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Note to readers: Mary Ann Heeren has worked for RBC Wealth Management, a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, in Seattle for 38 years, starting in the business at a time when women made up just a small percentage of the financial services industry. Heeren has no near term plans to retire as she continues to leverage opportunities to make an impact in her clients’ lives and her community.
I didn’t always know I wanted to work in the financial services business. In college, I had an interest in fashion and took home economics, but it wasn’t something I saw myself doing for a career. I happened to like French and decided to stick with it. After graduating from the University of Washington, I taught at a private Catholic school.
I loved my students and the faculty, but I didn’t really love teaching the French language. In a way, I think a higher power saw something that I couldn’t have foreseen: I wasn’t meant to be there. After four years the school had moved to a brand new location and I lost my job.
My husband and I decided to take a two-year assignment with the U.S. Peace Corps teaching English in Afghanistan. I still think about my time there. The girls were smart, courageous. They don’t have much exposure to the outside world and cultural limitations often interfered with their goals and dreams. But they persevered.
We lived in a mud stucco house with drinking water running down the street in a ditch. Electricity was rare, just a few hours every other night, a type of luxury for us at the time.
That perspective was top of mind after I came back to Seattle in 1974. The stock market had crashed with the Dow Jones in the low 500s; President Nixon was resigning, there was an Oil Embargo, etc.
I was 30 years old and I needed a job when I landed a position as an assistant at a brokerage firm. My experience abroad enabled me to see that these were first-world problems and as dark as those days seemed, things weren’t too bad back home in the United States after all. My husband and I invested what small amount of money we had at that time, $250, in the market, confident that eventually, we’d see companies’ stocks rebound. It was a perfect time to invest! The stock market was at an extreme low.
A byproduct of that investment, however, was a growing love for the business.
That perspective helped me trust I would make whatever my next move needed to be. Turns out that next move was to become a financial advisor myself.
It was not that common back then to see women in this field. There was probably one other woman in Seattle at that time who worked for another company as a financial advisor. I had the luxury of having a relationship with a male mentor who taught me the dynamics of the industry. With his guidance, I gained access to the “old boys’ network.” So, from the start, I brought my teaching background into gaining investment clients.
My move to RBC Wealth Management
I was in my third year as an advisor when some of my colleagues were approached by leaders at the newly opened Seattle office of Dain Bosworth, which would eventually become RBC Wealth Management. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to move so early in my career, but my mentors wanted me to make the move, so I did, and I haven’t looked back.
There is so much I’ve been able to accomplish at RBC Wealth Management, both professionally and personally. My passions for travel, charitable giving and teaching have not gone by the wayside in the name of my career. When I started building up my clientele, I held free evening workshops and seminars to teach both men and women about topics like investing and inflation. The son of one of the people who attended a seminar all those years ago, is still a client of mine today. Those lifelong relationships are part of what keeps me going. That and the fact that I often get to work with multiple generations of a single family, helping people with one of the two most important aspects of their lives: which I see as finances and health.
One of the things I most enjoy about my job is that I know my clients well and they seek my advice on various matters from planning for retirement to potential scams. And my life is a pretty open book to them as well. They know that my husband and I traveled to India and that travel has been important for us. We’ll be gone this May to do some bird watching in Peru and they know because of the amazing team here at RBC Wealth Management, they’ll be taken care of during those three weeks.
In fact, this team approach is not only a great system of support but can also provide clients with a holistic view for all aspects of their financial lives. I tell women that financial services is a great career for them. The flexibility and work-life balance are unique and a pretty attractive incentive.
At age 77, I often get asked if I plan to retire. The answer is that I don’t plan to retire soon because of the fulfillment I get from coaching my clients and the broader impact that work has on their families and their communities. We strategize about legacy planning, college funds and taxation. Using the technology and support systems that RBC Wealth Management has set up, it’s now easier than ever to take a comprehensive approach to providing guidance to our clients.
I feel really remarkable that at my age, I get to do something that I love. I laugh when people ask me when I plan to retire, because, why would I need to when I wake up every morning excited to take on the day?