Spotlight: Meet Michelle Donovan

The Out & About Blog Spotlight Series elevates insight from the financial service industry’s best and brightest. We cover challenging topics around diversity, inclusion, purpose, and inspiring the next generation. 

Through sharing insights and best practices, together we can shape the future of the financial services industry and support improved access to qualified, ethical financial advice and resources for all.


For this week’s spotlight, we interviewed Michelle Donovan, partner/ referral and business coach for financial advisors at Productivity Uncorked in Houston, Pennsylvania. 

What made you decide to pursue a career in finance?

I am not a financial advisor, however I understand them inside and out, especially female advisors. I chose to become a referral and business coach about 18 years ago. At the time, I was coaching general entrepreneurs like myself and began attracting more and more advisors as clients. I quickly realized how much I enjoyed working with advisors because I saw a direct parallel with what we both bring to our clients.

Advisors work hard to help their clients reach their financial goals and make their dreams become a reality. I do the same for my advisor clients. I help them surpass their personal best and develop their own financial security. Advisors build trust with their clients and become their confidant and guide. Coaches do the same, often tightly holding industry secrets in their “vault”.

I also chose to niche my practice as well about 10 years ago. Since then, I market to and only serve financial advisors with a specialty in supporting female financial advisors. This experience has given me the opportunity to help numerous advisors to also niche their practice. For some examples, I’ve helped clients develop niches to serve blue collar workers in agriculture, equestrians, Generation X, small business owners, LGBTQ+, creative entrepreneurs, divorced individuals and widows.

As a coach for financial advisors, I also bring a unique set of skills that enable me to help my clients become better listeners and communicators with their clients. I am a trained facilitator in DiSC behavioral styles, I have a Master’s degree in Adult Education and I have completed a “Neuroscience Approach to Coaching” certification program.

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What part of your work gives you the most satisfaction?

As a coach, I get the most joy when my clients CRUSH their goals and need to set new ones. I get excited when I hear my clients say, “Oh, I’ve never thought of that before,” or “That’s a great question,” or “I can’t believe it worked!” It’s thrilling when a client renews for a second, third or fourth year of coaching because that reflects a stronger commitment to their development and gives us time to go even deeper into the issues for lasting transformation.

It warms my heart when clients surpass a personal best or finally have the money to do the things they’ve been wanting to do for so long. I was speaking to a client today who told me that finally, for the first time ever, she’s not worried about money. She’s preparing to buy a home for herself, all on her own, after years of struggling from a failed relationship. This is huge for her and it was huge for me. I get totally invested in what my clients are working to achieve and so I celebrate their victories with them and lift them up if they fail.

On a personal note, I get great satisfaction from the flexibility I’ve intentionally built into my practice. Working from a home office for more than 18 years and living near family enables me to enjoy the company of my dogs all day long and welcome a visit from my parents for lunch. This experience also enables me to help our clients with their productivity when challenged with working from home.

What needs to be done to diversify the financial services industry?

In two words … a lot. One would have to be hiding under a rock to not know that there is a severe shortage of women, Black, Asian and LGBTQ+ individuals represented in the industry. In my opinion, the shift needs to start at the top. White men currently dominate this industry and successfully built it from the ground up. They now need to lead the charge forward for the future. Men of influence need to stand up, speak up and insist on making changes that will attract minority groups to the industry.

The development of a diverse industry begins by creating a culture that welcomes and supports a diverse population. White men in charge have the power to demand change and build a universal culture of zero tolerance with respect to inequality and harassment. Diverse people are out there who would consider entering into the financial services industry. However, why would they want to subject themselves to a culture that would currently provide them with a constant struggle rather than one of support and inclusion?

When the industry stops talking about it and starts making systemic cultural change, I believe more diverse people would be motivated to consider the opportunity to enter the industry.

What advice would you give financial professionals just beginning their career?

The first bit of advice would be to always stay true to yourself. Ensure that the place you’ve chosen to work is in alignment with your values and supports your authenticity. There’s nothing worse than trying to fit into a place that doesn’t reflect who you are as a person. You need to feel confidence in the company you represent.

The second piece of advice is to build your support network from day one. The best of the best all have support in various capacities. This could include colleagues you admire, formal mentors, thought leaders inside and outside the industry, coaches, instructors, study groups, wholesalers, networking groups, associations, friends, family, partners, etc. Your support network will keep you moving forward, especially on those days you really doubt yourself. Surround yourself with people you can talk to about anything.

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