A look at Internal Sales in the Financial Advisor Services division
We recently sat down with Heidi Spilotros, who leads the Broker-Dealer Internal Sales team in the Financial Advisor Services (FAS) division at Vanguard. In this blog, she highlights key components of her role, the broad impact FAS has on our advisors and personal investors, as well as advice for candidates who may be considering applying for an opportunity on her team.
Why did you become a Vanguard crew member?
I have been in sales my entire 24-year career and I have been in financial services sales in one form or another for most of that time. One of the biggest draws for me coming to Vanguard was the culture, and what I mean by that is the focus on collaboration and crew. There was a positive collegiality that I felt when I came here. Many of the environments I have experienced have been male-dominated and highly competitive, and without a willingness to share information or help others. The inclusive nature of Vanguard came through in the interview process. Every single person I met really wanted to ensure I was a culture fit who could help strengthen the collaborative, collegial environment where all voices are heard, everyone is encouraged to bring his or her best ideas to the table, and everyone wins together. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really believe it at first, but after being here for 18 months, it’s true. I have a great team that cares for each other, promotes a sense of belonging, and iterates with one another on everything, even when we dissent and disagree. No feelings are hurt because it’s all in the spirit of trying to do what’s right for our clients and what’s right for Vanguard.
How does your team directly contribute to the client experience and doing what is right by our investors?
It is important for our sales force in FAS to always keep the end client, investors, top of mind, even though we deal directly with Financial Advisors. We have to understand both the Advisors’ business as well as the client perspective, which can get complicated at times. But when you think about the impact you have if you effectively communicate our mission and offer to the Advisors, and help them achieve the goals they have for their clients, it’s really something. One advisor can reach hundreds of clients, so if we set them up for success, a multitude of investors benefit. For every generation our sales team can touch and every subsequent generation of advisors they teach and train, the impact can be exponential. In FAS, we want to make sure that everyone has the best chance for investment success.
How is the sales organization in FAS evolving?
There is a transformation underway called distribution enablement and it is exactly as it sounds. It is a variety of tools, processes and resources that will help our sales people be more effective. There are ways in which we can approach the market more efficiently and a variety of enablement tools, technology and techniques that will allow us to do so.
We are starting to deploy these tools, and one example I’ll share is around our ability to deal with sales opportunities. Our teams haven’t previously been able to answer key questions that would allow one to determine and track success measures. With this new methodology centered on gathering information and involving all players to make better-informed decisions, we now have a shared language and approach that will help us accomplish our goals in a more streamlined way. Going forward, we need to ask ourselves the following questions: How do we go to market with something unique? How do we see more clients? How do we see them more often and further our relationships?
What are you looking for in a candidate to join the FAS sales team?
The first thing I would say is that sales is one of those words that can be viewed in a variety of ways. Sometimes people can be intimidated. What sales really means, especially in FAS at Vanguard, is that you are able to make connections with people. Are you curious? Are you interested in uncovering what an advisor’s business is all about? If you’re curious, love building relationships, and enjoy solving problems, this could really be a great path for you. Sales is one of the most fascinating professions as it is truly filled with philosophical conversation using psychology and human behavior to understand why people make the decisions they do and how you might be able to influence and guide them to a mutually beneficial outcome. Ultimately, this is all about empathetically navigating a conversation in order to identify what’s most important to that person. When asking our sales folks what the best part of their day is, more often than not, they’ll say it’s when they have had great client interactions with financial advisors and brought value to the relationship.
Interested in a career in Sales? Please click here to view available opportunities.
In this blog, we sit down with Kelly M. and Elisha V., two crew members who serve different areas of the Vanguard business and received a professional development opportunity through one of our employee resource groups. Kelly is a Senior Research Associate in our Fixed Income Group, where she analyzes municipal bonds and works with the trading and portfolio management teams. Elisha is an IT Delivery Manager within our 401(k) Institutional Systems division, where she leads IT teams across our Pennsylvania and North Carolina offices. This is their story:
When thinking about where you want to launch or continue your career, you can be assured that at Vanguard, an emphasis is placed on professional development. Combined, we have been at Vanguard for nearly twenty years. During our tenure, we have both received support in various ways to help further advance our skill set. There is one development opportunity that we pursued, however, that stands out from all the rest. Through the Women’s Initiative for Leadership Success (WILS), one of our five Crew Resource Groups, we applied and were selected to participate in an advanced leadership development program for women. In addition to collaborating with female talent from across the enterprise and having a dedicated leadership coach consultant, the program presented us with several frameworks and tools that prepared us to handle a number of scenarios that we could potentially face throughout our careers. Examples include shaping the way we make decisions, preparing and executing courageous conversations with crew, reframing the dialogue of our inner critic, and recognizing unconscious biases.
The experience couldn’t have come at a better time in our professions. Elisha had just started a new managerial position and Kelly, who had always been an individual contributor, aspired to obtain a formal leadership role. Although we support different business areas in unique fields, we are both women within male-dominated industries. We were both successful within our careers at this point and were excited to learn ways in which we could enhance our skills and achieve professional goals going forward. We also quickly realized during the program that what got us here would not get us there, with there being where we envisioned our careers going and how we saw ourselves reaching our full potential. This specific program changed our perspectives on what that means and gave us the resources to clearly define who we are and what we stand for.
Identifying the direction we wanted to steer our careers, in addition to using learnings centered on how to plan and execute courageous conversations, continue to stand out as key takeaways from the program. We had the chance to practice these exchanges, and the more we practiced, the more we realized how impactful it was when developing others. Moreover, taking on courageous conversations is so imperative to improving a challenging situation, and we are now better equipped to handle them. Lastly, we received helpful reminders that something as simple as making the invisible, visible, can be a powerful mind shift that will lead you to a more successful outcome.
The advanced leadership development program for women has provided us with more than either of us expected. We are more prepared and confident in navigating our careers for having taken part in this initiative. Again, this is just one example of the many development opportunities offered at Vanguard.
More about the authors:
Kelly joined Vanguard directly out of college in 2007 and has been working in the Investment Management Group for the past three years. Kelly graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
Elisha has been at Vanguard since 2012. She launched her career as a developer and shortly after moved into a technical lead role. Following these experiences, she transitioned to a project management position that gave her the opportunity to be a technical relationship manager for a large 401(k) client and now as a delivery manager, supporting cross-divisional capabilities and relationships for Vanguard Advice for Institutional. Prior to joining Vanguard, Elisha worked at various startups and financial companies also within the engineering and technology capacity for four years.