Woman On Wall Street: Jane Newton, CFP®, MBA, is a Managing Partner and Wealth Advisor at RegentAtlantic and the Founder of the RegentAtlantic Wall Street Women Forum®. RegentAtlantic hosts a series of powerful invitation-only events to address what’s foremost on the minds of high-level women on Wall Street. Now in its eighth year, the Forum community has grown to over 750 women. Newton speaks to Vanity + Trade about her experience of advising and helping inspire women who work at the top of the financial services industry.
Tell us about your background and your role at RegentAtlantic.
I transitioned into my current role as a wealth advisor mid-career. Before this, I worked in investment banking and private banking at J.P. Morgan. Shifting from advising corporate clients to private clients was one of the most important career decisions I made. As much as I loved guiding the leadership of Fortune 100 companies, nothing beats my current role. I now have a direct impact on the futures of the individuals and families sitting right across the table from me.
Twelve years ago, I joined RegentAtlantic, a New Jersey-based private wealth management firm serving high-net-worth clients. I immediately found myself drawn to working with people in financial services careers, especially women. My Wall Street background has helped me do what I enjoy most—advise smart, busy women and men who don’t have the time or interest to put together all of the messy pieces of their financial lives to get where they want to go.
How would you say the financial landscape has changed over the years, as you have advised women about their asset management?
Actually, the landscape has changed quite a bit. I’ve seen women increasingly earn the bulk of the income and control the investment and financial decisions in their households. Many of the women I work with are the primary or solo breadwinners in their families. Often they are more engaged in financial issues than their spouses. Sometimes it’s now the husbands I have to coax to attend our financial meetings!
I’ve also noticed that women really want to be educated about their finances. They invest the time to understand their options before making financial decisions. Does this mean that women are not risk-takers? Not at all. However, they won’t necessarily invest on a whim or quick stock tip. And women tend to be more interested in the broader picture of their finances than on the specifics of each investment. My female clients tend to focus on how their choices may impact their family, community and longer-term goals.
Women are increasingly interested in the external impact of their investment decisions, too. They want to know that they’re making a difference with their money.
You founded The RegentAtlantic Wall Street Women Forum in 2010. What inspired you to lead the charge in growing this community?
My focus on helping people on Wall Street dates back to the financial crisis of 2008. My Wall Street clients, and many others in the industry that I knew personally, were deeply concerned about the future of Wall Street and their careers. Financial professionals wanted to know where the job opportunities would be in the future, as well as what they could afford to do as their compensation was being squeezed.
Women on Wall Street were particularly concerned about having to reinvent themselves, once again. In dozens of conversations, I heard the women express a thirst for information and a desire to connect with their industry peers. I saw an opportunity to help them – by hosting an invitation-only event for high-level women on Wall Street. The first RegentAtlantic Wall Street Women Forum took place in 2010. We just hosted our eighth annual Forum, with 125 attendees looking to further their personal and professional goals.
This year’s Forum theme was “Recharging in Times of Change.” What were some key takeaways?
The idea of recharging in order to go forward is relevant to women at any age. It’s really difficult, when you’re moving 24/7, to step back to think about where you want to go in your career and how you’re going to get there. And of course, women tend to take care of everyone else before themselves. As we’re told before the airplane takes off, women need to remember to put on our own oxygen masks first.
Another theme that really stood out this year is the importance of building your team, your “posse.” After all, relationships are key to our continued success. We also held a whole session about resetting our professional networks, rather than just relying on the ones we already have. How can we be more strategic and intentional in leveraging our networks? And the most valuable relationship is with a sponsor (or two). Sponsors are critical to our advancement. They are our advocates, opening doors for us and creating new opportunities.
Finally, we talked about being resilient and embracing failure. Several of our speakers were really candid about huge career setbacks, those “confidence-shattering moments,” as one speaker called them. Then they talked about their decisions to embrace failure, pick themselves up and push forward.
What are some recurring issues that come up every year at your event?
A universal issue is the importance of reinventing ourselves, over and over again. If I had to pick one word that Wall Street women use in sharing their insights with me, it’s “relevance.” They want to know: How do I reinvent myself in order to stay relevant?
Wall Street is increasingly a young person’s world. People no longer stay at one firm for their whole career. Turnover is high, with fresh faces arriving and climbing right on our heels. Even 50-year-olds now feel like they’re “aging out.” Wall Street women recognize the need to continually reinvent themselves, which is a big reason they come to the Forum—to get valuable tools and tactics to remain relevant in their careers.
What are the calls to action after your events? What do your attendees do differently when they leave your Forum?
We push our participants to set some very concrete, measurable goals for themselves. Besides reconnecting with colleagues and friends and making new connections, several women shared that they sought out sponsors (those who advocate for them) after our events. Sponsors are different from mentors in that you don’t seek them out: They choose you, as a result of your excellent work and potential, and can help propel your career forward.
Many participants talk about “becoming fearless” as a result of what they’ve heard at the Forum. They speak up for themselves, negotiate new roles, resources and promotions, and take risks. Some have even quit their jobs. They’ve moved within the industry or gone outside. A few women have started their own companies.
Intertwined with all of this is an important financial question: It’s not just what do I want to do, but also what can I afford to do? Can I afford to quit this job, to walk away or to do something different than my current job on the Street? In my role as advisor to so many Wall Streeters, I also help them on a one-on-one basis to answer the question: “What am I missing in terms of furthering my financial situation?” I help them see that financial security gives them more flexibility as they evaluate their career options. My clients want the confidence that they are on track financially to achieve their goals.
What are some trends you have been seeing on Wall Street?
There have been so many changes on Wall Street since the 2008 financial crisis. Forum participants, my clients and my colleagues all share their own stories of how the industry consolidation over the last nine years has impacted them.
For one, we’ve seen some very high-profile women leave Wall Street. That makes other women wonder about the opportunities for women to succeed in the industry. In our Wall Street Women Forum survey data, we are seeing some optimism but still a lot of skepticism. This year, only 31% of our respondents saw more opportunities for women to advance to the most senior positions in the financial industry, down from a peak of 58% in 2014.
Furthermore, our survey data reveals that at least one-third of the women are not happy with their current job, even if they are getting paid appropriately. So they are increasingly thinking about their next step and beyond, wanting to know what it will take to get to their dream job.
I see an increasing awareness that women can’t just put our heads down and work hard and get noticed. Many of us who came of age on Wall Street in the ’80s and the ’90s thought, “We’re just going to get our work done. We will outwork, outshine, outsmart everybody else—especially the guys—and success will follow.”
We now know this is not the way to advance! Yes, you have to show your competence at a very significant level. However, it’s more about who you know and who knows what you know.
When I asked women at the first Forum in 2010, “How many of you have a sponsor?” I got a lot of blank looks. Many of the women did not know how a sponsor differed from a mentor. Fast-forward a few years, and now almost everyone knows the difference between a mentor and a sponsor. I’d like to think that today, every high-level woman on Wall Street knows what sponsorship is all about – what a sponsor can do for her, what her role is in being sponsored and in turn sponsoring others.
How has your experience with mentors and sponsors impacted your career?
As I think about my history at J.P. Morgan and now at RegentAtlantic, there have been many times when I was tapped to do something new. A door that was opened that allowed me to leap forward. Somebody clearly had my back, but I didn’t always know who it was. In my case, most of my advocates were men, because most of the people I worked for and with were men.
If you believe, as I do, that all of the important decisions for your career are made when you’re not in the room, then it’s critical to figure out who is your sponsor and nurture that relationship. My sponsors have sometimes pushed me to take risks I wasn’t sure I was ready for. Their belief in me helps me go out of my comfort zone and take even more risks. The cycle is amazing – sponsorship build my confidence which enables even more risk-taking.
Is there anything that you would love for women to talk more about that you don’t see them addressing?
One is the need to build your own personal brand. Ask yourself: How do other people describe you? What do you think it feels like to interact with you? If that’s not the way you want to be perceived, how could you change that? We have the power to change our brand.
Second, I can’t overestimate the importance of each of us giving back and helping to “bring up” the women coming behind us. As women move up, we need to remember to take the elevator back down and bring another woman onto the elevator up with us. As a managing partner at RegentAtlantic, I am really committed to helping women advance in my firm and in the industry. I hope other professional women will do the same.