Women In Business Q&A: Yvette Butler, President, Capital One Investing

Yvette Butler

Yvette Butler is the President of Capital One Investing, a full-service brokerage offering a range of investment tools and services designed to empower Americans to make smart investment decisions and plan for the future.

( The Huffington Post) Before joining Capital One in 2013, Yvette served in leadership positions at a number of top brokerages including Wells Fargo Advisors, E*TRADE and Merrill Lynch.

Yvette holds her FINRA Series 7, 9, 10, 66 and 24 licenses. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Finance & Management Information Systems from the University of Virginia and her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

How have life experiences made you the leader you are today?
Playing sports as a teenager helped me discover my desire to lead and foster enthusiasm and support amongst my teammates. In high school I ran track, which many often consider an individual sport, but at the end of every meet, the team score is what matters most. That experience taught me to not only push for personal records, but more importantly, encourage and support my teammates in achieving their goals, so we could all head home together as winners.

The energy and excitement of striving to give projects my all while cheering on my teammates – and then celebrating collectively when we win – is a practice I still appreciate and follow today. My track team’s focus on collaborative success and cooperation gave me an early taste of what’s possible when everybody is motivated by the same goal, and I’ve applied those lessons of unity and partnership throughout my career. When it comes to innovating and building a new product or business, we can’t succeed unless we are all motivated to deliver our best each day.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Capital One Investing?
Having a keen sense of the customer need, and ensuring that insight is injected into every aspect of product development and delivery, is a skill I learned early on as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. Without that understanding, you’re building products and talking to customers blindly and based on assumptions or business objectives, not what will really “move” the end user.

The customer-centric approach is one I strive to instill in my teams at Capital One Investing. We begin with the customer, listen to understand their pain points, and begin problem solving and building tools from there. Taking this approach is how we believe we’ll solve for their needs – and ultimately help improve our customers’ financial futures.

After 25 years in financial services, I’ve also learned some valuable lessons on progressing as both a woman in business and an investor, and they share some interesting similarities. For instance, whether navigating the workplace or the financial markets, it’s crucial that we do our own research, set goals, and be willing take measured risks – and always with a cool head. The path and individual steps you take toward the end goal, whether it’s a leadership position or a nest egg, are just as important as the goal itself. You must stay focused, stay engaged, and have a lot of confidence along the way.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Capital One Investing?
Last year we brought together two very different businesses – ShareBuilder, our digital investing platform, and Capital One Financial Advisors, our bank branch advisors – and we’ve combined the best of each to introduce a new “hybrid” approach to financial planning that aims to help a broad set of investors plan for the future and get on the road to financial freedom.

We’re constantly reassessing how investing services and tools should best serve investors, and how to make these experiences more transparent, low-cost and accessible. For example, earlier this year we launched Advisor Connect, which provides investors nationwide phone-based access to conflict-free advice.

This experience of taking an all-digital business that didn’t offer financial advice and combining it with an all-advice business that didn’t offer any digital tools has been equally challenging and rewarding. It’s gratifying to be a part of a company that’s committed to reimagining the way investors engage with the markets, so they can build confidence and work toward a better financial future.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Get licensed. There are not enough women in our industry holding the required certifications from FINRA. Start with your Series 7 (the General Securities Representative Examination). There is so much you can do with these licenses – you can lead marketing, sales, and digital product teams. Creating investment products for everyday investors is work that really matters, and getting licensed is a huge step toward making a difference in the industry.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
Know who you are and be true to that. You can’t lead, innovate or transform unless your internal compass is pointed in the right direction. People want to follow authenticity, and will be inspired by a genuine spirit – you can’t fake that. To excel within your field, you need to bring that spark of excitement to work every day.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Someone once told me that you cannot seek balance day-to-day, but you can over the long-term. As a working mother, I always have so many balls in the air – I need to figure out on a daily basis which balls are rubber, and which are glass. If my child has a school play, that’s my glass ball. If I have a board presentation, I may need to let some of my other commitments lag a bit. Being cognizant of priorities and allowing for balance (which may mean missing or postponing something I’d like to do, but simply can’t) are key.

I urge working mothers to remember there are many versions of professional success, and it’s not necessary to drive full-throttle at all times. When I was expecting my first child, I panicked when my maternity leave approached. As someone who had never taken her foot off the gas, I was petrified that slowing down would negatively impact my future career. I looked to senior women within my organization that made the decision to pull back at times throughout their careers, only to come back with gusto and rise to leadership positions. I realized how lucky I was to have the choice to pursue my ambitions at a pace that fit my lifestyle. We need to recognize that our situations are all unique, and our version of success may not look like anybody else’s.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I’d like to see women be more comfortable marketing themselves and making sure others in our organizations realize exactly what we bring to the table. I think we can all be a little less modest and highlight our contributions more aggressively. When it comes to promotions and stretch roles, remember that no one is going to tap you on the shoulder. Be comfortable asking to lead and manage, and make sure to develop relationships with advocates who will support you when those opportunities arise.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has played a significant role in my career. I feel very lucky to have met my mentor, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, early on as he pushed me to look within myself to determine what my strengths were. He didn’t want me to just imitate him or emulate his version of success, but to develop my own style and cultivate the qualities that would help me stand out as a leader.

I often compare great mentors to personal trainers who help you develop the strengths that will help you succeed, and that’s what my mentor did. He helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses, while building the confidence to perfect my craft and develop my expertise. When career opportunities came my way, I felt prepared and knew I could excel.

The best mentor/mentee relationships need to evolve organically and be authentic in order to help you, so be aware of advice that seems to benefit the mentor only, or if it doesn’t seem to come from the right place. When you do encounter colleagues who genuinely believe in you and want to invest in your success, treasure it; those relationships don’t come around often. Today he remains my North Star – I’m so grateful that I’ve held on to that relationship.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
My grandmother is one of the most inspiring women I’ve encountered. She was one of the first business women I knew and taught me many management lessons over the years. As the manager of multiple family businesses including a farm, convenience store and auto repair shop, she taught me to the value of being a clear communicator. She was nothing if not direct. She was incredibly insightful – knowing what personalities would best work together, and which employee was the best fit for each job. She was also fiercely protective of our family, who were also her employees, and taught me how important it is to put your team first.

I also think very highly of Sallie Krawcheck, owner and chair of Ellevate Network and former president of Bank of America’s Global Wealth & Investment Management group. Sally has served as a great role model for women in banking, and I appreciate how vocal she’s been on issues like increasing the number of female senior executives and board members, and how workplace diversity can positively impact the bottom line.

What do you want Capital One Investing to accomplish in the next year?
Today most Americans are responsible for managing their own retirement plan, but many are confused about how to begin, or they distrust the industry and have opted out of investing altogether. In fact, Capital One Investing’s Financial Freedom Survey found more than three-quarters (76 percent) of Americans believe saving for retirement is more challenging now than it was for their grandparents’ generation. Combine that with the fact that most brokers either cater to affluent or active investors, and you have an industry that is failing many Main Street investors.

At Capital One Investing, we’re focused on empowering and engaging the everyday investor, and we’re confident that an unbiased “hybrid” approach to financial planning can help them plan for retirement and other goals. We’re working to make investing a seamless aspect of everyday life and we’re building products and tools that enable us to meet today’s investors on their terms so they can invest in a way that works best for them.