LinkedIn Member Spotlight: Women’s History Month 2024 Honors Marguerita Cheng, CFP® Pro

LinkedIn, March 8, 2024 — In honor of Women’s History Month, Community Manager Rachel Basoco spent time with Finteract member Marguerita (Rita) Cheng, CFP® to hear her story, including how she continues to navigate the financial advice profession. Scroll down for the Q&A, and read more here.

RB: As a woman in the financial sector, what unique perspectives do you bring?

MC:We can’t be afraid to try things differently. Don’t be afraid if your journey looks different. But I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared! Instead of focusing on what I didn’t have – I knew I was very good at connecting with people and relating to them. I say that, not to be arrogant, but being self-aware. I absolutely was inspired to become a financial planner, because I wanted to change conversations about money and I love helping people.

I’m not joking – I built my business by being good on the phone. I am a good listener and I had a vision when I picked up the phone. I was going to have fun and have a smile on my face. Before every phone call, I got an iced mocha. I know that’s a lot of sugar and caffeine, but I wanted people to feel my energy. So, spending money on coffee was my best investment.

RB: What challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?

MC:I was one of those kids who was 17 going on 40 – and I’ve always behaved and acted as though I was older. When I entered this profession, I already had two kids.

With kids, before I walked out my front door, I had already done a lot of work just to get them and myself ready. A lot of people didn’t realize that, and they underestimated me. I didn’t see anyone that looked like me. I’m not just talking racial or ethnic diversity. I didn’t see any young moms.

I also had to overcome my culture. I’m of East Asian heritage and I was always told to be humble. “Put your head down and work.” I realized sometimes you can’t just put your head down – you have to promote yourself. I struggled, because being successful felt like I was violating my upbringing. I was afraid to be perceived as a pushy salesperson.

RB: Is there a piece of meaningful advice that impacted your career?

MC: Once a sales manager said to me, “Rita, you’re tactically sharp, but you’re a lousy financial advisor. You spend too much time building relationships and asking questions.”    I was horrified at first, but I stayed calm. I’m team-oriented and collaborative, so if you need help, I’m going to help you. But I was told I couldn’t be successful because I wasn’t sales oriented. And you know what? They were right.

For the type of advisor they wanted me to be, I was lousy. But for the type of advisor I wanted to be and the types of relationships I wanted to have, I was excelling. It was a recognition that we can both be right.  My clients were proof that building relationships matter because people do business with those they trust. And if people don’t have that connection, they don’t trust you. I always tell my clients, “It’s teamwork and it’s collaboration.” They trust me and they value me.

RB: What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the financial advice profession?

MC:You belong here. It’s okay if your story is different. And don’t listen if someone says you can’t have empathy to be successful! Coming out post-pandemic, we’re learning the importance of empathy. I want the profession to open their hearts and minds to how we define success. It does not mean that people who have a classic sales manager mindset can’t be successful. But somebody like me, who values relationships and connection, can be successful too.

And… my advice to a young girl would be if you don’t know what you want, that’s okay. Sometimes the path is not direct. Knowing what we don’t like helps us discover what we dolike.

RB: As we celebrate Women’s History Month, what message do you have for women striving to make their mark in traditionally male-dominated fields?

MC:I can’t emphasize the importance of community enough. Women can feel very alone, so it’s about mentorship, allyship and community.

If you don’t have a mentor, you could participate in peer mentoring – which I find very helpful. I suggest setting ground rules when you’re together so it’s not just a venting session. Have a focus! For example, this month the focus is marketing; next month is going to be handling clients who are stuck, etc. So even if you can’t find a mentor, you have a way to connect with your peers.

Professional associations can also be helpful. Some may think they are in a room of competitors, but this is a myth. The financial planning community is very giving and supportive. Our profession needs a public awareness campaign because I’ve never felt like anyone was competing with me. I want financial planning to feel inclusive, welcoming for the people that work in the profession and for the clients we serve.

For anyone feeling alone – reach out to me on LinkedIn and for those on Finteract – please DM me! I will always have the door open because it’s important for all of us who are here to open our networks. And if “networks” sounds too corporate, let’s open our community to make way for others.

The last thing I’ll say is that you don’t have to be a pushy, extroverted person to be successful – that is also a huge myth! I’m an introvert and you don’t have to be pushy, loud or flamboyant to be successful.

It’s really all about community.