As the author of the recent book, “No Necktie Needed: A Woman’s Guide to Success in Financial Services,” Juli McNeely knows what it takes to make it in this industry as a woman.
A 20-year veteran of the financial services industry, McNeely, LUTCF, CFP, CLU, is president of McNeely Financial Services in Spencer, Wis., founded by her father in 1974. She is immediate past president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), having served as the 126-year-old institution’s first female president. She is also a member of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT).
Specializing in retirement planning, education funding, succession planning and estate planning, she has presented her “Success on PURPOSE” talk to hundreds of industry professionals.
She was named 2015 Women in Insurance and Financial Services “Woman of the Year” and also earned NAIFA Wisconsin’s A. Jack Nussbaum Distinguished Service Award. She was designated as one of the “Top 20 Women You Need to Know” in insurance by LifeHealthPro and has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Investment News, Reuters, InsuranceNewsNet and National Underwriter Life & Health.
McNeely recently took the time to respond to the following questions for this week’s Women’s Insurance Network Producer Profile feature.
How did you get into the financial services industry? Did you know from a young age it was what you wanted to do, or was it more that it was expected from the family?
Well, I honestly think financial services must be in my blood since I have several family members — parents, uncles and cousins — in the industry. I had no intention of joining the financial services industry because I was always going to work in corporate America in the area of marketing, advertising or public relations … until I got there. It took me about five years to find out corporate America wasn’t what I expected or what I truly wanted. At that time, I decided that if I was ever going to try it out, now was the time … that was 21 years ago.
What advice would you give women serving as financial advisors and insurance agents in this day and age?
The best advice I can give is that this is an amazing time to be a female financial advisor. More and more women are handling the household financial decisions and in many cases, they want to work with an advisor who understands them or looks like them. It is an incredible career choice that allows women to utilize their best skills. This industry may have been dominated by males in the past but I believe the opportunity is now for far more diversity.
What technology or systems keeps you organized and able to efficiently serve so many clients?
Let me start by saying I have an amazing staff – without them I couldn’t do what I do. Our firm has focused on technology that allows us to work from anywhere with remote server access. We spend a significant amount of time developing processes and systems to streamline what we do and to provide more value to our clients. It’s our job to stay ahead of changes and be proactive as much as possible.
What would you say helped your career the most, whether it be your time served as NAIFA president, your designations, or something completely different?
Wow! This is a tough question. I certainly will credit my NAIFA involvement as giving me leadership skills to be a better advisor and manager. I had plenty of mentors and role models to follow and I’m very grateful for what they brought to my career.
I would also credit my study group. We are a group of five women that meet at MDRT [Million Dollar Round Table] and have become a great sounding board and support to each other. We have all experienced personal and professional growth as a result of our consistently meeting and holding each other accountable.
What accomplishment over the last 12 months are you most proud of?
First, I’m very glad to be back to work in my practice. After a significant amount of time spent serving on the NAIFA Board, it is really great to be back to my “day job.” Serving NAIFA and its members was an amazing experience but I will say that getting back to my clients has made me very happy. It’s been great rediscovering how much joy this profession brings me and how much I enjoy working with my clients on a day-to-day basis.
Secondly, I’m very proud of my first book titled, “No Necktie Needed.” It has always been my dream to write a book and with its launch last year my dream has been fulfilled. It’s a book focused on encouraging more women to become financial advisors and to encourage those women already in the profession. It gives me great joy to receive an email from someone who appreciated reading the book and describing it as “exactly how they felt” and how glad they were to know they weren’t alone.
What charitable organizations or philanthropic efforts are you passionate about?
I support several mission organizations on a monthly basis but I also spend a fair amount of time working with and supporting a local Veterans Memorial Park called The Highground in Neillsville, Wis. There is something so peaceful about The Highground and I experience that every time I walk on the grounds. So many need the healing and support from the effects of war and it brings me great joy to know that there is a place to provide the peace, healing and support so many need.