Breakthrough: Earning a career as a financial advisor

The barriers I faced gaining entry to the financial services industry are rampant. The industry prevents those without existing wealth or connections from becoming advisors. The financial services industry desperately needs more diversity. It is important for credit unions to have a team of financial advisors that reflect the community they serve. Our industry suffers because of the lack of diverse perspectives at the table.

Finding Potential as an Admin

One of my earliest jobs in the financial services industry was answering phones at an insurance company. It was there I first observed that the admins handled the paperwork and servicing of clients while the insurance producers made most of the decisions and the lion’s share of the money. I quickly became licensed and made my intentions to become a producer known. I worked hard and was a high achiever in my role, but it seemed the better I was at my various administrative positions the more entrenched in that career path I became. After being laid off as an office manager for a small insurance brokerage, I knew it was time to try something new.

A New Path and a Fulfilled Promise

I started looking for positions as a commercial insurance producer. I was offered several account manager or office manager positions. I received producer offers. But they were commission only and I had to use the phone book to gain leads. That option never felt real to me. I knew I didn’t have the existing network, financial backing, or time to build a book of business cold calling. I decided to look outside of the insurance industry.   I found a job as a sales assistant with a local investment advisor. It was a massive pay cut, but the advisor agreed to mentor me. Over time he showed me how to become more than just a producer, he taught me how to become a trusted advisor.

In those five years, I gained my series 7 and 66. I took advantage of an educational program to earn my CFP®. I sat in on hundreds of appointments, honing my skills. My hard work was rewarded with the promotion to junior advisor.

Soon after, a lead advisor position within the credit union opened. I would oversee my own territory. I knew I was ready, and my mentor encouraged me to apply for the position.

One More Barrier to Bust

When I got the chance to make my case to the program manager, they scoffed. I was told I didn’t have the proven track record to be considered for the advisor role. The work I had done as a member of my mentor’s team was seen as his solo achievement. I realized this program manager still saw the inexperienced admin I was five years ago. They couldn’t see my growth or potential. If I wanted to move up, I would have to move on.

Forging My Path

I heard about an open position with CBSI for territory at Canvas Credit Union from a friend. The hiring process was a breath of fresh air. Gone was the cutthroat competitiveness I had grown accustomed to. I found every team member friendly and helpful no matter their role.

CBSI provided me with an ample starting salary. It allowed me to learn about my job, my credit union and members while alleviating my worries about how to pay my mortgage or feed my family. I received phenomenal upfront training from the home office in Waverly, Iowa where I met Ric Pearson, Senior Consultant for the Center for Advisor Excellence and the beating heart of CBSI. He emphasized not only how to do the job well, but what an honor it is to serve my credit union and its members.

Success at Last

At CBSI, I have found unmatched support. Their support helped me win 2019’s Rookie of the Year award and gain early admission to the Honors Academy, a year-long training program that focuses on practice management, leadership, personal development, productivity, ownership and mindset skills. Honors Academy transformed my practice. CBSI has seen and valued my potential every step of the way.

In 2021, as restrictions eased and the world learned to live with Covid, I won the CBSI annual Culture Award and agreed to join CBSI’s Women of Distinction Committee as its co-chair. Women of Distinction is an association of female advisors who work to support and uplift each other and all women working at CBSI.

It is now my turn to be a mentor. Because of the support offered by CBSI and Canvas Credit Union, I now lead a team with a Coordinator, Associate Financial Advisor and Sales Assistant. I am now teaching them how to become a trusted advisor.

In the thick of the pandemic days, I sat on a Zoom call and contemplated a profound truth; a person’s reaction to an event creates their outcome. This truth is elegantly expressed as E+R=O. Like most valuable lessons, it’s deceptively simple to learn but takes a lifetime of practice to master. If this doesn’t sound like your typical investment advisor training, that’s because it’s not. My time with CBSI has changed everything and helped me realize the role I can play in helping others break down barriers of entry into my industry. It’s a role that is important to me because, for most of my career, I was on the outside looking in.


Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CBSI or its management.

Representatives are registered, securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, which is not an affiliate of the credit union. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members. Not NCUA/NCUSIF/FDIC insured, May Lose Value, No Financial Institution Guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution.  


Laraine Dickerson

Laraine Dickerson

Laraine Dickerson a is Certified Financial Planner in Colorado with CUNA Mutual Brokerage Services, Inc (CBSI). Laraine was recognized as CBSI’s rookie of the year in 2019 and serves ... Web: Details