After 13 years in the financial services industry, Joyce Yoo said the longer she is in the business, “the more I realize that I really love helping people who care about their families and the causes that drive them. It is the best feeling to see a client realize their dreams because of the good planning that we put in place. Many times, if we didn’t help them, I’m not sure how the client would have been able to achieve the outcomes we were able to accomplish together. So, it really inspires me every day.”
Yoo is an executive partner of Wisely Financial Strategies & Insurance Solutions, a financial services firm based in San Francisco, and an agent with New York Life’s Greater San Francisco General Office.
She said her background also has influenced her career in financial services.
“I serve a lot of immigrant families — both Asian and other ethnic groups,” said Yoo. “As a child of immigrants myself, I can uniquely understand some of the struggles that immigrant families face. There are underlying characteristics of most immigrant families because we all have to struggle to learn to live with our culture in America and navigate the challenges of coming here for the love of our families and the sake of opportunity and growth. When you help immigrants, you are helping people rooted in the care of their families and communities. I find it a privilege to serve them.”
The clients whom Yoo helps realize their dreams are typically individuals with high incomes, wealthy business owners, large estates and large corporations. “As you might imagine,” she said, “these clients have a range of advanced financial, legal and taxation needs, and we partner with their trusted professionals to create plans that meet those needs through a macro perspective, and with micro-execution.”
Building her practice
With her emphasis on helping clients achieve their goals, it is no surprise that Yoo gets most of her clients through referrals and by word of mouth. “Most of my current client acquisitions are from referrals, but what surprised me is that the second way I have been acquiring clients is through people contacting me directly,” she said.
Yoo thinks one reason clients have been reaching out to her firm directly is that the firm has been good about celebrating its accomplishments.
“Over the past several years, I have been honored to receive and be nominated for some prestigious industry awards. As we get honored in this way, we make it a point to celebrate these ‘wins’ with the people who made it happen — our clients, friends and family,” she said. “We send out announcements in the mail and post on social media, and I think this has really helped people around us to celebrate with us and see our firm as a great place to bring their needs.”
Like many organizations, Yoo’s firm has had to make some changes in the way it interacts with its clients because of the pandemic. “I think my business practice has changed similar to how many practices probably have evolved,” she said. “We are running 99% of meetings via Zoom and phone.
“The only clients I have met in person are those who are hearing impaired. What I have been amazed by is how even my elderly clients have adapted to the way we are doing business. Some have had slight trouble with Zoom or DocuSign, but for the most part, I think people both young and old are really enjoying not having to travel for meetings. I have to say, it has helped me tremendously, as well. No one is more than five minutes late to an appointment, and Zoom helps me be more efficient with my downtime.”
A recipe for success
As her firm has prospered, Yoo has received numerous accolades and awards. She is a past recipient of Advisor Today’s Four Under Forty Award, which recognizes advisors who have achieved excellence in their profession by or before the age of 40. She is also a member of Million Dollar Round Table’s Top of the Table and has achieved recognition as part of New York Life’s Chairman’s, President’s and Executive Councils.
Yoo attributes this high level of success to several factors. First, she is constantly studying and learning.
“I am definitely a student of the craft,” she said. “I am always keeping up to date, learning about laws that are changing, what’s going on with the economy and new trends in financial planning.
Then I really take a step back and think about how those things will affect my clients and who I need to reach out to as a result. When I do reach out on these matters, it really brings a lot of value to my clients.”
Another reason for her rise to the top is her ability to keep her calendar filled with client meetings.
“I know that this may sound very rudimentary, but I believe keeping your calendar full has a lot to do with several factors. I think creating an environment of trust and credibility can sometimes be taken for granted. Our office does this by reaching out to clients to simply touch base and let them know about news that may be pertinent to them. As long as we are having client meetings, the business comes naturally.”
Her organizational skills have also helped her. At the start of her career, she said, there was so much going on that she didn’t know how to put everything together — whether it was the client process or business operations. Now, the company has a system under which it keeps tabs on every task. Even if there are several client meetings in a day, the system notes everything that it needs from those meetings so that it knows exactly what it needs to do for those clients. “We do our best not to let anything fall through the cracks,” Yoo said.
Something else that has helped Yoo move ahead is her belief in continuous self-improvement. “I think the sign of a good financial advisor or planner is that they are adaptable to whatever situation that they are in. From my experience, when looking at the trajectory of the people that are successful around me, they have typically been people that are really willing to continually grow and learn in the field that they’re in,” she said.
There is a saying that goes like this, she added: “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.” Yoo said she believes in that saying because the study group she is in is full of New York Life’s top financial professionals. “I don’t know how I got into that study group, because I was not in that category when I first started, but with their help and guidance, I continue to have successes along the way,” she said.
Yoo’s study group, the Think Tank Study Group, has been around for a long time. It has a lot of high-performing people with amazing businesses, she said. She loves how diverse the members are and thinks that contributes to the group members’ ability to help each other. “The oldest person is in his 80s; so, there are lots of different personalities, business styles and perspectives, and I really enjoy that,” she added.
Also, every member has a similar dedication and desire to bring value to the group. “When we meet annually, we take time out of our business, so out of respect for each other, we really try to bring our best ideas so that we can all benefit,” she said.
In addition to helping her enhance her knowledge, the group has provided friendship. “A lot of times people say that this business can be very lonely. I feel very honored and blessed to be able to call my colleagues friends. Knowing that you have someone to talk to who truly understands your struggles or successes is a true gift,” she said.
When Yoo is not serving her clients, improving her knowledge or participating in her study group, her favorite thing to do is to hang out with her friends and family. Often, she said, it’s just grabbing a meal or going to someone’s home to catch up. She also likes going to museums or hiking in scenic areas. She used to like to travel, but she thinks that the pandemic has really taught her how to enjoy staying in place.
How to move ahead
For financial professionals wishing to move ahead, Yoo advised, “It doesn’t matter if you have been in the business for just a short time or a long time. I think all of us are still trying to create business opportunities within our target audiences. What I have learned is that in order to get those clients, advisors need to learn what their needs are and how to address those needs. That way, when you meet people you want to work with, they can see that you can provide value and they are compelled to work with you.”
She also has learned that some people want to get to the next level of success but aren’t willing to put in the work to get there. “I am a firm believer that we need to do the things that are uncomfortable in order to be successful, and that is a hard thing to learn and to constantly do,” she said. “But if you really want to continually improve and get to the next level, you have to be willing to do the things that other people aren’t doing. I learned from two really great advisors that you can never be comfortable, because that means you aren’t challenging yourself to see what you are actually capable of achieving.”