Eileen Sharkey, a pioneer of the financial advisory profession who served as chair of the College for Financial Planning, died on April 19 in Denver, according to the FPA of Colorado.

She was also a leader in both the Foundation For Financial Planning and the Institute of Certified Financial Planners, as well as chairman emeritus of the Denver Ballet Endowment Trust.

Born in England and trained as an actuary, Sharkey began her career designing corporate pension plans and profit-sharing plans. She earned her CFP license in 1978, according to the firm’s web site.

Her technical and interpersonal abilities provided her with a unique skill set to play a major role in the development of the financial planning profession. The business was tiny and highly fragmented when American corporations began to transition away from traditional defined benefit towards defined contribution plans.

In 1990, Sharkey became the founder of the RIA firm, Sharkey, Howes & Javer. Her original partners included Richard B. Wagner, who left firm in 2000 to pursue his wide-ranging interest in financial life planning.

In the 1980s, Sharkey quickly emerged as a leader and far-sighted thinker in a business that was even more dominated by males than it is today. “I remember about 30 years ago when we co-chaired a financial planning meeting for advisors in London,” Alexandra Armstrong recalled. “She was the chair of the ICFP and I [was chair] of the IAFP. 

“Since she knew the culture, she said that it was highly unusual to have two women co-chair a financial meeting for advisors in London,” Armstrong continued. “In fact, she was sure they were in shock!  Of course, as an American, I had been blissfully oblivious!”  

Sharkey continued to work into her 70s. She retired from the firm last December.