"What do you want to be when you grow up?" seems to be a popular topic of conversation in my house as my 9 1/2- and 3 1/2-year-old daughters think about their futures. This has prompted me to reflect on my own career journey and how I am now following my passion of helping families, businesses and non-profits to build solid financial foundations.
My career started 21 years ago with a company then called Chemical Bank, now known as JP Morgan Chase, doing middle market lending and cash management. I went through the firm's well-regarded credit analyst training program, which provided the groundwork for how I analyze financial situations today. From there, I wanted to have broader conversations with my clients about their businesses so I decided to attend business school to make a career change to consulting. I attended the Wharton School, where I had the opportunity to do consulting right away through a year-long internship at the Wharton Small Business Development Center. There I worked with folks who were starting up companies as well as CEOs of existing small businesses who were in need of a turnaround. It was quite satisfying to make an immediate impact on these organizations by helping them to get off the ground and to modify their processes to increase their revenue streams or improve their profitability.
After graduation, I went to work for Ernst & Young in a practice they had at the time called Financial Advisory Services. Here I advised senior management of middle market companies and subsidiaries of Fortune 500 companies on various strategic and corporate finance opportunities. Being a solution provider to such companies was quite exciting, except that I always wanted to know about the next chapter for these organizations, but I often did not get the chance to be a part of this as I was on to the next engagement.
After three years as a consultant, I decided to "settle down" with one company and to impact strategy over a period of time. I got such an opportunity to do so with Merrill Lynch (now Bank of America) by joining a new group that was formed at the company called Strategic Technology Vendor Management. This was quite an interesting choice for me as I did not have any technology in my background. The hiring manager thought that my strategic and financial analytical skill set would round out the team. When I joined Merrill, I struck a deal with my colleagues--I taught them financial analysis in exchange for an education in information technology. This led to a 10-year career in technology management on Wall Street. I spent seven years with Merrill Lynch and three years with Credit Suisse. The majority of my time in technology was spent being a client relationship manager in which I was responsible for providing technological solutions to enable the businesses I supported, mainly investment bankers, to increase their revenue streams by providing key information on their clients and prospects and to enhance their efficiency by automating manual processes.
Due to the economy, my position at Credit Suisse was eliminated at the end of 2008. At this point, I took a step back and thought about what I wanted to do next in my career. For me, next meant leveraging my finance, consulting and corporate management background and making a personal impact on families, businesses and non-profits as a financial advisor and planner. Through networking in professional organizations, primarily the Financial Women's Association (FWA) where I am now president, I became drawn to this career. Further, I got connected with the firm I'm with, the Center for Wealth Preservation in Syosset, N.Y., through an FWA-related relationship.
It's been nearly two years since I made the transition to financial advising and planning and I haven't looked back. I am enjoying helping people to navigate through their financial worlds--educating and empowering them along the way. When I go to work in the morning, my daughters ask me where I am going and respond by saying that "I am going to work to help people." It makes me smile when they ask to come with me as they want to do this too.
Susan Ganz is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services Inc., headquartered at 6800 Jericho Turnpike, Suite 202W, Syosset, N.Y.