At the ripe old age of 24, Binney Wietlisbach became a branch manager for Meridian Bank inPhiladelphia. She had a staff of 11, wasresponsible for a cost center and felt thatshe was going places.
And she did. Today as presidentof Haverford Trust Company inRadnor, Pennsylvania, Wietlisbach isaccomplished.
Despite her father being the founderof the firm (then Rittenhouse Financial),she had to earn everything. There wereno short cuts. “I learned early you haveto have a thick skin and be assertive,”she says.
Rittenhouse Financial, founded in1979 as an RIA, also became a trust company in 1984. In 1997 the RIA was sold toNuveen, but the trust company remainedand was renamed Haverford Trust.
A trust company is regulated by theFederal Reserve Bank and other bankingwatchdogs, Wietlisbach explains. Andthough in about 20% of the businessthey act as corporate fiduciaries, about80% is providing client advice, “just likea regular RIA,” she says.
When the RIA was sold, the trust company had 17 employees and $900 million inassets under management. Today, despitea 10-year non-compete arrangement withNuveen, they have 100 employees and $9billion under management with close to6,000 accounts. Plus, 50% of its employeesare women, Wietlisbach says.
Despite a psychology, statistics and
religion degree from Penn State, “my
forte has always been numbers. I’m a
total geek,” she says. After graduation
she found herself getting interviews for
bank management training programs,
and started working for Meridian Bank.
She eventually joined HaverfordTrust in 1992 as a portfolio manager andwas part of the executive committee,“because I could do big picture cost center management and strategic thinking,as well as work with individuals.”
In 2008, her father stepped awayfrom being chairman and CEO, andpromoted Joe McLaughlin into thatrole. As Wietlisbach had always beenMcLaughlin’s “right hand man,” she wasnamed president.
When asked to describe any career challenges, she tells a “four-minute story”about what happened when she followedher father’s suggestion and joined theUnion League Club of Philadelphia, whichhad just begun accepting women in 1986.
During a breakfast for new members, she learned about a Juniors groupfor members under age 35 who wanted to play softball and host gatherings.
Wietlisbach signed up on the spot.
But during her first game as the only
female member of the softball team, her
teammates basically ignored her. Walking
home from the game, she wondered if
joining the group had been “a bad idea.”
But a few guys on the team called her the
next day and explained “the drama.”
When the club had debated whether
or not to let women in as members a
year before, the Juniors group was the
most vocal opponent of the change. One
of its members even had said that if a
woman played on the team, he would
leave and take the star pitcher with him.
But not all felt that way and the grouppleaded with Wietlisbach to come playagain, which she did.
During warm ups a week later,though, Wietlisbach saw the previousanti-female team member complain tothe captain about her presence; he laterthrew his glove down and left.
She stayed, played and even joinedher teammates the following week atthe Union League bar, the Old Café, thenstill off limits to women.
“When I went up to the bar and asked
for a gin and tonic, the bartender said
‘no,’” she recalls, and he asked her to
leave. “Steam was blowing out of my ears.
I had never been discriminated against
just because I was a female. I thought, my
God, it’s 1987. This is ridiculous.”
After some arguing with the manager,
Wietlisbach was allowed to stay. And
that’s how she became the first woman
to get a drink in the Old Café — breaking
a unique “glass” ceiling.
“I look back on that, and it wasn’t something I had set out to do. I was just reacting,” she explains. “The purpose of that
WOMEN IN WEALTH
By Ginger Szala
Wealth Exec’s Grit Earned Her More
Than a Mitt
With her softball story, Haverford Trust’s Binney Wietlisbach
shows how being assertive pays off for women.