QUESTION: Thank you for taking the time to participate in the Q & A session. Before we start in detail. Would you like to share with everyone who may not know, who you are, where you live and what is your current occupation? Do you actually trade, invest, etc.
SHANA: Sure. My name is Shana Sissel and I am the Chief Investment Officer of Spotlight Asset Group, an RIA located in the greater Chicago Area. I am originally from Worcester, Massachusetts and relocated to the Chicago area in 2016 with my husband Jason, our son Gabriel, and our dog Teeko.
As Spotlight’s CIO, I oversee all aspects of the firm’s investment platform ranging from overall strategy, implementation, and communication to clients and prospects. As part of my role I am responsible for leading the Investment Policy Committee and implementing enhanced due diligence for investment selection.
I have been in the investment management industry for nearly two decades. Prior to joining Spotlight, I served as Director of Investment Due Diligence & a Senior Portfolio Manager with Orion Advisor Solutions. At Orion, I was tasked with building the firm’s in-house due diligence group. Establishing the framework on investment strategy review & analysis for the Orion Portfolio Solutions Turnkey Asset Management Program & Model Marketplace. In addition, I served as co-manager for the firm’s tax-managed direct indexing suite of separately managed accounts & was the firm’s subject matter expert on Alternative Investments.
QUESTION: You have an interesting Twitter profile. What actually is a masshole? What are your goals (if any) on social media?
SHANA: 😊 A masshole is generally considered a derogatory term used by outsiders (usually northern New Englanders) for people from Massachusetts. It’s usually in reference to our very aggressive and some might say “wreckless” driving and tendency to be loud and outspoken. Native Massachusetts folks wear the term as a badge of honor. While intended to be an insult, we consider it the ultimate compliment.
In terms of social media, the way I leverage the various social media platforms has evolved over time. In 2018 I was abruptly laid off from the job that actually brought me from Boston to Chicago. I spend 7 long months unemployed and it was a very dark time in my life. When I finally landed my role at Orion I swore to myself that I would use the opportunity to build my personal brand within the industry to serve as a way to reduce the risk that I would experience that type of career setback again. Reputational equity was important for me. In addition, it has really helped me build my public profile. Influencers are growing in demand and media outlets and corporations look to work with those who they believe have significant reach and influence across their target demographics.
QUESTION: What personal or professional failure/setback have you experienced in your life or professional career that has set you up for later success?
SHANA: I have experienced plenty of failure in my life and career. In my opinion, failure is the key to success. Failure allows you to learn, keeps you humble and helps you develop resilience. There is a big difference between regret and failure. As I look back on my career, I regret nothing, not even the decisions I made that led to failure. As I eluded to earlier, being laid off in 2018 was probably the biggest failure/setback I’ve faced to date. My husband is an entrepreneur and runs a charity called the Endure to Cure Pediatric Cancer Foundation. The stability of my employment and income is the key to his ability to take risk as an entrepreneur. As the primary breadwinner supporting the family, I struggled with feeling like I was letting them down. At times I wondered if I’d ever get the opportunity to be in the investment industry again. I felt like the career I loved and that I had worked hard to progress in had been taken away. At a time when the unemployment rate was at all time lows, I struggled to get even initial interviews. I felt really lost. That said, had it not been for that experience I would not be where I am today. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I was given at Orion and the way it helped drive me to focus on building my personal brand.
QUESTION: How would you describe what makes a successful financial professional. Good traits, bad traits?
SHANA: Hubris is the absolute worst trait if you want to succeed in the world of finance. The markets are unforgiving. No matter how smart you think you are the markets have a way of humbling you whenever you think you have it all figured out. Another bad trait for success in finance is being close minded. The most successful investors in the business seek out opposing views to help them better understand the weaknesses in their approach and make them better at assessing risk.
On the flip side, having a short memory and a resilient attitude is a key to success. Like the very best athletes in the world, you can’t dwell on your mistakes as an investor. Being willing to learn from every mistake, and not let it hinder you from moving forward is key.
QUESTION: What do you feel is the role in having a balance all around life in your day to day activities.
SHANA: Honestly, I don’t believe work-life balance is a real think. For me there are times where work takes priority and there are times where other aspects of my life take priority. Realizing that has significantly reduced my stress levels.
QUESTION: What advice would you give to your younger self as it relates to your personal life. What about advice for your younger trading self?
SHANA: My advice would be the same in both cases. Don’t worry or stress too much about what the future holds, everything will work out the way it is meant to.
My early life was not easy, if you had told 22 year old Shana that I would be the CIO of a major investment advisory firm who makes frequent media appearances and travels the world speaking at financial industry conferences, I don’t think I could have grasped that. It’s beyond what I ever thought could be possible based on the world that surrounded me then.
QUESTION: Outside of works, what are some of your hobbies? How do you escape from the real world during these crazy times?
SHANA: I really enjoy horseback riding, yoga, downhill ski racing and genealogical research. During the quarantine I’ve actually started coloring, as weird as it sounds, adult coloring books are really calming.
QUESTION: Where do you see yourself in 5 years – then 10 years?
SHANA: It’s hard for me to even think about where I could be 5-10 years from now honestly. I hope that I’ve continued to progress in my career. On a more personal level, I’d love to have a house I love in the next 5 years and hopefully get back into horseback riding more regularly. I’d love to own my own horse again.
QUESTION: When you have lost your mojo or focus, what do you do to get back on track?
SHANA: There have been so many times in my life I’ve felt lost. As I’ve already mentioned when I abruptly lost my job in March 2018 and spent 7 long months looking for a new opportunity was particularly difficult. I had only moved to Chicago 18 months prior and was still recovering from a very bad car accident that occurred in June 2017. Most of my family and friends were still back east and I was deeply depressed. I spent a lot of time soul searching, rediscovered my faith in God and did a lot of meditation and yoga. It helped to remind myself that I had a little boy to look out for and I had survived multiple terrorist attacks and overcome other significant obstacles in life before. I knew eventually I would look back and understand why I had to go through that. Looking back now, the entire period made me stronger and I wouldn’t be where I am today had that not happened to me.
QUESTION: If you could have a big billboard with your favorite saying or message on it, what would it be.
SHANA: Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena Quote is my personal mantra. I think it’s an important reminder that taking risks is important and failure is the key to success.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
QUESTION: Thank you Shana for taking the time for this interview. How can our readers contact you, including on social media? And is there anything else you like for our readers to know about you?
SHANA: Well I’m excited to be the reigning Mrs. Illinois International and will competing at the Mrs. International pageant in a few short weeks! The opportunity has been amazing. I’ve really earned a valuable platform to help further one of my great passions in life: Improving financial literacy rates for women and underserved minority communities. I’m really excited to continue to bring financial literacy education to more communities, especially those beyond the major city financial hubs. I know pageantry is associated with some many negative stereotypes, but I’ve found competing to be a tremendous source of personal growth even as I’ve gotten older. I’m not sure if people realize the amount of impact and influence titleholders can have and a focus on service to others is a huge component of pageantry. I would not be where I am today had I not discovered pageants. When I was in my 20s, I used to try to downplay my participation, but honestly as I’ve gotten older, I’ve stopped caring about people judging me about it. People will always find ways to try to cut you down, if someone decides my voice isn’t of value because of it, that’s not really a reflection of who I am, it says more about who they are. Embracing all aspects of who I am is something I’ve gotten better at doing as I’ve gotten older.
If people are interested in following me on social media, my twitter handle is @shanas621, they can also find me on Instagram @financequeen2020.