Using Your Power and Helping Others Reach Their Potential
“When I see people struggling and I think they’ve got talent and a lot to contribute, I reach out to them.”
Natalie Wolfsen, CEO of AssetMark, shares her passion for empowering more women and people of color to take an interest in financial services. The goal, she says, is to help others lean in and stand out using the talents they have but may not know how to utilize.
Wolfsen mentors many professional women, helping them become leaders in the workplace as well as guiding them to the next step in their career path.
“I always make sure the feedback is candid. And I tell the folks, I’m going to tell you what people are saying about you when you’re not there. The good and the bad.”
Wolfsen says one of a leader’s responsibilities is to recognize potential and help others reach it.
“Be proactive, reach out to people when they’re struggling and you see they have potential. The folks who are great and have potential will absorb it and work on it, and people are always appreciative of the support.”
Wolfsen’s journey to becoming CEO also had its challenges. In various stages of her career, people often told her to stay where she was position-wise because she was good at what she did, but Wolfsen wanted to grow even more in her career.
“As a person responsible for your own career, sometimes you need to make hard choices to advocate yourself.”
Wolfsen has continued to lend her experiences to young people who are building and expanding their careers, and often shares this simple but powerful advice: use your power.
“If you’re great at what you do, you have a good reputation and you deliver for clients and your company, you’re a resource that is in incredibly high demand. Use that power, that power you have, the power you always have.”
Wolfsen tapped into her own power when dealing with a difficult and hyper-competitive work environment. She explained how, at certain points in her career journey, she worked with people who only focused on her weaknesses and tore her down. When faced with choices in dealing with difficult a manager, company or colleague, she says the best thing to do is to work on the things you can control.
“Don’t let people only focus on your weaknesses. Use your power. Take those opportunities to make different choices. It’s always in your control to do something different.”
Wolfsen has continued to excel throughout her career by taking on challenges that on paper, she wasn’t qualified to address. Whether or not she had the relevant experience, she took on those challenges as welcomed opportunities to get out of her comfort zone.
“Trust that if someone is giving you a challenge, you have the raw talent to do it. Don’t be overwhelmed by opportunity; take it and know you have the qualities to succeed.”
Today, Wolfsen hopes that more women and people of color find their way to the financial services industry, but notes that companies need to do their part. Right now, it’s not enough.
“We’ve got to do a better job in financial services of creating an environment where people can bring all their great qualities to work and feel comfortable and recognized. We’ve got to do that with dedication and authority. It’s about accepting the fact that the way we deliver financial services is alienating some people.”
It’s a problem Wolfsen says she believes others in financial services need to recognize and change, stating that it’s more than a lack of interest in the industry– people are avoiding it.
“That’s not good because it’s a great industry – it’s growing, it’s highly creative, and there’s lots of opportunity to make an impact.”
Perspective is the goal and it’s something Wolfsen is implementing at her firm. She says she not only wants to get more people into the financial industry, but also empower them and give them the tools to succeed. She says success stories can help and encourage others to do the same.
“We’re setting goals at AssetMark, and getting involved in the industry’s progress, but we need to do better. We need to do better at every level.”
The good news, Wolfsen explains, is the industry is trying to expand and diversify, but says there needs to be more of a push to change things.
“It can’t just be the largest firms saying that diversity matters – the industry more broadly needs to acknowledge that we can do better in a meaningful way. It’s really important to go beyond words and numbers, and set foundational strategies that accelerate progress.”