So, I understand that how now.
Spotswood: And I have to be honest, I am ruthless about energy. I am, and I self-admit it, there is zero margin for toxic people and toxic energy in my orbit. And if you set those boundaries early in your life, that really helps you to have the opportunity in your relationships, with your spouse, with your children, with your family, with your colleagues, with your partners, with your community, with your volunteer work, whatever it is. But I’m ruthless about it.
Hails: But you’re authentic. I mean, that’s what I love, and that’s authentic. I mean, that’s like, “We know this about Shannon, don’t show up with negative thoughts and negative energy.” And that changes… I’m a huge… I mean, I love that. I wish that the whole world could hear that. If you look at life with the perspective that good things can happen, and I wrote it down from what you have said and what I have listened to you say in a podcast, like if you think about it, if you say it enough, it will manifest. And I literally wrote that, it’s on my computer now on a sticky note: “Yes, Olivia, remember, Shannon said, if you think about it…”
Spotswood: Manifest your own reality.
Hails: Yes. I love that. I think it’s important for people to know how you have gotten to be where you are from the emotional side, too.
Spotswood: And I think what is helpful, and everybody goes through … I’m a voracious reader, I read strategy books, consume them, consume podcasts. We’re all, I think, native learners. We are seeking that information and wanting to better ourselves. But I think it’s one of those … you have to do the work on yourself. You have to invest the time and do the work on yourself in whatever way that you need to do that. Everybody has to have a different, you know, whether it’s working with a life coach or doing meditation or going on retreats or yoga or exercise or a combination thereof … like for me, it’s a combination thereof. Now I work through and, courtesy of Shannon Susko, she wrote a book called The Metronome Effect and is just a really influential coach from afar for me. But a quarterly plan. I have a quarterly plan that goes through like what am I working on in my family, with my children, with my husband, at work, spiritually, physically, all these things. So, you need to find a way to hold yourself accountable. Because not every single day you wake up like, “I’m going to be motivated today.” There are days when you’re like, “No, I’m not feeling motivated.” So, what’s your why, what’s your touchstone, what is going to help you recalibrate, and that is something that I feel we need as women to really approach with integrity and with intention and carve out the time to do it.
Hails: Yes. I was going to say I think it’s all about intention and being focused on that intention and not letting whatever stress you have rule your life.
So, I want to transition a little bit, and I want to talk about what you have done since you have entered into the retail financial world. Because I stumbled into this business, I was an intern at Morgan Stanley in college and was like, “Wait a second. This is interesting. I don’t know any of this. Why don’t I know any of it? Why didn’t anyone teach me this? What’s happening?” And actually, I read a tax code book, like publication 970 or something. It was like, “That’s not interesting.” But I was so intrigued by this business that I was like, “I don’t want to give this up.” International business and French major. Whatever. And I have just pursued this career, if you will, and it has taken me five or six different jobs at Janus to really figure out the one that really let my skill set blossom, if you will. So, I love this business, and I like the fact that it hasn’t catered to women because it opens up doors of opportunity. So, like I said earlier, that’s how I found your name was just by being a student of the trends happening in this business. And you’re a trailblazer, and you are leading the way for women to not only feel more comfortable investing but feel more confident in themselves. I mean, me in particular, I’m fan-girling over here because it’s been so much fun to watch you from afar and just all that you’re doing for the industry. So, talk to me about that action that I mentioned in the intro. You don’t just talk about, “Here are the stats.”
Hails: You’re action oriented. And I love that. Tell me about that.
Spotswood: Action, action, action. Gotta be hustling, right? So, RFG Advisory, I joined the firm, it will be six years in September, and we have been on a journey to build the RIA of the future. And I have phenomenal partners. Bobby White founded RFG Advisory. We have built an amazing team of A players and assets. And what has been so fun about this journey is he founded RFG in 2003, and when we met, our very first conversation was really anchored around these trends in the industry that are transforming retail wealth management, everything from generational wealth transfer, fee compression, this massive amount of private equity funding, fintech funding, these different RIA platform models … you have the changing expectations of the next gen of clients and what does it really mean to have a one-on-one relationship with an advisor. Like it is probably the most exciting time in this industry’s history, and then you have the succession crisis on top of it. Average age of a financial advisor is 65 years old. 15% of them have a succession plan. And even though there are headline numbers around like the pandemic is starting to shift and there is more discussion around being proactive around actually formulation succession plans, the numbers really aren’t bearing it out. Like yes, M&A is at a record level, but we’re still only talking a couple of hundred transactions a year. 14,000, 15,000 RIAs, hundreds of thousands of advisors in wire house channels. Like the numbers, there’s a long way to go. So, that very first conversation was what would it look like if you built the RIA of the future that really had at its core independence, advisor independence? How do you help independent advisors build enterprise value for their families on their own personal balance sheet? How do you surround them with these like wraparound platform services that really drive operational efficiency into the day-to-day practice, help them close more business, help them really connect in a very meaningful way with their clients? I mean, sign me up. Like, so much fun. My partner Rick likes to say, “When someone offers you a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask, ‘Aisle or window,’ you just get on.” And that’s really what our journey has been about. Like we hold several tenets as really our kind of core DNA. One, we’re a service company first, we’re a technology company second, we’re an RIA third. The order of those is incredibly important to us. We are a team of A players with a servant heart and a warrior mindset. We are committed to iterating to excellence. There is no end. And we want to disrupt ourselves. So, part of that is recognizing, to your point, that, this is where your mind kind of gets blown, women have been underserved in our industry and yet by the year 2030 women will control 67% of wealth. Today they control north of 50%. Women make 90% of household buying decisions. We could sit here and…
Hails: All the numbers, oh, yes. I’ve got them all.
Spotswood: Exactly. We’ve got all the numbers. I call them the Wonder Women Stats. And it’s so fun to share those stats with a room full of women, especially if you’re against the backdrop of, “We’re going to talk about money.” Because they kind of walk in the door, women are like, “Is this going to be fun or interesting? I don’t know if I’m really in my comfort zone.” And you share those statistics, and you see everybody stand up a little straighter. Like this is a call to action. So, as part of that, we created StrongHer Money, which is where I think you’re going. StrongHer Money has been, honestly, an idea, a baby of mine in my brain really since my 20s. And it came from, of my close friends, I was the only one working in finance, and all these tremendously talented women doing all these different things at all these different stages of their lives, inevitably, and I’m sure you get the same, you’re the token one in finance, “What do I do with my 401(k)?”
Hails: All the time.
Spotswood: All the time. So, as part of our building of RFG 2.0, we said, “Wouldn’t it be great to identify and address, not really identify but just to address the elephant in the room, which is women tend to fire their financial advisor in the event of a significant life change, death or divorce. So, you’re like, “Let me get this straight. When I need you the most, Financial Advisor, I have built so little trust in that relationship and I have felt so left out of the conversation that I’m going to fire you and find someone else.” So, what we said with StrongHer Money was, “There is the data, we could point to several different studies that will show it, let’s be really intentional about that conversation, let’s build an educational platform for women so that our advisors can say ‘We heard you, we’ve seen the data, we want to make sure you are a part of this conversation. Here is a safe community for you to be able to access.’ And then secondarily, let’s be intentional of creating a platform for our advisors to use for prospecting female clients.” So, StrongHer Money really is a two-pronged educational platform for women and community for women as well as a prospecting platform for our advisors to have intentional conversations with their female clients and with prospective female clients.
Hails: And if you want to be the RIA of the future, you have got to be proactive in this business. You cannot be reactive. And time and time again, because I travel all the time and meet with different practices and people everywhere, it’s this reactivity that just kind of irks me of like, “Well, I lost this woman. Maybe now I should start thinking about it as a client.” I’m like, “Remember when we had this conversation four years ago? You need to engage the woman or you’re probably going to lose her business when and if her spouse passes away.” It’s so crucial, it’s so important. So, the proactivity there, I think, will serve massive, massive dividends in the future because that’s really how you have to think about it. So, what will 10 years look like from now, and that’s women, that’s women investors. And if you’re not catering to that now, you’re going to wake up in 10 years ang be sorry about that. And it’s funny, you know, you say, we all know the financial services industry has never catered to the woman investor. There are so many different examples. When I give presentations on our Women in Wealth content, which is just a very base level financial literacy education, things to build urgency in women that are not engaged in the process, I always start with this 90-second video on YouTube. It is a mock little scene from the 1955 home economics textbook, which was widely taught in the United States.
Spotswood: I’m old enough to have taken home ec…
Hails: Yes. So, this is the priorities for women in 1955 were, and the textbook, I take different excerpts, but it’s like, “Make sure that he has a cold beverage in his hand upon coming home from work. If he doesn’t come home in time for dinner, don’t worry, he’s probably just very busy and you don’t need to worry about what he is doing.” And I do that because it’s fun and it makes everybody start laughing, but a lot of women in the room are like, “Yes, that was me.” So, it’s just building this urgency. And I love StrongHer Money because it’s just giving you a platform to take down those barriers that exist. So, I would love to know, the more that you got into this business, six years now on this side, what barriers did you really see and what barriers are you still seeing that you think StrongHer Money is really starting to help with? Obviously, you have addressed some of those, but are there any other barriers that maybe surprised you about this side of the business?
Spotswood: That’s a great question. What has surprised me the most, because I didn’t grow up … I’m not an advisor and I didn’t grow up on this side of the business, and I am not talking my own book with what I’m about to say, I honestly can’t believe every advisor isn’t independent. And part of that is, I think, my orientation of an entrepreneur, my comfort in taking risk. But I fundamentally don’t understand how you can be an advisor and not be independent. Because this is one of the greatest industries, and I really, I am like an uber bull on our industry. I know that some of the robo-advisors and some of the discussion might be around, how does the financial advisor … I remember reading headlines during kind of the teeth of the pandemic last year, “Will a financial advisor remain relevant?”
Hails: I remember reading that, too.
Spotswood: Or will people all become DIY now that they have all this time at home? I would take the exact opposite. I think that there has never been a time when financial advisors have added more value. And what is interesting about it is the commoditization of investment management, saying, you know, said by someone who spent the bulk of their career managing money, that has been commoditized is one of the greatest things that has happened to financial advisors. Because where they add the most value is in that trusted relationship of having the knowledge around the financial planning and being really intentional around the conversation with the next gen and helping people to make smart decisions, whether it’s negotiating their salary or selling their business or how they’re thinking about the generational wealth transfer and gifting and all of these things. If your money life is upside down, as much as there are so many country music, I’m a huge country music fan, there are so many great country songs about money can’t buy happiness but it can buy me a boat, there really is, let’s be real, if your money life is upside down, the rest of your life is upside down. Like what is the number-one cause of stress in a marriage? Money. When you get out of school and you’re just starting up and student loans and all the rest of it, what do you lie away staring at the ceiling worrying about? Money. Your spouse dies, what do you worry about? Money. I mean, let’s just be real. So, here you have, and if you think about how our society has changed, you no longer have like the nuclear family all living for the most part in one community. You don’t have a really active – you know, in most parts of the country – faith-based community surrounding you. You no longer have this relationship with your doctor where you’re spending … they know everything about you. So, who is that person. You’re transactional with your accountant, your lawyer. It’s your financial advisor. And what’s great for this industry is the data is bearing out in the younger generation, Gen X, my generation, and the younger generations that there is actually a higher probability of wanting to hire a financial advisor than even the Baby Boomers are indicating. So, we’re in a bull market for advice. So, that really, you know, if I look at it against that backdrop and all of these reasons why being a financial advisor is so important, we’re not attracting new talent to the industry, but gosh that’s what surprises me. Independence is such an obvious choice.
I have met several advisors that I know who have jumped ship and come over to work with you all, and it’s just, the culture is alive, it’s real. I mean, you can walk in anyone’s office and get greeted, “Hello. Who are you? Let’s talk.” I love that. It’s a breath of fresh air, and you can see it. So, whatever it is that you all are doing behind the scenes is working because I have met with your Nashville guys, I’ve met with people scattered in Birmingham, down in Montgomery, Huntsville. Same culture. So, for me, on my side of the business, that’s very refreshing and a lot of fun to work with people that really believe in the same thing and want the same thing. We were really fortunate to be like, culture means everything to us. And it is applied consistently all day every day. How we hire, how we interview, how we talk with each other, the cadence of our meetings, on our functional teams, within our partnership group, with our Board, like it enforces and informs every single thing that we do. And if you talk to anybody here, it’s all about that servant heart warrior mindset. So, we wake up every day with a culture of “How are we going to serve our clients?” Our clients are advisors. “How are we going to amplify their independence?” “How are we going to help them have more engaging relationships with their clients?” “How are we really going to be an asset to them so that they, in turn, can be an asset to their clients?”
Hails: When people say “Culture can be taught,” no it can’t.
Spotswood: Culture is not slogans, it is not manuals, it is not… It really has to be a living, breathing… And every single person, for us whether it’s advisors affiliating with the platform or team members that we’re bringing on, is going to have a fingerprint on that culture. So, you’d better be ruthless about who you’re partnering with. Because it is like anything, it’s kind of like one step away from getting away from you.
Hails: Yes. And part of that culture is prioritizing the female and financial literacy for the female, which I love because I have heard you say in previous podcasts, I have listened to you, that when you have that knowledge, the power that you get, especially as a woman, that comes with that and then the confidence of what you can do and approach your life and your goals, mic drop, walk out. I mean, that power is so incredibly powerful. And you know what’s interesting, Olivia, I never really thought of this until you just said that, but if I look to my 14-year-old self, like what attracted me to Wall Street, like why was I reading Den of Thieves and Liar’s Poker and so interested in this business…
Hails: Good question.
Spotswood: Money is power. And the bottom line is, I hated asking my dad for money. I hated the dance of it. I hated the control that came with it. And, you know, to my young self looking around, “Where is it, where is the money?” So, you’re right. So, if I really were to kind of connect the dots of, where did the initial seed of StrongHer Money get planted…
Hails: 14-year-old Shannon.
Spotswood: It was there. And I think you’re right. Which is why the stats are so awesome. Any woman listening to this, 67% of wealth in this country will be controlled by women.
Hails: That’s a power statistic.
Spotswood: It’s a powerful statistic.
Hails: And should build some urgency there, I would say.
Hails: I mean, obviously, I was late to the game in it, but I always, I had the same sentiments. I hated asking my parents for money. I was the town babysitter. I mean, literally, I babysat every single house that was in the block because I just wanted to have cash on hand that if I wanted to go do something, I didn’t have to ask for permission in that way, like, you know, to get gas in my car.
Hails: And to pay for a car.
Spotswood: Go to a concert.
Hails: Right. Go to a concert, buy a dress for a dance. You know, something like that, you’re right, there is so much kind of power with that. But what I want that to be understood as is it’s not taboo. Especially in the Southeast, money can be seen as very taboo, don’t talk about it. When I say talk about money, I’m not talking about, “How much do you have and what cars to you drive?”
Hails: And where do you send your kids to school…
Spotswood: No, no, no.
Hails: That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the confidence and education behind what money can do.
Hails: And I think that’s a big taboo that exists in this part of the country, maybe everywhere in the country.
Hails: But just because this is where I was born and raised…
Spotswood: And what I love about, shifting the conversation from women and how do we more intentionally engage them in financial planning, we think about money very differently. Women think about money very differently. It is not this big pile that we want to sit on and like protect. And I swear to you, I think we learn this like as young women, we earmark “This is my wedding fund,” “This is my vacation fund,” “This is my fun money,” “This is my savings,” “This is my retirement.” And we go through this constant calibration that is merging money and values, like what is the emotional response to this money. And, I mean, I joke about this with my husband all the time, I’m like “Find me a women who doesn’t have a secret credit card for the stuff where you’re like ‘I don’t want to talk about it. and it’s important to me for whatever reason,’” and “‘If I want to buy my best friend like an extravagant gift for her 50th birthday, I don’t want to talk about it, it’s important to me.” Or the shoes for the presentation that I’m going to give on a stage that are irresponsibly expensive but are going to make me feel like a superhero. So, I just think that like acknowledging the emotional connection between money, and it’s not just about the plan, it’s about, we say with StrongHer Money, “Live richly, don’t die rich.” And that means different things to everybody.
Hails: But that’s the beauty of it, that it can mean different things to you.
Spotswood: Yes. I think you covered it. This has been so much fun. Really…
Hails: A lot of good lessons from you.
Spotswood: This has been such a gift, and I really appreciate the time.
Hails: And I’m happy you have been here. As with all interviews, we don’t stop here. We do a fun lightning round.
Hails: All right. So, I will ask you just a quick series of questions. First thing that pops into your head is what you come with, okay.
Hails: Superman or Batman?
Hails: Beach or mountains?
Spotswood: Oh, gosh, it’s like picking your favorite child. Beach.
Hails: Yes. That’s a hard one for me, too. But I think at the end of the day, I’m like, beach, daquiri, relaxation, wave sounds. Yes, that’s one for me, too. Convertible or Suburban?
Hails: What?! That’s a surprising one. California or Florida?
Spotswood: Florida, baby.
Hails: From a girl that lived in California for so long?
Hails: All right. Those are mine for you. Anything you have for me off the cuff?
Spotswood: Coffee or tea?
Spotswood: All day long.
Hails: All day long. Nothing in it. Coffee, black.
Spotswood: That’s the way I like it. Straightforward.
Hails: And shameless plug for my nonprofit Humanity & Hope, Generous Coffee comes back into our nonprofit, the revenue does, so it supports our nonprofit. So, I drink Generous Coffee all the time.
Spotswood: There you go. Olivia, thank you so much.
Hails: Yes. Absolutely. Thanks for your time, Shannon, and thanks for being on the podcast. We hope that you will continue to listen in next month as we continue to connect, educate, celebrate, and empower women.
Until next time, I’m Olivia Hails, and this is Invested in Connecting Women.