Fearlessly Curious Voices: Fostering collaboration and making pivots with Osaic’s Jen Roche

Partner & Chief Client Officer Nancy Schulman sits down with Osaic’s Executive VP of Marketing and Communications, Jen Roche, to talk about unexpected career pivots and cultivating environments that support women. Jen began her career in PR before transitioning into financial services at LPL Financial, AssetMark, and Osaic. 


Jen Roche: I hope she learns that women can be whatever they want to be. That we can be working moms, and we can do both things even though it’s hard. And we can be stay-at-home moms, and that’s hard for different reasons. And we can own our own business, or not. There’s so many things that we can do, and I hope she sees that with me and my career a little bit and keeps that element of just trying new things and having the confidence to try new things. 

Nancy Schulman: Today, we continue our celebration of Women’s History Month with Jen Roche, Osaic’s Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications. We’ll talk to Jen about how fearlessness and curiosity propelled her career as she transitioned from lifestyle and entertainment PR to being a leader and change agent in financial services marketing. Let’s get into it… 

JR: Thank you. 

NS: We had the pleasure of working with you and the team over the last year as we rebranded and launched Osaic, but we’d like to hear a little bit more about you. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and how you got where you are today – which is very different from where you started. 

JR: It is, yes. So, I run our marketing communications and events function at Osaic. We are the second largest provider of wealth management solutions in the nation. And I did not start anywhere near wealth management or finance in any way. Actually, my first job was working at Inside Edition, the sort of tabloid TV show, and I thought my career was going to go into television. I wanted to be on camera or producing television spots, so I started at Inside Edition and quickly realized that maybe that wasn’t where I wanted to be. I didn’t love the tabloid element of it, and I really wanted to get into politics and do something a little more in that vein.  

I started working in PR agencies doing politics and then moved into interestingly, celebrity and entertainment PR. I did PR for a whole bunch of celebrities [and] media entities. I had lots of different types of clients, which was fun – especially when you’re in your 20s and you get to go to all the magazine parties. It was certainly a fun job, but not something that I felt was super sustainable for life. I started looking around and really thinking about what I wanted to do. And ultimately, I got into wealth management by applying for a job as a writer. 

I have a master’s degree in rhetoric and writing studies. So, it felt like something I could do, but it was really kind of a step down in the sense that it was just a writer gig, but I thought it might be fun and interesting.  

Working in that environment and asking questions and starting to get to know all the people around me, they kind of realized that maybe I could do more. I started taking on new projects and new responsibilities and ultimately grew to lead a product marketing function, which I’d never done before. 

And finally, I came to Osaic two years ago with a friend, Greg Cornick, who is our President of Advice and Wealth Management. He brought me over (we’d worked together previously), and they gave me the opportunity to work with Osaic and rebrand and work with you all at Sullivan. So it worked out really well.  

I love the fearless curiosity because it’s really been that. I’ve worked with lots of different kinds of companies, whether it’s entertainment, politics, finance. But really just asking questions and saying, “How does this work? What does your company do? How do you function and how do you make money and how do you serve the world?” I’ve always been interested in that kind of thing. And so that’s sort of led me down this path. I never thought I’d be working in finance, but I love it. 

NS: It took a lot of guts; those are big shifts. Obviously, fearlessness played into this. Sometimes women are criticized for being gutsy and fearless. How did you get over that and use it to your advantage? 

JR: I think it’s unfortunate [that] women in particular, you’re right, get criticized for it. And we are probably our harshest critic. I think sometimes we look at a job description for a role we may want and we say, “Well, I’ve got, you know, seven of the 10 things that they listed that I’m supposed to have, so I’m going to go back to school and I’m going to get a new master’s degree. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that until I have all 10 and then I’ll apply for this job.” Men tend to look at it and they’re like, “I’ve got two, I’m going.” They go for it. 

What I love about your fearless curiosity is the curiosity part because there’s a fearlessness that is important to say, “I’m going to try it, and I’m going to go there, and I’m going to be confident in my ability to do this.” But as women, sometimes we need to balance that a little bit with that curiosity. Like I said, I started my own consulting business, and I am in awe of women like you and Barbara and your team who started a company because I love working in my job. I hated running my own business. I was not skilled at that. So I said, “Okay, get curious. What do you want?” 

It’d be nice if we could just always be totally fearless and totally bold and aggressive – the bad term that we always get pegged with. But the curiosity part of that is what makes it, I don’t want to say okay, but what gives us the element of being able to be fearless. Because I think women uniquely can do that in such a cool way where we say, “Hey, I want to learn about something, and I’m not scared to learn something new. I’m not scared to try something different.”  

For me, that’s been the biggest benefit in my career, and that’s so cool. That’s a cool thing about business and working for different companies. You get to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different skillsets. And you can be curious about what they do and say, “You know, I don’t know that I’d want to do that, but I’m super interested in learning about it.” I talk to our finance team a lot. Finance is not my jam. But I’ve learned so much and now I can hold my own in a room, and that’s really cool. 

NS: How do you instill this in the women who work for you? To have the courage, to be curious, to take chances? You lead a pretty big team. 

JR: I have about 60 people on my team, and it is predominantly women. We have some wonderful men on our team too, but we have mostly women. Part of it I think is looking for that in the hiring process. I know you guys are careful about that too, how you think about who you want to work for you. So, a little bit of that is that when I can, hire and choose people where I see that curiosity – you want to foster that.  

There’s something about looking for that in people and knowing that that’s what you want to see on your team. If people are asking me questions in the interview process about stuff unrelated to their exact role or about how the company does things, that shows to me a little bit of that curiosity and that fearlessness – so I hire to that. Then also encouraging the people who work with you and for you to ask questions, not just of you, but across the company and to show that sort of curious side and to foster that and encourage that and hopefully to model that too. To consistently be saying, “Hey, I don’t know, but let’s try it.” [or] “I don’t know, let’s ask someone who does. Let’s talk to our leaders who know about these kinds of things or let’s go outside the industry.”  

The people that are most successful on my team are like that. They have that a little bit innately and that’s probably what drew them to this role and to my team and to this company. We never punish people for trying something and having it not work. We want to say this is exactly what we should be doing, we should be trying new things and, luckily, we have a culture at Osaic of doing that – of trying something different and of people supporting that. 

NS: Which is why I love the business that I’m in, because everybody here comes with a different set of interests and curiosities and blends together. Are there certain kind of women in your life who helped mentor you or [helped you] believe in yourself and take on these characteristics? 

JR: Oh my gosh, yeah, I mean, so many, I think even just today at Osaic, there’s so many women who do that. I have women on my team who are just incredibly creative and who display that curiosity and that fearlessness. And so, I learn from them every day and they mentor me minute to minute.  

I had some really great mentors early on too – men and women. I’ve had a lot of men who’ve been great allies and who’ve sort of showed that it’s okay to be fearless in the workplace and have allowed me to do that and given me opportunities that maybe I wouldn’t have had. So, I think that allyship too is so important, especially in finance is a male dominated industry. Still is, we’re working on it, but it still is a pretty male dominated industry.  

I was hired into this industry by a woman named Jill Dodge, who was just wonderful, and she was a huge mentor to me – helping me understand how the business worked and just working with me day to day. I think you can learn from everyone, good and bad. And so, when you look at where you’re working, there’s always things to say, “Okay, there’s women here who are doing things that I would love to do or show qualities that I would love to show.”  

I think finding those allies too, whether it’s men or women or anyone who’s willing to stand up for you in a room and who really is helping you push your career along and who you help them and it’s a symbiotic relationship. That’s been the key for me to success. I think women in particular can be really great at that.  

So that’s what I encourage people to think about. It’s not just about somebody mentoring you and showing you how to do it. You can show them how to do it too; and then your relationship becomes deeper and more engaging because it’s back and forth. It’s not just one to the other. I think sometimes we think of mentors as “well, I’m going to show you how it’s done,” but it should be a back-and-forth relationship. You should both get something out of it. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of those. Anyone who’s sort of gotten places in their career would say it’s due to a lot of people. You don’t ever do anything alone. 

NS: I wanted to ask a little bit about Osaic – and I think one of the reasons we fell in love with all of you – [is that you’re] very committed to mentoring and supporting women and the next generation of female leaders in financial services and wealth management. Why is it so important, this commitment that you and Osaic make? And how do you keep it alive? How do you keep fostering it? 

JR: For Osaic, we have almost 50% of our C-suite is women, which is very rare in financial services. And so, we are really lucky that we have the leadership that we do with Jamie Price and Greg Cornick in really supporting women. I don’t think they go out and they say, we’re going to hire 50% women, but they take seriously the women applicants. And they know that having those diverse perspectives inside of the boardroom is important. They have created the atmosphere where we can do that. And I think the other thing that is important is that we all at Osaic have created an atmosphere where we want the women who affiliate with us to be able to be empowered to do it their way – talk about what you’re doing, share your ideas, help each other out – because that’s what women do naturally.  

And from a business perspective, wealth is shifting and women are controlling more of the wealth in this country and will control a lot more of it as time goes on. And not to say that women only want to work with other women, but it does tend to be that you find an advisor who understands your experience and women advisors are empathetic as a general rule. They understand what you’re doing, and they have that holistic view into a person’s life and wealth. They tend to be really goals-based. And so, they’re just an amazing group of financial advisors and business owners and CEOs, because they’re running these huge businesses in some cases. Why wouldn’t we foster that continued growth?  

Unfortunately, we don’t have that many new women coming into the industry; and that’s unfortunate, because it’s a great industry for women. For us there is a business component of this is the future, and we want to make sure that we’re the place that women want to affiliate, because that’s where the money’s going to be. But also, women are hugely successful and they’re just making such big strides. We want to make sure that we support that and that we’re fostering the type of sharing and collaboration that I think needs to be the future.  

NS: Part of the reason for doing this is obviously we’re hoping that future generations watch this and get some ideas or tips or courage. But I think one of the messages here is: you really should look for a company that you believe fosters the development of women and enables them to be courageous and ask questions. 

Curiosity. What are you curious about today, either in your business, in the world, in the market, in your personal life? What are some of the things that you’re thinking about? 

JR: Oh my gosh. So many things. The biggest things for me right now…I have three young kids, so I’m always curious about how to help them thrive and grow and how to balance being a working mom with a really busy schedule and still having time for the kids. 

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what is the right balance – which there isn’t one, that’s the answer – but how do you foster that curiosity and fearlessness in your kids and help them learn to grow and become what they want to be. So, I spend a lot of time thinking about that. I’m always curious about how to help my kids thrive and be a better mom. 

NS: You mentioned a mother of three children, and you have a young daughter. What do you hope she’ll learn from you? 

JR: It’s funny because my daughter Lila is six, and she is a middle child for sure. She is naturally one of the most fearless people I’ve ever met, and I love that about her. I hope she keeps that.  

What I hope she sees is work ethic and seeing some of that curiosity that the world is bigger. We live in California and that’s wonderful, but I hope she goes out and explores and sees more of the world and gets some of that curiosity and engagement in trying different things from me, and not just staying sort of in her bubble. 

I think the main thing is just that I hope she learns that women can be whatever they want to be. That we can be working moms, and we can do both things even though it’s hard. And we can be stay-at-home moms, and that’s hard for different reasons. And we can own our own business, or not. There’s so many things that we can do, and I hope she sees that with me and my career a little bit and keeps that element of just trying new things and having the confidence to try new things. 

NS: I love that. Okay, my last question. If you started all over again, what advice would you give your 20-year-old self? 

JR: I think the main thing I would give the advice to my 20-year-old self is really about knowing your value. I think that in my career I have had a harder time negotiating salary, to be honest, and talking about that and really knowing what I should be paid and knowing my worth.  

I’ve been open to trying new things and have moved up the corporate ladder, but that element has been hard for me, and I know it’s hard for all women. We have a hard time really saying this is what we’re worth. Whether you’re a business owner and working with clients, this is what we’re worth or negotiating a salary or really just saying like, I’m worth more than what this job is offering me right now.  

I think that I would say to my younger self, really know your worth, negotiate for your worth, learn how to do that, don’t just take the job – because you don’t have to. 

NS: Well, that is a perfect close to the conversation. I so appreciate your time and [you] for you sharing your thoughts on female leadership. You are an amazing leader. We have learned so much from you. It was a joy to partner with you.  

JR: Thank you so much for having me.