As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Pamela Segal Rhodes, a Financial Advisor and Portfolio Manager at UBS Wealth Management USA in Miami, Fla. Pamela was named to the Forbes/SHOOK Top Women Wealth Advisors list in 2019–2021.
Since joining UBS in 2006, Pamela and her colleague, Federico Sanchez, have built a successful career in wealth management, having taken their team from $100 million to approximately $900 million in assets today.
With a deep commitment to establishing long-term, multigenerational relationships, Pamela is proud to have served as an honorary “CFO” for multiple families in Florida for over two decades. She works personally with each of her ultra- and high-net-worth families to establish financial, retirement and estate plans in the context of a comprehensive investment strategy with the primary goal of asset preservation.
Pamela earned a B.A. in finance from Boston University and an M.B.A. in finance from the University of Miami. Outside of the office, she participates in many local and national organizations. Pamela and her husband, Kobi, live in Wellington, Fla., with their two children.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Thank you, I appreciate this opportunity. I began my finance career in 1987. My father had a large CPA firm in Miami Beach and was very involved in the community and philanthropy. He had friends at a local family-owned bank. I met with the owner and CEO of the bank to help guide me about what I wanted to do with my career. He said, “You’re going to work here.” They developed a training program for me, and I went through all the operations of the bank to determine what I wanted to be. I did a little bit of everything, but I chose the securities area. I went to work on the investment desk cold calling to generate new business. I was the only woman on the desk at the time. Although I was in a male-dominated business, I never viewed myself differently. Looking back, I think that was a huge advantage for me. I wasn’t treated differently, and I never felt out of place. I always had the same attitude and confidence as my male colleagues. I believe this attitude has helped me in my career. I felt that I had the same opportunities as a man; being a woman was not an issue or a challenge.
That same year the stock market crashed on October 19 (Black Monday). That financial crisis taught me about helping clients stay calm in times of uncertainty.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
After leaving a previous bank, I maintained a good relationship with a former client. I communicated with him through the years. After the financial crisis in ’08, I received a call from him. He said, “This is the call you’ve been waiting for.” He informed me that I was going to be in competition with other firms for his business. We went through multiple rounds of meetings. I never shied away from competition. In our final meeting, we got into a debate about how we were managing portfolios and an idea I had that was different from another firm he was interviewing.
After debating back and forth for about 30 minutes, I closed my book and said, “There’s no right or wrong here, maybe we have a different view on how the portfolio should be invested. Thank you so much for the opportunity, but I don’t think it’s going to be a good fit. Good luck, and we are always here, you know where I am. Goodbye.” I got up and left this $100 million prospect that could have doubled our assets.
I called Federico with the news while thinking, “No, no, this is the way we do it. I want to get some whitepapers to back up my ideas as to what was going on, the type of managers we are using, why we are using them versus the other strategies provided by another firm.”
While I was at home on the phone getting whitepapers together, I received a call from a number I didn’t recognize. It went to voice mail. It was the client (prospect) that I had just left. I called him back asking, “What’s going on? I’m putting together some whitepapers.” He said, “Pam, stop, you have the business. We are all in, we’re in with you. Get the paperwork ready, we want to start our relationship with you.” That’s why I always tell people, “Stick to what you truly believe.”
Later I asked him what the difference was — what made him decide on me? He said, “You stuck to your beliefs and you were passionate about your work. You didn’t give in. I want to have people doing that with me every day. I like people who give me resistance, give me another idea, another view, another angle, that’s what I want.” That’s why I always tell people, remember, they are coming to you as the professional. Have the conviction of your beliefs and what you are doing, and you will be successful.
Like most of our clients and families we serve, he has become a very good friend and we have a relationship with his kids. We believe in developing relationships with individual family members over multiple generations, which provides a deep knowledge of each family’s unique dynamic. We have taken care of everything for that family for over 20 years.
It was an important lesson learned — people respect you when you politely push back, challenge them, and resist from a strategic point of view — not in an argumentative way, but as a professional who can advise with conviction.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t think this is a funny story, but it certainly provided a valuable lesson. Before joining UBS, I’ll never forget when Federico and I were meeting with a 60-million-dollar client prospect. It was a big deal. We brought in our head attorney for trust and estate planning from New York. I had a very senior position in portfolio management at the time. I explained to the prospective client our investment process and they said, “So you are making all the decisions with one person in New York for the entire portfolio?” I said, yes. We did not win the business.
What we learned was that different investment themes, different investment objectives, different investment CFOs and CIOs can be advantageous to a portfolio because one person, one idea, could be wrong, and then the whole portfolio is wrong. When you have different ideas in one portfolio, that type of diversification impacts the portfolio. Similarly, that’s why diversity is important to organizations — sharing different perspectives and viewpoints brings greater value.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My father built a very successful CPA firm with over 60 CPAs in Miami Beach. He has always been the guiding light, providing great inspiration and perspective. He was a mentor to me, my younger sisters, and my brother. He instilled in us an incredible work ethic: always produce, always do the best you can. From report cards to piano lessons, do the best you can. He could be considered a tough man. My friends visiting our home were terrified of him. That’s probably why I never felt intimidated by men. I feel like I was conditioned at a young age to deal with situations that others, especially women within our industry, would be uncomfortable with. He’s always been the one I credit for getting my start.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I think preparation is critical. Know your client. If it’s a new prospect, do your research. Go in feeling good about yourself. Exercise is an important stress reliever for me. In the morning before a big meeting, I always get 20 to 30 minutes on the treadmill. If you feel good internally, you will communicate positively in the meeting.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Executives in many industries are realizing just how much women bring to the table. I think greater diversity builds better relationships with clients because people want to work with those they can identify with more easily. In finance, the woman-to-woman relationship brings value. Wives, widows, and divorcees often relate better with other women, which helps facilitate the management and preservation of wealth for future generations. I communicate and work closely with my clients, their spouses, and their children; the relationships we build are essential to a family’s success. I’m often referred to as the ‘CFO’ of many families with whom we have second- and third-generation relationships. The continuity of these relationships builds a lifetime of trust.
We see more opportunities for women coming up and for those who are career-oriented. They can make a name for themselves within the industry as long as they work hard and are passionate about what they are doing. And to me, that’s the most important factor regardless of your gender. Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you work hard, I believe great things await in any industry.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
This is an interesting topic for me because I’m a bit of an enigma. I never looked at myself as being at a disadvantage as a woman. Quite the contrary, and I think that has a lot to do with my upbringing. There was never any separateness. We never got a sense that women shouldn’t be in the workforce; it was never part of the conversation.
I believe it’s all about awareness. I’m seeing more targeted advertising toward women. Many companies and executives are realizing how much women can bring to the table. When you have greater diversity, things just seem to work better in many situations. I do believe the woman-to-woman relationship works. I believe when I started in this industry there was less than five percent of women in finance, now it’s at about 20 percent. I believe it will ramp up, especially with the current focus on diversity and women. You’ll see more women accelerate.
I think you’ll start to see a lot of changes over the next decade because of the infrastructure that can support women and minorities in the industry. Mentorship opportunities have to be done early, at the college level, to build awareness by exposing opportunities to more women, Latinos, and African-Americans. I think lack of awareness brings fear. That’s why internships at an early age are important to financial institutions. They can expose young people to unknown opportunities.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
An as executive or CEO, it’s important to partner with your team. I make sure that everybody feels that they have a very important, instrumental role in the success of the team. I want people to be proactive, think outside the box. People get so much more when they feel a part of a team. Everybody has a stake in the organization.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
An executive or CEO doesn’t need to be a dictator or have the final word — they need to be a partner within their team.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
In my view, women make their own challenges. I never thought I was any different than any of my male colleagues, nor did I face any challenges, or feel advantaged or disadvantaged. Think of yourself as the same. I have never faced a challenge in the industry because I was a woman, so I can’t speak to this. A career as a Financial Advisor offers the flexibility to work and be a mom. I worked through my pregnancies. After six weeks of maternity leave, I started having meetings right away as that worked for me. I have the ability to work on my own time and in this role, you get out what you put in.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I’m still having fun. I love the people and families I’m working with. I enjoy every day getting up and doing what I do best.
Is everyone cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
No, not everyone has the attributes to be an executive, and that’s okay. Some traits include courage, independence, and thinking outside the box. However, not everyone should be a general, we need soldiers. We all bring something different to the table. Different skills, different perspectives — that’s what makes a team successful.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
I would advise them to use their attributes, such as listening, understanding, and problem-solving, to create and build better relationships. In wealth management, we connect with investors and their spouses to help grow, not only those relationships but the clients’ business as well. It’s important to get women involved. They look at things differently than their male counterparts. I truly believe that this is one of the best professions for a woman. The time commitment and schedule are very flexible, you get paid well, it gives you the freedom to still have a family. Keep in mind, you’re not just managing money, you’re managing relationships. Clients want to know that their wealth is in good hands. They want to talk about their family, their kids. Listening skills are extremely important for success in this business.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I like to think that I help families by doing what I do best, so they can do what they do best. I am also grateful for being able to contribute to community organizations like the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League and Make-A-Wish, to name a few.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- First and foremost, a woman can do it all. Family and profession. A woman does not need to make a choice of one or the other.
- Listen first. Listening is something I work on every day.
- Measure risk relative to reward with everything you do. Some mistakes could have been avoided in my early years.
- If you don’t ask, you will not receive. As a woman, we must always remind our counterparts we are as valuable as they are within our individual professions.
- Work with those who have similar values to your own. Successful partnerships for the long-term must start there first.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“From The Tortoise and the Hare, slow and steady wins the race.” Always perform and outperform consistently — maintain the course and you will win the race. I’m a firm believer that if you stay the course, and do not make hasty decisions based on quick market activity or what everyone else is doing, you will win in the end. We’ve lived by that motto and our team is living proof that this approach and strategy work.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen — she is a woman surrounded by men. I have amazing admiration for her. She could not be successful in her position without conviction and passion for what she is doing.