My Story: Vanguard’s Chief Investment Officer Greg Davis
In his last careers blog,Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer Greg Davis uncovered key moments from his time at Vanguard. In this blog, Greg looks back at his upbringing, his early job history, and why he ultimately came to–and stayed at–Vanguard.
I was born in Germany and raised in a U.S. military family. We were a multicultural, multilingual family; I spoke German with my mom and English with my dad. Of course both parents understood the other language, so there was no pulling one over on either of them. Both of my parents worked, and I was co-raised by my maternal grandmother who spoke primarily German. My grandmother was an instrumental part of my childhood and spent a lot of time with me at home. The summer before second grade, we moved to the U.S. and settled in South Jersey.
Throughout my childhood and young adult years, I looked up to my older brother a lot. He achieved a great deal of success in the field of computer science, and he did it without a college degree. In fact, I’m the first person in my family to attend a four-year college. But because I so admired my older brother, I first decided to follow in his footsteps and start my high school education at a vocational-technical high school, where I could spend half my day working on computers. As I was thinking about college, initially my plan was to study computer science or engineering. Once I arrived at Penn State, I loved the math side of my education but found myself less interested in chemistry and mechanical drawing. As a result, I decided to change direction and focus on studying business. Post-graduation, I went into the insurance industry as an underwriter, followed by a stint as a premium auditor. While both roles were great experiences, I still felt as though there was something else that would be a better long-term fit for me.
During these years, I would periodically drive by Vanguard’s campus. Although I never thought of pursuing Vanguard as an employer, I was curious about their trading floor and Vanguard’s approach to investment management. I started researching the markets and the investment side of the insurance industry. I had no idea I was planning my future career.
In order to break into the investment side of the business, I realized I had to pursue an advanced degree, so I went back to school to pursue my MBA at Wharton. This afforded me an opportunity for a Wall Street internship in Fixed Income Sales & Trading. Fortunately the internship was successful, and I was able to leverage that experience into a full-time opportunity at a large NYC Investment bank in a Fixed-Income Trading rotational program. My timing wasn’t great, as shortly after starting the program the Asia Financial Crisis swept around the globe, leaving a very significant mark on many of the Wall Street Banks. Our rotational program was abruptly ended and I was placed into a non-trading role and I was extremely unhappy. The truth is, I felt as though I was settling. I decided to start looking at opportunities at other firms. Then a childhood friend, who happened to be a Vanguard recruiter, asked for my resume. I was hesitant at first, but she finally convinced me to meet with a man named Ken Volpert, who at the time ran Vanguard’s bond index team. During the interview, Ken talked about career options, Vanguard’s investment philosophy, and company growth, but it was something else that piqued my curiosity. Ken spoke about how dedicated he is to developing people and how he makes sure his crew get opportunities to learn and grow. At that moment, I knew I wanted to work for him and Vanguard.
I started as a trader and quickly saw how my values aligned to Vanguard’s investment principles. Not only had I found a firm whose mission I connected with, but I also discovered how many people advocated for me to get exposure to projects, resources, tools, and new experiences. I loved being part of the trading world–getting involved in the markets, owning something right away and seeing it through to success. As I grew and moved into bigger roles, I was able to then provide personal and professional development skills—those that I learned and admired from Ken—to other crew that I’ve led and mentored. It’s refreshing to see the focus on development come full circle.
Because I believe so fervently in developing others–including leaders of leaders–often someone will ask me, “What do you do when someone isn’t performing well?” I advise leaders to start by having an honest discussion with their team member about that person’s performance–what’s not going well, what they need to do to improve, and how you as a leader can support them. There seems to be a misconception that nice cultures don’t give strong feedback, but that’s actually a rather unkind approach. No one should ever have to guess why their career isn’t moving forward.
Of course, there were setbacks along the way. I recall a time when our bond index funds experienced a period of substantial underperformance, bonds that we owned were being downgraded to junk (below investment grade credit rating). It’s quite distressing to see something you’re responsible for underperform. Luckily, the team rallied and reengineered our approach to bond indexing. As painful as that experience was, it allowed the team to learn and improve our process, which helped us be well-prepared for the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. That team-focused mentality is why I’ve stayed at Vanguard for over 15 years. In addition to hurdles, there are also moments of pride: watching my team rise through the ranks to become officers and senior leaders. I’ve also loved watching Vanguard grow–adding a personal advisor business and expanding outside the U.S. This means better outcomes for our clients.
Moving to the U.S. from Germany–and having to quickly improve my ability to read, write, and speak English–taught me a lesson I’ve carried with me from childhood until now: If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing.
You never know, your future just might be in that building you drive by every day.
Solving problems and innovating through data science
I graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in 2002 with a Computer Engineering degree. The Institute was very close to Wall Street, and upon graduation, many of my classmates received offers from top Wall Street firms and investment banks. I too fell into the allure of working on Wall Street. I received a few offers from some of the top firms in New York—and I also received one from Vanguard, who was making it a priority to recruit from my school at the time. However, this was when the dot-com bubble burst and most of the Wall Street firms rescinded their offers for all of my classmates including me. Vanguard was the only firm that honored their commitment and did not rescind their offer. I am thankful to this day.
At Vanguard, I have the opportunity to do what I always dreamt of doing and much, much more at a firm where doing right by clients and crew is the guiding principle. I joined Vanguard as a software engineer and never looked back. At the time, all I wanted to do was to apply what I had learned in school to real life problems, but didn’t have much thought about where I applied them. As time went on, I realized how fortunate I was to be at Vanguard, whose main mission was to help people all over the world reach their financial dreams. Knowing you’re doing well for others is incredibly rewarding. I got the best of both worlds: I could apply my passion in technology and apply it at a company whose mission is to lift people up. I also got to work on our trading systems, sales systems, mobility (iOS) systems, customer relationship management systems and so on, all while learning about and applying analytics to everything we did.
From a career perspective, Vanguard invested in my professional development. Today, I’m the Head of AI & Machine Learning for Enterprise Advice. focused on artificial intelligence and data science. About 7 years ago, with the advent of big data technology and infrastructure, I started to focus on advanced analytics and data science exclusively. I saw an opportunity to use data science and artificial intelligence to provide better, more personalized, and smarter services to our investors.
Vanguard now wants to do for financial advice what we did for Exchange Traded Funds and mutual funds: make top notch, holistic advice accessible to anyone who needs it at an incredibly low price. That’s where my team comes in. I now help lead our advanced analytics and artificial intelligence team for Vanguard’s advice program. My department is comprised of data engineers, data scientists and artificial intelligence and machine learning scientists who collaborate closely with our investment experts and economists. And they come from diverse educational backgrounds—some have computer science or engineering backgrounds, while others studied physics or statistics.
In order to create highly personalized advice experiences, we seek to incorporate behavioral economics to better personalize the advice needed. To that end we are utilizing artificial intelligence and other data science techniques on a variety of financial advice projects. Our goal is to create experiences and services that will help more people than ever before reach their financial goals. My team is directly empowering Vanguard’s mission and I personally feel inspired every day to come to work. Being able to learn about cutting edge technology in artificial intelligence and data science and use it to help as many people as possible is extremely rewarding.
Investing is complex, and sometimes, it’s a challenge for people to know how to make wise investment and financial decisions. Vanguard is committed to giving investors all over the world a fair shake, and is investing in services—such as advice—to do so. I am passionate about trail blazing artificial intelligence and machine learning at Vanguard, which is enabling us to fulfill our mission and help millions of people all over the world reach financial independence.
Internal Audit: diverse work, a welcoming team, and time for my son
When I started my career over 10 years ago, I had recently graduated college and was thrilled to have a job and steady paycheck. I followed most of my friends into a career in external auditing, performing IT audits. Shortly after I started my career, the stock market crashed. As I saw people around me struggling to find jobs, I felt fortunate to have my position in a company where I was able to learn, grow, and travel all across the country. However, after 7 years of traveling between clients and working busy schedules, my personal life had changed – I was getting ready to marry and start a family and knew I needed a more predictable work schedule.
Although I knew that the career change was the right decision for me, it was still nerve-wracking. I loved where I worked, my colleagues, and the variety of work on my plate. I was worried that the new position would be boring and it was daunting to think about rebuilding my reputation again with people who didn’t know me.
Now after 3 years at Vanguard I can say that the change was the best decision I could have made. During my time here, I have never audited the same process twice and am able to get a much deeper understanding of the processes than I was able to do in external auditing. I am afforded the opportunity to learn about all aspects of Vanguard’s business, network with management across Vanguard, and constantly learn new skills. Additionally, my leaders frequently give me stretch opportunities to stay challenged.
I worried about rebuilding my reputation in a new company, however, within the first week I realized that Vanguard really appreciated my prior experiences – team members asked for my opinion and saw me as a valued member of the team. The culture at Vanguard is unlike any culture I have seen in all the companies I’ve worked with in my prior auditing experience. I have made some great friends in my time here and can truly say that I enjoy coming to work.
I appreciated the career change the most when my son, Wesley, was born 21 months ago. I remember coming back to work after maternity leave and about a week in, I received the dreaded call from daycare that my son had a fever. My team was so understanding and I was able to go pick him up and work from home. I appreciated the flexibility I was offered while still being able to keep my work progressing. Nothing can match being home in the evenings to have dinner as a family and to put my son to bed each night.
If you’re seeking an environment where you can make a difference and develop professionally, check out our Internal Audit career opportunities at www.vanguardjobs.com.
As a newly minted college graduate, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to be successful, and that meant I needed to build experience at a reputable and well-known company.
I had grown up reading The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing, so when I received an offer to join Vanguard in Scottsdale, I enthusiastically accepted the opportunity. I had enough of the frigid Michigan winters.
I started my Vanguard career as a Client Relationship Associate in 2014, answering inbound phone calls and assisting clients with placing trades, resetting passwords, and educating them on Vanguard products. To be honest, I saw my first role at Vanguard as a stepping stone to somewhere else. I never thought I would stay.
Like many ambitious and naive college graduates, I defined success as making a six figure income in a stereotypically cool job like investment banking or tech. If I achieved that, I would know that I “made it”.
And yet, here I am, four years later. Why did I stay? What changed?
In my first year, I discovered that I loved educating clients on Vanguard mutual funds. There is a special fuzzy feeling that comes from using my skills to educate and help others, and I wanted to chase that feeling. I thought to myself, “Where can I do more of that?”
As I gained experience at Vanguard, I began to plot my next career move. I knew that financial advisors typically make a good living doing meaningful work, so I decided to pursue the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) designation.
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services was still in its infancy at the time, so I explored opportunities outside of Vanguard, but was disappointed to learn that a vast majority of advisory positions were sales driven. I was attracted to Vanguard Personal Advisor Services compared to other advisory firms because, as a salaried advisor, I didn’t have to worry about prospecting or earning commission-based compensation. The only thing I would need to focus on is making the best investment decisions for my clients. For many outside advisors looking in, this is the dream (trust me). And after about two years working hard in inbound phone roles and passing the CFP® exam, I joined Personal Advisor Services.
Vanguard has a noble mission: “To take a stand for all investors, to treat them fairly, and to give them the best chance for investment success.” As an advisor, I get to live that mission, and this is truly rewarding in the sense that I find purpose doing something meaningful and worthwhile. You know that special fuzzy feeling I was chasing? I found it in Vanguard Advice! I know it’s a cliché, but I love what I do here. You can’t put a price on that.
Furthermore, freedom to travel, especially in my 20s, has been an invaluable benefit of working for Vanguard. In the last two years alone, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Thailand, Vietnam, France, Spain, Canada, and Japan. Vanguard provides a generous amount of flexible, guilt-free paid-time-off (PTO). With our collaborative culture, my supportive team allows me to treat PTO as a time to completely forget about work. If I worked for a different company that based my income on sales performance, I wouldn’t have been able to take the amazing trips that I have.
As I approach my four year anniversary in August, I can’t yet say that “I made it”, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am. I have redefined success as maximizing my fulfillment. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past four years, it’s that success is not all about the paycheck. Rather, it is mostly about finding rewarding work towards a worthwhile cause. Needless to say, I’ve found that at Vanguard.
I recently celebrated my three year anniversary with Vanguard and what a journey it has been! In order to understand how I got here, I think it is best to start at the beginning.
I attended Arizona State University and, like most students, held a variety of jobs and internships to help me figure out what kind of career I wanted. I was getting a degree in Business but wasn’t sure where my skills would fit or what I would be happiest doing. During this time, I had three experiences that helped shape my career path and ultimately led me to Vanguard.
My first opportunity was a leadership internship with a large retail chain that was based in the Phoenix area. I got to spend three months in a retail store shadowing the Store Manager, getting to know the daily operations, and running the store on my own by the end of my time there. This experience opened my eyes to the potential of a career in leadership because I loved working with the team every day and I enjoyed overcoming diverse and frequent challenges. However, I came to the realization that standing on my feet for 9+ hours a day was physically taxing and the long-term career growth in a retail store is limited.
My second adventure was in a commission-based sales position where I sold bridal gowns. I know what you’re thinking: “Wasn’t that job fun and glamorous? Was it just like the shows on television?” After the initial excitement of working in the bridal industry wore off, I was left with the pressure and anxiety of going to work every day knowing that if I didn’t close a sale, I wasn’t going to get paid. There were weeks where I made great money and weeks where I couldn’t pay my bills. I came to the realization that I cared about my clients far too much and I struggled to morally “close the deal” when I sensed hesitation on their end.
My final opportunity before arriving at Vanguard was an internship with another financial services firm. I worked in a branch office helping a few advisors run their books of business. I loved learning about finance and working with clients but I realized that a career as a commission-based advisor wasn’t for me. I saw first-hand the same pressure and anxiety that I had experienced in bridal gown sales and knew my time with this firm had to come to an end.
After graduation, I embarked on my journey to find a career I’d enjoy long-term. Thanks to my internship with financial advisors, I knew finance was something I was passionate about, and began my search for financial services firms in the Phoenix area. When I found a job posting for Vanguard, I did some research on the company and the role since I didn’t know anyone there to reach out to. I read great things about the company culture, benefits package, and unifying mission but was hesitant that it would be a good fit for me. Setting aside my fear, I interviewed in March of 2015 for a front line position serving clients by phone and was extended an offer!
My first day at Vanguard was May 11, 2015 and I vividly remember the fear and uncertainty I felt walking onto campus that day. But, I took a deep breath and stepped into a room full of friendly faces for my Corporate Orientation. I knew there was no turning back now!
One year down at Vanguard, I realized that I connected with the mission, loved the people I worked with, and appreciated the client-focused mentality. Not only that, but I became significantly better at managing my own finances because of the extensive training and guidance that Vanguard provided.
I started exploring career development opportunities and the wide variety of career paths that Vanguard offered. I knew I loved working with clients but couldn’t get the pull to leadership off my mind from my internship a few years prior. Like many people, I had to apply for and be declined from a few jobs to eventually land in the exact opportunity I was meant to be in. I went on to spend a year as an Assigned Representative serving high-net-worth clients and getting to run my own book of business. Getting to know my clients, their families, and their goals brought me joy that was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I laughed, cried, and celebrated with them through all of the major milestones they experienced. However, it was during this time I realized my heart was set on leadership. I was lucky enough to have a great leader who supported me, challenged me, and helped me prepare for my first leadership role at Vanguard.
After a stressful few weeks of networking, applying, and interviewing, I became a Team Leader on November 20, 2017. I walked in on that first day with similar feelings to my first day at Vanguard. I hardly knew anyone in this new department and I was worried about gaining my teams’ trust. To my relief, I was welcomed with open arms by a supportive peer group and wonderful team of crew.
One of the most memorable experiences I’ve had as a new leader at Vanguard was attending Leading Crew to Success. This week long training is held in the Pennsylvania office and Vanguard flies leaders from all over the world in to network and learn together. During this week, I spent countless hours getting to know and learning from other leaders from all levels, departments, and countries. We had fireside chats with Senior Staff, engaging discussions on leadership development topics, we competed in fun teambuilding activities, and capped the week off with a “graduation ceremony” with CEO Tim Buckley. This experience opened my eyes to the diverse group of inclusive, engaging, and talented leaders at Vanguard. It was amazing to see that regardless of what department we are in or where we live, we are all working towards the same goal of seeing our crew, clients, and organization succeed.
I have now been in my new role for ten months and, without a doubt, can say that it is my favorite job I have ever had. I face exciting challenges, learn something new every day, and get to work with the most amazing people. I am so grateful for the investment Vanguard has made in my personal and professional development over the last few years and continues to make every day. Currently, with the help of Vanguard’s tuition assistance, I am pursing an MBA in Organizational Leadership to support my long term leadership aspirations. I can honestly say that three years ago I had no idea that I would have ended up here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
This week I had the privilege of volunteering alongside my Vanguard intern cadre at the Share Food Program of Philadelphia. Together we packaged almost 700 boxes that will be delivered to seniors in need living in the area. Afterward we headed to the Sports Complex for a fun afternoon touring Citizens Bank Park. Just another reminder of how lucky I am to be spending my summer with a company that places such high value on their crew and their company.
Being a #VanguardIntern has meant getting to know other college students who come from different universities, experiences, areas of interest and career aspirations. This diversity of thought brings about great #teamwork capabilities and also a ton of fun, in and out of the office!
This past week I had the amazing opportunity to volunteer at Feed My Starving Children. This experience was amazing! As Vanguard C2C Interns, we worked alongside volunteers to make 55,080 meals for starving children around the world! Working at Vanguard has shown me what a team of like-minded people can do to help others!
I had a great time strengthening our teamwork skills at Vanguard’s Corporate Challenge Day! I love the work that Vanguard does to ensure a healthy culture for its crew.
Vanguard gave me the opportunity to attend a buy-side client intern day hosted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. I was able to hear from the heads of several divisions, such as US ETF Distribution and Equity Sales, as well as network with peers across the industry. Thanks to this event, I better understand how the two sides of the business are interconnected. Loving the experience that being a #VanguardIntern in the Quantitative Equity Group is giving me!
If you’re seeking an environment where you can make a difference and develop professionally, learn more about our internship opportunities atwww.vanguardjobs.com.
From designing buildings to building financial plans
In my last blog, I shared with you the moment I knew leaving the world of architecture behind for personal finance was the right move. This is how I was inspired to come to Vanguard.
In the fall of 2012, my school awarded John Bogle the “Pioneer Award” for his efforts in starting the Index Fund and persevering through the hard road for this phenomenon to catch on. Here I was sitting, on the edge of my seat of course, several feet from a titan of finance!
After the Q&A session, I had the pleasure of having lunch with Mr. Bogle and his team. He autographed my copy of The Little Book of Common Sense Investing and shared a few more stories. Later that day, I helped him carry his Pioneer Award and a large framed painting of a ship from Great Britain’s Royal Navy to his vehicle. I also made sure to tuck my resume in the portfolio of one of his recruiters.
Several emails and a few college transcripts later, I landed an interview with Vanguard’s Business Development Group. By this time, I was a pro in navigating Vanguard’s campus as I had visited during one of their EXPLORE days. Two weeks later, after the phone screen and four hour interview I was offered a full time position. Not only was I going to start my career with a top investment management firm, but I ended my job search before I even graduated!
After several weeks on Vanguard’s campus in Malvern, PA, I felt at home. Now I knew why so many investors trusted Vanguard with their life savings. Everyone from peers to leaders was dedicated to helping not only our clients but also crew members like myself, grow as professionals. The management team was engaged in my development and my peer coach was ready to provide job aids and resources to help get me off the runway.
By the end of 2013, the economy was continuing to stabilize, cash flows into Vanguard were steadily increasing, and the phones were ringing off the hook. Vanguard announced they were rebranding its advice offer, now calling it Personal Advisor Services® and that it was going to revolutionize the world of advice. We were going to provide high-quality, low-cost advice to millions and I couldn’t wait to be a part of this investment revolution!
Shortly after the announcement, I began studying for the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification. I was amazed to see how interconnected all of the financial planning topics were. With this amazement came a sense of need, knowing that these are real areas where people struggle. I experienced firsthand my family and friends scratching their heads and guessing at how to allocate their portfolios, determining how much they’ll need to comfortably retire, or even recite the definition of a balance sheet. Personal Advisor Services® was my shot at helping the masses get their financial lives on track.
After spending two years working in sales, going toe-to-toe with the competition, I was headed to Personal Advisor Services®. Again, my peers and leadership team went right to work on helping me get up to speed on the new technology, investment methodology, and best practices of managing the relationships I would build as an advisor. Now, with a few years of giving advice under my belt, I couldn’t imagine doing this for any other firm!
Looking back at it all, I know I made the right decision. I never thought I could develop the relationships I have with my colleagues, leaders, and company in the way that I do now. It’s been five years since I first stepped foot on Vanguard’s campus and believe it or not, I still get that day one feeling.
And John Bogle and I are on a first name basis.
If you’re seeking an environment where you can make a difference and develop professionally, learn about our careers in advice atwww.vanguardjobs.com.
Vanguard Leadership Development Programs’ case club event
When I became a manager in Vanguard’s rotational Leadership Development Programs, I heard about a very special week in April called Leadership Week. After just a few weeks in my role, I started to receive intriguing invitations to events like Case Club, Inclusion, and a Fireside chat with our CEO Tim Buckley. Additional invites followed for teambuilding activities and fellowship, where I would get to meet and build relationships with all the participants across our development programs – Investment Management, Acceleration into Financial Professional, Emerging Leader, Technology Leadership, Financial Advisor, and MBA. To say I was excited was an understatement!
After I enthusiastically accepted all of the invitations, I received the wonderful news that I was chosen to be a Team Advisor for our day long Case Club event. I will admit, my first question was – what exactly is Case Club? Case Club is a day dedicated to defining and analyzing the problem of a chosen case. Crew from our leadership development programs work in teams to make creative recommendations for a particular case, and then present their findings to a panelist of tenured Vanguard leaders and our MBA program participants. Building relationships, tons of learning, team building AND a catered breakfast and lunch? Sign me up!
As a Team Advisor, I have to be honest – my team rocked! Renamed Team 1.06, for their extraordinary skill and speed during our teambuilding event, my team was compiled of crew from all three US Vanguard sites (PA, AZ, and NC) and multiple programs. Overall, I was impressed with the caliber of thought leadership and collaboration of all participants.
Lindsey G. shared her experience, “Diversity in all aspects is an asset for any company, and Case Club is an incredible example of how Vanguard values this mindset. With a variety of backgrounds, knowledge, and experiences, it was a true privilege to brainstorm in such a comprehensive way.” Claire B. echoed, “I especially appreciated the opportunity to work with and learn from my peers in the other specialty programs across all three of Vanguard’s US offices. The seven of us were able to tackle our business case from many angles because of our unique experiences and interests.” I couldn’t agree more with these participants! I was in awe to observe this exceptional group of crew build enriching and positive relationships, leverage their subject expertise with humility, and take a partnered team approach to the problem, all the while still able to challenge ideas and solutions.
As a Leadership Development Program manager, I especially appreciated seeing the level of participant confidence continue to build throughout the day as teams’ analyzed the case and built their final presentation. Kyle C. shared, “The highlight of the case study for me was walking out of the presentation and the team unanimously agreed that it went even better than we had practiced.” Verity F. added, “The opportunity to enhance our ability to present, appreciate, and respectfully debate ideas will be invaluable as we move forward with our careers at Vanguard.” David M. summed it up best, “Case club was definitely the highlight of my week!”
The entire development program leadership team strives to provide a positive learning environment where our crew can be constantly challenged through developmental and growth experiences while they navigate their career path within Vanguard. Matt J. shared his perspective, “As a member of the MBA Leadership Development program I had the opportunity to sit on a panel and listen to presentations from groups made up of all the Vanguard programs. It provided me an insightful opportunity to get into the brilliant minds of our crew. I had several “lightbulb” moments as they walked me through their thought process and decisions when solving specific challenges. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to participate, and look forward to sharing some of the new ways of thinking I observed with those that I work with every day.”
Lindsey G.’s final reflections are a true testament to Vanguard’s culture of building relationships, teamwork, and creative problem solving, “Sure, we will remember certain parts of the case, but I will never forget my extremely talented teammates and our ability to work together so well towards a common goal.” Way to go Case Club participants! It was an honor and a privilege to coach, support and lead our participants throughout the day.
If you enjoyed this post, check out more from our #LifeatVanguard Blog. And if you’re ready for a more rewarding, engaging, meaningful career, learn more about our Leadership Development Programs at www.vanguardjobs.com.
Growing up, toy blocks ruled my world. Spaceships, sky scrapers, submarines – you name it, I built it. So… it came as no surprise to Mom when I declared I wanted to be an architect when I grew up. It made a lot of sense why I would choose this profession. I was the kid who was passionately curious about everything. The kid who asked for tools as Christmas gifts. The kid who hooked up the VCR at age 4. I was also the kid who took all the screws out of the dining room table, resulting in us ordering takeout that night. I had the brain of an engineer, the soul of an artist, and a mother at her wits’ end.
Fast forward to 2007. High school was in my rear view mirror and I was heading off to college to study the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Zaha Hadid, and I. M. Pei. When grades were posted over winter break, Mom’s flashbacks of my childhood antics slowly dissipated after seeing a 3.6 GPA. I finished out the rest of my freshman year strong and had one of my designs featured in our school’s newspaper. Despite all of the hard work and long road ahead of me, I was feeling good about my decision to study architecture.
In the fall of 2008, things started to feel different. Internship postings on our school’s career website began disappearing, newspaper headlines warned of troubling times in the housing market, and I could see an uneasiness in almost every adult I knew, including Mom. By the end of the year, the S&P 500 was down nearly 40%, the unemployment rate was on its way to doubling, and the world was in a panic.
My engineering mind needed to know what was happening and more importantly, WHY? I began reading financial websites, looking for answers. After asking almost every adult I knew “what’s going on?” I discovered that no one, other than those who had a hand in it, knew what was happening. When the market finally bottomed in March of 2009, the mystery was over. The subprime mortgage lending business, the securitization of risky bank products, and Wall Street’s greed led to the greatest recession of our modern world. It would take years for the economy and housing market to recover. My dream of becoming an architect was over.
In the fall of 2009, I did what every logical 19 year old would do after a global financial meltdown. I changed my major to finance. I wanted those around me to have a resource to lean on for financial help. After a few semesters, I learned about the world of personal finance and was again energized to make a difference. It wasn’t until a college professor assigned The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John Bogle that I realized how murky the waters of financial planning were. Virtually anyone could market themselves as an investment advisor as long as they had a nice suit, firm handshake, and knew a joke to put your mind at ease. So what could I do about it?
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I share how I met the man who changed the investment world and inspired me to join Vanguard.
If you’re seeking an environment where you can make a difference and develop professionally, learn about our careers at www.vanguardjobs.com.
Going on my 19th year at Vanguard, I have had some time to reflect on all of the wonderful challenges and opportunities Vanguard has provided for me since I started in 1999. When I tell others how long I have worked at Vanguard, many are surprised that I have stayed in one place for my entire career. What they don’t understand is that I have changed careers multiple times without having to leave a company whose mission continues to motivate me each and every day.
Vanguard is different than many other companies as we harness a rotational culture, where you continue to build on skills and stretch yourself to learn new areas of the business. In addition to business rotations, Vanguard also offers many opportunities to earn advanced degrees and credentials, building deeper expertise along the way.
The first ten years of my career were spent in our Institutional business, where we serve retirement plan sponsors. While learning about the world of 401(k)s and 403(b)s, I was able to gain so much experience. I’ve worked on projects with IT, building new technology for our plan sponsors and participants, I’ve developed an expertise in fund accounting, I’ve learned to interpret stable value contracts (not the most exciting reading material if you were wondering!), and lastly—I’ve dug into how mutual fund distribution takes place across the industry each day. But there’s more. Over that time, I also had the opportunity to further my personal development by taking my education a step further. I completed my MBA and earned a retirement industry credential.
At that point in my career, I was ready for a change and decided to post for a role in our Financial Advisor Services division, a completely new business area for me. I was offered a role as Chief of Staff to the Managing Director of the division, which enabled me to see how strategic decisions are made by leaders every day at Vanguard. I was exposed to new investment products, and was responsible for investment, technology and talent development projects. It was an incredible learning opportunity, which came with a lot of risk but also so much reward. I went on to a Quality Champion role for the same division, where I learned more about process improvement techniques. It was in this role that my career path would change unexpectedly again.
One of the senior leaders I met through the Quality Champion role approached me with a unique opportunity to lead a transformation of a large operation in a group that is now known as Personal Advisor Services (PAS). I had never run a business transformation before, let alone a large business unit. But I knew I could do it. A year and a half later, PAS was up and running, and everyone was in the right seats and with a defined role in the department! What an awesome and challenging experience. Did I mention that I also had to take four licensing exams?
Since I was back in “study mode,” and surrounded by other financial planners, I decided to pursue yet another learning opportunity, and enrolled in a program to obtain the Certified Financial Planner® designation. I was studying so much in those couple of years that my daughter wrote about it in my Mother’s Day card! It had not dawned on me that she saw me working hard and studying, and that even though I had graduated a while ago, I was never done learning. In fact, I am now back in a client facing role, leading one of our Personal Advisor teams in PA, and proud to be part of the 23% of Certified Financial Planner®s who are women.
One of my favorite quotes is from the hockey legend Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Some of the moves I have made in my career scared the heck out of me, but were also some of the best experiences I have had, and came with opportunities to grow and enhance my skills and expertise. I’ve never regretted taking the initial leap to join Vanguard or any of the steps on my career journey that followed, and can’t wait to see how the rest of my path unfolds.
If you’re seeking an environment where you can make a difference and develop professionally, check out our career opportunities at www.vanguardjobs.com.