At September’s impressive Future Proof conference, I met three women who are changing the financial industry—each a woman who blazed her own trail in the male-dominated financial field and each found ways to make her mark to benefit others.
Marci Bair, CFP, is president and founder of Bair Financial Planning located in San Diego, California. She has more than 30 years of experience working with women in leadership, LGBTQ+ families, and progressive business owners. Her firm specializes in managing high-impact portfolios, which are investment portfolios of companies that have a positive impact on our environment, are socially responsible, and have high corporate governance policies using ESG criteria. This might sound like many firms, but what’s different is that Bair‘s practice has always emphasized diversity and social responsibility. That’s more than 30 years!
Nicole Casperson is a journalist and podcast host based in New York City. Her podcast, WTFintech? (and newsletter) provides expert news, analysis, and culturally relevant content around innovation in finance, investing, and technology. Casperson is also one of the founding content creators of a rising media company: Workweek. Before joining Workweek, Casperson was the fintech reporter for InvestmentNews, hosted the podcast TechStack$, and produced the Her Success Matters podcast. Before that, she was the youngest deputy editor of Auto Finance News and reported on housing and mortgages for Dallas-based DSNews and MReport. She’s from Southern California and a Texas Tech grad. Casperson is passionate about financial and societal equity, making that the core of her content and analysis.
Georgia Stewart is CEO and co-founder of Tumelo, which enables pooled funds such as retirement funds to give a proxy voting voice to the funds’ individual shareholders. The goal is to provide a way for shareholders to take action on the corporate policies of their investments that have an impact on environmental and social issues. Before Tumelo, Stewart studied natural sciences at Cambridge University and worked on the sustainable investment teams at Jupiter and Alliance Trust.
Pushed by Passion
Each of these women had a passion that pushed them in their career direction. For Bair, it was leading a balanced life where she could have a positive impact on her diverse, often underrepresented clients while making a difference in the world through ESG investing. Her type of practice was unheard of decades ago. She summed up her goal simply: “If we can change the whole culture of Wall Street, that’s our legacy.”
For Casperson, it was always about journalism, and her career led her to writing content to business professionals. Rather than feel pigeonholed, she was excited to make an impact on readers who were the people making decisions. She continues to be excited about what she does because she “has an influence on the financial world and can help make the world a better place.” She considers herself a success if she is able to influence even one person. By that definition, Casperson is a success many times over.
For Stewart, her inspiration came when she was at Cambridge University working on its endowment fund. It was there that she realized that investors have virtually no power over how companies do business. Since most investors own shares of companies through mutual funds, they never get an opportunity to vote proxies (because the fund companies handle the voting). When she realized that more than 80% of mutual funds’ proxy votes are against ESG, Stewart decided to take action. Her company, Tumelo, is a one-stop shop for investors, providing knowledge and a mechanism to enable them to vote proxies. Successful in the United Kingdom, Tumelo is now making strides in the United States market.
Although each of these trailblazers had lofty goals, they did not distract from business success. Bair is the recipient of multiple awards, including Small Business of the Year, awarded by former California State Senator Christine Kehoe, 40 Under 40 Award by Metropolitan Magazine, Business of the Year from the Greater San Diego Business Association, Woman of the Year from the San Diego LGBT Center, and Champion of Pride by San Diego LGBT Pride.
After graduating from Texas Tech, Casperson’s career skyrocketed from her modest start as associate editor of DS News and MReport to starting her own business in less than five years. She has has interviewed numerous industry leaders, such as U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios, Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary, American businesswoman Mellody Hobson, and women’s rights advocate Gloria Steinem.
Stewart has received international recognition for her democratization of the sustainable investing movement including WeAreTechWomen’s Inspirational Women in Tech and the Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
So, what does it take to be changemaker in the financial industry? Besides goals and dreams, it takes focus and commitment. According to Bair, it means “being present in what you are doing. Work hard but keep your priorities.” For Casperson, it’s more than intention. Her writing is “what we can do to make a difference,” and her aim is to “create impact.” Finally, Stewart aspires to “engage the next generation on issues they care about.”
The opinions expressed here are the author’s. Morningstar values diversity of thought and publishes a broad range of viewpoints.