Jeanne Gibson Sullivan was recognized for Excellence in Financial Planning at the 2015 Women in Finance Markets Choice Awards.
What follows is a lightly edited transcript of a January 6 telephone interview.
Markets Media: Describe your role at Financially in Tune.
Jeanne Gibson Sullivan: I founded Financially in Tune almost exactly five years ago. I am the sole owner. I’m 58 years old, and friends are starting to retire. A couple weeks ago I was asked “what is your ultimate career goal?”. This is it! I absolutely love what I do and I love being on my own.
I work with clients in two ways. For some clients I manage their portfolio and do comprehensive financial planning, and for other clients I work on an hourly basis. In both regards, I operate as a fiduciary, meaning that I put the client’s interests first, which is now a real hot-button issue with the Department of Labor ruling about to go into effect. I work with a wide range of clients in the Northeast, Boston and New York. I’m a little bit unusual in that I work with clients with less than $1 million, as minimums are quite high in the Northeast. I like working with all types of clients — the age range of clients that I worked with last year was 22 to 92. I work with people who are starting out, pre-retirees, retirees — all sorts of people.
MM: What do you do to achieve excellence in financial planning?
JGS: First, we operate truly as a fiduciary. We are always trying to recommend for clients what is in their best interest. A lot of times, there’s more than one right answer, so it’s really trying to not only recommend what’s best for them, but guide them so that they can make good, informed choices.
Competence is important. I’ve been a financial planner for 20 years now, and the landscape is constantly changing. Some things that were the same for decades, like social security, changed last year. Taxes change — sometimes just a little bit, but certainly every year. So competence and keeping up with the changes are important.
I try to under-promise and over-deliver. I always try to get back to clients in a timely way and try to keep ahead as best as I can.
Cost is important too, in terms of excellence. We use a lot of low-cost index funds and we keep our own costs low.
MM: What is your perspective on being a successful woman in finance, i.e. what has been your experience as a woman in a field that at least historically has been dominated by men? What is your advice for young women who aspire to a career similar to yours?
JGS: I believe a key to success is to no be swayed by what you think you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do. My parents never said because you’re a girl, you shouldn’t do X, Y, or Z. That was important for me.
Sometimes you need a sense of humor to be successful. And competence cannot be underestimated.
In terms of advice for younger women, I’d say trust your gut. My career was not a straight line, but I made decisions along the way that I felt were right. It wasn’t the prescribed path of climbing the corporate ladder — I’ve lived in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and I’ve done a variety of different careers. It has meandered some, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
Also, be open to changes and opportunities. You can carve a great career, but sometimes a door is closed or an opportunity comes up and you can’t always predict that. You can prepare for it, but you can’t predict it.
Featured image by vacant/Dollar Photo Club