Mary Susanne. Advice

posted June 22nd, 2011 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Mary Susanne what she considered the best advice she had ever been given and what advice she would pass along to another woman. She said: “Well, I would tell this to anybody.  First of all, get a good lawyer and a good accountant.  That’s my best advice and I’ve always followed that.  It’s very important to know where you’re at financially, all of the time, and it doesn’t just mean because I’m in a regulated industry, any industry, so that’s what I have.  My brother’s my lawyer, and he’s wonderful. Originally, I had an investment club when I was back at Wood Gundy, that’s a long time ago, and there were a couple of accountants in the club.  One of them continues to be my accountant today and she gives me good advice.  I drive her crazy because I like to spend money.  It’s not easy running a small business and there is a lot of regulation.  Once you have a good lawyer and a good accountant, you want to have wonderful staff that you trust and I do. They’ve been with me now for over ten years at least. I’ve always had good people but I think my best advice is a good lawyer and a good accountant.”


I asked Mary Susanne whether she would advise a woman to establish alliances with other women. She said: “Carefully.  Well you know there are some women who don’t help women and it’s shocking to me.  Usually you can smell them out; I’m pretty good at smelling out people but I’ve been duped occasionally, not many times, but the odd time. It’s like men.  There are people who are out for themselves and that’s unfortunate but, you know, this book that I was involved with Women in the Lead, back to my friendship with Doreen Sanders, focused on women directors, signing up women directors, that’s been an interesting experience watching the women who will make sure that other women are brought to the attention of the nominating committee.  I know women who deserve to be on boards where there are one or two women already on a board who have not brought their names forward.  I would be cautious establishing relationships with other women, but it’s like anything else you’ve got to know what you’re doing.  I’ve been very lucky with my connections but don’t count on them just because you’re a woman. Don’t assume you’re going to get support from other women because that’s not always going to be the truth. That is not the case all the time.”


I asked Mary Susanne when she considered her career in its entirety what she would do differently, if anything. She said: “I would like to have found a partner and maybe I still will but it is hard.  I don’t know why it’s so hard.  I mean the economics have changed a bit too.  When I started my business with the economy not so hot and interest rates as high as they were and people who needed mortgages on houses really had to have women working but if I look at the group 20 years younger than I am, or maybe a little less than that, I’m absolutely shocked at how many women are not working. And I would like to have a woman partner.  I think there’s a cachet in having something that’s unique when you’re small and I think women are very good in this business.  I mean, the number of times that I’ve been told that, let’s say, a women wants some money and she’s with a male broker and the guy asks her why she wants it.  Well, you know what, it really isn’t any of his business and then he may pass judgement on it whereas I don’t.  If I have clients who spend money like drunken soldiers and are constantly withdrawing, then I will make sure that on a more regular basis than usual we send them out a summary of their withdrawals and nine times out of ten they’ll call up and say that can’t be so and we say, oh, but it is, because I don’t want to get caught where they suddenly have run out of money.  So I try and run their portfolios the way they’d like.  I am very conscious of making sure that they know how much they’re actually spending, but I’m trying not to pass judgment on it. I try and give them the confidence that the market will get better, for instance several years ago, and that we will get back on track and that to live the way they’d like they’re going to need an income style portfolio and what’s difficult right now that’s different than when I started my business is that the interest rates are so low and if it’s a taxable account they’re even worse off.  For people to survive on income, it’s very, very hard but they also have to know what their risk tolerance is to live with the ebbs and flows of their capital.  So it’s a fine line but I think I do give people confidence and I think they trust me.  In this business, you know, it should be trust, service and performance in that order.”


I asked Mary Susanne to describe her impression of the difference between her experience and the experience of a male peer or colleague. She said: “I don’t think that there’s much difference.  That’s a hard question to answer because there are lots of people out there who would think that a male is going to know more about certain things.  So I think you have to work harder to get their confidence but beyond that I’m not quite sure how to answer that question.  I don’t really have any experience with that one.”


What Strikes Me?

The importance of having a good lawyer and good accountant


It’s important to have staff you can trust


Women don’t support other women all the time


Women have opportunities to nominate other women to positions and choose not to do so


Women need to work harder to win the confidence of their clients


What Strikes You?


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