Nicole Sherrod is the MD of Trading for TD Ameritrade. We were so thrilled that she was willing to take time out of her busy schedule, which includes multiple TV appearances and traveling across the globe, to talk to us. And why did she? Because your money is serious stuff, and Nicole is passionate about getting women to become more confident about investing and making their own financial decisions. She says contrary to what some of us believe, we’re inherently good at it! Did you know all time great investor Warren Buffet invests like a girl? Read on to find out more about this inspirational Wall Street leader:
1. Describe for us what you do at TD Ameritrade.
I am the MD of Trading. I am responsible for our overall trading business, building out of our strategy, and out-performing our competitors both in terms of attracting clients and our trading volumes. I design educational programs and work on delivering content to the desktop, to web and to mobile to attract clients and get them more engaged. I am responsible for all products including options, futures, ETFs and Foreign Exchange. I’m not responsible for our Fixed Income products.
2. You were an English major. How did you get from there to here?
I was an English major because I loved to write. I thought I was going to have a career in journalism. Then I took a class on investing, and I thought even if I get into journalism, I want to cover personal finance. However, as time went on, it was clear to me that my passion was the stock market. I found investment banking a little dry. I really loved the excitement and activity of the stock market, and, ultimately, I found my way to an online brokerage firm. I’ve been at TD Ameritrade since 2008.
I do want to say that having some math skills are important. Math is always a part of problem solving, and you need to understand math to understand product development. You do need to be able to use an Excel spreadsheet. However, complex math is less about you solving the problems and more about hiring people who are the very best. The intersection of finance and technology means that you need really shrewd thinkers who are able to solve complex mathematical problems and do highly sophisticated technical analysis.
3. You use a lot of social media. Is social media becoming more prevalent on Wall Street?
Why do you think it’s important? Social media is definitely becoming more prevalent. It wasn’t until a few years ago that our firm really cracked the code on all things digital and mobile. Social media is a big part of that. Social media is how we engage in more meaningful dialogue with a broader demographic. It has allowed me to get out there in the community and really understand what people are hungry for and what problems they are looking for us to solve.
4. You are in front of the camera a lot. Do you ever feel nervous before you go on? What do you do to feel confident?
Confidence comes from repetition and being prepared. The first time I was on camera, I prepared all night. I didn’t sleep at all! That was overkill, but it happened the next three or four times as well. After those appearances went well, I really built confidence up. I am a big believer that practice makes perfect, and that you do need to over-prepare until that confidence is built. I like to try to find something each year that makes me feel insecure, because that means I am doing something new and stretching myself – for example being on TV, presenting to our Board of Directors, or meeting with Equity Analysts.
5. I’m not really into all that investing stuff. Why should I be?
The reason you should care is because money gives you options. It’s not just about the stock market but also about your career in general. I am the perfect example. At one point in my career, I had two choices: one was step up in the near term in terms of money and responsibility, but not necessarily the path to my ultimate goal, the other was a side step — OK almost a step down, in terms of pay — but I knew it was an overall spring board to bigger things. If I hadn’t saved/invested, and I was living paycheck to paycheck, I would have had to go to the short-term benefit. The only way that you can take career risk that may be incredibly rewarding is if you have built that nest egg, and that comes from learning to invest. Money gives you power in all aspects of your life. Having your own money stops love and marriage from being an economic decision for example. Also, learning about investing isn’t as intimidating as it seems. You don’t have to worry about the numbers so much. Take a company that interests you, and find out about it. Who is the CEO? What does she care about? What has she done to out perform? How are they succeeding? See if you can attend their stockholder meetings to find out more.
6. Do men and women invest differently?
Kiplinger’s did a piece on this a few months ago. There is a difference in how men and women invest, and many think that women’s approach is better. Louann Lofton actually wrote a book called “Warren Buffet Invests Like A Girl…And Why You Should Too.”
Women are not as confident as men about investing, but because they aren’t as confident, they research more fully. They pull the trigger less impulsively and are less likely to shoot from the hip. Women trade less than men. They spend less on commissions than men, and their results are actually benefitted by that less frequent trading. I am a happy medium. I like to think that I am a little of both. I trade derivatives, futures, options and other complex products, which men tend to do more of than women. Truly, each could learn from the others’ habits. For example, one of our most popular education pieces that we offer is how to write a covered call on long term ETFs or long term equities. To many women, that sounds daunting, but the truth is it’s really not all that complicated if you take the time to understand it.
7. When people talk about low interest rates or NIRP, I’m lost. What do I need to know?
If you want to be a good leader, even at the beginning of your career, you need to understand how your company makes money. Interest rate shifts can be a key factor to a company’s results and companies tend to perform differently based on the rate environment. That’s the reason you need to care.
8. Everyone’s telling me that I should save. I can barely afford to eat on my salary, and I have college loans that I think I’ll be paying off until I’m 100. What’s your advice?
My key advice is that everyone has the ability to save if they are being analytical about budgeting. We are going to be offering a special Investment Club program for women. Our goal is to make it fun, engaging and social, but by the end of eight meetings to put women in a position of understanding investing in a more sophisticated way. For most women who are busy with career and/or family, they don’t have a lot of free time, so we’re looking to combine a night out with your friends with getting smarter about the market and investing. We are rolling out the program and the workbook for free. We are giving it away to clients and prospects, and then there is further information tied to our website. We will cover things like how to construct a budget.
How much should go toward your future?
How much should you save?
If I spend less today what will it mean to me tomorrow in terms of life, education or inspiration?
This is what we cover in our first class. We educate you on what a model budget should look like, and we give you the tools to go away and analyze your own budget at home. There are things like a retirement calculator that seem like they are for someone much older to worry about, but the truth is you do need to plan and live life along the trajectory you’ve set out and not just worry about it at the end of your career. This is for young professionals and also moms and homemakers. Those moms and homemakers offer so much that they can bring to the table. They make 80 percent of family purchases, and a lot of good investing ideas can come from understanding what’s really resonating with them.
9. Financial services has kind of a bad rep for sexism. What are your thoughts on this?
I do think that we’ve made progress. Women do lag behind, but a lot of work is being done. I think we stand on the shoulders of the women who came before us. We, TD, see women holding the broad majority of wealth — 2/3 by 2020 — so we need to make women feel that our firm is a great place for them to invest, and we do have powerful women role models. I am running trading. Carrie Braxdale is our executive vice president for retail products and services. Judy Ricketts is the president of TD Ameritrade clearing, and Denise Karkos is our chief marketing officer. I do think firms like ours that are focused on online and digital have to be more forward thinking.
10. What do you like to do when you aren’t working? How do you balance your work and personal life?
I have a 3 1/2-year-old son, so my free time consists of going to the park and getting yogurt. TD is expanding into Asia, and I have to travel a lot, so, when I am home, I try to give as much as I can to my son and my family in general. I went from passing my Hong Kong licensing exam, to going to Disney, to Laguna, and when I’m traveling, it’s really hard to balance, so this October, we are renting a house in Provence, so we can really have dedicated time together all in the same place.
11. What is your favorite inspirational quote or saying?
My dad told me that you need to have a purpose, to be grounded in something that you want to achieve. It’s that tenacity of purpose that leads you in a really positive way when you come into the office every day. It’s not all about you and life’s little distractions, but about taking steps toward that greater purpose.
12. What does She’s Fit to Lead mean to you? How does someone show they are fit to lead?
She’s Fit to Lead means being on the side of right and having that sense of purpose. Someone who is fit to lead has worked really hard to get to the place they are. They’ve achieved a lot. Not just leadership but also tremendous respect. They’ve earned it and built up confidence. They’ve led responsibly, and that is really important. It is really frustrating when it’s clear someone isn’t fit to lead or hasn’t earned the position they are in.