By Janine Wertheim
From an early age, I’ve always loved working. I especially enjoyed getting things started, leading people and organizing events and figuring out how to make things better. Whether I was helping my neighbor clean her house for a few bucks, starting a club in my neighborhood, organizing the kickball game or adding props to my third-grade stories, these traits have helped me throughout my career.
Originally from Greenville, S.C., I graduated college with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration when interest rates were sky high, and no one was hiring. A man from my church introduced me to one of the partners of a small start-up financial planning shop focused on high net worth clients. The company needed a “Jill of all trades.” I knew if I could get my foot in the door, I’d be able to show them my value. The firm had two male partners, one specializing in insurance and the other in securities. The securities partner took me under his wing and taught me everything he knew, while the other partner introduced me as his “girl Friday” and sent me out for snacks for their Friday poker games. We later hired a female commercial property and casualty insurance agent. While she was much older, we immediately became friends, and she was eager to support me.
Universal life insurance products were just getting started. Our firm was selling a lot of Liberty Life Insurance, and the partners were invited to a Top Producers trip in 1983. They met a man who owned a large insurance marketing organization (IMO) in Omaha, Neb., serving 10,000 agents. The partner with securities expertise decided to form a broker-dealer with the owner of the IMO and get the insurance agents to sell securities. He offered me the opportunity to relocate and become a part of their new venture. I flew out to Omaha, and they offered me the job. At first, I declined because I just couldn’t imagine living so far away from my family. The Omaha partner called and convinced me I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. He even told me he would move me back if I didn’t like it after six months. He was right, and I never moved back.
I’ve made it my personal mission to advocate for women in financial services because I’m convinced this is a great business for women and our industry is so much better off when we have diverse insight and conversation.
Although I’ve been with that company – Securities America – 31 years, we have evolved so much I feel as if I’ve worked for a variety of companies including a startup, a small private company, a medium-sized enterprise, and a publicly-traded company. With each, I’ve had to challenge myself to grow. Starting in on the ground floor, I did practically everything at first, from licensing to recruiting to compliance and operations. I could almost recite every commission, expense, mutual fund description, and limited partnership out there. By 1988, we had over 200 registered reps, and I was named vice president of operations. In 1994, we launched our advisory firm, Securities America Advisors, and I was named president. We soon became a serious player in the independent space, ranking as a Top 10 independent broker-dealer in 1995. In 1998, we were acquired by American Express, and I took on the additional role of chief marketing officer for the Securities America companies. We were included in the spin-off with Ameriprise Financial in 2005 and then sold to Ladenburg Thalmann in 2011.
Today, I’m proud to be a part of Securities America. With over 2,000 financial professionals across the country, over $60 billion in client assets and nearly $23 billion in advisory assets, we have 500+ amazing employees who constantly strive to help our advisors grow, perfect and protect their practices so they can deliver exceptional advice and service to their clients.
My current role at Securities America allows me to interact with financial professionals regularly and to keep a pulse on changes and concerns. I love serving financial professionals because I firmly believe in the value they bring to people with life’s most personal decisions that involve money and so much more. I’ve made it my personal mission to advocate for women in financial services because I’m convinced this is a great business for women and our industry is so much better off when we have diverse insight and conversation. I’m proud of the steps that Securities America has taken to support women advisors, emerging women leaders, and women investors.