“Working in the yogurt department of General Mills was not going tobe my thing,” Minneapolis-raised CammySmith, 35, recalls in an interview withInvestment Advisor. In college, she waspre-med. But what turned out to be her“thing” was becoming a financial advisorand transforming her father’s practiceinto a multi-generational “future-proof”firm. In January, she was named CEO.
Now that she’s leading the 15-personBloomington, Minnesota-based independent firm — with five advisors, clients in 36 states and $700 million underadvisement — dad Ted Smith, 65, hastaken the role of chairman, workingsolely with clients.
It was Ted, IEM’s co-founder some
40 years ago, who suggested that shebecome a financial advisor. After training at an affiliate firm, she joined hisbusiness in 2008 — smack in the middleof the financial crisis.
In 2016, while working at IEM as anadvisor, she founded, Revive Consulting,to help advisors with growth and succession planning. First client: her father.As IEM’s chief strategy officer, sheestablished a multi-generational next-gen focus and helped recast the firm asa fee-based fiduciary providing holisticfinancial planning.
Here are highlights of our interview:
How can the industry interest more
women to be financial advisors?
We need to influence and change infor-
mal culture — the day-to-day practices,
unspoken rules, the little comments that
are made. We can do that through the
people who are powerful in making deci-
sions: the leadership. We need to get
men [leaders] to advocate for women.
Diversity of thought and perspective mat-
ter. It’s been proven that companies with
female CEOs, or at least with one female
board member, do better financially than
when [leaders] are entirely men.
Secondly, [regarding] the constraintsand limits we put on ourselves. The[big] corporate environment providespersonal development through professional associations. But a lot of advisorsin an independent environment don’thave that [offered to them]. We can helpempower more women through professional development and community.
What does it mean to you to be the first
female CEO of your firm?
I feel really proud. I also feel that nowI’m responsible to raise up and advocate for women financial advisors andwomen [in business generally].
What’s the biggest challenge you’re
facing as CEO?
It’s very difficult for me to be in the
here-and-now and balance the risk of
our business and what we do, with all
the possibilities out there. There are so
many cool things we can do. The biggest
challenge is to remember that it takes
time to invest in people, to create a sus-
tainable business and to be patient with
that and, hopefully, enjoy it.
Nowadays, what’s mostly on your
It seems they’re less concerned with themarket and market performance. Becauseof COVID time, they’re asking morequestions about deep existential things,like “What do I want to accomplish [in]my life?” We see that consistently acrossall age groups. For retired clients and[baby] boomers, it’s “How do I enjoy lifemore now that I’ve ‘made it’?” The millennials and some of the Gen Xers areasking, “How do I align my values and theactions I take in life with my investing?”
What’s the best business lesson you
learned from your father?
His mantra of “clients first, always.”It’s always been about the clients first,and that [holds true] across our wholeorganization.
What’s the secret to your success?One thing is surrounding myself withenergy unicorns — people who bringme energy. Also, being curious seemsto drive me. At the same time, it keepsme humble because there’s so much outthere to do and learn and see. What I’vebeen learning more in recent years isto trust myself, to look inside and trustmyself in business, in life.
WOMEN IN WEALTH
By Jane Wollman Rusoff
How a 35-Year-Old CEO ‘Future-Proofed’
Her Father’s Firm
Cammy Smith discusses her journey from pre-med student to financial
advisor to consultant and chief executive.