When’s the last time you had the chance to do something truly boundary pushing at work? For many folks, especially those who’ve spent multiple years at the same company, this can be a difficult question to answer. There are often ways to put an innovative spin on even the most repetitive of tasks, it’s true. But for a majority of people, having the opportunity to work on something that feels truly new as part of your 9-to-5 can be rare.
For Danna Demos, though, charting new paths is a big piece of her daily job. As Division Executive for the Southeast region of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Financial Advisor Development Program (FADP) — a brand-new role, in charge of a brand-new team — Demos says she’s had a “dream opportunity” to build and execute a vision from scratch.
“When this role was created, I spent a few weeks soul searching to decide if I wanted to pursue it,” she said. “The more I thought about the role, the more excited I became… I asked myself, ‘How many other professionals have the opportunity to handpick their entire team and develop strategies that will leave a long-lasting legacy to our firm?’”
And so, after five years already spent at the company as an SVP, Demos pivoted to the Division Executive role. The positive impact she’s getting to make, she added, is perhaps the role’s most satisfying part.
“We are helping to shape our new financial advisors’ careers and help them achieve success in ways many of them never even dreamed possible,” she said. “It’s an honor and a huge responsibility. I think about the lives we will impact and the ripple effect.”
But even the most rewarding and dynamic of jobs require some time away to pause and refresh. To that end, Demos recently shared the self-care methods she values most, as well as her No. 1 piece of advice to women hoping for more dynamic work.
Tell us a bit about your role. What are your priorities/main responsibilities?
I am the Division Executive for the Financial Advisor Development Program (FADP) for the Southeast Division of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. In this role, I lead a performance team responsible for hiring, training, coaching and successfully graduating financial advisors from our training program. Our top priority is to ensure we are creating the next generation of world-class financial advisors for Merrill Lynch. We will do this by delivering consistent execution of our national training program in each of our 108 local offices across the country.
How does it feel being the first person at your company to serve in this role?
Merrill has been investing in our training program since 1946. Our program has the reputation of being the best on the street. This year, the firm made a significant investment in the field leadership infrastructure of our program by adding performance leaders who are fully dedicated to the program.
Since this is a brand new role and a new team, I was given the responsibility to hire and build our Southeast team of 13 FADP Performance Managers from scratch. To me, this is a dream opportunity. I asked myself, “How many other professionals have had the opportunity to handpick their entire team and develop strategies that will leave a long-lasting legacy to our firm?”
What are the challenges of being the first person to assume a particular position? What about the advantages?
Moving into a brand new role at the firm is exciting! The opportunity we have ahead of us — to shape the next generation of Merrill Lynch financial advisors — is an honor and a huge responsibility. I think about the lives we will impact and the ripple effect. We are helping to shape our new financial advisors’ careers and help them achieve success in ways many of them never even dreamed possible. And in turn, our financial advisors are impacting the lives of our clients and communities. We ask our clients, “What do you want the power to do?” And through a dialogue with our clients, we help them organize their financial lives in a way that enables them to deliver on what matters most to them.
The challenge of a brand new role is the fact that there is not a path to follow; I must create that path myself. And I create this path by surrounding myself with other leaders I respect. We have an amazing culture here that is highly collaborative. Before making major decisions, I collaborate with those in my inner circle — I refer to them as my personal advisory board!
What did the process look like of securing this job? How did you make the case that you should be the one to do it?
When this role was created, I spent a few weeks soul searching to decide if I wanted to pursue it. I weighed the risk of a new role with all the reasons it appealed to me. I prayed for clarity in my decision making. The more I thought about the role, the more excited I became. I just knew in my heart I was the right person for the job. I have the background, the in-depth knowledge of the advisor development program, and the passion. I believe in our firm, the strategic purpose of what we are doing here, and the impact to our internal associates, clients and communities. I wanted to be a part of that! I wanted to give this job everything I have to see our new financial advisors succeed.
As I interviewed for the role, I did a lot of self-reflection. I asked myself, “Why should I get this job?” I created my value proposition and was prepared in the interviews to discuss how my background, experiences, and most importantly my ability to build strong relationships made me the right person for this role. I created a 90-day plan, which was extensive and well thought out. I wanted to show senior leadership that I could be the “turnkey;” I had a plan and was ready to implement it.
How is your experience as the first person in this role a reflection of your company’s overall culture?
I absolutely love our company and our culture! We seek out diversity. We value different points of view. It’s what makes us better. When we created these new roles, the leadership team was very intentional in building a diverse team. The firm also recognized the importance of ensuring that our program is reaching the next generation. This is reflected in the people we hire and in our commitment to world-class digital offerings that best serve our existing clients as well as reach the next generation.
What forms of self care, weekend routines, and/or types of boundaries do you use to make sure you’re feeling grounded and balanced?
Everyone says that balance is essential. And it truly is. I have realized that I am more effective at work if I keep the right balance. It’s important to me to spend time with my family and friends. One of my boundaries is not working on the weekends. I’m not going to say I never work on weekends, but those are few and far between. I need those two days to refresh my brain, have some downtime with family, and enjoy the outdoors. On a daily basis, I protect my sleep, my morning coffee, and my quiet time to read my devotional and remind myself of my purpose here. This grounds me and feeds my soul. And I protect this time whether I am at home or on the road.
What’s your No. 1 tip for women who are looking for jobs right now?
It’s hard to give just one tip! So, I will share just a few. Know what is truly important to you and know your worth. You are unique; nobody else has the exact background, work experience, or life experience as you. Be proud of that! Spend time reflecting on your unique value proposition for your next role. And don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and seek mentors to help guide you. Sometimes others see potential in us that we don’t see in ourselves!
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