TIAA’s Kathie Andrade, CEO of Retail Financial Services, on mentoring others and helping women take charge of their financial well-being

 

Conversation with Annie Gottbehuet, Managing Director at TIAA and Woman2Woman Expert

 

Kathie Andrade started out in the finance industry more than 30 years ago and was recently named CEO of Retail Financial Services, the TIAA business dedicated to providing our retail customers with financial products and services that include banking, financial planning, life insurance and education savings solutions.

 

Kathie was also recently named one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Finance by American Banker for the second year in a row, so I took the opportunity to talk with her about the importance of having mentors and the reason why so many women are reluctant to talk about finances.

 

Here are edited excerpts from our conversation:

 

 

Annie: Let’s start by talking about the importance of having mentors. Do you mentor any women?

 

Kathie: Absolutely. I mentor women, as well as men, both inside and outside of TIAA. I have also had, and currently have, mentors of both genders because it’s about personality and skill set, not whether you’re male or female. When looking for a mentor, I’d suggest looking for someone who embodies the qualities and skills you don’t have. Someone you admire. And remember, it’s not a one-way relationship. When you give, you get a lot more back, so find out how you can support your mentor, too.

 

Annie: That’s true. I’ve been lucky to have had great mentors, both men and women, throughout my career. My mentors have really helped me to think long-term and remain focused on my priorities. 

 

Kathie: I think that’s key. No matter where you are in your career or what you want out of life, you need to know what your priorities are, and make sure your actions align with them.

For example, if you want to advance in your career, make yourself essential. Take on the responsibilities that others won’t. Be exceptional at the job you have now. And most importantly, be willing to step outside of your comfort zone.

 

Annie: It’s interesting that you mention the ‘comfort zone.’ When things have seemed too hard or challenging, I have turned to my mentors to provide reassurance and the extra push I needed to keep moving forward. It’s been very helpful during those times when I doubted myself.

 

Kathie: Confidence is extremely important. Not just in your career, but in many other areas of your life, including your financial life.

 

I have noticed that women often shy away from conversations related to money management. Research backs that up, telling us that women lack confidence when it comes to their financial acumen – when in fact, the reality is that women’s investment portfolios demonstrate very similar performance compared to men’s.

 

More often, the difference between men and women from a financial perspective is that women face unique challenges in their financial lives. For example, women tend to live, on average, five years longer than men[1] and therefore their savings need to last longer than men’s. At the same time, women tend to take more time off from their careers, often to raise children or care for aging parents[2]. As a result, women often have a lot less saved for retirement.

 

Annie: That’s interesting. Given those gaps, how can women build up their savings and their financial confidence at the same time? 

 

Kathie: My view is that women have largely been underserved by the financial industry. TIAA wants to change that, so we’ve done research and are helping women build financial confidence through financial education initiatives that include seminars, workshops and events specially tailored for a female audience. We also created our Woman2Woman online community to help women connect with experts, like you, that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn from.

 

Annie: I love being part of those initiatives and the Woman2Woman community. Not only can we help women take charge of their financial well-being, but we can learn firsthand from them about the challenges they face.

 

Kathie: Exactly. We knew we were in a position to help women – but we knew we needed to keep learning from them, too. We’re in this together, and the interactive, discussion-based nature of the community and our women’s events really helps us better understand our customers and enhance our services as a result.

 

 

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[1] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db168.pdf

[2] http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/public_policy_institute/econ_sec/2013/uphill-climb-women-face-greater-obstacles-retirement-security-AARP-ppi-econ-sec.pdf