You can’t help but notice the sculpture towering in front of the post-modern office building on South Main Street housing one of the nation’s largest financial advisory firms. The piece depicts a man, his right hand gripping a mallet, chiseling himself from a tree.
“Regenesis” could be considered High Masculine art, the bronze figure rippling with muscles. Which is kind of ironic, given that when you step inside Nachman Norwood & Parrott Wealth Management Consultancy, you find no glass ceiling—the 16-member firm includes nine women.
“Although 46 percent of financial services employees are women,” Forbes reported last year, “at the executive level, it’s only 15 percent.”
Not all of NPP’s distaff staff are executives, but Maura Copsey is. She’s a partner, having joined the firm in 2000, around the time she started having children. That’s when Bob Nachman and Ben Norwood, who founded the company with the now-retired John Parrott, offered her a flex schedule.
So much for the notion that wealth management is strictly about money. Although NPP boasts $1.6 billion in assets under management—roughly half the national average for a similar Securities and Exchange Commission-registered firm, according to SmartAdvisor Match—the partners don’t see their jobs that way.
“My first email this morning,” Nachman says, joining Copsey and Norwood in a conference room while Hurricane Dorian lumbered toward Charleston, “was to the whole office saying we need to make sure to be in touch with any of our clients who live along the coast.”
Copsey added that she spent two hours that day on a client’s pending divorce—she’s one of only 5,000 Certified Divorce Financial Analysts in the country—before she started helping a man whose mother passed away.
There was a time when a wealth manager paid more attention to ticker tapes than trying times, but nowadays, the partners say, relationships prime. NPP counts more than 1,000 clients, most of them high-end.
“The company’s average account size is $1.4 million,” SmartAdvisor Watch says in an undated website post, noting that figure is slightly above the national average and that NPP’s financial advisors administer “around 115 client accounts.”
Asked whether money professionals might bristle under the critique that they’re only in the business for, well, the money, Nachman responds:
“I’d say that’s a potential flaw in our industry—to some degree, certainly most people in our industry are focused on people with wealth first.” NPP presents itself differently. “As personal family advisors, our bread and butter is not just trading securities, it’s helping people’s families.”
Copsey sees herself as a “transition specialist.”
“I know that sounds really odd,” she says. “We work with clients for a long period of time, and it seems like we spend a lot of time just helping people go through life, the transitions in life. ‘I want to plan to pay for college, my children’s education.’ That’s transition. ‘I want to plan for my retirement.’ That’s a transition.”
Adds Norwood: “I tell folks that I truly think you would be better served in this business if you had a behavioral finance degree, rather than a finance degree, just because you have to understand how to deal with people and their emotions and their fears and anxieties.”
The two men sitting at the room’s only glass-topped fixture agree that women add distinction to a firm striving for personal service over public securities.
Women, Norwood says, offer a “different perspective and a different way of communicating with clients that I think that they appreciate.”
Nachman adds, “I think it helps us males in a more-female environment learn how to function in the real world.”