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Chesley, Taft & Associates Celebrates Women's History Month

Q&A with Board Member and Portfolio Manager:

Joan Giardina

EM: Why did you decide to become a portfolio manager?

JG: When I graduated from college, I got a job as an administrative assistant in a bank’s trust investment department. I saw firsthand the work that was done by the trust administrators and portfolio managers working with families. This included both the relationships that were formed and the analytical work that went into building investment portfolios. I started graduate school during that time and was very interested in finance. My next job was as a trust administrative officer in a community bank. There I administered trusts and estates, prepared tax returns and invested the funds. No question, investing was my favorite for the intellectual challenges. You need to know about the economy, tax policy, and current developments for a broad spectrum of industries and companies.

EM: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a portfolio manager?

JG: The most rewarding aspect of being a portfolio manager for individual clients is seeing how your work allows them to realize their financial goals. Achieving good investment results is rewarding but seeing the impact on clients’ lives and their families’ lives is especially satisfying.

EM: Do you have a mentor or have you had a mentor?

JG: Over the years I have had several mentors. In my teen years, I worked at the local grocery store. The front-end manager and the store manager both encouraged me by giving me tasks of significant responsibility. When I was given the combination to the store safe at the age of 18, it was a big boost to my less than confident ego. Later, in other jobs and other circumstances, I was handed tasks or responsibilities that I had no idea how to do but, if they thought I could, I would. That push, support, confidence was the nudge I needed.

EM: What is your advice for young professionals who are thinking of becoming a portfolio manager?

JG: This is not about your brilliance as a portfolio manager. You need to manage clients’ portfolios for the times when you are wrong.

To be successful, you must care about people. Listen to their stories and their concerns and know that sometimes, often, what they say is only part of the story. Generally, there is a lot more going on than meets the eye. But if you listen carefully, you will hear what is important to them.

EM: How has your unique perspective shaped your experience as a woman in the male-centric finance industry?

JG: This is a business that requires a certain amount of ego. You need confidence in your judgement and point of view. But there is a line between confidence and arrogance. I hope for the most part I have stayed on the right side of that line. I suspect my upbringing as a woman of a certain age helped keep my ego in check and enhanced my ability to be empathetic.

EM: Do you have any thoughts about what can be done to improve the gender disparity within the financial services industry?

JG: This is very challenging and fulfilling work. Young people need to be exposed to it. I think it is a natural career path for young women who like the idea of helping others and are intellectually curious about the world around them. Schools need to encourage girls to excel in math, science, and economics. Businesses need to provide internships and career development opportunities for young people interested in the business. There is a much greater appreciation of the unconscious bias that permeates many organizations that limits opportunities for women and minorities. Fortunately, the light is beginning to shine on these patterns and organizations large and small are recognizing the benefits of a diverse workforce and the hard work it will take to build it.


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