Vanessa Burnett, CFP® is a financial advisor at Bridge Advisory LLC in Pasadena, California. Founded in the late ‘90s. and rebranded in 2019 from Penniall & Associates to Bridge Advisory, it is a comprehensive holistic wealth management firm that prioritizes financial planning to drive investment decisions.
In conversation with Aspioneer Vanessa Burnett talks about the biggest career risk that led to her life purpose of educating people about finance, using a setback for a comeback, how men and women can be each other’s allies to create a more gender-equal world, and her hopes for the future.
Becoming a part of Bridge Advisory
Vanessa Burnett: “I started in March of 2008 – on St. Patrick’s Day with the luck of the Irish! – and believe that was one of the most important times to begin in this business. Living through 2008-2009 was completely eye-opening and has me hooked on this business and the strong desire to help people achieve their dreams. Since that time, I obtained the CFP® in 2010 and have journeyed along from service associate, to support wealth advisor, senior wealth advisor, and then partner in 2019. Leaving a position as a consultant for a large multinational consulting firm to pursue a career in wealth management was the most significant professional risk I took. I was scared of failure, that I wouldn’t enjoy the work, and of a new team of people and work environment, but ultimately that was the best decision I have made, and am so happy I leaned into my gut, and the encouragement of friends and family to take the leap. Self-doubt is always there, but the more risks you take, the quieter that voice becomes.
My health took a big beating at the end of 2018, at a time when my husband and I had a 1-year-old and 4-year-old (challenging years), I was working through Bridge’s contract negotiations and future planning for the business, and needing to make some big decisions about my own career. Ultimately, it became so difficult to function on a daily basis that I had no other choice but to take a temporary leave of absence in December 2018 to figure out what was going on and how to heal. Thankfully (gratefully!), the team allowed me to step away and lean into my health needs, seek the wisdom of a whole host of professionals and medical doctors, along with some soul searching I needed to do to find out what I wanted out of a career, family, and life in general. I was able to finally identify (after 6-7 months of struggle and pain) the root of my health issues (thankfully was an allergy I had developed) so I could step into the new year on a healing journey, with a clearer, reenergized focus for the business, and a calm soul as we headed into the final partnership negotiations and launch of Bridge Advisory in July 2019. I will always be grateful for the space, grace, wisdom, and support I received from my husband, family, doctors, and business partners during that time.
“I have always believed in the Golden Rule – that you should treat others the way you would like to be treated – and also in Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”
Eventually, our firm’s rebranding to Bridge Advisory and becoming a partner have been the highlights of my career thus far. The team we have and are continuing to build, along with the wonderful client relationships we share are what inspire me and keep me enjoying this business and coming to work every day. There is a lot of financial advice out there, much of it good. But even the best advice is misspent if the advisor doesn’t know the client. Our secret to success is listening. It sounds simple, but few people do it well. We ask questions, and follow-up questions, because we can’t pick a single investment until we know where are you are on your financial journey, and where you want to go. We are striving to put individuals & families in their ideal financial situation, through thoughtful and meaningful advice. We believe that financial wellness and healthy living enable our clients to have confidence and peace of mind in their financial future.”
Bringing thought diversity in finance
Vanessa Burnett: “I have found it to be ultimately a BENEFIT to be a woman in this industry as opposed to a barrier. There are still many more men than women in this business so that fact that I can be in a unique space to connect with women, as a woman, who is going through a divorce, following the death of their spouse, or even in the very common case that the female manages most of the household finances has been a great benefit. I want to make sure women feel educated, empowered, and confident to handle their finances and that of their families. I also want to help educate our communities, especially our young people, about finances in order to help them live better, more fulfilled lives. The industry is also fairly focused on empowering women in finance so I have not experienced any negative impact or barriers as a female investment advisor – at least not thus far.”
Being an effective leader
Vanessa Burnett: “I believe I lead with compassion, joy, and relationship. I believe I have a good ability to connect with people and help them feel heard and understood, and can come alongside them as a mentor and cheer them on toward their career goals and help identify their strengths to lean into those. As a female, or maybe simply because of who I am as a female, I have had a difficult time exerting authority and, in some cases, communicating when team members have weaknesses that need to be addressed. That is something I have worked hard to communicate early and often, addressing issues or weaknesses as they happen, at the moment, to correct the behaviors early on without letting time and additional challenges compound the situation. Conflict avoidance is in my nature, so identifying that and working to have clear communication with team members earlier than later has helped my management style and ultimately helped the team to develop and grow.”
Achieving a gender-equal world
Vanessa Burnett: “I have always believed in the Golden Rule – that you should treat others the way you would like to be treated – and also in Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” If we all did those things, individually in our daily lives, in everything we do and say, I believe that equality would be a priority in the world. I believe we need strong women, just as much as we need strong men, and that behind this strong woman is a line of strong women AND men who love me and let me fly every day. I believe that women and men supporting each other to be the best versions of ourselves is the harmony that we need.
For aspiring female leaders, I believe the best way forward and up is to say YES as often as possible. Lean into your YES, and especially do so when you are scared of facing your own self-doubt. The more you can do that, the more successes you will have, and the more successes you have, the more your confidence builds. Self-confidence (not ego, but that real quiet confidence that comes from knowing you can do it) creates a spirit of humility, clarity, and wisdom that can allow you to provide thoughtful and meaningful contributions to your work and ultimately leads to a career elevation and respect. If life gets in the way, take time to pause, heal, find a great mentor or counselor, don’t be afraid to ask for help. For me, the best advice is simply to work hard, be kind, and find joy in what you do. Your career will bloom and grow and you will enjoy the ride not just the destination.
The biggest challenge for women, especially following the Covid pandemic has been and will likely continue to be childcare. Of course, in certain cases, some men have chosen to stay home with the kids but in my experience, women will always struggle with the emotional pull to care for and be present in their children’s lives. This is something that I have had to make peace with over the last 7 years of motherhood. I will always have a constant pull to be with my precious kids, to never miss a game, recital, or storytime. At the same time, I have a drive and passion to work, help my clients achieve their financial freedom, feel the excitement of onboarding a new client, or hire a fabulous new team member. That is a balance that will push, and pull, throughout my career and is one I choose to be grateful for because of the joys that each side brings to my life, making me the best wife, mother, partner, and friend I can be.”
Vanessa Burnett: “My goal professionally is to help our firm reach $1B AUM within the next 5 years. It is a lofty goal but one that I believe we can achieve through strategic planning and a lot of collaborative work – in other words, I believe success is most easily achieved when you work together. I also hope to help our young people find their passion and direction within this business. I enjoy the mentorship relationships I have with them and hope to continue to lean into that role more and more. I hope my legacy is that of passion – for my family, my business, and my relationships. I hope that people will remember how I made them feel heard, understood, cared for and loved. And that I can also help people achieve their financial goals and dreams along the way.”