Women in Business Q&A: Anna J. Rathbun, Director of Research, CBIZ Retirement Plan Services

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Anna Rathbun

Anna J. Rathbun is the Director of Research for CBIZ Retirement Plan Services. Anna has received the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. She holds a Series 6 Securities license and is a registered Investment Advisor Representative.

Anna is responsible for implementing CBIZ's proprietary fiduciary risk management process known as The CBIZ Fiduciary Risk Manager. Anna leads the investment team's macroeconomic research efforts, providing data driven analyses to shape investment strategies. Additionally, she manages the portfolio construction process for Wealth Management accounts and Defined Benefit Plans, focusing on risk-minimizing approaches for long-term investing. Anna also participates in due diligence and reporting processes.

As an industry expert, Anna is often called upon to share her projections and insights with the investment community. She has been interviewed by the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Fox Business, CNN Money, as well as been a guest on Wall Street Journal Radio. Her quotes have appeared in Crain's New York Business Week, The New York Times, Business Week and many other publications.

Anna graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Harvard University, and previously worked for Wellington Management Company, LLP, as well as for Harvard University.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I learned somewhere along the way that being "book smart" is not enough to inspire or to lead people. I would say that my experiences in diverse working environments and working with people of different backgrounds have contributed heavily to who I am today. I am Korean-American, having immigrated to the U.S. from Seoul, Korea at age 9. My personal background has allowed for the opportunity to know people from all walks of life and from various rungs of the socio-economic ladder, which has enriched my life in ways I cannot fully articulate here. In addition, I have pursued classical music professionally earlier in my life, and through music, I learned the true integration of passion and discipline. Musicians are hard-working, we strive for precision, and we are self-critical because you are only as good as your last performance. However, we stay inspired because in the end, we must inspire others. My experiences are eclectic, but they provide a seasoned perspective with which I approach my work, my colleagues, my team, and my clients.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at CBIZ?
I feel fortunate to have had various work experiences before my time at CBIZ because there are many skills that translate directly to my job. For example, as a former professor, I love to teach and explain concepts, a passion that comes in handy in our research discussions at CBIZ or during client meetings. Also, I still use my musician's concentration and attention to detail when it comes to processing and interpreting data. I find it fascinating that skills from such diverse disciplines are highly transferable, and am thankful for these experiences.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at CBIZ?
Living in the era of unprecedented central bank policies is both a highlight and a challenge in the investment industry. Watching the world economy struggle to recover and witnessing the central banks' extreme policy responses to these difficulties have been historically fascinating but tough for us, especially in light of the challenges in the bond market. In the retirement industry, the fixed income component of capital markets is crucial because retirees need to be able to generate income without being driven into riskier assets. The sustaining low interest rate environment is the toughest on the retirees. This will continue to be a great challenge in the years to come.

What advice can you offer to women who are looking for a career in your industry?
This is advice I would give to anyone, not just to women: knowledge of economics and capital markets empowers you and gives you the luxury of distancing yourself from emotional/knee-jerk reactions to market events. This means that learning never ends. In addition, be open to helping non-profit organizations that may need your expertise. Money is a means to any noble end, and the skill sets you acquire in this industry can be invaluable in sustaining the means and achieving that end.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I think that finding balance in one's life requires a regular pause for prioritizing. Throughout one's life, priorities change; it is necessary to take a moment periodically to reassess what is most important. At this moment in my life, my marriage is my top priority. When the workload gets heavy, my husband sacrifices some time with me, and I do the same for him. We have a great understanding of each other's ambitions. Outside of that, I do my best to exercise, eat well, and laugh heartily.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I know that equal pay is still an issue for women in various work places around the country. We have come a long way, and I am thankful to all the women who paved the way toward equal wages before me, but we still have room for improvement. Even if there are subtle biases in the workplace, I believe that women should continue to make changes that are within our control: being more assertive, exuding confidence, building on our core substance and industry knowledge, and finally, supporting one another.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have had mentors in the field of music as well as in investments. My former music teachers have shaped the way I cope with both success and failure. At any point in a person's professional life, there are praises and criticisms galore. We have to learn to keep both types of feedback at the same healthy distance, which is not easy to do. If you keep praises too close to heart, you can start drinking your own Kool-aid, a scenario that breeds complacency and is detrimental to future progress/improvement. If you keep criticisms too close, then they can cripple you.

In the investment field, my current boss, Brian Dean is an amazing role model. He lives a life of healthy balance between his work and his family; he is living proof that balance exists! Lastly, my husband has taught me a great deal about the role of humor in life. We are both very intense with our work, but he knows when to stop for a good laugh. He's taught me (is still teaching me) not to take everything so seriously all the time.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I have a soft spot for women who are pioneers in fields that are traditionally led by men. An example would be Marin Alsop, who is the first female conductor to be appointed to a major US symphony orchestra (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra) in 2007. In the last five decades, the world of professional music has opened up to women to a tremendous degree, but I think there is still room for change in leadership positions. Figures like Marin Alsop remind us that there are still industries that are dominated mostly by men and they inspire women to continue reaching for the top.