Forum Spotlight: Q&A with Charles Schwab Managing Director and Central Division Market Executive, Christian Rodriguez
As we prepare for our November Forum, we sat down with Christian Rodriguez, Charles Schwab Managing Director and Central Division Market Executive, to discuss how he got started in wealth management, his drive to stay in the industry, and his hope for programs like Diversitas. Christian is one of our panelists for our November Forum “Building Careers in Wealth Management – Future Careers.”
Our upcoming Forum is taking place on Monday, November 13, from 2-3 pm ET. The virtual event is free to attend and will dive into the future careers segment from the 12 Tribes of Financial Planning model. Register to attend here.
How did you get into the wealth management industry? What first attracted you to the space?
I cut my teeth and got into financial services through Countrywide Home Loans, which ended up being acquired by Bank of America. That was as a call center mortgage loan officer, and I enjoyed that role as an individual contributor for a couple of years. I then got into leadership.
I realized very early on that the movers and shakers, the decision-makers, and the influential people in the organization had Merrill Lynch in their title, and I knew that was the direction I wanted to go.
I started talking to my network and having preliminary discussions and was lucky enough to be interviewed at the Merrill Lynch corporate headquarters. I was asked to take on a role that was a high-level position in operations, but it just didn’t really resonate with me. I’m a sales guy at heart, and I wanted to stay within that realm. It was then that I found an opportunity at Charles Schwab and joined their organization back in 2014. And it’s the greatest professional decision that I have made.
But the main reason that I was looking at it is I did not want to be viewed as an individual with one skill set or only working in one vertical. I didn’t want to have one arrow in my quiver. I felt like what we were doing from a liabilities or a mortgage perspective was just one aspect of the client’s financial picture. I wanted to have that extra component and that extra piece and be able to not just look at one part of that financial picture, but help clients understand all of it. What really attracted me to this industry is the mindset of trying to be as holistic as possible versus just impacting one aspect of that client’s financial journey. While it felt great being able to tell clients, “We’re saving you hundreds off your monthly mortgage payment,” or “We’re wiping out all your debt on your credit cards,” I always felt like that was just one piece of the equation. Now, in this part of the industry, that same approach that we took to put clients in a better financial situation from a cash flow perspective, we can now help them look at the markets and look at investing and retirement and all those other pieces of financial planning.
Ultimately, I got into wealth management to try to figure out a way to be more holistic and try to make a greater impact on people’s lives. Not just through one sleeve or one vertical, but really help make some changes that could get that individual, their family, and even generationally, in a better financial situation.
What keeps you in the industry? And what did you get from the industry that is keeping you moving forward in the industry?
What keeps me moving forward in the industry is that it’s ever-evolving and I also have a passion to try to get more people that look like me and have my background to understand and take ownership of their financial future.
My family and I are from the Dominican Republic originally. I lived there for the first part of my life, and I can tell you that in my culture, which I can only speak for, you kept your money under your mattress. You don’t trust the bank to keep it for you.
So, there are two reasons that I stay. First, the financial services industry is always changing, so its future is exciting for me. It is always good to be tested and learn something new and try to be a part of the next step or the next wave with the way technology, regulations and everything else is rapidly changing in the industry.
Second, I would like to be the person who can help navigate and bring more attention to not only my culture, but to other diverse cultures that need financial services, and to really help people understand that there are a lot of beliefs out there that we need to demystify about the industry. There are a lot of things that can be done by our industry that help most people. I think that there is probably a misconception out there that you must be extremely wealthy or extremely educated to get into this industry or use its services. With technology and the great financial solutions partners in the different financial services organizations, it’s just a matter of having somebody sit down and clearly explain financial matters and answer questions about how to do that. My real passion is to try to figure out a way to get more diverse people and cultures engaged with financial services early on because I am a big believer in the quote, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” If we can get more people to invest and to understand what that looks like for them early in their life, I think that is going to naturally elevate not only them and their families, but also society as a whole.
What impact do you hope organizations like Diversitas will have on the wealth management industry in the coming years?
My hope for Diversitas and programs of this nature is, first, that we can, as an organization, get out in front of individuals earlier on and not have financial service positions be something that gets put into their purview. The sooner that we start talking about financial services as an industry and the professions within it, the sooner that we can get this in front of people and make sure that they understand that this is something viable for all parties involved. In doing this, people will be better off as they advance through their lives.
I feel like the scope of opportunities narrows over time versus doing the inverse of that. I believe we should catch somebody at the very top of the funnel when they’re early in their careers and when they are just starting to understand concepts about their financial lives so that we can help impact their futures. What I hope organizations like Diversitas do for wealth management is to open up the door and encourage the industry to be more inclusive. Not that the industry is purposely being exclusive, but to be more inclusive and make it more amenable for people to enter the industry and become a part of it. I think it is one of those situations where the more we can educate diverse students and career changers upfront, the better off the industry will be. With organizations like Diversitas trying to connect with diverse groups, I think it is a positive step in that direction.
Diversitas has always been focused on college students, but we are continuing to point out that we need to start getting into high schools. We also believe that we need to continue interacting with the folks we call career influencers, including high school guidance counselors, principals, and teachers, to help them understand the financial services industry and the professions within it. What are your thoughts on this focus?
That is a great focus! I can go back and remember conversations that I had with my high school guidance counselor and inquired about many career directions, and I remember my guidance counselor was like, “Unless you have a finance degree or unless you’re going to be an accountant, you probably don’t want to go down that path, and you want to do something else.”
My experience is that there are people with all types of backgrounds and different skill sets who can be successful here in wealth management and financial services. But they need to hear that upfront versus being pigeonholed or being taught that they have to go down a certain path to get there.
If you could go back to your junior or senior year of college, knowing what you know now about the industry and about how we see the segments of the industry through the 12 Tribes Model, how would you change your approach to job hunting?
Knowing what I know now, if I were to go back in time, I would have been a little more open-minded to entry-level positions that didn’t perfectly align with what I went to school for.
My undergraduate degree was in marketing, and my master’s degree is in educational human resource development, so my background is a little unique and a little different for the financial services industry. When I first started out, I felt that because I had a marketing undergraduate degree, I only could apply for marketing jobs and that was the path I had to go down. Whereas, if I had known what I know now and taken a step back to analyze things, I’d realize that my degree might have given me a leg up because of the foundational pieces, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t have been able to jump into roles as a loan officer, commercial real estate lender, or small business banker. For some of those types of roles, I felt like that wasn’t anything that I should apply for or try to attain because I was a marketing guy. What I have learned now, and what I try to share with people, is the fact that whatever degree you get is going to be foundational, but you can pivot in many directions with your career. Try to figure out how you are going to use those skills to be a good loan officer, a good salesperson, a good compliance person, or a good financial planner, or whatever role you take in wealth management and financial services.
Also, I often hear from newer people coming into the industry that they have knowledge and skills that should bring them into positions above entry level. I was one of those people. I came in with the mindset that I don’t need to have an entry-level role because I’ve got two degrees and I should be at this higher level. But I did come into Countrywide as an assistant to a loan officer, starting off on the very ground level. Because of that experience, I got a true appreciation of how all the pieces work together and how you make relationships and learn different skills that will hopefully help you move laterally to positions you want to go to.
As a hiring manager, I like seeing candidates who started in entry-level/assistant roles because that tells me that that individual is willing to put in the time and effort to learn. I think if more people took that mindset, that would break down some of the barriers they have. More importantly, that would help them understand that there is merit to coming in at the ground level because you learn so many different things in those positions. Because of that, you are going to have an appreciation for those experiences. That can be your guide or compass on which way you want to go in your career, which could be completely different from what you thought you wanted when you came in.
What are some of the personal attributes that make you a good fit for a future career?
The thing that I’ve noticed with people who have been successful is that they do the little things right that make the big things come easy. When I say the little things, I refer to their actions.
First, I think people who excel in this field are the types of people who commit to something and always meet their deadlines. These types of people consistently follow through with what they say they will do, which leads to success.
Secondly, the people who are willing to get out of their comfort zone and take on new challenges are the people that I think are going to be successful in these types of careers, because they go beyond pigeonholing themselves. The leaders that I respect and have seen ascend through organizations are the ones who step out of their comfort zone, take on new opportunities, and grow from that.
The third attribute that I believe would make people a good fit for this industry is to understand and accept that there are peaks and valleys in any job that you have.
Speaking for myself, there was probably a time in my career when I thought everyone who worked in this field made tons of money and always had great days. But the people who are successful are the ones who understand that success is like riding a wave. As you start your career, understand that there are going to be great days and bad days, and you need to do what you can to try to make it through the ups and downs to succeed. The way the market has been the last few years is a good example, with a bull market and us riding a nice wave. But like anything else, what goes up must come down, and vice versa. Having that peak and valley mindset engrained early in your life and early in your career will make you successful going forward. Unfortunately, when things are going well, everybody feels good about it, but whenever there is a little bit of turbulence or bad things happening, you see some people get out of sorts, and they don’t know how to deal with it. Successful people who manage their expectations that those times are coming know how to roll with it. And I’m not saying you’re going to react perfectly to it, but if at least you acknowledge it, which is half the battle, and that helps you combat it and work with it better.
Christian Rodriguez is the Central Division Market Executive within the Charles Schwab Retail Branch Network. Christian and his teams are accountable for seeing through clients’ eyes and delivering on the Charles Schwab modern wealth management approach to client service. His teams work closely with Charles Schwab business partners to leverage Schwab’s product suite and deepen client relationships.
Christian originally joined Charles Schwab in 2014 as the National Sales Executive for Charles Schwab Banking & Trust Services. In that role, he established new standards for sales execution and client experience, and ensured that business strategy consistently delivered results through executable plans.
Prior to joining Charles Schwab, Christian spent more than a decade at Bank of America in a variety of increasingly senior roles in lending and sales, including Senior Vice President of Mortgage Lending and National Sales Executive. Before joining Bank of America, Christian spent a season playing professional football in the National Football League for the Indianapolis Colts. He has a bachelor’s degree in marketing, a master’s degree in human resource development, and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree. Christian also has his Series 7, 9/10, 24 and 66 licenses.
Christian proudly serves as the executive sponsor for the Black Professionals at Charles Schwab employee resource group and is actively giving back to his community through the United Way and the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Executive Committee as the Treasurer. He was also recognized by D CEO Magazine as one of the Dallas 500 most influential business leaders in the metroplex.