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Advisor Career Adds Up For Judith Chipps

Judith Chipps, first vice president/investments and wealth management advisor for Merrill Lynch, made Barron’s list of The Top 100 Women Financial Advisors. Chipps and her team, the CH Group, work out of Merrill Lynch’s Encino office. Barron’s is an 85-year-old financial publication that provides data and insight for individual investors, institutional investors, financial professionals and senior corporate decision makers. The ranked list, compiled by Barron’s, reflects volume of assets overseen by advisors and their teams, revenues generated for the firms, and the quality of the advisor’s practices, according to Barron’s. Institutional assets are given less weighting. The list noted Chipps’ team manages $286 million in assets; works with individuals worth up to $1 million, and high net worth individuals worth $1 million to $10 million; and manages an average account worth $2 million. Her clients’ typical net worth is $4 million. This is the first time Chipps, a veteran financial advisor, has landed on the Barron’s list. She took the #100 spot and is the only financial advisor from the San Fernando Valley and one of only two advisors from the Los Angeles area to make the list. She said she’s proud of making the list, but even more proud about what it represents. “I did all of this and along the way had two children and raised them,” said Chipps, 59. “A lot of other women on the list have also balanced work and family life.” It’s important to recognize women’s accomplishments in the financial business, she added. Question: How did you get your start in the financial business? Answer: I moved to California in 1975 to attend UCLA and get my MBA. And you know what happens; you get interested in certain things. For me that was finance. After graduating from UCLA in 1977 I briefly worked for a small technology start-up doing business planning and financial analysis, and I just couldn’t stop reading the financial section of the paper. Q: What was it about finance that piqued your interest? A: I like numbers and I really wanted to understand money, how to make money, how the financial system works, and how to make money for other people. The technology start-up was in the South Bay and was eventually acquired by another company. After that experience, I found myself wanting to do something entrepreneurial. Even though I work with a big company, Merrill Lynch allows me to be very independent and gives me a lot of latitude with how I construct my business, who my clients are, and how I form my team. I’ve always found myself to be someone who likes to look towards the future. In this business, looking at past investments may have very little relationship to how they will perform in the future. Q: How do you describe the role of a financial advisor? A: My team and I try to get to know a client’s current situation, their net worth, hopes and dreams, and we try to model what they are going to need to get from here to there. That can involve a lot of things because I work with people who have different needs. Some are planning retirement, others supporting a business, while others are investing for a child or need help solving a tax problem. We customize our approach for each client. Everybody is different, but in many ways we’re all the same and go through the same stages in life. Having been in the business for so long, we often know what’s coming next for clients. Q: What was a significant turning point in your career? A: The business has changed dramatically over the years. When I started, you had stocks and bonds and hundreds of clients. We didn’t even have computers, at least not until about 1985. I have seen a lot of change in the industry and I’ve always tried to be an early adopter of good practices. For example, when I saw an opportunity to apply things in ways that were more research based, I would. In the early 1980s I went to a more client centered approach and developed a disciplined investment process that allowed me to take a more holistic approach to client’s needs. Being client centered versus product centered really made a difference. And I think that’s what has helped my career. Q: How has the recession affected your approach? A: Sometimes we go through periods where we can capitalize on the good things and growth. Other times we go into protective mode where we try and keep clients out of risk as much as possible. We try to make sure their “safe” investments are safe. But during each of these economic down times, and this is not the first I’ve been through, there have been great opportunities. You have to look long-term. People are interested in finding good safe sources of income. But it’s important to balance risk and return. This is a time where some people are chasing yield. They hear of something that sounds like it may have a high yield but they do not perceive all of the risks associated with that opportunity. My nana’s second law of investing said, “You can’t get something for nothing.” Another one of her laws said, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Q: What is your favorite part of being a financial advisor? A: I like the successes and when a client thanks me, even if it means I have made things less horrible than they would have been. I like meeting new clients and working with new families, especially if they are related to people I know. I’ve worked with some family groups since the early days of my career, and they’ve stuck with me. The interconnections. It’s a very satisfying job, but it can also be tough because you get to know so many people, and things go wrong in people’s lives such as a death in the family, etc I talk with clients at least monthly. This is more than many people talk with some of their relatives. Q: What are the unique challenges and opportunities of operating in the San Fernando Valley? A: There’s a lot of commerce in the San Fernando Valley, much more than some people would expect. But the area doesn’t get the attention it deserves. That gives those of us who are dedicated to the Valley a great opportunity. It’s a terrific place to do business and live, and there’s a real community of professionals here. SNAPSHOT: Judith Chipps Title: Vice President/Investments and Wealth Management Advisor for Merrill Lynch Age: 59 Birthplace: Pittsburgh Education: MBA from UCLA Most Admired: Many people, particularly those who live productive lives and do it the right way where the ends do not always justify the means. Career Turning Point: Choosing to be client centered versus product centered. Personal: Mother of two

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