San Diego State University - Financial Services, Cum Laude
Jennifer Shydler knows how to make the most of a good financial opportunity. After all, it was at the ripe age of 17 that Jennifer spotted a flyer about making more money and found herself in the world of banking. And while being a teller was interesting, it didn’t take her long to figure out that the real opportunity was in the financial management department. She set her sights on the corner office.
Today, as the youngest vice president wealth management advisor for Merrill Lynch (now part of Bank of America), Jennifer not only finds herself in the corner office, but as a founding member of her office’s top performing team. Managing $500 million in assets with her business partner, Jennifer calls herself a “financial quarterback” skilled in time management, leveraging technology and delegating when necessary. “Do it, delegate it or dump it,” Jennifer sagely advises.
We’ll just go ahead and take that career advice (and some of her simple financial advice, too) to the bank!
Your most authentic self is your most successful one.
What inspired you to work in the financial services industry?
At 17, I saw a flyer at the bank advertising double what my current earnings were as a law firm runner and said sign me up! Reflecting back, my mother owned an insurance agency for many years and I liked the idea of running a business that helps people protect themselves, their families and their futures. I believe luck is when preparation meets opportunity and walking by the flyer at Bank of America was that opportunity for me!
Once I became a teller working for the bank in high school and college, I saw how the financial advisor was the one who put all the pieces of the financial puzzle together and then communicated it in a way the clients could understand and buy into. I found it intriguing in that each day would be a new challenge and it requires truly getting to know what makes your clients tick. Their trust in me is humbling.
How do you organize your day? What are your responsibilities?
I use my Outlook calendar for my work day and my iPhone for personal scheduling, which means keeping on track with plans my husband and I make. I try to set appointments with clients and prospects at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and I use Monday and Friday for meeting preparation, follow up and strategic planning. I have a team of four assistants who are all aware of this preferred scheduling, as well as knowledge of which clients I’m willing to accommodate outside of these hours. My business partner and I manage $500 million in assets, including banking and investments for 125 families. In addition to creating comprehensive retirement, estate, education and insurance planning, I manage the investment strategies for my clients’ accounts. I am the “financial quarterback” for wealthy families and delegate banking, lending and service requests to different members of my team. I regularly meet with clients to ensure they are on track to meeting their short- and long-term goals.
In addition to my “for-profit job” I am also the president of the Merrill Lynch Nevada Women’s Exchange in which I mentor and empower women across the firm to pursue their passions and become better versions of themselves. I also co-chair the Merrill Lynch Las Vegas Philanthropic Committee where we’ve focused our time and fundraising efforts on behalf of Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.
In my personal life, I volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and have had my “Little Sister,” Jala, for 8 years. We just celebrated her 13th birthday with an awesome Michael Jackson themed photo shoot in downtown Las Vegas. She loved it!
Time management is definitely a struggle, but I somehow wing it thanks to technology, as well as a partner at work and a partner at home who are willing to carry the load with me. I also have one of my assistants schedule and confirm all of my meetings, which is so helpful.
What is your favorite aspect of your work? What gets you charged up to go to the office every morning?
I love that every day is a new challenge, and I’m not just talking about the stock market! It’s a given that the markets will go up, and they will go down. It doesn’t serve anyone for me to get caught up in the drama of the day-to-day volatility of the markets when what is truly important is whether or not my clients and their families are on track in meeting their goals in a way they are comfortable with.
It‘s so gratifying for someone who has saved their hard-earned money for decades and forgone trips and luxuries to ensure their future to come to me and ask, “What do I do?” I enjoy when I am able to give them a plan that lets them sleep at night and enjoy the retirement they deserve after all those years of sacrifice. I am honored they choose me to guide them through understanding complicated financial instruments and know that I am watching out for their best interests. When you know everything about their financial situation, the conversation gets very intimate very quickly. I mean, I hear things spouses and kids never hear! About 75 percent of my meetings are spent with my clients talking about their families, goals, stressors, work environment and general bonding vs. reviewing their portfolios.
I also get excited to lead my team each day to strategize on how to move our business forward and to enhance all of our strengths to become more than the sum of our parts!
What challenges keep you awake at night?
All the things I have yet to get to. I take each of my client’s scenarios very personally and want everything done to the highest degree. There is so much to do and only so much time in the day. I know I will get to it all and my heart is in the right place. I find if I just write it all down in an email or on a notepad and “eat the frog” by crossing off the tasks I least feel like doing first, then the rest of the day my productivity builds on that momentum. Of course there are days I lag, and that’s okay too. I stress more about wanting to keep those I hold in high esteem proud of me. I’m trying to get better at this by realizing my opinion is the most important and the only one I can control.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you?
I’m fortunate in that I’ve rarely felt the work/life balance struggle. I watched both of my parents become burned out as a result of overworking. They each owned their own business and didn’t delegate enough work to others because, “Nobody would do it as well.” There is such a thing as ‘good enough’ when it comes to certain tasks. I also always try to ask myself, “Is this task my highest and best use?” If not, I delegate it to someone else. I once heard a catchy phrase that said, “Do it, delegate it or dump it.” I follow that closely when I feel my work start to build up.
Working where I do is very competitive and male-driven. The office environment isn’t one I enjoy engaging in, other than my team’s wing, so I try to spend time outside of the office networking as well. By the way, it’s worth mentioning that with all of those males, my female business partner and I are the largest producers in the office. Corner suite, sisters! So, obviously haters gonna hate. Really. Oprah said that to me when I randomly met her in Seattle! She decided to join my business partner and me for lunch for 20 minutes before her show. If that’s not the universe rewarding us for taking time away from work to fly to her Life You Want tour and attending to our work/life balance, then I don’t know what is!
What is a career accomplishment you’re particularly proud of?
I am the youngest vice president at Merrill Lynch, female or otherwise. I am completely self-made. I was not handed anything. #StartedFromTheBottomNowImHere
What are some of the rules you live by?
Always do the right thing by the client and good things will come your way.
You have to look yourself in the mirror every day for the rest of your life, and so nothing is worth jeopardizing your personal integrity. Trust your gut. Grit can get you through anything. Your most authentic self is your most successful one.
When I started in investments in 2008, a sweet woman in senior leadership told me at a training session, “Jennifer, when you go back into that office, you walk down that hallway like you’ve got the biggest set of balls. You do that, and I guarantee you will succeed.” She was right, and I still do that to this day.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your industry?
It takes grit, integrity and self-confidence. You’ll encounter headwinds from office competition, so keep your head down, trust yourself and your abilities, keep your clients’ best interests in mind and then use that as your success metric. Above all, you must believe in yourself and not rely on anyone else to fulfill that for you. Your clients are relying on you to lead them. You can’t let them down.
What advice do you have for women reading this who are trying to be smarter with their money?
Take control now. Every year you wait puts you way behind. Even if you only put away a small amount, it’s something. Take an hour to go through your online banking and figure out your budget. Look at things like: How much income do you have each month? What are your fixed expenses (i.e. mortgage, insurance, car payment, etc.)? How much do you normally spend on discretionary expenses (e.g. dining out, clothes)? If you spend more than you make, you must change your spending patterns now. On the flip side, if you have a surplus of income, then you need to direct that amount monthly to a savings account until you have 6 months worth of bill payments tucked away.
From there, maximize your 401k contributions where you work. This is the No. 1 place to save your additional funds after you have built up your emergency reserves. It’s a good idea to choose a target date mutual fund, which can help you automatically craft your portfolio based on when you plan to take out your money down the road.
Finally, Bank of America has financial solutions advisors in our financial centers across the country who can help you with budgeting and financial planning. We offer this as a complimentary service to encourage our clients to educate themselves on better financial habits.