Women Talking Wealth: Sue Bellehumeur
What has your career journey been like?
It actually started nearly 40 years ago, when I was a dental hygienist. I was ready to make a career change, and my patient, who was an associate here, told me about Baird in between flossings. I didn't want to go to dental school and was just starting a family, so I went back to school to finish a business degree, and in August 1985, I started as a receptionist in Baird’s Mayfair branch.
I earned my MBA and wanted to become licensed right away. This was back in 1987, when very few women were licensed, and I found myself fielding many “well-intentioned” questions asking if I thought I could pass. I did, and was helping clients navigate Black Monday in October 1987. After spending time on the municipal bond desk, I decided I wanted to be a Financial Advisor in 1991. This was really the beginning of the firm’s efforts to reflect the increasing diversity of our PWM clients.
How did you become a branch manager?
Our previous branch manager had telegraphed that he was retiring, and this was a role I wanted and thought I would be good at. We hadn’t had a female branch manager at the firm before, but I had learned that if you want something, you have to raise your hand and be prepared to be told “no.” The firm was reluctant at first, but they said, “let’s give it a try for six months,” and I’ve been here ever since.
What drew you to the role?
Honestly, it’s probably the same thing that drew me to dentistry – I wanted a career where I could help people succeed in their lives. I’ve prided myself on my ability to forge personal connections with people, and that’s been instrumental in moving the Waukesha branch forward.
You’ve made quite a leap from dentistry to financial services. Do you have advice for anyone considering a similar move?
Financial services is a tremendous career, especially for those looking for additional flexibility. You work a lot of hours too – in any given day, I will be solving problems for our clients, keeping the office running, incorporating regulatory mandates into our practice and walking through technology upgrades, all while building a team. You need to wear a lot of different hats!
I would say anyone thinking about switching to financial services should have a natural tendency toward helping people and an interest in learning how they think about money – and above all a client-first mentality.
Did moving into financial services affect how you handled your own finances?
Absolutely! When my husband and I were first starting out, managing finances primarily fell on my shoulders – he was a physician who had zero interest in financial education. Once I started at Baird and saw what our wonderful FAs were recommending to clients, I started to think that I needed to bring some of these ideas to my own family. Baird had and continues to have so many resources and people to talk to and learn from.
What’s something that surprised you about becoming a Financial Advisor?
Just how joyful and emotionally satisfying this job can be. Part of that is seeing clients become friends and friends become clients – but also being present in person at pivotal moments in the lives of our clients. It’s not just crunching numbers – it’s making a real impact in the lives of people you’ve come to care for.
What guidance would you give other women considering a manager role?
The most important thing is to not write off your chances – always explore the role, always raise your hand, always be thinking about how you want to spend your time and make a difference. In our branch, we have eight Financial Advisors who started out as Client Specialists. When I think back on who I've been fortunate enough to hire, the quality of people has been incredibly important and made a huge difference for our branch and our clients.
Learn more about how our female associates continue to inspire and lead our firm.
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