Princess Diana famously said, “A woman’s best protection is a little money of her own.” But what “little” does it take to be financially free, and how does one get there?
Tuula Jalasjaa has the answers. She is a wealth management expert who is drawing on decades of leadership experience and her unwavering personal commitment to close the gender gap for women who lack financial independence. Tuula’s warrior armament comes from her education and deep roots in the banking industry. As a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) with an international MBA from the Schulich School of Business in Toronto, and an ICD from the Rotman School of Management Corporate Directors Program, she’s brandished senior executive positions in financial services and wealth management at Scotiabank and HollisWealth.
There are few leaders with the desire and experience to implement strategic changes that require a perspicacity of the financial marketplace, its customers and future needs and trends. Leadership jobs running Scotia Private Investment Counsel and Institutional Investment Management Distribution and Scotia Asset Management U.S. put Tuula in a class of her own.
As one of the youngest Vice-President in Scotia’s history at 34 years of age, Tuula garnered a reputation for excellence that continued four years later, when her bank’s CEO nominated her for Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 Award. This trend has continued throughout Tuula’s career, as she chased new opportunities in Canada and steered the strategic direction of wealth management in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and other Caribbean countries to improve the lack of financial literacy among women.
Tuula’s decision in 2018 to create two online platforms for transforming financial literacy for women in Canada may be her crowning achievement. The Women’s Collection (TWC) offers free website tools and online resources to address the knowledge deficit women face by “bringing like-minded women together to share their stories and experiences, with learning styled content including podcasts, webinars, interactive modules and articles from high profile experts.”
Smart Money For Her (SM4H) is the perfect complement to TWC. It gives women confidence and tools to start investing in the market with as little as $500. As the first robo-advisor investment platform in Canada dedicated to women, SM4H harnesses the convenience and transparency of technology alongside a team of dedicated professionals on standby and ready to guide women through a unique goals-based approach.
Investing is simple and starts with a series of questions and action steps to clarify financial goals, resources, preferences, and risk tolerance. Education is part of every step, so users gain confidence knowing their individual and familial circumstances are part of the decision-making process. These conditions are especially important for women, who approach finances and investing differently than men. While there is still relatively little data about this, the reasons vary depending on who you ask.
“Men see outperforming the market as a sign of success. Women, in contrast, tend to see their investing as a means to an end — a way of accumulating enough money to, for example, buy a house or retire early.” —Entrepreneur.com
Tuula’s experience refutes old ideas that suggest women are more conservative and risk adverse. She knows that many women have had little exposure to finance courses and instead worry about the ramifications of making decisions without enough information or confidence in knowing they can meet their goals.
When it comes to investing, Tuula also knows that different milestones in life can be devastating for women and negatively impact their finances. Events like marriage or maternity leave can slow wealth accumulation, and the death of a spouse can cause panicked decisions when women aren’t privy or involved in the management of finances. Knowing what tools can help to mitigate the effects of these milestones or planning for retirement can help women better navigate reduced earnings from maternity leaves or work sabbaticals of any kind.
Financial independence will increasingly matter for women who “control 32 per cent of the world’s wealth and are accumulating it at a compound annual growth rate 2 percentage points higher than that of men.” This statistic from a Boston Consulting Group report is also important because it suggests Canadian financial advisors may be doing a disserve to women by continuing to “rely on broad assumptions from the past that are, at best, superficial and at worst, condescending to women.”
This kind of outdated thinking that doesn’t understand women’s unique needs and decision-making approach doesn’t fly for Tuula, who earned degrees in Philosophy and Social Work before attending business school. This helps explain why TWC and SM4H hit home. Both platforms address the psychology of women’s attitudes, vulnerabilities, skills, resources, and social ideas – aka what influences their financial decision-making. So giving women the tools and investment experience is an obvious way to help women control their financial future.
This kind of nurtured learning is already a personal trademark of Tuula’s. As an avid traveler exploring the world and learning about her place in it, Tuula’s commitment is manifest in her volunteer work with the United Way and other mentoring programs. Tuula co-chaired one of the largest fundraising campaigns for United Way in 2014, raising a record $10 million. She’s also served on various senior executive committee for years. Having mentored over 100 women, Tuula is focused on the advancement and mentorship of women.
Teaching her two daughters to be better-equipped and more confident about managing their financial future was a parenting priority as well for Tuula. Starting with the basics, Tuula helped her girls to see the difference between a “want” and a “need,” while cautioning against the mistake of impulse buying over hard work and savings. These discussions lead to valuable talks about credit card spending and risks.
To add investing experience, Tuula opened a modest portfolio account for her daughters buying companies they liked to shop at, such as Disney, Reebok and Aritzia. The experience with stock market dynamics provided an opportunity to learn about investment tools, interest, dividends and a broad understanding of how to build wealth. This is the kind of education that can help millennials and GenXers navigate market uncertainties and alleviate fears around investing.
As Tuula’s platforms excel, Tuula continues to identify new opportunities for reaching more women in countries like China and India. Demographic size and large labor forces make them strategically ideal, especially with many women involved in entrepreneurial ventures. Given the “unprecedented amounts of assets shifting into the hands of women over the next three to five years, representing a $30 trillion opportunity by the end of the decade,” there’s no better time for women to step up and take control of their wealth creation. Thanks to Tuula, things are looking up because we have the tools and ability to do it.