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A Journey of Ambition and Growth: 40 Years in Financial Services

By: Joe S., Sr Specialist & Content Writer

“It’s the challenge that keeps you going. Once you learned something and you’ve mastered it, then the question is what’s next?”

- Wanda O., Sr. Manager in Supervision & Control

In this interview, Wanda O., a seasoned professional with four decades of experience in the financial services industry, shares some insights on her inspiring career journey at Schwab. From her humble beginnings in the 1980s at Schwab to becoming a pivotal figure within Risk Supervision, Wanda's story reflects the dynamic changes within the financial sector and the remarkable growth opportunities offered at Schwab.

Starting with Schwab

Wanda's journey began in the early 1980’s, when she was considering a career as a teacher or accountant. Then, a neighbor recommended a job opportunity at Schwab, and she jumped at the chance. Starting in one of our Chicago branch locations, she worked as a customer service representative, handling tasks like placing trades and providing quotes. These early days were characterized by a lack of modern conveniences, such as call centers, with all work being done in the branch itself. If you needed to get information out to a new or perspective client, that required packing and sending a letter in the mail. 

Career & Industry Evolution

Wanda's career evolved significantly over the years at the same time the financial services industry was changing. Schwab was progressing from single branch operations to opening national call centers to better and more efficiently serve clients. She then accepted an opportunity to become a team manager at a new call center in Indianapolis, where she could train brokers and work to further improve her own trading skills. With the goal of becoming a branch manager in mind, she spent the next couple years working diligently to refine her skills before she was offered a position as an assistant branch manager at the Chicago Michigan Avenue branch. Ultimately, she would be promoted to become a branch manager and her goal would be achieved.

"Schwab always does things to train you or make things available for you to get you into a position that's going to help you."

Wanda emphasized Schwab's commitment to providing growth opportunities and allowing employees to define their career paths based on their own personal goals.

Diversity in Financial Services

Reflecting on the early days of her journey as a woman in the financial services industry, Wanda noted the improvements over the years. The 1980s often presented challenges with clients favoring male brokers over their female counterparts, but she stayed persistent and helped influence a paradigm shift over time. She credited Schwab for being a company that values diversity and equal opportunities. Wanda's advice for women aspiring to enter the financial services landscape is to identify their strengths, align them with the industry, and actively pursue opportunities. She also notes the importance of reaching out, networking, and seeking guidance from leaders within the organization. For her, the ability to grow here was also due to Schwab leaders being down-to-earth and approachable, something that doesn’t always exist at other companies.

Wanda also participates in Schwab's Black Professionals at Charles Schwab (BPACs) ERG, where she engages in inspiring conversations with employees and helps guide their career direction. She finds fulfillment in encouraging others by sharing her own experiences and offering support.

When asked what she likes best about her job, she stated it’s the ability to help others and provide advice based on her experience she’s gained over the years.

Onwards and Upwards

One constant theme with Wanda’s career journey is her never-ending desire to gain knowledge and accepting new challenges. Somewhere along the way,  this desire led her to realize how much she loves learning and teaching – which is why, in the late 1990s, when a colleague asked if she was interested in a role in risk supervision where she would work closely with branch managers to help them navigate through annual exams, provide guidance on risk assessment, and ensure adherence to policies and procedures – she accepted it as another challenge to broaden her knowledge. This was happening at the same time Schwab was shifting from being order takers to providing advice, and Wanda saw the opportunity to align her strengths with the changing company dynamics.

“This job has allowed me to use my strengths to make a difference.”

Lessons Learned and Remaining with Schwab

Wanda's philosophy centers on always doing something to the best of your ability. If you put forth your best effort and make choices that align to your strengths, then you can rest easy knowing you’ve done all you can do. She encourages others to maintain a reputable personal brand and to recognize the importance of choices in shaping one's life. Despite life’s inevitable challenges, she always remains optimistic, choosing to view them as opportunities for learning and growth.

Wanda's 40-year journey in the financial services industry is a testament to her ambition, adaptability, and commitment to personal and professional growth. Her story inspires others to embrace challenges, actively shape their careers, and contribute positively to the ever-evolving financial landscape.