A Women-Owned Firm shares WiPN’s Collaborative Spirit
“All the easy problems have been solved,” according to Barbara March, CEO of Bridgepoint, a financial services consulting firm and new sponsor of WiPN. Barb believes the only way to tackle the more complex problems of today is to solve them collaboratively and cooperatively. “Fortunately, women are really good at that,” she says.
Barb, a WiPN member, founded BridgePoint eight years ago not only because she saw an opportunity to have more control over her time, but also because she recognized that “the industry had evolved from high growth to high maturity, and firms needed to justify their existence in a crowded marketplace”. After more than 250 engagements, BridgePoint has proven that it fills a gap, falling squarely between large national consulting organizations and small independent firms.
BridgePoint touts its practitioner business model. As Barb puts it, “Everyone in our organization has done the job of our clients, so we have the capability and the capacity to accelerate our clients’ success in challenging times.” Being a firm owned by a woman is secondary according to Barb. “We’re hired on the merits of our capabilities, but clients are happy to find out we’re women owned, addressing a desire for many procurement organizations to strike diversity among partners,” she says.
“It’s easy to get complacent because we’ve come so far.” — Jody Meth
While BridgePoint’s senior management is exclusively female, Barb maintains that was not intentional. Starting out, she just wanted to do good work without corporate politics. For Jody Meth, Practice Director at BridgePoint and WiPN member, “the network of peers at BridgePoint is unlike any other that I’ve experienced. The level of candor is refreshing, as we can be brutally honest with each other.”
BridgePoint believes employees shouldn’t have to choose between their careers and their personal lives and that a firm can provide great consulting services while giving its employees a decent paycheck and much-needed flexibility. Understandably, such an environment appeals especially to women, who often are the ones having to master the delicate balance between work and home.
“You only live one life, and every day is a gift. At some point, you control your own destiny.” — Barbara March
More women need to “get comfortable being uncomfortable”
Barb remembers a time in the industry when women believed they had to conform to a so-called “male approach” to be taken seriously. Today, she sees women betting on themselves and succeeding on their own terms, pointing out that women who have gone the furthest are those who have refused to compromise. In such cases, what comes through is their uniqueness and authenticity.
Barb argues that more women need to use the skills and talents they already have and to build confidence by learning to “comfortable being uncomfortable.” She believes that “You only live one life, and every day is a gift. At some point you decide to control your own destiny.”
Despite how far women in the retirement industry have come, Barb recognizes there are still strides to be made: “One of the things that really fascinates me is the disparity between the number of female advisors compared to the number of women who need help. It’s obvious that we haven’t gotten the mix right yet.” And continuing on the subject of diversity: “Everyone believes in diversity, but we see companies needing help in actually executing it; perhaps WiPN can help be part of the solution.”
“I admire how WiPN members openly support one another.” — Shelli VanDeMark Kendig
Mentorship often comes up as a key component to helping promote women in the industry. (As a reminder, one of WiPN’s many benefits is that members can request a mentor or sign up to be one.) When Jody attended this year’s WiPN members-only event held in conjunction with the NAPA 401(k) SUMMIT, she noticed the wide age range represented in the room and would love to see more focus on mentoring. She reminisces that some of her best mentors were women, people who weren’t just there to watch her back, but to give her “tough feedback and stretch assignments” that forced her out of her comfort zone.
Jody continues, “It’s easy to get complacent because we’ve come so far.” But she acknowledges that there is more work to do and that WiPN represents a great opportunity for women in the retirement industry.
BridgePoint and WiPN: A Shared Collaborative Spirit
Becoming a WiPN sponsor “just made sense.”
BridgePoint signed on as a WiPN sponsor this year because “it just made sense,” according to Practice Director Shelli VanDeMark Kendig. She describes how her thinking about the benefits of sponsorship evolved: “At first, I saw WiPN as a potential marketing and brand awareness opportunity for BridgePoint, but I was pleasantly surprised at how personally fulfilling the interactions were with other professionals.”
At her fist WiPN event, Shelli recognized a familiar “spirit of collaboration” and quickly saw both men and woman attendees, as like-minded peers. Shelli realizes that early in her career she didn’t prioritize networking highly enough against other demands, a common sentiment among many women. That’s why WiPN’s ready-made networking is especially welcome: “When I travel to another city, I love knowing that I can easily find and spend time with other WiPN members, offering opportunities to gain valuable business insights but also for some social time.”
What was strictly a business decision has become so much more personal: “I admire how WiPN members openly support one another. My involvement has taught me that I not only have a lot to contribute, but also a lot to gain from this terrific community. Our corporate sponsorship allows us to further extend the benefits to all of our female associates.”