Company Culture & Values

Why Financial Services Needs More Women and How We Can Support Them

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We talked with Cary about:

  • How she created a community of women advisors and mentors who are on a mission to spark change in the financial services industry 
  • Creating a space in which future generations of women are empowered to lead
  • The ripple effect of creating an organic environment where everyone has a seat at the table

About Cary Carbonaro:

Cary Carbonaro is a renowned author, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, and advocate for women in finance. With over 25 years of experience, Cary currently serves as senior vice president and director of women and wealth at Advisors Capital Management, where she champions financial empowerment for women. Recognized for her groundbreaking book, “The Money Queen’s Guide,” and her leadership in the industry, Cary has earned prestigious awards, such as the InvestmentNews Women to Watch and multiple appearances on the Investopedia 100 list, including ranking in the top four in 2019. Beyond her professional achievements, Cary’s impactful Rethinking65 article, “Where Are the Women Advisors?” inspired the creation of Fem Force, a mentorship group for women supporting women in finance. Through her advocacy and mentorship, Cary is driving progress and fostering diversity in the financial services industry, empowering women to overcome challenges and excel in their careers.

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Full Audio Transcript

Lauren (00:03):
Okay, well welcome. Thank you for being here.

Cary (00:06):
Thank you for having me.

Lauren (00:07):
Yes. Okay, so we were just chatting and I feel like I have seen you all over the internet between being interviewed, podcasts, doing speaking events. I was like, it is nonstop. And I was just sharing with you, I'm like, we've got to chat. I want to hear this story with everything you've got going on — author — it goes on and on and on. So I am really excited to just get your story and especially to talk about women and wealth and this whole world and how you're championing that. So before I kind of take over everything, I would love to just hand the mic over and let you do a proper introduction.

Cary (00:49):
Sure. So my name is Cary. I've been in financial services for 25-plus years. It has definitely not been a straight line. It's kind of been like this. It's much, much, much more difficult to be a woman in this industry than people know. And it's interesting because when I get asked all the time, and also to be a financial advisor, how much harder it is to be a woman in this profession — and people say, I've made it and I'm successful and I'm at the top of the profession or whatever — and I always say if I knew how hard it was, I wouldn't have done it. And people are like, what? And I'm like, yes, that's how difficult it is. But that's why my mission is to help women in this profession and also to change the profession, to make it more female friendly.

And it's a very big mission. It's the big, hairy, audacious goal that you almost can't reach. But I'm still reaching for it and I get there and I feel like I'm moving the boulder up the hill and then it rolls back on me. And so I've had a lot of challenges in my career and successes, and it's how you recover from them that makes you stronger and makes your story unique. But my fast answer to that is, so I wrote this book, “The Money Queen Guide.” I originally started writing in 2000 and, gosh, it's old now, it came out in 2012, really old. Yeah, I wrote it in 2012 right after my divorce. I had a very, very difficult divorce. And I wrote this book afterward to share my story about what happened to me and share it with others, and then also teach women what to do based on what I've seen with my clients and mistakes they've made and what to do in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s.

So that's this book. And that was my first incredible challenge. Then flash forward to 2019, and at that moment in time I was at United Capital. I was a partner, I was head of women's leadership. I was the voice of the woman. I was a fin life coach. I had a diamond level practice, which is the highest you could get. I was definitely moving the needle. I was doing everything I wanted to do in my career. I was number four, ranked in Investopedia's top 100 financial advisors. That was 2019. And then we got sold to Goldman Sachs, which was incredibly horrible for me. Horrible for most people but really incredibly horrible for me because I was told you are now no longer head of women's leadership. You are now no longer the voice of the woman. Your only job is to sit down, shut up, and babysit your clients.

Lauren (03:54):
Oh goodness. 

Cary (03:55):
I couldn't speak, I couldn't write, I couldn't go on TV. I couldn't go on social media. I couldn't have a voice. And it was pretty much like my heart and soul was ripped out. I couldn't do what I love. Help women. What I love. I couldn't even be who I am. I couldn't even be myself. And so it was the most incredibly challenging experience of my life. Even worse than going through my divorce. But very, very similar. Incredibly similar. I actually wrote in my second book, which is not out yet but I actually wrote a chapter on the similarities between going through my divorce from an abusive ex-husband and being at Goldman Sachs

Lauren (04:38):
The parallels between it, emotionally, financially.

Cary (04:43):
Could not believe how similar it was. But anyway, so to get out of that I unfortunately spent three years spending a fortune of money with an attorney to try to get myself out of this contract at Goldman unsuccessfully. I tried to buy my business back. They reneged on me. All the guys got to buy their businesses back. I'm the only one they said no to. I'm the only woman. I had to quit, run at my non-compete, and then not work for most of last year. And then I just started back up again last year. So it's been incredibly difficult.

Lauren (05:19):
It's been a journey.

Cary (05:21):
It’s been incredibly difficult, really, really difficult. And then, I don't know if you know the story but Goldman actually over the summer decided to sell gold, sell Goldman, sell United Capital, and they sold them to Creative Planning. So Goldman paid 750 million for United Capital and sold it for a hundred million. They took a 650 million loss. And everyone called me and said, you were right. You were right about everything. I felt incredibly vindicated but it didn't matter. It still doesn't take away the pain of what happened. 

Lauren (05:54):
I mean, I guess while you didn't have that public voice in the same way, perhaps you were still fighting internally, so that fight was still alive. So tell us about the other side. Where are you now? And we're here, right? I mean, like I said, we opened up and I'm like, oh my gosh, I see you. I mean, you are loud and it's beautiful. You're sharing and you've got a story. So yeah, tell us more about where you are now and what it's like for you on the other side.

Cary (06:21):
So on the other side, it's kind of interesting because when I was leaving, nobody wanted to hire me. I mean, no one. Everyone thought I was getting sued by Goldman Sachs and I had only one firm that would take me, and that's where I am right now. So it was a crazy story. Everybody was afraid of me getting sued by Goldman. I had attorneys saying I was definitely getting a TRO. I was definitely going to have a multimillion dollar lawsuit because they were coming after me because they were making an example out of me. Which by the way, I don't know if you know but women historically, when they get sued in TROs and all these kinds of things in the industry, they are penalized more than men. There's a whole case study on that. It's really horrible. But anyway, it didn't happen because I knew it wasn't going to happen. I knew they were going to leave me alone because of the fact that they wouldn't let me buy my business back. And they knew that. I knew that. I knew they discriminated against me. So I knew they weren't going to touch me. So it's very interesting. So I tell people I'm climbing out of my black hole. I am not back to where I was in 2019 but I'm working on it and I feel like I'm closer. Every day I get closer.

Lauren (07:46):
Oh my goodness. So I want to swing back to what you were sharing earlier about this idea of it's tough and wanting to be able to uplift other women and be able to help support them and kind of educate them. You were saying earlier, I don't know if you know, but this is what happens. There's a case study to prove this. So what do you envision if you were to be a woman in the financial services industry, what would be kind of the vision for what that would look like to be able to help empower, educate, uplift, even maybe organizational structures? I'd love to hear more about that side of things and even how maybe some of those ideas could empower other people who are in seats where they also want to uplift others as well. 

Cary (08:34):
Well, one thing that I did, I wrote an article for Rethinking65, which goes to other financial professionals. It has industry articles. And so I wrote an article exactly a year ago, this time last year, and it was called, “Where Are the Women Advisors?” And it was so impactful that I had so many women reach out to me and say, hey, we got to do something about this. Let's do a group. So I put together a mastermind group and we actually now call ourselves Fem Force. And we are trying to figure out mentorship and sponsorship for women in the industry because not only is it hard to get women in the industry, it's even harder to keep them in the industry because they leave for multiple reasons as you know.

Lauren (09:26):
And I want to go into that before, and we're talking industry, are we just talking wealth management? Are we talking, just to clarify, are we talking kind of like banking and insurance?

Cary (09:36):
I would say it's probably all of the above but I'm specifically focused on women financial advisors just because that's my world right now. However, I have been in banking, I have been in marketing. I was head of marketing for Lord Abbett mutual funds back in the day before I started my own practice. So I've been in all different areas of it.

My whole career has been in financial services but specifically in the women financial advisor space, it's pretty much a 20/80. It's a little bit better now. I think we're at 23% women CFP®s, which is better than 20. So we're in the right direction. And all the new numbers show there's more women taking the test. There's more women becoming financial advisors, which is all great. However, we have to keep them in the industry and not wanting to quit and having the opportunities. And it's just much harder for women because even women, I always say I think women should want to work with women like a female gynecologist. But what happens is it's not necessarily the case. I've actually had women who have tried to refer their friends to me and they feel more comfortable with a man because a man's supposed to take care of the money, and that's the norm and that's the status quo of the world we live in. So women who are in this industry have to work harder, work smarter, be 10 times more than the men to just even be on the same playing field, which is why it's so hard for us. And then even out of that, let's say 23%, I always say not everybody of that 23% is actually going out to get clients, which is the hardest part of the job. They're in support roles, they're junior advisors, client servicing, advisors, teaching.

It's a smaller percentage of people who like me, go out and actually bring in clients or what we call the rainmaking role. And actually there's a “Rethinking 65” about that too, what female rainmakers think and how we act and how difficult it is for us and why.

Lauren (12:03):
Okay. So to swing back earlier, saying a number of advisors are leaving for a variety of reasons. What is this group doing to help stop that? If it's because of some icky thing in the industry, or people don't feel like they've got the right mentorship or what have you, or maybe it's just, I don't know, they never had someone kind of bring them up, that mentorship piece of it. What are the conversations that are coming out of that, and is there a model that's being taken kind of firm to firm to help uplift folks, or I'd love to hear more on that too.

Cary (12:34):
So there is no such thing that is a hundred percent working. There's a lot of people trying to get it right. There is a lot of mentorship, there is a lot of sponsorship. Or actually there's probably more mentorship than sponsorship. And I don't know if it's meeting the person where they are. Let's say you're at a small firm and it's all men and you're the only woman working there, and you don't see a path to succeed for yourself because you have to see it to be it, so to say. So holding women up in the industry who are doing the right things and trying to help other women, those are the people I wanted to get into the group to be able to help other people and meet them where they are. So it's just a matter of time, and by the way, we're not there yet. I mean, our website's not even completed yet. And we also have to decide if we're going to be a nonprofit or not. The whole thing. There's so much to do and it's going to be another full-time job that I'm not going to get paid for. So I haven't decided which route we're going yet, or if we're going to join an existing mentorship program and see if we can back onto them. So believe me, I do not have the answers. I just want to bring the conversation around.

Lauren (13:48):
And you want to be able to bring that group together to be able to facilitate that kind of upward momentum. Because it's one of those things, if you've got, well, you were in the marketing world, there's gorilla marketing, right? So you've got all these different people talking and it helps to create that kind of uproar. So part of that is you're helping to be a glue to facilitate that chatter and what have you, that kind of underground movement, it sounds like, of those voices, not just a quiet voice but a publicly loud voice to help champion the projects.

Cary (14:17):
And then one of the things you asked me too, which I wanted to circle back to answer, is structures, which structures seem to work. So it's interesting, my friends own and run Equita, and they believe women should own their own firm, and they think that's the way women can really succeed better is if they own their own firm. But I've seen women who are partners in a larger firm, and that works too. And I've seen, as long as I think women have a seat at the table, I think that's the most important thing. So what I mean by that is a woman at her firm should be in the discussions on the future, the discussions on the pay, the strategy, she needs to be in those meetings. Otherwise, it's kind of a waste of her time because there's no way she's going to be able to affect change if she doesn't have a seat at the table. So in some cases, that's partnership. In some cases it's ownership. In some cases it's being the largest advisor in the firm. It really depends. But having your voice heard and having a seat at the table to me is the most important thing.

Lauren (15:35):
Yeah, I hear what you're saying. You've got to be on the bus to be able to help be a part of the conversations. And if you're not facilitating that organically as a natural way to be able to open doors to be able to come in, then there's a trusted circle. And so being able to help bring people up to be in that trusted circle is, I mean, that's a culture thing too. So shifting those cultures, shifting those kind of the multi-generational, I just think about the next gen, right? How do you train them to be able to help raise the next generation — the next generation to be able to shift those cultures, to be able to bring different people into the room. So you're literally on the bus, you're not hanging on, you're not left on the side. You are on the bus, you've gotten in the room, you're in the boardroom. 

Cary (16:20):
Actually, I don't know if you saw Hamilton but there's a thing, I want to be in the room where it happens, and that's what they're talking about.

Lauren (16:27):
So well said. Yes. I love it. Okay, so we've covered so many things here you have such an incredible story. I appreciate your transparency and sharing it, and also that you, despite everything, how crazy it's been, that you are still so passionate and fired up about making a difference. You could have also just been in a place where you're like, okay, off to the next thing but you're like, I see the change and I want to be a part of that change. And that's not easy to be able to do that. And then to be able to put yourself out there and be able to pull folks together. So just applaud you for that grit and that. Thank you.

Cary (17:07):
Yeah. Yes. My tenacity is definitely quite strong. I tell people there's almost every day where I feel like quitting, and yet I don't. And then the reason being is because I do want to make a difference in this world, and I do want to make a difference in this profession, and I do want to make a difference in this industry, and I want to make it more female friendly. And what's interesting, I always talk about the shift that's coming, the upcoming shift, women are going to inherit two-thirds of the nation's wealth by 2030, which is now a mere almost six years away. And I cannot walk away from that opportunity when it's what I believe in. And so I'm going to stay until that happens. And right now by the way, because people are always like, well, what is it at now? Right now it's at 33%, so it's going to double within the next six years.

Lauren (18:01):
Yeah. Well, more women are going to college. And you can look at it from a variety of angles but super interesting. Okay. Any final thoughts you've got  or things you think would be helpful to share? Any resources, anything that, any last words?

Cary (18:14):
Well, I would love for anybody to reach out to me. I'm easy to reach. You can find me on any social media channel, LinkedIn, Facebook, X. I'm even on TikTok, Instagram.

Lauren (18:26):
You're on it all.

Cary (18:27):
Find me. I'm really easy to reach out to and I answer all my messages if you want to reach out and ask me a question.

Lauren (18:35):
Oh my gosh. So great. We'll make sure to include your link to the articles you mentioned and book and a variety of things. So again, appreciate your time and like I said earlier, I just admire you continuing to champion this effort and the mission-driven core you have to be able to make a difference and be able to help not only through the work you're doing on a day-to-day, to be able to help, inspire, mentor but also to be able to help spread that to other firms and folks who want to be able to help lift that mission and take it higher. So thank you again for your time.

Cary (19:04):
You're so welcome.

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