International Women’s Day is March 8, a celebration of women’s achievements and a call to continue to build equality together. Today we will talk with Ann Miletti, Head of Active Equity at Wells Fargo Asset Management, about her career, why she’s passionate about asset management as a viable and rewarding career choice for young women today. A transcript is on AdvantageVoice®.
Ann Miletti: I think women just want to be seen as an equal partner, so hopefully, there will be a point in time when we will see equality across the board in our industry and others.
Laurie King: That’s Ann Miletti. I’m Laurie King, and you are listening to On the Trading Desk®. This episode celebrates International Women’s Day, which is March 8, a day dedicated to celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women. It’s also a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.
As we think about building a gender equal world, one mission of the International Women’s Day in 2020 is to champion women of all backgrounds who dare to innovate, lead, and uplift others toward a more equal and inclusive workplace. That’s why today we’re speaking with Ann Miletti, a passionate advocate for women’s equality and Head of Active Equity at Wells Fargo Asset Management. I also want to let our listeners know that today’s episode is based on a featured insight called Speaking from the heart: Women in finance. It’s written by Ann and you can find on our website, www.wellsfargoassetmanagement.com. So let’s get started. Welcome to the program, Ann.
Ann: Happy to be here, Laurie.
Laurie: Can you share what International Women’s Day means to you?
Ann: Sure. I think it’s a day to recognize how far women have come, but also a moment to pause and recognize that there still is a lot of room for growth, especially within business.
Laurie: Ann, you’ve been at the forefront of making asset management a more visible career choice for women. Why is that?
Ann: Because women are underrepresented in our industry. I mean, there’s some interesting stats out there that show how underrepresented women are, and one particularly stands out to me, and it’s how few women are portfolio managers within our industry.
Morningstar’s been doing surveys going back for years, but the one that they’ve done on gender, dating back to 2015, shows that there’s fewer than 10% of portfolio managers who are women today. If you want women to be elevated to those positions, we have to get more women into positions like an analyst role, like in sales, like client facing roles, which are important and would benefit our clients and the entire industry.
Laurie: So why do you think there underrepresented in finance when they’re not underrepresented in other professions, such as medicine and academics?
Ann: One, because women don’t see a lot of role models. When you don’t see women represented in the industry, you may never consider that industry for yourself. Another reason may be the way that Hollywood and the media often portray the financial services industry, and in particular, Wall Street. It’s often portrayed as immoral and driven by greed and selfishness, and women may think that that’s not an industry for them, but I personally see the polar opposite.
Laurie: Well, that’s interesting. Why do you have a polar opposite view of the industry?
Ann: Because I’ve seen the industry help so many people. I’ve seen it help communities where foundations have used our industry to help grow assets to build beautiful buildings that the community can use. I’ve seen it help people grow assets for retirement. I’ve seen it help families build assets to send their kids to college, so the growth of assets is not something that’s all about greed. It’s to actually help people and communities, as well.
Laurie: So, we have research that shows women possess important attributes that enable them to be very successful investors, right?
Ann: Yes, our own Wells Fargo Investment Institute has done some research on this and we found that women do possess attributes, such as patience and discipline through asset allocation. They seek out more advice from investment professionals, which just means to me that we should be trying to attract more women because those attributes lead to more success in our business.
Laurie: So let’s talk about how we, team members in asset management, could take action to get more women into asset management careers. You made four points in committing to action. First, starting early is important. What does that mean?
Ann: When we go out and try to recruit at the college level, what we find is we don’t see a lot of diversity in the pipeline coming from college because women haven’t considered the field of finance or asset management, in particular, as a career choice for them. That tells me, when I talk to the college professors, that we need to start at the high school level or even earlier. And I think at that level, making students more aware of the potential career opportunities is important and that’s where I feel like we need to start earlier.
Laurie: And the second step in taking action is to create a more positive image. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Ann: Well, I think one of the ways you create a more positive image is by trying to show through example some of the ways that our industry can help people. And so I’m personally involved in a program called SecureFutures in our local community, and this program focuses on financial diversity and providing insight and tools to high school students.
And so, having investment professionals, like myself, but also just other community leaders go into the classroom and teach kids about what debt is, what an interest rate is, what a credit card is, what it means if you don’t pay that credit card off right away, what a bank account is, what a savings account is, what all those things are and why they’re important to your life, can really change their mindset and their behaviors early on. But then that can lead to further discussions about roles in asset management.
Laurie: I’d love to hear more about the before-and-after of how this changed a student.
Ann: Yeah, so I can share one story in particular of a high school student who came into the program. He had more than a part-time job while going to school, and he would go to the check-cashing store with his uncle and his dad to cash his check every week when he got paid.
And when he came into the money coach program at SecureFutures, his money coach talked to him about check-cashing stores and why you probably don’t want to use them and the fee structures that they charge you for cashing your check, etc. They also talked about saving money and why that was so important and the money coach helped him go into a bank and set up his own savings account and save money.
And the feedback from that student was “I would have never considered going into a bank before.” And so he only knew what he knew from his family, but this program taught him that not only could he get a bank account, but he could save money and today, he lives in our community and is a small business owner. And we see examples like this over and over again. And that same bank that he opened up his for savings account with loaned him the money to start his first business.
Laurie: Ann, that is a super powerful story about that student and becoming a small business owner. And a third point is “speak from the heart.” And I know you’re really passionate about this and I just feel like there is going to be this segue to how you ended up doing what you’re doing.
Ann: You know, I think there’s nothing more powerful than telling your own story, and I think something that I was reluctant to do early in my career is talk about my own personal background, because I worked with really smart people that had very successful educational backgrounds, and my background was different. I did have a college degree, but I didn’t go to school in finance and yet, I ended up here.
But what I quickly realized is that my story resonated with other people. And it was a story of going through a personal financial crisis myself that was brought on by significant healthcare bills that we went through with our first child. And that understanding of what it’s like to go through that and why money is important and what happens when you’re in a lot of debt. But then taking that one step further and why managing money for our clients is important and why growing and keeping their assets secure is so important. But then taking it beyond that, talking to other women about this field and talking to them about my own personal story and my experiences in this industry, coming from my background, which was very different than most, and starting in a place that was a much lower level position than I’m in today and rising through the ranks, showing them and giving them an example that they may be able to do it, too, I think is important. I’m no longer afraid to share that story because I see the power behind it.
Laurie: And I know that a fourth point of taking action about getting people into the asset management industry is “recognize strengths”. What do you mean by that?
Ann: I think running a team myself on the investment side to running a team now, what I see is you have people with all different types of capabilities and those should be celebrated in different ways.
I know in working with people from the outside, there might be a person that I call that has a certain expertise in one area and I need that expertise for one thing, but then I need expertise of a totally different kind that I make a different phone call for. And the same would be true internally, and when you’re building teams, you have to have a lot of diversity in thought and in the leaders that you have because you don’t want a cookie-cutter approach. The market doesn’t run that way. People don’t think about their finances that way. We want to have people that have different strengths and different abilities and have diversity of thought.
Laurie: Well, Ann, as we wrap up this episode, do you have any final thoughts to leave with our listeners?
Ann: Well, I would just say again, as we started the program, it’s pretty exciting this week to see how far women have come. This is actually the 100th anniversary of women being allowed to vote this year, which seems like a long time to some women. To me, it doesn’t seem that long at all. So that’s a great thing to celebrate, but it also reminds us how much further we can go and I think we all play an important role in it. And I can speak for myself about this, but I think women just want to be seen as an equal partner, so hopefully, there will be a point in time when we will see equality across the board in our industry and others.
Laurie: Well, thank you so much for talking with us today, Ann.
Ann: Thank you, Laurie.
Laurie: For our listeners, if you’d like to learn more about asset management, whether to learn more about careers or investing or what may be happening in the markets, go to www.wellsfargoassetmanagement.com. Until next time, I’m Laurie King; take care.