Women Talking Wealth: Ana Geller
Tell us about your role at Baird and how you came to join the firm.
I started out in wealth management 25 years ago with Legg Mason, an investment and asset management firm headquartered in Baltimore. At the time I served on the corporate side in a department that handled all the logistics for conferences, reporting, training and recruiting and acting as a liaison between the field and senior management.
That lasted until 2006, when the retail side of Legg Mason was bought by Smith Barney and I joined the LM Towson branch as the admin manager. The culture at Smith Barney turned out to be so different than what we were used to, and the three years there were the longest three years in my professional life. Our team joined Baird in 2009, and in January 2021 I was promoted to Associate Branch Manager.
Can you talk about your background before joining Baird?
I grew up in the Dominican Republic and then Costa Rica before moving to the United States for college. When I first came here as an 18-year-old college student, I knew nothing about finance or even how to write a check – I had to learn how to budget and manage my finances on my own. I learned very quickly to not spend what you don’t have.
A major event in both my personal and professional life occurred seven years later at the age of 25, with the passing of my father while my mother and younger sister were still in Costa Rica. It was then that I realized that even though my parents knew he was dying, they were still financially unprepared – the house wasn’t properly titled, there wasn’t an education plan for my sister, there wasn’t an insurance policy taken out. That event has had a profound influence on how I approach my own finances and how I raise my daughters.
In what way?
What I realized with my dad passing is that when something that traumatic happens, you never want to have to address its financial impact while you’re still processing its emotional impact. This understanding helped prepare me for when I went through a divorce, because I knew I would be able to raise my kids and plan for my future relying only on myself. There’s so much people need to be educated on ahead of time. Now I’m known in my family for always being in disaster-prevention mode, for always asking what if. I feel you have to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
What resources do you use to manage your finances?
When I was starting out, computers weren’t as readily available as they are now. It was just a pen and paper – handwritten notes that kept track of the basics, like expenses, saving and spending.
Now we have spreadsheets, plus all of Baird's resources at my fingertips. The 360 Wealth functionality of Baird Online shows me my complete financial picture and makes it easy to track where my money is at any given point.
Baird’s Personal Information Guide also makes budgeting easier and helps me keep track of documents, accounts and passwords. My oldest daughter laughs at me, but you never know when all that information will come in handy!
How does being an associate branch manager affect how you manage your finances?
When you’re in my role, you see all the decisions clients have made with their money – the good and the bad. It reminds you that no matter how much or how little money you have, there are things you can do to manage it well, either for yourself or the people counting on you, whether it’s making a list of all your financial accounts or talking with your loved ones about your priorities. Wealth will vary from client to client, but the importance of managing it thoughtfully is universal.
What are different resources that help you to manage your finances?
My experience here has taught me that there’s always more to learn. Two really good resources that I’d recommend everyone bookmark are Baird Digest, Baird’s wealth management newsletter, and Baird Wealth Strategies, a monthly webinar series covering a wide range of financial topics, ranging from charitable giving to Social Security planning to education funding. They’re timely and they get me thinking about questions I want to ask my own advisors.
What advice would you give women taking on a managerial role, as well as to women looking for help managing their finances?
If you’re interested in a managerial role, verbalize it! Tell your supervisor that’s what you’re interested in and start putting together a plan to make it happen. Leadership is a journey, and it takes time and effort to develop the skills to become a good one. You’re constantly evolving and learning. Also, I’d encourage women to get involved in councils, initiatives, networking circles, what have you – make yourself more visible to the people around you. I’ve been able to benefit from so many mentor relationships at Baird just from being active within the firm.
For women looking to become better with managing money, I’d say to not be afraid to ask questions. Over the course of my career, I’ve found most people are insecure about their financial knowledge and are afraid to ask questions. I understand that fear – I’ve been there myself! But I’d remind them, first, there are no dumb questions, but second, it’s so important you get this right. That’s one of my favorite aspects of working at Baird – everyone is supportive and helpful, and no one will talk down to you. It’s a great place to ask questions and learn and grow.
The information reflected on this page are Baird expert opinions today and are subject to change. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. All investments have some level of risk, and investors have different time horizons, goals and risk tolerances, so speak to your Baird Financial Advisor before taking action.
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