September 2008

JENNIFER STUPICA: YOUR PERSONAL “CFO”

Author: Paul deVere | Photographer: photography By anne

Considering the condition of today’s financial markets, having a financial advisor who could have been rocket scientist, isn’t such a bad idea. While Jennifer Stupica was in college, she liked to solve problems. Like proving the theory of gravity. Or work out the speed of light. She also loved math. She graduated from Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio, with a degree in Applied Physics. Now she likes to solve financial problems.

“I really couldn’t see myself in a laboratory,” says Stupica. So, instead of ending up as a physicist for an organization like NASA, she’s helping clients develop a financial strategy at Smith Barney, a division of Citigroup Global Markets, Inc (Member SIPC), a leading provider of comprehensive financial planning ad advisory services to high net worth investors, institutions, corporations and private businesses, governments and foundations.

“Most of my clients want to know the answers to three questions: Can I maintain my lifestyle in retirement and how long can I do that for? How can I protect my family for the future? Is my money working hard for me right now? I worked hard for it. Is it working for me?” Stupica says.

The problem solver in Stupica suggests that there is no magic bullet that offers some kind of financial guarantee for the future, but that same mind set knows that the best option for success is having a plan.

Having a financial plan seems like a good idea for everybody, but Stupica says it is usually people who are making a change in their lives that first ask for help. “Maybe it’s marriage, having a child, maybe it’s changing direction with their careers, maybe it’s a divorce, even, or an inheritance. When there’s a transition in life, I think that’s when people are driven to evaluate and make plans.”

Her clients are truly a reflection of the island’s population, Stupica says. “I like to say my clients are actively engaged in their lives. Active in their retirement, or their businesses, or their philanthropy. They’re looking for a professional to help guide them through these times.”

Stupica explains that selecting a financial advisor is usually very personal. Clients have to “bare their financial souls. They will pick someone they can identify with. Comfort level is one of the biggest things in this business. Of course, performance is a key driver.” In that sense, she becomes a kind of personal “chief financial officer” for her clients.

What was key for Stupica to enter into the financial industry was a suggestion from her favorite doubles partner – and twin sister – Janet, who is a vice president at Smith Barney’s island office. “She showed me just how interesting it could be,” Stupica says. The sisters played on their college’s tennis team.

The Williams sisters? “We aren’t quite at that level,” Stupica laughs.

But Stupica still plays tennis – South Beach 4.5 Ladies Tennis Team . She is also a runner, a member of the Hilton Head Island Choral Society, the Bluffton Zonta Club and the Hilton Head Rotary. She also works with the Child Abuse Prevention Association and the American Cancer Society. While she sees involvement is these organization personally enriching, it also allows her to learn how people are reacting to the vagaries of Wall Street and how the economy directly impacts lives.

During these financially turbulent times people might, understandably, turn to the “hide-it-under-the-mattress” approach to financial planning. Stupica says, ““When people first come, some are intimidated by investing. Maybe they feel they’ll be talked over or around. That isn’t the case here. My goal is to educated them, get them in the right direction.” Smiling, Stupica says, “Nobody that you’re not related to is going to care more about your finances than I am.”

Stupica says the process is really about people and their goals and dreams. “We sit down and establish what some of your goals in life are. If you think you want to use it later for retirement or if you want to put it toward your first home. I’ll help clarify your goals and establish where you’re coming from. We’ll take a look at where assets are positioned. Then we develop an investment strategy based on the research I have right, here,” Stupica explains, pointing to her computer and phone. “I have some of the top money managers in the world to put it to work for you. It’s all born first out of what your vision is and making the money to match that.”

At the end of the day, what Stupica finds most rewarding is that she’s helped someone, taken a burden from their shoulders. “Finances are one of the things that stress people out. What is most rewarding is when I’ve had that conversation or put that plan together. Seeing the expression of relief on a client’s face. It says, ‘She took everything I said and put it together for me. I know someone’s taking care of that. Even in tough times, she’s still there for me. keeping in contact with me. Letting me know what’s going on, making adjustments.’ But that’s what all this is really about,” Stupica says. “People’s goals. People’s dreams.”

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