By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)
“I got involved with the FWA 11 years ago – I was essentially a newlywed, pre-kids. I wanted to give back to the community, and had always been involved in mentoring,” said Susan Ganz, President of the Financial Women’s Association of New York and a Financial Services Professional at the Center for Wealth Preservation.
“I began helping recruit mentors for the Wall Street Exchange program, a workshop series for to-be college seniors who were interested in the Financial Services arena,” she continued.
“And from there I was hooked,” she said. While Ganz’s interest in the FWA began with the Wall Street Exchange mentoring program (which is now going on its 35th year), her commitment to the organization has grown, having served first as a volunteer, then a committee chair, later Annual Dinner Co-Chair, then Treasurer and Vice President, before being asked to take on the President role.
“As the whole financial services landscape is changing, we are working to ensure our own sustainability for the next 50 years,” she explained. “My passion is educating and empowering women, businesses, and non-profits.”
A Career Path in the Financial Services Industry
Ganz, who has 20 years of experience in the financial services industry, started her career at Chemical Bank (now known as JP Morgan Chase), working in middle market lending. “When I wanted to have broader conversations with my clients about their finances, they didn’t necessarily want to,” she said. “But I wanted to have those broader conversations, so I went back and got my MBA at the Wharton School.”
After graduating, Ganz joined Ernst & Young’s Financial Advisory Services practice, consulting in strategy and corporate finance for mid-sized companies and subsidiaries of Fortune 500 companies. “I always wanted to know what was next for solutions for these companies.”
Next Ganz took a position at Merrill Lynch, in strategic technology vender management. “I didn’t have a technology background,” she said, “but they wanted someone with a strategic and financial analytical skill set.”
She continued, “So I told my team, ‘I will happily teach you about the financial side, if you teach me about technology.’ And I ended up working for ten years in technology management on Wall Street.”
Ganz said she took a step back when her position was eliminated during the fall of 2008. “I thought, ‘what do I want to do next?’” She realized she wanted to make more of an impact on her clients, and to fully leverage her background in finance and consulting.
“I relied on my network through the FWA, and took a position at the Center for Wealth Preservation, doing financial services consulting, “ said Ganz. “I work to empower and educate small businesses, families and non-profits and help them make more informed financial decisions – which is similar to my role at the FWA, where I work to empower and educate women and businesses to help them reach their full potential.”
Being a Role Model
“When I was approached by the FWA to consider running for president, I was honored and taken aback,” said Ganz. “I talked to former presidents and they all said, hands down, they would be president again, and thought this was something I might want to do.”
She continued, “Then I negotiated with my family.”
“I have a nine-year-old daughter and a three-year-old daughter, and a husband. And I want to be a role model for my girls. I want to show them that you can integrate your professional work and your community involvement and your personal life,” she explained.
Presiding as president of the FWA of New York, while working a busy job and raising young children does present its obstacles. But Ganz is up to the challenge. “To me, managing your professional life and community life is all about partnership. We couldn’t do the FWA without all of our volunteers.”
“I recognize that I do need to carve out time for my family – and we have time each night to connect, whether it’s a pajama party or making special desserts.” She continued, “And how I know I’m impacting them in a positive way is that my oldest daughter had to write about her hero for school – and she wrote ‘My mommy is my hero.’ It’s those special moments that I cherish.”
Looking forward, Ganz said, “I want to continue to be involved in the community, and take my business to the next level. And I want to continue to be a role model for my daughters.”
She added, “I think all women are trying to figure that out – how to integrate all the different facets of your life. It’s not perfect, but you can make it happen.”
Advice for Women in the Financial Services
“What’s important first and foremost are your technical skills,” Ganz advised. “But beyond that – what’s important is something I didn’t learn in the classroom. I learned it through experience, and through the FWA. It’s important to let people know what you’re working on – what you’re doing and what your individual value proposition is.”
She continued, “Don’t feel guilty about it. Putting your head down and just doing your work only takes you so far in life. You have to be networked and connected with advisors, sponsors, and mentors.”
And this is important throughout your career, Ganz said. “Something we’re focusing on this year with the FWA is providing networking for senior women, who are on the cusp of executive management positions.”
Ganz said her best advice is: “Be open to talking to folks of different backgrounds and careers.” She explained, “Being curious and inquisitive helps broaden your thinking about your career.” She also emphasized the importance of getting a support system for childcare. “When that’s in place, a lot of things fall into place naturally,” she added.
In her spare time, Ganz, who is also a lifetime jazz and hip-hop dancer, said she is taking golf lessons with her oldest daughter. “She’s able to use my clubs – she’s ready to go out on the golf course,” she said with a laugh.