All posts by transparencypodcast

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Transparency with Diana B.: The Reality of Divorce With a Special Needs Child



As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and, perhaps, the preeminent divorce advisor in the industry, Michelle Smith has helped hundreds of women through the financial maze of divorce. But she’s even more qualified to advise on divorce because she’s gone through it herself—and with a child with special needs no less. 

In this episode, Diana Britton, managing editor of WealthManagement.com, is joined by Michelle Smith, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and CEO of Source Financial Advisors, an RIA in New York City. Michelle discusses her own experience with divorce, co-parenting a special needs child, learning to ask for help, and more. 

Michelle received her son’s Down syndrome diagnosis three minutes after he was born. Although she didn’t feel equipped to parent a child with special needs, she instantly flipped into “I’ve got this” mode. But she was petrified when she saw her husband shut down. In that moment, she knew in her gut that her marriage was over.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How the birth of her son sparked a realization about her marriage
  • Why it was important for her to take a step back during the divorce process
  • About her experience co-parenting a special needs child
  • How she ultimately learned to ask for help from her friends and family
  • Why Michelle and her friends decided to start their own school in New York City
  • Her advice for people going through divorce: how to mediate safely and why you should reconsider litigating 
  • How COVID-19 could impact divorces
  • And more

Listen now to hear Michelle’s experience going through the divorce process and parenting her special needs son. 

WealthManagement.com | Diana Britton | Contact Diana | Michelle Smith’s Email | The IDEAL School of Manhattan | Source Financial Advisors


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Transparency with Diana B.: How John Hyland Fought Cancer and Won—Three Times



A lot of people in the industry know John Hyland, the co-founder and executive officer of Private Advisor Group, who has been in the industry for 31 years. But few know his personal story. When John was younger, he became involved with the New Jersey chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a cause that was dear to him at the time because a beloved aunt had died from acute myeloid leukemia (AML), the most deadly form of blood cancer. But he couldn’t know at the time how fateful that choice would be. In 2010, John was diagnosed with AML himself. He never imagined he would be facing his mortality at 43 years old. 

In this episode, Hyland joins Diana Britton, managing editor of WealthManagement.com, to share his experience with the disease, including the unimaginably painful treatment process, his challenges with depression, relapsing in 2014 and 2016, the road to recovery, and beyond. 

In this episode, you will learn:

  • About John’s Iron Man triathlon training, and what events led to his AML diagnosis
  • How he discovered that he had relapsed
  • How he coped with being quarantined and separated from his kids during treatment
  • How COVID-19 has impacted him and drudged up old feelings of being in quarantine for long periods of time
  • About John’s biggest takeaway from his cancer experience
  • How he deals with thoughts of dying, and how the experience taught him to appreciate the time he has
  • And more.

As of three months ago, he had no signs of Leukemia. Listen now to hear John’s experience recovering from AML. 


WealthManagement.com | Diana Britton on LinkedIn | John Hyland’s Email | Leukemia and Lymphoma Society | Contact Diana


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Transparency with Diana B.: Living With Type 1 Diabetes



As an estate tax attorney, Melanie Schnoll-Begun spent so much of her life helping others plan their for their futures. But when she applied for a life insurance policy of her own during pregnancy, she never imagined she’d get a rejection letter. That was the moment she learned she had Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder that now impacts every aspect of her life.

In this episode, Diana Britton, managing editor of WealthManagement.com, is joined by Melanie Schnoll-Begun, the managing director and head of philanthropy management at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. She opens up about her journey living with diabetes, and how the disease has shaped her career. Melanie was later inspired to help launch Morgan Stanley GIFT Cures, a program that advances the development of research discoveries into new cures and treatments for a broad range of diseases. The diabetic community—and especially those with Type 1—is very compromised right now due to the coronavirus, and Melanie has had to have a heightened level of awareness during this time.    

 In this episode, you will learn:

  • How Melanie learned about her diagnosis
  • How having diabetes has shaped Melanie’s life and career
  • Misconceptions about Type 1 diabetes
  • How COVID-19 impacts people with Type 1 diabetes
  • What kind of work Morgan Stanley GIFT Cures is doing around COVID-19 
  • Melanie’s advice for coping with Type 1 diabetes
  • And more.

 Tune in now to hear about Melanie Schnoll Begun’s experience living with Type 1 diabetes.

WealthManagement.com | Diana Britton | Contact Diana | Contact Melanie | Morgan Stanley


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Transparency With Diana B.: Working Mothers in Quarantine



When shelter-in-place orders started cropping up in mid-March, as the coronavirus started to spread in cities across the country, many schools and daycares closed. Babysitters and other caregivers, such as grandparents, were forced to separate from the kids they typically cared for. The circumstance brought a new challenge to working parents, who have been struggling over the last few months to work remotely, home-school their children, and keep the young ones engaged, occupied and happy. 

In this episode of Transparency, Diana Britton, managing editor of WealthManagement.com, talks to three mothers in financial services about the challenges they’ve experienced balancing work and childcare during the quarantine.

Shana Sissel, chief investment officer of Spotlight Asset Group, has an energetic little boy who is feeling increasingly antsy inside their apartment. Kristine Porcaro, co-founder and president of Lexington Wealth Management, is preserving emotional energy for her two teenage girls. And Blair DuQuesnay, an advisor at Ritholtz Wealth Management, is balancing the care of her young son and newborn daughter.

Diana’s joined by Shana, Kristine, and Blair who discuss the challenges of keeping their children emotionally and mentally fulfilled while stuck inside, as well as their mechanisms for staying sane. Diana draws on her own experience in this episode, working from home while caring for her 4-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.  

In this episode, you will learn:

  • About their experiences working from home with kids
  • How these moms feel about screentime and how they manage it
  • How they’re dealing with schools and daycares being closed 
  • How they’re dealing with acting out and heightened emotions
  • How to run an advisory business while caring for children
  • Ways these mothers maintain sanity and relieve stress
  • And more. 

Tune in now to hear a candid discussion about the challenges of caring for children and working from home during COVID-19.

WealthManagement.com | Diana Britton | Contact Diana | Spotlight Asset Group | Shana Sissel on LinkedIn  | Lexington Wealth Management | Kristine Porcaro on LinkedIn | Ritholtz Wealth Management | Blair DuQuesnay on LinkedIn  


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Transparency With Diana B.: A Near-Death Experience



While the numbers are constantly changing, the coronavirus has claimed many, many lives, and the casualties continue to climb. And during this time, as mortality is top of mind for many and emotions are running high, it may help to hear from someone who has faced death, head-on, and lived to tell the tale.

In this episode of Transparency, Diana Britton, managing editor of WealthManagement.com, is joined by Brandon Garrett, president and chief investment officer of Snow Garrett Wealth Management, who had a near-death experience several years ago. What began as a fun vacation to the beautiful Cayman Islands with his wife and friends ended with him laying in a hospital bed, with a bacterial infection that led to septic shock. He thought it might be the end of his life.

The infection, of course, did not claim his life. But the experience did change him permanently and helped him to live more purposely going forward.

In this episode you will learn:

  • The details of Brandon’s own near-death experience
  • What he was feeling and thinking during the ordeal
  • How he found inner peace in the face of death and fear
  • How the experience changed his life
  • The importance of focusing on yourself as much as your clients
  • The importance of personal and professional communication
  • And more.

Tune in now to learn how to recognize whether you’re living purposely, with a bigger picture objective in mind, or simply living in the moment.

Resources:  Wealth Management | Email | Coronavirus Coverage | Diana Britton’s LinkedIn | Snow Garrett Wealth Management


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Transparency With Diana B.: From Riches to Refugee



Many people tend to dwell on horrific experiences, making it difficult to move forward and live their lives. Others embrace the trauma, using it to build strength and a thick skin. 

In this episode of Transparency, Diana Britton, managing editor of WealthManagement.com, is joined by Kashif “Kash” Ahmed, founder and president of American Private Wealth, an advisory outside of Boston. In 1990 at the age of 17, Kash and his family found themselves at the center of Iraq’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussain’s forces, over oil pricing and production disputes. Hussain led Iraq with an iron first for several decades, and Kash’s family, including his father who was instrumental in building Kuwait’s oil industry, was at the top of his list of people to take hostage. Kash went from riches to refugee in a matter of hours. 

In this episode, you will learn:

  • About his six-week journey out of war-torn Kuwait into Pakistan
  • How Kash at a young age learned the importance of sticking to his principles
  • How he learned to embrace these traumatic experiences and be grateful for what he has
  • How he turns his adversity into strength
  • What led Kash to become a financial advisor, and how he dealt with biases against Muslims 
  • And more

Tune in now to learn how to embrace adversity and use it to build strength. 

Editor’s Note: This podcast was recorded before we found out that Kash had contracted COVID-19. Our editors have been in touch with him, and he’s recovering with no extreme symptoms. As with his experience fleeing Kuwait, he’s got a positive attitude, saying on Twitter “#COVID19 – You will not defeat me!” 

Resources:   WealthManagement.com | Diana Britton | Contact Diana | American Private Wealth


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Transparency With Diana B.: Life in Lockdown During COVID-19



The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy and citizens’ health, as the death toll continues to rise daily. It’s also upended personal lives, including those of financial advisors, who may serve as an even greater source of support to their clients during this time.

In this episode of Transparency, Diana Britton, managing editor of WealthManagement.com, is joined by Hui-chin Chen, a Certified Financial Planner and owner of Pavlov Financial Planning, who was living temporarily in the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia with her husband, due to work, when the pandemic escalated. Time elapsed too quickly for them to return to the U.S. when all citizens were ordered home. Now they sit and wait in a foreign country that is on complete lockdown with a 24-hour curfew imposed, and all businesses have been ordered closed.

In this episode, you will learn:

  •     How COVID-19 is affecting citizens that are stranded abroad.
  •     The perspective of someone who has had more time to digest the effects of the coronavirus, with Hui-chin having family in Taiwan and friends in China.
  •     How Hui-chin is using her financial planning background to help her clients plan for emergencies.
  •     How to be flexible when a huge change suddenly strikes.
  •     How to get out of panic mode and see a way forward during this time.  
  •     How one advisor is dealing with the stress of the situation.
  •     How her communication and interaction with clients has changed during this time.
  •     And more

 Tune in now to get insight into how advisors and clients are coping during this stressful time.

 Resources:   WealthManagement.com | Diana Britton | Contact Diana | Pavlov Financial Planning | Coronavirus Coverage


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Transparency With Diana B.: More Tales From the “Boom Boom Room”



When Julie Johnson started out as a financial advisor at Smith Barney in the 1990s, she was “smiling and dialing” to build up her book of business. She excelled in her rookie year, so much so that she was sought after by another wealth advisor who needed help expanding his practice. She jumped at the chance. But what seemed like a good opportunity turned into a nightmare.

In this episode of Transparency, Diana Britton, WealthManagement.com’s managing editor, is joined by Julie Johnson, former senior vice president of UBS Wealth Management and current president and CEO of XY Communication, an executive coaching and public speaking firm. Julie shares her experiences being a female in a very male dominated industry at a time when there were places like “the boom boom room,” a famous party room at Smith Barney’s Garden City, N.Y. branch. Many women flocked to Wall Street in the ‘90s only to be held down by chauvinists. Julie was at the center of it, as she stayed in a years-long toxic relationship with her male partner, who made inappropriate advances.  

The stress of it all ended up taking a bad toll on her physical health, which eventually led her to leave the industry.

“When you feel so small and so disrespected for so many years, it has a physical and very real physical effect on you,” she says. “We have to give ourselves permission to say ‘no,’ and to get help.”

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The story of Julie’s successes and struggles in financial services
  • The negative tendencies of successful financial advisors
  • The importance of taking care of yourself first, before clients
  • How Julie learned to be her own advocate for her health
  • How she found the power to stand up for herself and leave the industry
  • How to let go of the pursuit of perfectionism and seek support
  • And more.

Tune in now to hear how Julie got through these difficult times.

Resources: 

WealthManagement.com | Diana Britton | Contact Diana | XY Communication | Julie Johnson LI


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Transparency with Diana B.: Coming Out of the Closet



Robert Castillo came out of the closet to his friends and family when he was 16 years old. But when he first got a job at a financial advisory firm in his 20s, he didn’t feel comfortable coming out to his colleagues. The financial services’ reputation for being very male-centric contributed greatly to that decision. He felt he didn’t fit in, and even considered leaving the industry at one point. He eventually did come out at work, and has become a leader in serving and empowering LGBT clients.

While Greg Fields didn’t come out of the closet himself—he’s straight, his son did at 13 years old. Fields wasn’t surprised by it; he spoke frankly to his son about gender and sexuality from a young age. But when his son came out, it did make him nervous; the first thing that came to his mind was his child’s safety. And even living in progressive Los Angeles, that was one of the realities he had to navigate with his son’s sexual orientation—bullying. Greg took action to help protect his son and to become an ally of the LGBT community.

In this episode of Transparency, WealthManagement.com Managing Editor Diana Britton talks to Robert and Greg, both financial advisors with Gerber Kawasaki Wealth & Investment Management in Santa Monica, Calif., who co-lead the LGBT group at their firm. They share their stories in greater depth and explain what they’re doing to support the LGBT community in an industry that is—in many ways—still closed off to this culture. 

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Robert’s story of coming out in the financial industry
  • How Greg educated himself on the LGBT community and what he did to help protect his son from bullying
  • The importance of bringing good advice to this underserved community
  • Robert’s advice for other financial advisors who are in the LGBT community
  • What should be done to change the industry’s approach to LGBT issues
  • How to be more open-minded about the LGBT community and the financial needs of the community
  • And more.

Tune in now to hear their stories and find out what you can do to better understand and support the LGBT community within the financial services industry. 

Resources: 

WealthManagement.com | Diana Britton | Contact Diana | Gerber Kawasaki | Gerber Kawasaki LGBT Group


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Transparency with Diana B.: A Top Advisor’s Immigration Story



As a young girl growing up in Egypt, Laila Pence was very well off; her family lived in a seven-bedroom mansion in Suez. But all of that was taken away in almost an instant, when the Israeli army bombed her village during the Six-Day War. Struggling to survive, her family decided to emigrate to the U.S., but only Laila and her mother were able to go at first. The transition would not be easy; Laila grappled with drastically different weather, not knowing the language and making friends in a foreign land.

In this episode of Transparency, WealthManagement.com Managing Editor Diana Britton, is joined by Laila Pence, president of Pence Wealth Management in Newport Beach, Calif., who shares her life journey, how she overcame adversity and how her struggles shaped who she is today. Her family lost everything in terms of wealth, and as an immigrant, a woman and English-as-a-second-language speaker, she felt she had three strikes against her. But she is, perhaps, the poster child of the American Dream. Now, she manages an advisory firm with over $1.5 billion in client assets. She achieved it by working hard, focusing on her passion, and not listening to the biases out there.   

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The story of Laila’s childhood and experience as an immigrant in New York.
  • How Laila was able to overcome adversity and rise above.
  • Who supported Laila in her journey to becoming a financial advisor.
  • Laila’s struggles being a woman and having a child in this industry and how she overcame those.
  • Her advice for other folks struggling to adapt to a new country.
  • And more.

 Tune in now to hear how Laila used her perseverance and grit to become a top financial advisor in the U.S.

 Resources:   WealthManagement.com | Diana Britton | Contact Diana | Pence Wealth Management