Generation X and Finance: Generation X-pert Laurie Haelen (Part Two)

LaurieHaelenThis week is Part Two of our Generation X-pert conversation with Laurie Haelen, Sr. Vice President, Team Leader and Wealth Advisor for Canandaigua National Bank. (You can check out Part One here). Let’s jump right back in.

GenXManager: Generation X is kind of known for their precarious financial situation. They are the most indebted generation, their retirement savings took the biggest hit in the Great Recession, etc. As a Wealth Advisor, do you feel that Generation X has been somewhat overlooked by the finance industry?

LH: Absolutely. Baby Boomers are working longer so GenX-ers aren’t able to move up as fast. There they are again, stuck in the middle—maybe caring for aging parents as they take care of their kids. It’s really challenging for them.

GXM: From an advisor perspective, do you think there is opportunity with this group?

LH: I do, especially with financial planning. I never planned when I was younger—I was too cynical about it. But at this point GenX can really benefit from it.

GXM: What about Millennials? Is the financial industry doing things to try to develop them?

LH: With Millennials it’s very interesting. Many of them saw their parents burned by the financial crisis, and they don’t want that. They’re looking for something different. They may want to invest, but not for return alone. They may want to invest to make the world a better place.

They also tend to want to do it themselves as opposed to having somebody do it for them. You may have heard of robo-advisors. It’s a way to use technology to build a portfolio, continue to add to it and do all the things that traditional money managers do for a much lower cost. There’s been a big trend of Millennials moving in that direction. But they also like ad hoc advice. They like to have somebody checking in about different aspects of their financial life, and so the traditional money manager who just wants to charge a fee for a portfolio is struggling to figure out how they can service this generation. Frankly, many of them (money managers) are just saying, “I’m not even going to bother. I’m going to be retiring soon.” Right now, there are more financial advisors facing retirement than in any other time.

GXM: What does that mean for the industry as far as attracting new talent?

LH: It’s a huge challenge because many young people do not want to be in sales. Sales is an environment where they don’t feel comfortable, or they don’t want the rejection that comes along with sales. And currently, financial advisors do sell.

GXM: Do you see the model changing? Because you can look at financial advising in two ways: one is that it’s sales, which it absolutely is, but it’s also helping people, which could be very attractive to younger generations.

LH: I do. Some of the larger robo-advisors are adding Certified Financial Planners to their staffs, and so clients could have access to that advice when they need it. So staffing models are moving towards more of a salaried staffing model since those people advise and do not have to sell. It’s different than the traditional old school brokerage model or insurance model where everything that you did was commissioned.

GXM: What led you to a career in finance? I know that you got your degree in English Literature.

LH: Well, I graduated and then realized that there was nothing I could do with that degree at all. I think I had 40 jobs in my 20s. So I was drifting around in different jobs and playing in bands and a friend of mine worked for John Hancock Financial Services. Her mom worked there as a recruiter and really liked me (she was like this glamorous person and I was always impressed by her) and she said, “You know you’d be really good at selling insurance,” and I said, “Why would anybody to do that?” But I went and interviewed with her and I took a psychological profile test. And they called me to tell me I failed the psychological profile test because, basically, it measured how materialistic you were. And I wasn’t. But she fudged the results and I went into the training program, which involved calling lists of people in the morning, which I hated, and then going out to meet with people and helping them with their insurance issues, which I loved. I lasted about a year, then I went into banking.

I realized then that I really liked the ‘helping people’ piece of the industry. I am very good at explaining things to people—I think that’s the English Literature background. I could take a really tough concept and pare it down and communicate to people in a way they could understand. I moved away from insurance and toward investments, taking classes, getting licenses, etc. In 1995 I ended up in the trust side of the business, working with trusts, fee-based investment management and financial planning, and I’ve been there ever since.

GXM: What advice do you have for people starting out who want a career in finance?

LH: Get an advanced credential of some kind to help you specialize. A Certified Financial Planner designation is really well-regarded. If you’re on the investment side, a Chartered Financial Analyst is great. Internships are a great idea as they let you see if you really like the industry. Then I would say invest on your own—just a few dollars at a time so you can see how investing works from a hands-on perspective.

GXM: As a GenX manager, what do you think are the assets that GenX brings to the workplace and what are some attributes that might hold us back?

LH: I think being real is an asset. I love that part of Generation X. And reminiscing of course.

GXM: That’s how we bonded.

LH: Yes! I call it “fossiling”. I think GenX’s reliance on email can hold us back in the workplace. Sometimes it’s better to be in the same room. We like email because it’s quick and direct, but there are some cases where being face to face is the right thing for the situation.

GXM: Lessons you’ve learned along the way?

LH: I’m not as important as I think I am. No one is. Recognize people for great work. You can’t over-recognize someone. Recognize people who are in roles which maybe traditionally don’t get recognized very often, like a receptionist or the person who sits in the back just processing all day. Those people might fall through the cracks but they’re the ones that make the whole place run.

Another lesson: don’t only like people that are like you. When I was a new manager, I tended to “pick” people that thought like me, but that’s not where you get the best teamwork. You can learn from people who may have different talents and they can learn from you. And not to be afraid of conflict. I used to fear it, but I know now that conflict is not the end of the world. It can be healthy and it can solve problems.

GXM: That’s really good advice. The strength of a team comes from having a variety of styles and approaches. Laurie—thanks for being this month’s Generation X-pert.

You can connect with Laurie Haelen on LinkedIn at

Are you a Generation X-pert? We’re looking to interview GenX-ers about their career paths, their experience leading employees, and how their specific industry interacts with Boomers, GenX, Millennials and more as part of a series for Email for more information.



One comment

  1. Enjoyed reading this second half of the interview. I think it’s important that young people learn that everyone struggles to find their niche.

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