While there’s still a need for more women business owners in the finance industry, this mother-daughter team is one fine example of how determination and leadership can bring great success on a road less traveled. NAWBO-Central New Jersey members Susan Michel, CEO, and Carol Ann Michel, Vice President of Retirement Plans Department, lead Glen Eagle, a financial advisory and broker-dealer where they serve clients across the nation and continue to grow to new heights. So how does this mother-daughter team make it happen? Find out in this Q&A with Susan and Carol Ann.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS. WHEN DID YOU START, WHAT WAS IT LIKE IN THE BEGINNING AND HOW HAS IT GROWN TO WHAT IT IS TODAY?
Susan: “Prior to starting Glen Eagle, I was a school teacher in Germany, where my husband, John, was stationed as an officer in the U.S. Army. Shortly after moving back to the States with three children, I decided to take a financial course taught by a financial advisor. One Saturday after the course ended, the financial advisor called the house and I answered. After we had spoken for a few minutes, he asked to speak with my husband to discuss our investments, as the information ‘was a little technical.’ Needless to say, he did not get to speak to my husband and I set my career path in a new direction.
Ironically, that conversation led to me founding and growing my own financial advisory business. I began as a small-scale operation at the kitchen table. During my first 13 years as an advisor, I saw firsthand the challenges women face in the financial industry. I remember reading in 2002 that while there were almost 5,500 broker dealers in the United States, less than 1 percent were women owned and led. I decided it was time to help change this imbalance by starting Glen Eagle. Since that time, Glen Eagle has steadily grown. The firm has clients in 28 states and more than $450 million in client assets.
I built Glen Eagle to be centered around the value statement of ‘Faith, Family, Firm’ in that order. To break that simple maxim apart, Faith is the idea that we need to realize there is a larger meaning to life than just investments. Family is the idea that we are a family company and therefore think of our clients and employees as a part of that family and also that for many of our clients, investments are just a way to realize dreams and that often those dreams revolve around family. And finally, Firm. We intentionally list this last because we always want to remind ourselves and our clients that the Firm is last in order of priority, not first, as it is for many other financial service providers.”
Carol Ann: “I joined Glen Eagle a year ago. Since that time, I have been able to be an active participant in the growth of the firm. My first assignment was to take our business retirement plans business to the next level. We have doubled this business over the last year and I feel like we have only scratched the surface of the opportunity to help business owners and their employees build their retirement savings, allowing them to reach the number one financial planning goal for most people. In particular, I have enjoyed enhancing our employee education programs to focus on the different ways that different employee groups, such as Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers prefer to learn.”
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES AND BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH YOUR MOTHER/DAUGHTER?
Susan: “There are very few mother-daughter teams in finance. Glen Eagle is 100 percent woman-owned and it is great to have the next generation join. I built Glen Eagle from my kitchen table with the idea that I wanted to empower other women in the financial industry to be able to have both a family and a career. There is no one better to help in continuing this mission than Carol Ann, who grew up as the firm was growing.”
Carol Ann: “It has been an amazing opportunity to join Glen Eagle and help in bringing an already successful firm to the next level. My mom has a lot of experience and knowledge of the industry and I have the benefit of learning from her. I also feel that I bring new ideas and perspectives to my mom based on my experiences at Merrill Lynch and M&T Bank along with what I learned from my MBA studies. I am also the only daughter with three brothers, so I have always had a special bond with my mom. Working together has only strengthened this relationship as we work together to reach a common goal of helping our clients and growing the firm. The biggest challenge has been transitioning to calling my mom ‘Susan’ at work.”
HOW HAS NAWBO IMPACTED YOUR WORK AS BUSINESS OWNERS?
Susan: “NAWBO is a great network of women business owners. It is a place to share the dynamics of working and gives us the opportunity to share our experiences with each other. It has also led to Glen Eagle working with a lot of other women businesses that I have met at NAWBO over the years. It is an empowering support system, both personally and for the firm.”
Carol Ann: “As a new member, I am just beginning to see NAWBO’s impact. I have already started meeting other business owners. The network is warm, welcoming and supportive and I look forward to becoming more involved.”
WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF WORKING TOGETHER?
Susan: “Being able to share our love for math and finance while also helping others. Very few parents get to share the love of their work with their children. Knowing I built something that they want to continue growing is a dream for a parent. It also lets our clients know that Glen Eagle will be around for the long term.”
Carol Ann: “The best part is being able to help educate and empower our clients, especially other women. As the next generation, I am excited to continue growing my mom’s vision of Glen Eagle and helping us get to the next level.”