By Laura Foti Cohen
The Ebell’s financial mavens work for large companies or their own firms. They set out seeking an investment career, or transitioned from other fields. But regardless of how they got there, all are passionate about their chosen path and apply it to their volunteer activities as well as their professions.
Shãn Sutherland, chair of the Ebell’s Rest Cottage Association, is a Financial Advisor, Fundamental Choice Portfolio Manager and an Accredited Domestic Partner Advisor at Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC. She has a degree in film and advertising from Art Center, and was a film editor in her first career, and feels her creative background serves her well in her current role.
“Surprisingly, when you are challenged to think creatively, the same skill set applies to building investment portfolios,” she says. “I have a unique ability to identify seemingly unrelated bits of information, put them together and build these beautiful portfolios. I have a core portfolio I work with, but the investments tailored to individuals’ own goals. For example, one charitably inclined client moved to Philadelphia. We built him a portfolio that has good publicly traded Pennsylvania-based companies that also have philanthropy programs.”
Understanding how money is invested to meet needs and goals, led Shan to her active involvement with charitable giving. “The economy has forced people to take a look at their own values and define what’s important in their lives and their families’ lives. Coming out of this recession, expect to see a lot more philanthropy at different stages and different levels. The philanthropy bug consumes you. It’s so important. Rather than business competing with an Android computer application, I’m engaging in something with a lot of benefit, and where there’s not a lot of information out there.”
Stewardship of nonprofit organization’s portfolio is key. Shãn says, “So many organizations have suffered from fraud and mismanagement. When the International Humanities Center went under, more than 200 nonprofits lost all their money. It’s important to have guidelines in place for the future Ebell generations to stand on, so decisions are not made based on emotions. Working on the Rest Cottage is an amazing source of energy for me.”
Madelyn Murray, Vice President, Consultant Relations for BNY Mellon Asset Management, is also energized by her chosen profession. “I like it because it’s always changing,” she says. “We’re more global and the big threats now are not inflation but a tsunami hitting Japan or Greek debt.”
When Madelyn received her MBA from UCLA in 1976, she was married with one child and looking for a job that would allow her to create balance in her life. Merrill Lynch and E.F. Hutton had just signed a consent decree based on class action suits and were required to set a timetable for hiring women and minorities.
“I was waiting in UCLA’s placement office when I happened to see a closed-circulation magazine to MBA students with a woman on the front in a suit and bow tie. The article said if you’re a woman, you automatically have an interview at those firms. I sent my resumé to Merrill Lynch. I had an interview on a Thursday, was hired on a Friday and started that Monday.”
She worked for Merrill Lynch as a registered representative, but times were hard. “We still hadn’t hit bottom in the recession,” she remembers. “There was the oil embargo, high inflation…” Madelyn changed jobs and moved into public finance; she was appointed by Mayor Bradley to the Convention Center Authority Board. For 10 years she worked in institutional asset management prior to moving to Mellon, where she has worked for almost nine years.
“People want to know how to make money. I tell them: if you’re not confident, have an advisor, and you can even have more than one.” She has two advisors with different philosophies.
Madelyn has been married 41 years and has two grown sons and an eight-year-old granddaughter. She serves as a trustee for her sister, a nun, and Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet who operate Mt. St. Mary’s College and a homeless shelter.
Carol Cory Fondevila and her husband, Luis Fondevila, founded Surety Investment Services 30 years ago. The couple, who have been married since 1980, live in Windsor Square. They can walk to their Wilshire Blvd. office, just a few blocks from the Ebell.
Carol has been a Certified Financial Planner since 1984 and works primarily as an investment advisor/financial planner. She says, “I started out in an esoteric field: retirement planning for public school employees and nonprofits.” Surety specializes in 403(b) and 457 nonprofit retirement plans and offers a wide array of other services.
Carol explains, “Today we deal primarily with no-load mutual funds and the plans are administered through our broker-dealer for the most part.” She sets up different types of retirement plans, for professionals or small companies that need to shelter income.
Carol started her career with Travelers Insurance in Atlanta where she was the first female underwriter for commercial lines. She moved west and started with another insurance company, then she learned about 403(b)s and went to work for Security First Group. “One thing led to another and a few years later I went out on my own.”
Carol loves her job. “I’m just fascinated with the whole investment world. Having perspective gives me an advantage. I’ve been fortunate to see the evolution of products. ETFs are now a trillion dollar industry. I remember when they were introduced. It’s amazing the evolution of products and the rapidity with which things change. Things are much more complex, for example the advent of the internet and small trading exchanges where a lot of action takes place on a daily basis.” She remembers the “flash crash” two years ago – “I was at an NGA meeting and ran out the door.”
Camille Farnsworth-Schrader, a Vice President and Senior Lender for Northern Trust Company, has been in financial services for almost 20 years, beginning on the marketing side. “I knew that I wanted to have a more analytical role,” she says, “and developing that skill set couldn’t be done on the job. I needed classroom training. So I took myself out of the work force and went back to Milan, where I’d spent time after getting my undergraduate degree. Milan is the center of Italy’s financial world, with the stock market and the country’s major industries. I had a job with an Italian equity research firm, marketing their research to non-Italians on companies traded on the Milan stock exchange.”
Camille believes that taking time off between an undergraduate degree and an MBA is the way to go. “Many people today go right into grad school, but I maintain that having some work experience positions you better to meet long-term goals.
With day-to-day involvement in mortgage, commercial, and personal lending, Camile sees the following trends: “Anyone can guess where interest rates are going. This is the bottom, so now is the time to lock in mortgage refinancing rates. It’s also an excellent opportunity on the commercial side, if your large or small business has lending needs, it’s a great time to ask. Banks want to make loans to good customers.” She also points out that the fastest-growing segment of those living in poverty is elderly women. “At a certain age, where going to work isn’t feasible, women are often left divorced or widowed, having surrendered their finances to their husbands. It’s an important lesson: start putting away for retirement in your 20s.”