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Here's what happened when I said, 'I want your job'

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As advisors, we are often told that having a partner is the best way to work effectively with clients and that teams achieve more success than individual practitioners. I can tell you it’s true.

Partners bring perspectives that we don’t have, their strengths can complement ours and they give flexibility to client coverage. Finding the right partner, in my opinion, is one of the most important challenges an advisor faces.

I was lucky. On my 25th birthday, I walked into J.P. Morgan Private Bank for a job interview that would change my life. I’d always had an analytical mind — class treasurer and the like — but I had taken a total detour into the high-end art world for the past several years.

Lauren Cosulich came to wealth management from the high-end art world.

I was inexperienced when it came to private wealth management or anything else in the investment and financial services industry. Little did I know that day that the woman who would interview me would become my mentor, partner and a close friend.

Daniela Pedley put me at ease in our conversation immediately; we bonded over a shared love of opera and all things Italian. I told her that I didn’t really have any background in the private client world but that I was eager to learn and be helpful however I could. She responded that that was all she was looking for — someone who could dive in and help with everything she was doing for and with her clients.

And that’s exactly how it worked. She threw a ton at me, I learned by doing and asking a lot of questions. Through it all I observed a smart, empathetic, creative woman doing an excellent job advising clients on all aspects of their complex financial affairs. The lightbulb went off in my head: I wanted to do that too.

I remember stepping into Daniela’s office about three months after I started and telling her, “I want your job.” I didn’t want to replace her, I wanted to join her. Could she help me get there?

She could. For the next several years, our relationship functioned much like an apprenticeship. We both knew that one day the relationship would evolve, and it was really only a question of when. We moved to Lehman Brothers in 2006, and following our division’s acquisition by Barclays two years later, I got a battlefield promotion at the height of the financial crisis. This formalized our business relationship and I was lucky that my partner was also my mentor.

Daniela is 12 years my senior and could share her experience and expertise. Being a woman and a mother has also been significant, given the extremely low percentage of women in our industry. We share an understanding of life events and transitions and are equally focused on the long term, with a commitment to and trust of each other. That has accommodated the ebbs and flows of both personal and professional lives.

For example, when I was expecting my first child, Barclays Wealth Americas didn’t have a maternity policy for nonsalaried employees. I was told to “figure it out with your partner.” We did. I took a maternity leave and Daniela never doubted my commitment. We’ve continued to be in lockstep throughout our partnership. We both grew to believe that we would be better able to take care of our clients in an independent firm and we joined Summit Trail Advisors over four years ago.

We've proven that having a trusted collaborator facilitates better generation and implementation of new ideas. With a partner, the workload can be divided based on skill or experience, and the psychological burdens of the business are lessened through sharing. Not coincidentally, Summit Trail also holds partnership as a core value. That concept guides its relationships not only with clients, investment managers and vendors, but also very much with colleagues inside the firm.

Today I have 21 business partners. But there’s still only one Daniela.

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