Gretchen Halpin is a strategic visionary with over 25 years of leadership and marketing experience. She is the co-founder of Beyond AUM, a growth, marketing, and technology agency that specializes in serving financial advisors.
In her work with financial professionals and teams, Halpin’s primary focus is to accelerate and guide organizational growth in a positive, sustainable way. With vast, multifaceted leadership experience, and a history of starting and growing successful companies, Halpin pioneers the strategy and growth initiatives that drive success across every aspect of business — from talent management to marketing and business development — and ensures that all decisions are aligned with her clients’ overall mission. A prolific thought leader in the growth, marketing, and financial services arenas, Gretchen has been a speaker at numerous industry events and conferences, including the annual eMoney Advisor Summit and Financial Advisor Magazine’s Invest in Women Conference, where she has spoken about workplace diversity, inclusion, and representation. She has been featured in Financial Planning Magazine, Financial Advisor Magazine, and Forbes.
Q: What would you like to see your team accomplish in 2019?
Since launching Beyond AUM in 2017, our first three years of business have been focused on solidifying foundational growth and creating efficiencies in our workflows that benefit our clients and the business’s profitability. Now that our team has addressed these areas with successful results, we’re working on increasing sustainable scalability and adding new revenue streams into the business. By the end of 2019, we will have the strategic plans in place to execute on those growth initiatives over the course of next year. The goal is to continue expanding the services we provide to help more financial advisory firms achieve their goals and reach more clients who need their expertise.
Q: What were the most challenging areas in the early stages of the company’s growth?
Because we focus on a highly specialized and regulated industry, building the right team of professionals to support our growing client base has been tough. When you’re trying to get the right people in the right seats to move projects forward during high-growth mode, you have to ensure that the choices you’re making about hiring team members are not emotionally driven because you’re exhausted. We have made some mistakes along the way, but my co-founder, Nima Tolooi, and I are always in sync about why, how, and when we make certain decisions. So, when mistakes happen, we intuitively know what we need to do to right the course and take the actions that will get us closer to our goals while maintaining the high standards of service we provide to our clients.
Q: Who is your role model or hero?
Wonder Woman, truth, justice, and all. I’m only half-kidding. This is a hard question to answer — I’ve had so many strong women in my life that have helped shape who I am today, including family members, friends, and colleagues. Anybody can play the role of the hero in somebody’s life; you just have to be open and willing to accept necessary life lessons in your own life with gratitude.
Q: What is your favorite book?
Without a doubt, the most influential book I have read is “The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves” by The Arbinger Institute. As a high-energy professional, continual progress is always important to me. This book helped me breakthrough my internal voice and needs — and, in turn, it helped me better understand how to recognize the needs of my clients and colleagues. Sometimes, we fall into the trap of telling ourselves stories about situations in the workplace and our interactions with others, whether they be positive or negative. By adopting the “outward mindset” philosophy that forms the foundation of this book, we can reduce friction and build the curiosity muscle that allows us to understand the needs and desires of others more fully. By shifting our focus outside of ourselves, looking past our internal narratives, and prioritizing connection, we can improve communication in our organizations, solve problems faster, and bring about the kind of real, positive change that drives innovation.
Q: Do you use any specific method or system to run daily operations?
For strategic planning, our team relies on learnings from a book called “Traction” by Gino Wickman. My co-founder and I are both quick-start thinkers, and we see opportunities at every turn. This method keeps us focused on what’s most important to drive results for our business; it also allows us to move quickly when making decisions and ensures we hold each other accountable to execution. Outside of the Traction framework, we live and die by our project management tool, Wrike. This system not only keeps our internal workflows running smoothly and efficiently, but it also allows us to be completely transparent to our clients about progress and next steps.
Q: Why did you choose your present industry at this time?
Ten years ago, I fell into the financial services sector after providing management consulting services to companies in other highly regulated industries. I was lucky enough to work for a firm that was within the registered investment advisor (RIA) space. The firm’s advisors upheld the fiduciary standard of care and prided themselves on putting their clients’ best interests first. That, combined with their client-focused and academic approaches to financial planning and investing, resonated with me — it got me wondering why more people weren’t aware that this level of service and advice was available to them within the financial world.
The advisors and firms I had met in the RIA space were a far cry from the intimidating, Wall Street-types I had always seen in the media. I felt it was important to give those firms more of a voice. At Beyond AUM, we strive to help fiduciary, service-focused advisors grow their businesses and reach more of the people who need transparent, unbiased, sound financial advice so they can accomplish their life’s goals, like saving enough for retirement or buying their first home. If we can accomplish that mission, then we’re happy. The value that these advisors bring to the table far outweighs the assets they manage.
Q: What is the best/worst moment you can remember in your career?
I like to think of myself as more of a “baker” rather than an “eater.” This thinking has enabled me to mentor quite a few people over the course of my career. For me, the best moments are when I see those folks reach their goals or conquer something that they never thought was possible. This feeds me and motivates me to keep going.
Q: Looking back – if you could advise a younger version of yourself to do something different – what would it be?
Don’t close doors when they are opened to you. Back in the day, I was looking for a job in Silicon Valley and was called to interview with a company of seven employees called Yahoo. I dismissed the job immediately because the hiring manager told me that I would be responsible for answering the front-desk phone. This was before the dot-com boom, and we all know what happened to that once-small company afterward. Seriously, I could kick “young me” for passing up that opportunity! The experience taught me a very valuable lesson that I’ve carried with me throughout my career: Be open and listen. It sounds simple, but being perceptive and willing to take chances has taught me to spot opportunities that others might not, find strategic relationships, and identify better ways to make things happen. The right ideas and actions come from the most unexpected places.
Follow Gretchen Halpin on Twitter: @goochinbusiness