As head of BlackRock’s dedicated Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) business, I had the pleasure of meeting Tina Powell, the CEO and Founder of SheCapital. We talked about some of the challenges women face today in the workplace and special women that made a difference in her career.
You talk about that we finance professionals are in the business of risk. What are some of the biggest risks you’ve taken in your life?
Powell: The decision to pivot my career. I went from being a solopreneur/marketing consultant to working for a well-known life insurance company about 10 years ago. At the beginning I was very uncomfortable, having to learn everything from scratch about a new industry. But the challenge kept me focused—I was more resilient as a result—long enough to discover wealth management and my affinity for the RIA business.
But that meant going all in, walking away from the company that I built from the ground up. It was a huge gamble, but it was the right move and I did not let my jitters stop me from making the jump. For me, it’s about living with both sides of the “risk coin,” good and bad. Nothing in this world is guaranteed; there’s no such thing as a sure thing.
Plenty has been written about how men and women approach risk differently. And conventional wisdom says parents—being a mother—tend to be more conservative. But your take on this is a little different. Parenting helps you take risks. Why is that?
Powell: Being a mom is one of the hardest if not the hardest job in the universe. Like the markets, no one day is ever the same when you are raising kids, and some of the hiccups (calls from the nurse’s office for one) definitely put my risk sensitivity to the test. As a mom, your job is to mitigate risk on a daily basis and not try to control things you cannot. You hope that you have instilled in your kids a strong foundation of good judgement.
As far as work, having a family gives me the stability that allows me to make the leap of changing my career. If things don’t work out, I can still go home to my kids, and that’s a gift. In many ways, I manage my life like I manage my investments. Spread your life and meaning; diversify. Life is good when it is the sum of many different things.
I cannot agree with you more on how important it is for women to speak up at work. I also know a lot of confident and smart women who are naturally more quiet and tend to say something when there is something smart to say. What is your advice for them? Can you be on the quiet side and succeed as a leader?
Powell: The financial services industry is loaded with intelligent women, and the same can be said in other male-dominated industries such as tech and engineering. While being vocal is a good way to impress, there are other ways to shine. Leadership is not about being the loudest voice in the room; it is about actions you take and the example you set. If you are an introvert or shy, don’t let that stop you from pursuing success and leading. Look at President Abraham Lincoln or Maya Angelou; they were both introverts. My advice is: Try different things (writing and research come to mind in finance, for example) and get into an area that you love and where you can thrive, even if that means softly.
Who are some of the mentors and models for your life and career?
Powell: The most important and influential mentors in my career have been my mother and aunt. Both overcame incredible odds and worked very hard to give me a quality education at a top high school and university. My mother, the eldest of nine children, spent the last 15 years of her career working for a tax accountant, an international cosmetics company and teaching seniors the basics of digital photography on a cruise line (for real).
My aunt Gina, an estate attorney, took a secretary job in order to put herself through law school at a time when it was unfashionable and women just ‘didn’t do those types of things’. To this day, they are powerful examples of reinvention to me. They change the status quo. They aim high and think big.
Hollie Fagan is the Head of BlackRock’s Registered Investment Advisor business.