Jennifer Ridley-Hanson, CFP, BMO Private Bank

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Jennifer Ridley-Hanson, CFP, vice president, wealth advisor, BMO Private Bank.

1. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

The most rewarding part of my job as a wealth advisor is helping my clients simplify their financial lives. Many people have their investments spread out and there is no overall cohesive strategy. It is amazing to see how clients can benefit from tying their financial goals together with investment management, estate planning, and tax efficiency, through creating a comprehensive financial plan.

The challenging part is keeping up on all of the new tax codes and legal considerations, and being able to articulate new strategies to preserve and transfer wealth. Besides the fact that there is a lot of information to keep track of, many things change every year so you need to stay educated and continuously informed.

2. Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

I am a longtime member of The Business Forum, a professional networking organization for women in Madison. Each year, the organization grants scholarships to local women to begin or complete their college educations. Many of these women have overcome domestic violence, poverty, homelessness, teenage or single motherhood, and other serious obstacles to success. I am always so inspired by their stories of working two or three low paying jobs just to put a roof over their heads while attending college and raising children. I admire all of the women who have worked so hard to get the degree they needed to get a better paying job. Even though I think I’ve worked hard to get where I am in my career, it makes me really appreciate how easy I have had it.

3. What has been the high point of your career so far?

Several years ago I had the opportunity to introduce the keynote speaker at a national women’s leadership conference in Denver, attended by over 1,000 female executives. It was the biggest audience I have ever been in front of. That was intimidating — but also exhilarating. One of the amazing women I had the chance to meet there was Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, who was assassinated in 2007. She made quite an impression on me.

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4. Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

At 21, I was surprisingly on track for my future career. I knew that I wanted to go into business and I was focused on getting good grades and graduating on time. It probably helped that I went to a small college (Lawrence University), which is not known as a party school. I would tell my 21-year-old self to stick with the plan and that it will all be worth it someday — the long hours working as a broker on straight commission, the endless studying for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam, and waiting 10 years to start a family so I could get my career solidly on track.

5. What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

I live just on the edge of Dane County (almost in Iowa County), which is a beautiful area. I grew up in Milwaukee and moved here from Chicago. I appreciate all of the family friendly (and mostly free) things to do, such as visiting the Vilas Zoo, Olbrich Gardens, the Memorial Union Terrace, all of the lakes and parks, bike trails, and snowshoe trails. There is a thriving business community here as well, and I was really impressed with all of the resources and networks available when I was a newcomer to Madison 18 years ago. I think this is one of the best places on Earth, not just one of the best cities in America.

6. Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I can swim a mile without dying! I started competitively swimming as a kid. My college career was cut short when I got mono my sophomore year. My doctor wanted me to take a semester off and I absolutely refused. The compromise was that I had to quit the team so I could fully recover. But I still swim laps as often as possible, (which is not nearly enough, of course).

7. What are your guilty pleasures?

I like to listen to music in my car and I’ve been known to turn it up a notch! One time when I called home from my cellphone after leaving work, I got the answering machine and thought I had hung up. I came home to hear my rendition of Van Halen’s cover of the Kink’s “You Really Got Me” on the answering machine. At least I was able to delete the message before my family had to hear it.

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