Elaine Gampel, CIMA® is the Senior Vice President of Wealth Management at UBS, and a member of The Denver Foundation’s Professional Advisors Council.
When in her twenties Elaine Gampel decided to embark on a career in finance, she had degrees in psychology and counseling and experience as a special education teacher. But she knew nothing of financial services. Now recognized as among the best in her business, back then Gampel was taking a bold step. “I didn’t know the difference between a stockbroker and milkman,” she jokes.
Soon after moving to Colorado with Alan, her then boyfriend and now husband, she met a financial advisor who had previously been a pharmacist. “I was intrigued that he was speaking a language I didn’t understand.” The encounter filled Gampel with both curiosity and courage, and led her into the world of finance.
As a woman, it was not easy. It was the 1970s and only about 8% of professionals in the sector were female. Gampel’s first job application underscored the challenges: Five of the six managing partners who interviewed her told her they would never hire her because she was too young, had no sales experience—and was female.
The sixth, however, saw her potential and made an introduction to another firm. As a result, in 1977 Gampel became the first female trainee in the Denver office of PaineWebber, an investment firm that was acquired in 2000 by Swiss bank UBS. Today she is UBS’ Senior Vice President of Wealth Management.
By working “morning, noon, and night,” Gampel acquired her skills as a financial advisor.
However, her background in psychology and counseling paid dividends. “It helped me tremendously,” she says. “Rather than trying to tell people what I knew, I was prepared to listen to what the clients needed and that has served me well in the entirety of my career.”
Empathy, she believes, is the key to success in advising individuals and families on developing their financial and philanthropic strategies. “What’s most important is to build trust and reassurance in navigating life’s transitions,” she says. “If I’ve done that, I’ve done my job well and the investment part of the plan falls into place.”
What she finds frustrating is the slow pace of change: Female finance professionals still only represent about 18% of the sector, she says. Women are still less engaged in family financial decisions than men. “It’s important that women find their voices,” she says.
At UBS, Gampel works to redress the balance. She encourages women view financial planning as self-care, and as something that merits the same attention as decisions on health. “I don’t talk about asset allocation or beating the market,” she says. “I talk about what they want to accomplish in their lives.”
One recent trend may help. For as philanthropic decisions increasingly overlap with financial planning through sustainable investing, the desire to give back could provide a route for women into finance.
Rather than directly promoting sustainable investing, Gampel does what she does best: She listens. “I find my tried-and-true process will often uncover an interest in sustainable investment,” she says.
“You’d think it’s the back door into finance,” she explains. “But it ends up being the front door because many women are philanthropic, and we can show them how investments in causes can benefit them on the financial side. We can tie those values into investing.”
For Gampel, a belief in giving back has influenced her own life. She cares deeply about community service and serves on the boards of many philanthropic organizations, particularly those focused on young people. She helps promote the exchange of philanthropic knowledge among women. Last fall, she coordinated a discussion on the topic for The Denver Foundation’s Professional Advisors Council in the fall of 2021.
And when working with clients, whether male or female, she is constantly working to foster philanthropic instincts. “Conceptually, I bucket people’s money into three areas: liquidity, longevity, and legacy,” she explains. “And legacy doesn’t always get the attention it needs to. So I make that part of the conversation.”
Interested in joining The Denver Foundation’s Professional Advisors Council? Please contact Ben Perry, Director of Advisor Programs and Charitable Planning, at firstname.lastname@example.org.