March is Women’s History month, and at Halpern Financial, we are proud to be making history as a female-majority firm. This is incredibly rare in the field of wealth management--only 15% of financial advisors are female, and the percentage of female Certified Financial Planner™ professionals has remained flat at 23% for at least a decade.
By 2030, American women are expected to control much of the $30 trillion in financial assets that baby boomers will possess—a potential wealth transfer of such magnitude that it approaches the annual GDP of the United States. (McKinsey)
This month we’ll be highlighting the stories of the women of Halpern Financial. This week they answer how Halpern Financial became a female majority firm.
What brought you to Halpern Financial, or what brought you to the field of wealth management?
Director, Client Experience
It was the Spring of 1999 and I had reached a plateau working with ADP, at the ripe age of 21, and I was searching for more of a career path than a job. My search in the Washington Post (paper version) lead me to answer an ad with Halpern Financial. After a few interviews with Ted Halpern and a call to the Better Business Bureau confirming that there were no negative reports against the firm, I graciously accepted the position as Office Manager. My curiosity and desire to learn about personal finance and wealth accumulation for my family and others has driven me throughout my Halpern Financial journey. Now 22 years later, with my ever-changing role and responsibilities, I am the Director of Client Experience. I love my Halpern Financial family, which includes our amazing team and clients.
Kirsty Peev, CFP ®
Director, Portfolio Management
I sought out a career that allowed me to combine my focus on math and sciences, with a strong ‘human’ element. Wealth management was the ideal combination of both for me. I joined the Halpern Financial family (Ted and Jennifer) after being inspired by Ted Halpern’s passion for helping our clients plan for, build, and protect their life’s work. My motivation comes from watching our clients meet their goals and achieve financial success – whatever that version of financial success may be.
In a nutshell, I am truly inspired by helping our clients achieve optimal portfolio returns (with appropriate risk levels of course!), and most importantly retaining as much as possible through an intense focus on tax-efficiency. Money is incredibly personal, and I enjoy building personal relationships with our clients specifically related to their portfolio, and thus helping them achieve their financial goals.
Melissa Sotudeh, CFP ®
Director, Advisory Services
After a decade at home with my children and their busy activities, I wanted more than just volunteering at school and church. I felt the pull to put my MBA to use and began to search for my next career. I landed at a small financial planning firm and discovered my professional passion.
However, a chance meeting with Ted and Kirsty eight years ago turned out to be THE pivotal moment in my career. After six years developing my skills as a Certified Financial Planner, I came to love this profession but also realized that I needed a change to be able optimize my work with clients. Through several hours of discussions, I learned and appreciated Ted’s approach to building a wealth management firm, the team approach and a fiduciary client service of excellence.
In an industry which is male-dominated, HFI is predominately women and functions as a team. Creativity and subject matter expertise are encouraged and a vital part of always striving for excellence. I look back on that chance meeting and where I am today with gratitude for being able to work with an amazing wealth management group, including both our team and clients. As Director of Advisory Services, I strive and am committed to a standard of excellence as our firm continues to grow.
Jennifer Davis, CFP ®
Head of Planning
I joined wealth management because I wanted to help the people I love meet their goals. I knew I needed to learn as much as I could to protect my loved ones from getting taken advantage of by a “traditional” non-fiduciary advisor. I didn’t trust the industry; so I wanted to join a firm that was forward-looking to a better way of doing things.
I became interested in fee-only financial planning when I learned what it meant to be a fiduciary – and that there was a growing movement of advisors determined to give financial advice the right way, with their incentives aligned with their clients.
Originally, I wasn’t seeking employment from Halpern Financial and I don’t believe they were hiring. I was looking for a mentor, and a colleague introduced me to Melissa Sotudeh, a successful female advisor in a field typically dominated by men. Melissa and I got along very well and she wanted me to meet with Ted. When I learned more about the team, a down to earth, ambitious, and friendly hardworking bunch of mostly women (and mostly mothers!) – I knew I had to join them. The team appreciated the planning side of advice in the same way I did – that the best advice comes from really listening to and understanding a client and all their goals. This is the same team that had the vision to hire a writer and marketing professional to help all of us “numbers-and-graphs” people learn how to better communicate with our clients. We now have more men on the team (to keep us balanced), but having such a driven team of mostly women continues to inspire me today.
Marketing Manager & Portfolio Researcher
Previously, I worked as an editor of investment newsletters, and unfortunately, many of the subscribers were unsophisticated investors lured in by the (slim) potential of high returns. Some of the newsletters were about incredibly high risk strategies, such as intraday options trading. The subscribers did not understand how inappropriate these strategies were for them individually, and the impact was sometimes tragic. I remember having to respond to a customer service email from a subscriber who had lost his granddaughter’s college fund after following the newsletter’s trading recommendations. I knew there had to be a way to provide financial advice in a way that was ethical and helpful; I just didn’t know what it was.
I bumbled my way through interviews for almost a year and found that even the most predatory, commission-laden firms used similar buzzwords on their websites, but when I spoke to them it became clear they were all about the sale, not doing what was in the client’s best interest. This only highlighted for me how important it was to find a fee-only, independent, fiduciary firm where I could be truly proud to work, and I’m glad I found that at Halpern Financial!
I’m a very socially oriented person. I love people and enjoy the interaction with our amazing clientele of Halpern Financial.
I love the people I work with, because they are all awesome dedicated experts in their area of financial management. I love that I have the opportunity to grow and learn new things every day, and that I can make a positive impact by adding that personal touch to our company.
I applied for an administrative position with HFI when I was looking to make a career change. With a business marketing degree and paralegal certification, I had previously worked as a retail department manager and then spent eight years as a patent prosecution legal assistant. I wanted to be part of an industry that really made an impact on peoples' personal lives and I'm also glad I could apply those financial principles to help my own family!
Retirement Plan Consultant & Portfolio Administrator
I studied accounting in school, and was working in that field at the time I was starting my family. We had someone come help us set up term life insurance and it sparked my interest in wealth management. I was bored of accounting and figured personal finance would still be working with numbers, as well as being able to help people. I started as an Advisor but soon found out I enjoyed the servicing aspect more, so I made the switch.
As for how I found Halpern Financial, I met Ted in 2011 for employment, however took a job at a different firm at that time. We kept in touch and had always wanted to work for him, as his philosophy and work ethics were aligned with what I was looking for in an employer. Many years later, when the time was right and stars were aligned, I came to work for Halpern Financial. Dream come true!!!