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Earn opportunities by working hard, taking a deep interest in your work, and realizing results, which will give you the confidence to ask for even more, says Tracie McMillion.
“I often find that women underestimate how much they already know,” she says. “We want to feel like we know everything, but it’s ok to learn as we go.”
Advice and Strategy Create the Ideal Career
McMillion began her finance career with a smaller bank in Richmond, Va., as a research assistant to four portfolio managers. At the time, the chief investment officer suggested she pursue her MBA and CFA®; she decided to pursue the CFA first and soon found it was a hard-earned designation as she spent the next several years pursuing “head down studying” during the majority of her non-work hours.
During that time McMillion was promoted to portfolio manager, taking on clients and gradually tackling more complex situations with individual families to create customized investment portfolios. After earning her CFA, she decided to pursue her MBA, during which she got “reacquainted” with her economics major and decided a move into investment strategy was a great next step.
McMillion was able to move over to that discipline at the same bank—a Wells Fargo predecessor. After nearly a decade of developing investment strategy, she was hired as the Head of Global Asset Allocation Strategy for the newly-formed Wells Fargo Investment Institute, a role which she continues today.
To McMillion it represents coming full circle, as she now leads a team that develops investment advice for clients of the Wealth and Investment Management division of the firm. “I understand what it’s like to sit across the table and work with clients, so it’s easier to put myself in our advisors’ shoes,” she says. “The focus of our team is sharing our best thinking with those who are working directly with the clients to help them achieve their goals.”
That group effort is the professional achievement of which she is most proud—in her current role she leads a virtual team in several locations around the country, who each have individual strengths and goals and yet work cohesively together. “I have a passion for helping people achieve their goals—whether it’s my team, peers or clients,” she says.
Women as Savvy Investors and Advisors
Another passion of McMillion’s is to inspire women to take charge of their financial lives. Over the years McMillion has found that women investors sometimes lack confidence in their ability to invest—and yet shouldn’t. Her team has conducted research and reviewed extensive surveys revealing that the best-performing accounts are repeatedly those headed by females—the top spot goes to those with single females and the second best were those with married females. The most interesting part, she says, is that they outperformed, while also assuming less risk.
“Women tend to show a number of positive traits including sticking to their plans more often, trading judiciously and making very planful decisions.” In addition, women are twice as likely to say that they need education from their advisor, which allows the Wells Fargo team to do what they do best. “We encourage women to get involved with their family’s investments; they play an integral role in the conversation, as they typically add bigger picture elements about what they want to achieve as a family.”
And just as some women might be more hesitant about their skills as investors, she finds they also have been reluctant to join the wealth management field.
“I often wonder why other fields that also require education and time commitment, such as law and medicine, have so many more women,” McMillion says. “Wealth management makes the most of skills that women typically naturally have, such as listening astutely and putting together pieces of information to make decisions. While there is competition, there are so many rewarding aspects,” she says.
She urges her peers to support one another. “We get challenged a lot about the decisions we make, which makes it particularly important to connect on a regular basis and to understand how we can help strengthen each other,” she says.
To that end, she appreciates the mentorship program within the Wells Fargo Investment Institute that helps women connect with one another. McMillion herself has served regularly as a mentor and has found it incredibly rewarding to see how her mentees have progressed.
She also notes her involvement in the Early Talent Development program—geared to attracting, recruiting, and retaining exceptional recent college graduates—which introduces them to the field and provides training and education to help them succeed. Her broader strategy team has been fortunate to have two young women join them from the group of summer interns.
Enjoying Family Life
McMillion is quick to praise her husband, who is a stay-at-home dad. “Having him there gives me confidence that our family is well cared for when I put in long hours and travel,” she says. In her spare time, she is typically with the family and enjoying the activities of her kids. Her 13-year-old daughter loves performing arts, and her 11-year-old son plays sports of all types.