Solutions Start Here: Principal in Pensions Offers Advice, Listens
Growing up in Chicago with a brother may have helped prepare Julie Yanez for a career in finance and investments.
Now a principal at Retirement Solution Group with two sons of her own, Yanez is based in the Chicago office with a team of 15 women and five men– a definite gendered flip on the industry norm.
Since graduating from Eastern Illinois University in 1991 with majors in math and business, Yanez has worked in finance– first as an actuarial assistant, and later with Buck Consultants and MWM Consulting Group.
She joined the company that is now RSG in April 2007, marking nearly 12 years with the firm that provides outsourced third party 401(k) and pension department capabilities to small-to-mid size markets. The company has offices in Chicago, Portsmouth, N.H. and West Palm Beach, Fla.
“I always worked in finance,” Yanez says. “Most higher ups were male, yet most of the staff were women.”
According to Catalyst, women make up between 41 percent and 58 percent of employees in the global financial services industry, that broadly includes accountants, investment consultants and financial managers. In the U.S. 36.9 percent of financial analysts are women as of 2016 data, and 61.3 percent are accountants and auditors.
Yet, higher up the ladder, a gender gap persists in leadership in financial services.
Catalyst reports, “The Grant Thornton International Business Report reveals that women held 18 percent of global CFO roles in 2014. That same year, women held 25 percent of senior-management roles in the global Financial Services industry.” Another study shows, “In 2016, 79 percent of women working in hedge funds, private equity, and venture capital, investments, or private real estate funds stated that their gender made success as a fund manager more difficult.”
More specifically, in the niche of pensions and investments, a gender gap in leadership exists.
“Pensions & Investments’ special report on the gender gap in institutional investing found that only 9.1 percent of the CEOs and 6 percent of the chief investment officers of the largest institutional U.S. money managers were women as of Dec. 31, 2016, according to our most recent money manager survey. While the percentage of female CEOs has risen from 8.5 percent in 2011, the percentage of women in the CIO role dropped from 7.5 percent,” Pensions & Investments report in 2018.
The gap is contradicted by the outcomes of assets when managed by women.
“There is evidence from Morningstar, released in March, that funds with higher concentrations of female managers did better than funds run exclusively by men or by mixed gender groups and concluded ‘the low participation rate of women in the industry is not justified by performance,'” Pensions & Investments reports.
“I still think it’s hard as a woman in this business,” Yanez says.
But her background growing up playing soccer, volleyball, skiing and golf as well as having a brother “has helped with the barriers,” she says.
Her management approach as a mentor is styled from someone whose wisdom she admires, the late John Wooden, legendary basketball coach at University of California-Los Angeles who died in 2010 at the age of 100.
“His advice was practical leadership,” she says.
Managing the Chicago office, Yanez says, “I give guidance and see where people struggle. You have to manage the person and look at them individually. I have learned to be clear and detailed.” She adds, “You also have to believe in the product, the people and the mission.”
As for a difference in clients whether they are male or female, Yanez says she asks the same questions of what they see for the future. “Whether male or female, they are all striving to retire with dignity,” Yanez says.
Still, for clients and individuals, data shows a retirement gap is gendered.
“In a 2016 study, The National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) concluded that women are far more likely than men to face financial hardship in retirement,” according to Forbes.
“According to the Social Security Administration, more years in retirement means women have a greater chance of exhausting other sources of income, making them more dependent on Social Security. Though Social Security’s cost-of-living protections (which are adjusted annually for inflation) help women, the lifetime earnings gap between men and women often results in lower benefits,” writes Marguerite Cheng in Forbes.
“In this industry, the issue is what you don’t know. Laws are always changing. I am always cautious about the advice I give and you always have to be asking yourself questions,” Yanez says. “It is all about how you apply specific provisions and do plan design.”
Leading in an office that is majority female, Yanez says she mentors a lot of young women and men, and some have gone on to be very successful.
“I’m always surprised that what you say is interpreted in so many different ways,” she says. “I am listening all the time.”