"She wants us to know as much as possible," Graziano adds. "In our meetings, she picks up from my expression whether I understand what she is saying and she makes it understandable."

She also mentors her staff, some of whom came to her with little or no financial training. Amy Abaravich, her operations associate, taught Hannon's children in Sunday school (their "God connection," she calls it), and Hannon brought her on as a novice while trying to build the firm.

"I sit within three feet of Terry," says Eric Gilbert, the firm's operations manager. "I had no idea what running a practice was all about. She teaches and trains me just like she educates the clients."

Hannon devotes a substantial amount of time to pro bono work and to charities, and invites her staff to join her and her children in these efforts. She teaches financial awareness in a domestic violence shelter, House of the Good Shepherd, and volunteers with the female inmates at the DuPage County Jail.

"These are women who need to know how to save $5, but when you leave you know you have really helped someone," she says.
Another event she got her entire staff involved with was a 110-mile, two-day bike ride from Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg, Pa., to help raise money for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families. "It was not fun," Hannon says. "It was a lot of hard work. But when you think you are tired, you look at the veteran next to you who is hand-cranking his bike because he has no legs, and you know you have it easy." The staff plans to join again next year.

She also takes her children along on charity events and offers a temporary foster home for homeless children "because I want my kids to know how lucky they are. I have a strong need to give back."

Hannon's work prompted Curian Capital to create the Advisor of the Year award, just so they could give her the first one, says Bell. The company presented it to her at its annual Everest Club meeting in May (the one where she found herself surrounded by men).

"I did not know they were going to present me with an award, but as soon as they said it I felt the atmosphere change: I gained more respect," she says.

Her humanity is cited by everyone who speaks of Hannon, including her clients. They feel they are not just an income source for the firm, and she makes sure the entire staff feels the same way.

"Terry does the right thing and not the thing that will bring her money. She goes the extra mile for everyone," notes Helen Marrano, the firm's office manager and Hannon's assistant.