As two successful women who have risen through the ranks at leading investment banks and financial research firms, Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist of Ally Invest, and Lule Demmissie, former president of Ally Invest, have firsthand knowledge about the excitement of investing. But they also recognize the areas in which the industry has room to grow.

We spoke with these inspirational individuals about overcoming barriers in their own lives and making a difference in the lives of others.

What was a challenging experience you faced in your career?

Lule: It is very difficult to be what you don’t see. I came up in this industry when folks who looked like me were not common, let alone rising in their careers. It was lonely at times, but I decided to keep stretching my hand out and raising my hand up for opportunities, and to connect with people that did — and did not — look like me. That’s why I continually tell my story. I want to signal to that woman, person of color or LGBTQ member of our community that they belong here and their voice will make us better.

Lindsey: Early in my career, I had difficulty finding my voice and offering my thoughts and ideas on projects and in meetings. I thought I was too young to provide insights that would make a difference, plus I knew it wasn’t my role to offer advice to my senior leaders. But I quickly realized that being in the weeds of something was a differentiated — and important — perspective to have. I had valuable insights to offer that could help the team be more efficient and add to its success.

Why do you think women tend to be less comfortable investing compared to men?

Lindsey: The Center for Talent Innovation found that while 31% of women want to invest, only 8% actually do. A lack of confidence combined with being more risk adverse accounts for that discrepancy. What women need to know is that those who do invest have proven to be better investors than men. They’re more likely to research and understand risk associated with their investments, and they trade less frequently than men — which saves on fees and taxes that negatively impact returns. Women also connect investing with a financial goal for themselves or their family and are more long-term oriented than men.

Lule: It’s also important to remember that women are not a monolith. Whatever the root cause, lower engagement in investing is hurting women. As many women work hard to close the income and wealth gaps, investing remains an important lever to help them improve their chances. Investing alone will not make the difference, and it does require some fluency and a willingness to try, but it is an important tool.

How do you recommend people start investing?

Lindsey: Put a little bit of money into the market. Buy an ETF that tracks the S&P 500, which diversifies you, or pick the stock of a company that is something you use every day. Maybe it’s Apple because of your iPhone, Nike because they’re your favorite sneaker, or Domino’s because you order pizza every Friday. Doing so will give you a sense of how you react to changes in price over the short- and longer-term. It will also give you time to research other opportunities while you’re still getting used to investing.

Quick take with the women of Ally Invest. First up, Lule Demmissie (president). First stock ever purchased? It was actually an ETF, my go-to; Women who inspire you? Nellie Bly, Harriet Tubman, Oprah, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Blackwell, Maya Angelou, Amelia Earhart, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, the women I work with, my mother ... I could go on; First job in financial services? Rotational analyst in the wealth management business at JP Morgan. Next, Lindsey Bell (chief investment strategist). First stock ever purchased? Netflix. I still own it today!; Women who inspire you? My boss Lule and Diane Morais, head of consumer and commercial banking at Ally; First job in financial services? M&A analyst at an investment bank.

For people who have children, particularly daughters, what advice would you give to help them become financially savvy?

Lule: Nurture their curiosity. Investing is an interesting and fun topic for children when it’s gamified. Parents are always teaching their children how to not be scared. Those same tactics can be translated and reduce the fear of investing or losing money.

What work still needs to be done to improve diversity in the financial industry?

Lindsey: There are more signs than ever that corporations are moving in the right direction. For instance, earlier this year, Goldman Sachs announced a policy that it would only underwrite IPOs for companies that have at least one diverse board member. But there’s still plenty of work to be done. Women remain underrepresented at senior levels. Improvements have been made in the past five years, but we remain far from parity: Only 34% of senior managers are women (according to a 2019 study by McKinsey), a number that’s only increased by 2% since 2015.

Lule: Heterogeneous organizations are much stronger than homogenous ones. Striving for diversity and inclusion takes much more deliberate action and is hard work — but it challenges us to be better leaders and human beings. We have to continue to take more creative risks to achieve a more diverse workforce. When we have inclusion across the ranks, we will benefit from the full promise and power that comes from having diverse voices making major business and client expectation decisions that propel innovation. On many fronts, Ally is ahead of the curve.

How can people help better support and push for diversity in the industry?

Lule: Give of yourself to help others grow. Mentor those that don’t look like you. Challenge folks. Stay curious and creative in your approach to improve inclusivity and nurture your managerial courage.

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Originally published March 2020

  Speech bubble icon next to text "Expert Take"

Headshot of Lindsey BellLindsey Bell is Ally’s Chief Investment Strategist, responsible for shaping the company’s point of view on investing and the global markets. She is also President of Ally Invest Advisors, responsible for its robo advisory offerings. Lindsey has a broad background in finance, with experience on the buy-side and sell-side, in research and in investment banking and has held roles at JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Jefferies, and CFRA Research.

Lindsey holds a passion for teaching individuals how to become successful long-term investors. She frequently shares her knowledge as a guest on national news outlets such as CNBC, CNN, Fox Business News, and Bloomberg News. She also serves on the board of Better Investing, a non-profit organization focused on investment education.

Headshot of Lule Demmissie

During her tenure as president of Ally Invest, Lule led Ally Invest Securities, Ally Invest Advisors and API business lines. She also authored several articles about the investing industry and investor behaviors. Lule has a passion for agile product development and an appreciation of design thinking in shaping user-centric experiences. An advocate for financial and retirement solutions that rely on a mix of digital and human guidance, Lule believes in empowering individuals, especially women and minorities, to independently drive their own financial futures.