Forum Spotlight: Q&A with Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer at Cambridge, Valarie Vest
As we prepare for our September Forum, we sat down with Valarie Vest from Cambridge Investment Research to discuss common traits of successful advisors, what initially attracted her to the industry, and where she sees the future of the traditional career sector. Vest is a panelist for our September Forum, “Building Careers in Wealth Management – Traditional Careers.”
Cambridge is sponsoring the upcoming Diversitas Forum, taking place Tuesday, September 12, from 2-3 pm ET. The virtual event is free to attend and will dive into the entrepreneurial, high risk/high reward, name recognition, book of business, and mentorship attributes of financial services. Register to attend here.
What is your advice for those considering a career within this sector?
When I first read this question, I couldn’t help but think about The Next Step® interns that joined us at Cambridge this summer and in past summers. I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to get to know, and mentor, these students while they’re with us. My advice to them, and others considering this profession, is always to be open and ready for change. Learn to not only embrace change, but really try to enjoy it and the constant evolution of personal and professional growth that comes with it.
In the end, you always want to be authentic to yourself and what you are passionate about. Don’t try to “fit into” the model and the previously-held expectations regarding what this career sector is or should be. Instead, work to sharpen your skills, gain expertise and knowledge, and leverage your talents in your own unique way. Everyone has something different to bring to the table. We need more people coming into this industry that have a lot to offer, for those who are working in the profession as well as clients who benefit from the guidance and expertise being provided.
What characteristics or traits do you commonly see among successful advisors or brokers?
To me, there are three qualities every highly impactful advisor has. These include:
Client-focused – A great advisor is always one that is client-focused, meaning they solve their clients’ needs and are willing to meet them where they are while also working towards the future. Successful advisors and brokers can relate to their clients’ situation and are able to build meaningful relationships. Because understanding clients’ needs and goals requires empathy, an impactful advisor puts the client ahead of themselves.
Beginner’s Mindset – Because our industry is constantly evolving, successful advisors and brokers are able to bring a beginner’s mindset to new products, technologies, and systems. There’s a constant thirst for learning there. Great advisors trust and respect the knowledge process that has put them where they are today, but they are also insatiably curious and willing to learn and adopt new strategies to best serve their clients going forward. The recent developments in AI and other technologies come to mind here, as these tools are changing how advisors serve. Although AI will never be able to replace the human connection aspect of advisors, these tools can be helpful. Understanding how and when to use these resources will be important for everyone working in the industry going forward.
Calm Perseverance – Clients look to their advisor to be the steady, calm voice of reason. They’ve hired an advisor not just for product and investment knowledge, but also for coaching; to provide them with guidance, empower them to move forward, and maximize the potential to reach their goals. Money is emotional, and advisors will encounter all kinds of situations (e.g. life events, market volatility, global uncertainty) that impact their clients. Having the ability to remain calm and objective allows advisors to be forward-thinking and thrive in any situation.
How did you get into the wealth management industry? What first attracted you to the space and why have you stayed?
Like many others in this industry, I didn’t grow up thinking I wanted to work in financial services. I did always enjoy helping people, working with others as part of a team, and finding solutions. Early on in my career, I worked in the retirement plan space and gained expertise in plan design, investments, and behavioral science. I loved taking my knowledge and sharing it with financial professionals and companies that sponsored retirement plans. Every day I was able to interact with different leaders in different industries, and was continuously amazed at all the companies it takes to create the products and services we use daily. I stayed in our industry because of the opportunity to experience firsthand the wide range of companies it takes to create our global economy while building and growing my own unique expertise.
Today, in my role as a Chief Experience Officer, I appreciate the opportunity to wake up each day and look for ways to improve our client’s and associate’s experiences. I enjoy the process of building relationships, listening and learning from our associates and advisors, and using what I gather to create solutions that move our industry forward. I never envisioned that my success in this industry would come in the arena of soft skills rather than the technical math and science side! I consider myself a lifelong learner, and there is never a shortage of opportunities to learn and grow.
What do you see for the future of the traditional career sector?
I see a lot of change, with the pace steadily increasing. It’s amazing to look back at the last 30 years and see how the world has changed and impacted our industry and how we work with the internet, smart phones, and a global pandemic. The future of work will continue to change, and in the next 30 years, I believe we will see even more of the traditional career sector changing. I believe the influence of those changes will mostly be focused on how we work, leverage new technologies, and individual well-being and balance in the workplace.
Artificial Intelligence and Virtual/Augmented Reality are unquestionably going to be part of the future. These two areas of technological focus will change the future of our industry. We have an opportunity to embrace, learn, and leverage them for the benefit of our clients.
Finally, I also believe the traditional career sector will change by moving away from the traditional 9 to 5, Monday – Friday schedule and separate work from the life culture we have today. The future will focus on well-being, prioritizing people first, including mind and body health and wellness. We will come to embrace, what today would be considered, unique work arrangements, and the creation of new ways to collaborate and come together through more inclusive, diverse, and innovative work environments.
Valarie Vest joined Cambridge in 2018 and has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. In her role, she collaborates with teams across the firm shaping key client-centric strategies designed to deliver exceptional financial professional and associate experiences. She also works directly with financial professionals and associates, as well as Cambridge’s executive and leadership teams, to identify emerging trends and translate insights into actionable strategies that create growth and meaningful engagement across all touchpoints. Vest earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from the University of Washington and completed additional coursework at Strayer University and Rutgers Center for Innovation Education. Additionally, she holds the FINRA Series 7, 24, and 66 licenses.