Teri Shepherd is one of 22 women named to InvestmentNews’ Women to Watch 2018. This is the fourth year this honor has been given to female financial advisors and industry executives who are the leaders, difference makers and risk takers of the industry. Since coming aboard Carson as the first female on the executive team as Chief Operating Officer & Chief Finance Officer in 2012, Shepherd has made her mark.
Spearheading the development of Carson’s digital client experience which helped to increase advisor productivity by 40 percent and partner firms AUM by more than 26 percent. And she led the charge to bring aboard more female advisors – going from 0 percent to 40 percent in just seven years.
There’s more behind what makes Shepherd so deserving of this award. Partly, it’s her dismissal of stereotypes that come with being in her position: a woman in leadership in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
There’s an “I am woman, hear me roar” stereotypical catchphrase for women in leadership and finance. JoAnn Abt, Carson Corporate Counsel and fellow executive leadership team member, said Shepherd is the polar opposite and still influential.Shepherd said she’s always been determined to help people, but she never expected that trait to align so closely with her career.
“I’ve never been a career-driven person,” Shepherd laughed. “I planned on being a stay-at-home mom in all reality, and I think life just happened.”
“Life” happening was the birth of her son, Jacob.
After two and a half months in NICU, Shepherd, her husband and baby Jacob left the hospital with a lot of odds – and doctors – stacked against their future as a family after he was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Doctors told them Jacob wouldn’t make it a full year.
Nowadays, Jacob just turned 16, and has two younger brothers.
Shepherd knows talking about her special-needs son is taboo in the business world. But without learning about Jacob, you miss a large chunk of who she is – of why she is who she is – and why she’s so good at what she does.
In her current role as Integrator for the firm, she strategically aligns systems, projects, policies & procedures with the “Carson Way” of doing business: making the complex simple. On one level that means constantly working toward providing industry leading technology. On another level that means being the voice of calm and reason.
Shepherd credits Jacob for helping her reach both levels.
She’s learned to appreciate life more and anticipate the needs of others through a unique perspective she carries over into each day. She isn’t derailed when stressful things happen at work. Instead, she works through to find a solution that will not just solve the problem but identify the root cause and follow it through to address any downstream effects.
There are bigger things in life, Shepherd said, and she chooses to focus on what matters and not allow the whirlwind of daily distractions to sweep her away. Colleagues have credited Shepherd on more than one occasion for her consistent calm nature independent of circumstances.
“Being a leader, you have people who count on you and trust you,” Shepherd said. “Not always having to be reactive to situations, but proactively mitigating the concern and giving guidance on what the focus needs to be on and how we can move forward better together.”
Kelsey Ruwe, Vice President of Talent and a fellow leadership team member, describes Shepherd’s leadership strength as having dual telescopic and microscopic vision.The word strategic is thrown around a lot to describe Shepherd, but for good reason.
“She has a real talent for taking in all the information, funneling it through, and making it into something real,” Abt said. “She’s got this vision that I don’t think anybody else has. She’s just got this way of seeing the possible and seeing how things could be.”
As a fellow woman in leadership in the financial industry, Ruwe said she especially looks up to Shepherd. She’s the point person for many people seeking advice or answers in the firm.
“When you go to her for an answer, she’ll help to challenge you in a way to come up with the answer yourself,” Ruwe said. “She so naturally empowers you to feel more confident in yourself and your leadership abilities in a way where you don’t even realize you’re doing it. And you’re growing because of it.”
Ruwe implements the same approach with her team, empowering them to make decisions and building them into leaders – whether they’re managing others in the business or themselves.
Abt models Shepherd’s approach with her team, too. She tries to be the backstop for her team so they can do what they need to do and grow. The trust Shepherd has in her fellow executive leadership members trickles down into their respective teams.
Shepherd’s voice and opinion carry more weight because she doesn’t speak up to make noise. Because when she does speak up, Abt knows it’s for a valid reason.
And while colleagues like Ruwe and Abt say Shepherd empowers them, Shepherd would say the reverse. She chalks up any of her individual success to a team effort and draws inspiration from the relationships she’s cultivated. The “Carson Way” isn’t just a way of doing business, it’s a way of treating people like family. And the level of care and detail she brings to her team, she also brings for her clients too.
“I love to help independently owned entrepreneurial businesses grow exponentially,” Shepherd said. “That’s one of my passions. How do you build the people and the resources and everything it takes to do that and do that well? It’s really hard, but it’s so much fun.”
00413019 – 03/14/19