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Deborah Danielson: An Empowering Woman in Wealth Management

Deborah L. Danielson, CFP®, CFS®, MSFS is president and owner of Danielson Financial Group located in Las Vegas, Nevada. A Las Vegas native, she has built a solid record of accomplishments and a reputation for excellence among her clients, colleagues, community, and friends. An investment professional since 1981, Ms. Danielson is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, Certified Fund Specialist, and has a Master of Science in Financial Services. Deborah took a leap of faith to join a local wealth management practice in 1981 and then, in 1985, opened her own branch office of LPL Financial, the number one Independent Broker Dealer in North America.*
In an interview with Insights Success, Deborah shares her experiences from starting at a young age to reaching the helm as president of Danielson Financial Group.
Below are the excerpts from the interview:
“In 1979, a cold calling stockbroker called my husband and convinced him to invest $20,000 with them. This was a lot of money for us at the time. Every few days, they called and said the stocks kept going up tremendously, and we were very happy about this. We were so naïve we had no idea this was not the norm.” One day Deborah called them, and no one answered the phone; the company moved out of the building in the middle of the night and disappeared. Deborah and her husband found out the company was a complete scam and that they had lost everything. “This was the motivation to become an advocate for my clients and to feel like I need to protect my client’s money at all costs,” she asserts. She took out a $40,000 loan—pledging her house and the few accounts she had—and was determined not to end up homeless.
“I had to succeed, or I’d lose everything. I was recently divorced and had two small children. It was scary being a woman trying to break into the industry, especially one that is so male-dominated. Men often asked me why I wasn’t home with my kids instead. I had to pass the securities exam, and my son, who would be two years old that month needed to be potty trained to attend daycare,” Deborah said. She proved herself. She was the first woman in Nevada to become a Certified Fund Specialist (CFS®), and she went on to become a founding member of the National Association of Women Business Owners. On October 7, 2016, the City of Las Vegas declared it Deborah Danielson Day and Forbes, a leading business magazine, recently included her in its “Top Women Wealth Advisors 2021,” “Best-in-State Wealth Advisors 2021+” list, and Barron’s, a leading financial magazine included her in its “Barron’s Top 1200 Financial Advisors in 2021^” list. As one of LPL’s longest-serving female advisors, Deborah understands the significance of sharing her success, an uphill journey from the beginning.
Earlier, men were the ones who used to hold the coveted positions as of C-level executives in almost every sphere, which is not the case anymore. Now, women are seen to be breaking barriers, pioneering different industries, and making their mark in different sectors, the finance sector being one of them. With their exemplary leadership skills, hard work, talent, and perseverance, women have brought a significant change in the financial industry. By employing a comprehensive and client-focused approach to financial planning, Deborah has made her way up the ladder in the financial world. She considers leadership as a series of experiences that brings enhancement in skills and always encourages reaching beyond a current set of belief systems and practices.
How important was Growing Your Business Your Way?
The Las Vegas native became interested in financial planning in early 1980 while reading a newsletter about investing and retirement planning. Deborah had a newborn son and four-year-old daughter at the time and decided to attend a pilot Certified Financial Planner program at the University of Nevada Las Vegas in the evenings.
While working toward her Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation she met founder Robert Ritzman of Private Ledger (which much later became LPL Financial) who sponsored her securities exam and brought her into the firm. She disagreed with some of the branch methods used by her colleagues at the time. While they typically engaged in cold-calling, meetings and seminars, Deborah wanted to grow in her own way and try different methods to find new clients. She was grateful for the experience, but decided to start her own LPL Financial branch office in 1985, moving upstairs in the same building where she formerly worked. “I was the Lone Ranger out there. I didn’t have millionaire friends to call on, so I made connections however I could,” Deborah said. She started teaching Continuing Education Investment classes for women at the UNLV, where she picked up several new clients over the 16 years she spent as an instructor. I was a self-made woman and I wanted to teach women to succeed. Many of these women are still clients today.”
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader. What challenges you had to face to reach where you are today?
“My journey started as a young woman trying to make it in a predominantly men’s world. I really did not realize this when I began, but it was certainly a challenge. Young women, especially, were not considered to be long-term in this industry because eventually, they would be taking time off to raise children and then unable to focus on their careers. It is indeed very difficult to balance both. Many people did not take me seriously nor did they think I would be in the business for the long term. October 2021 was my 40 years in business, so I think that is long-term. My first LPL Financial national conference was attended by 100 people, with 98 men and two women. It was in one big ballroom; no breakout sessions, and the wholesalers were set up on small tables around the perimeter of the room. I was consistently asked whose secretary, assistant, or wife I was. It was hard for most men to believe that I was doing what they were doing and that I could do it anywhere near as well as any man could. Thankfully today, these biases have mostly been erased. Today, I am looked on with respect and admiration because I have achieved a high level of success, and they frequently ask for my advice”.
Describe Danielson Financial Group’s top-notch services that address the needs of your clients.
“Danielson Financial Group is a full-service financial strategy firm with professionals focused on investment management and financial planning. We are very holistic in our approach that encompasses the entire client, not just their investment needs. If you haven’t taken care of some of the basics like tax planning, estate planning, retirement planning, beneficiary planning, philanthropic planning, and many other issues, you can have problems well beyond having or not having money. In the beginning, you need help to get on the right track, but in the end, you need even more help to keep the assets that you have worked so hard to accumulate over the years. There are many ways that assets can be taken from you inadvertently and without your control, if you have not put stopgap actions in ahead of an event. Our sixteen-person team encompasses a Certified Financial Planner, LPL Financial Securities Registered Representatives, LPL Registered Assistants, a Certified Public Accountant and an Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst as well as other dedicated members.”
What makes Danielson Financial Group distinctive?
“Leadership. The term “leadership” has many different meanings and can serve a variety of behaviors and functions, depending on one’s perspective. For some companies, leadership may be focused on learning and innovation, aimed at pushing itself and its industry forward.
Just as you can likely find leadership content in a variety of areas, the rapid pace of change in our world can make it difficult to decipher what you need to focus on.
We are a growing and ever-evolving business that strives to provide prudent investment and financial management advice and support for our clients”.
Danielson has branded its own form of leadership to encompass conviction, character, care, courage, and competence. These essential pillars are embedded in the corporate culture and support a strong, disciplined, and process-driven organization. Thought-provoking, innovative, industry-leading, and research-driven processes produce leaders within the business for the benefit of our clients.
Deborah has designed the business framework by setting the example of listening, learning, and then leading. The result of her well-honed leadership practices yields to the advancement of others, clients, prospects, and team members. It generates new ideas and sound financial advice while other financial advisory firms use it as a form of tactical commentary. “It’s the kind of leadership we all strive for; the example of one who shares every idea and makes it feel as though it’s your own”.
“This support structure gives every associate the ability to excel as well as the ability to feel the challenges of failure. No idea is a bad idea, and the associates here are excited to share theirs. These values generate positive and motivating attitudes that bring everyone back each day and keep them here for decades. Remarkably, our staff has been with us for years. We’re more than a team. They are treated like family, a family who supports one another and is interested in hearing about each other’s lives. They are given the latest technology and tools to perform. Their successes are celebrated, and milestones are recognized, as are our clients’. Leadership such as ours provides the type of employment every associate dreams of, so essentially, we are all living the dream”.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the financial niche through your expertise in the industry:
“I feel like we have made an impact on my niche market, “Women in Transition due to Death and Divorce”. There are so many issues that need to be addressed without emotion, which is very difficult; at this time juncture for many of our female clients. Making the right decisions is critical to having a successful financial life in the future. I have experienced divorce, and I’ve experienced widowhood and survived both. You need an advocate on your side to keep you from making bad emotional decisions. Sometimes, you make a decision that is passive-aggressive; it might bring you a smile now but really could devastate your financial future later. Both are difficult times that you really need to know all the tax and estate angles as well as which investments may be best suited for you over the long haul. We do not exclude men as the same strategies are equally important for them”.
What are the challenges you and your team at Danielson Financial Group come across in your day-to-day operations?
“Day-to-day challenges include keeping up on the latest economic and investment news and implementing those in our current investment portfolios. We try very hard to stay proactive and not reactive while taking advantage of dips in the market for clients’ benefit. We definitely are not market timers; we look at the long term and what is in our client’s best interest. We rely on the client’s risk tolerance scoring to make sure they’re not making emotional decisions out of fear or greed and remind them of their current objectives.
It’s not infrequent when markets are good the clients want to press and invest in riskier investments, but when things turn down, like in 2008 or last March, they feel they need to get out of the market as it’s too risky for them. After we talk clients off the ledge to stay in the market and the market recovers, we then go back and say, “now that you’re not taking a financial loss, let’s change your objective and sell some of the investments you felt were too risky”. They very often reply, no, it’s fine now, and everything is good, which leads me to understand that they were trying to make another emotional decision that would’ve been harmful to them and their portfolio and not one that was based on an educational change of objectives or needs. We keep them from harming themselves, which sometimes is one of the biggest advantages of having us on their team”.
What people, what books, what life factors have influenced and impacted you?
“In the beginning of my career, I read Howard Ruff’s newsletter, The Ruff Times, which spoke about pro-hard money and real estate. Later I read Venita VanCaspel’s book “Money Dynamics”. She was an icon and one of the first ladies of finance. I attended every seminar, conference and read every book I could get my hands on. I’ve always been an avid learner and a sponge for new knowledge. Seeing the challenges that clients have gone through and living their life experiences with them has made me very astute in many aspects of their lives. Money fortunately or unfortunately has such a tremendous impact on your financial future.
Thankfully at this time of COVID 19, almost everything has opened, and we are actively seeing clients in our office. Prior to when it was safe to do so due to the pandemic, we were all working in our offices, doors shut, masks on, and socially distancing. We continued at the same pace, but we performed client updates as well as staff meetings via Zoom. We still celebrated birthdays of our team members, but they were done in individual offices and virtually through Zoom with our Happy Birthday virtual backgrounds. We, unfortunately, had to cancel all client events and our staff holiday dinner. As of June 1, 2021, it has been business as usual in our offices, and we are working very hard and stayed very busy even through the pandemic. We have even started planning our next year’s client events.
Everyone on the team knows their individual job responsibilities. We are like an extended family and care deeply about each other as well as our personal lives. All of us are hard workers and do whatever it takes to accomplish the end goal for the client. If it means coming in early or staying late, coming in on the weekends, no matter what, my team gets it done. We believe our superior, excellent client service is what makes us stand out in the crowd. I tell clients to expect service better than they even dreamt of, and we will deliver it. We don’t have any weak links in our chain. Everyone will pitch in to help anyone else following behind in any task. We are straight shooters, tell it like it is, with clients and each other”.
In what ways have you or your company contributed to the community? If given a chance, what change would you bring in the financial industry with digital innovation & technologies to transform business globally?
“We have contributed to the community and various charities in several ways. We did a purse project where clients brought a gently used purse, we stuffed them full of items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, lotions, shampoo, conditioner, Chapstick, lipstick, hairbrushes, combs, etc. and donated them to The Shade Tree, a shelter for women with/without children. We have donated to Toys for Tots, Three Square Food Bank, The Blind Center, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, and various animal foundations. Three years ago, I wrote a book called, “Why Me? Seeking Answers in Your Grief” about losing my 24- year-old son, which is available at Amazon. The proceeds from this book all go to the charity Adams Place. The book is to help parents cope with their incredible loss and come to resolutions and new healthy habits. I found there were many books about losing a spouse or parent or a baby, but not adult children. I wanted to ease the path of those after me and share what I had come to learn”.
As a respected member of the community, she teaches children the importance of saving money and how to save. She reaches out to women who are suddenly without their life partner and mentors them on how to transition on their own when they have had no experience in handling their finances, a role many men take on in the household at the beginning of a marriage. Ms. Danielson is also a supporter of world-class performing arts and arts education programs in the community.
“As far as digital innovation, at Danielson, we believe putting digital strategies in place to meet the needs of our clients is crucial providing customer-centricity, client experience, worker empowerment and workplace models to reshape our business and staying atop of the ever-evolving
strategies required when you own a business. We stay on top of various tools to enhance our client experience and to improve our existing business processes and workflow efficiency”.
What are some of the professional organizations you enjoy working with?
Danielson is actively involved in the professional association International Women’s Forum (IWF); a founding member of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Southern Nevada Chapter; past President and former board member of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce; and past President of the Financial Planning Association (FPA), Las Vegas Chapter.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs (especially women entrepreneurs) who aspire to venture into the finance sector?
“My advice to budding entrepreneurs, especially women, is that you need to have a good business plan, and if married, you must have a supportive spouse. It will take twice as much time and money to get things growing. You need to set goals every year that are written and actionable so that you hold yourself accountable for what will become your future success. The first few years in the business, I could have worked at McDonald’s and made more money, but that wasn’t my objective. For me, financial planning of clients’ lives and seeing their dreams come true was so much more motivating, and it really filled my emotional reservoirs with happiness and a feeling of success. Knowing the good that I could do in the world made me motivated to stay on task. Just know up front, at some point, the going will get tough, whether it’s the markets, the clients, your employees, or your personal life. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going in a positive direction”.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run and what are your future goals for Danielson Financial Group?
“I envision myself working at Danielson Financial Group for many years to come. I may not continue to work as long or as hard, but I have worked too long to let it just disappear. My team takes responsibility for many of the clients, which frees me up to do more rainmaking and more travel which are some of my passions. When you’re doing something that you enjoy, it’s hard to stop. I love the people I work with and the dedication to our clients and their success. It will be hard to let go someday. We intend to keep growing and serving our clients the best way we can. To love what you do and to feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?
I want to continue education for my team and me. I’ve had great coaches over the years, 13 years with Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach and five years with John Bowen at CEG Worldwide. We did our own “Wine Down Friday” to share with the team winning concepts I had learned to build bench strength in my team. We work hard and play hard, all sharing each other’s successes”.
What are you most passionate about?
“#1: My Children, My Grandchildren! My daughter Melissa Danielson, MS, MEd, LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She practices in Las Vegas and is married to Dwane, parents to my beautiful granddaughter Emmalee and my grandson Tanner. My son Jason has passed away, but he lives every day in my heart. My husband Robert passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2016. I am also proud of my stepdaughter, Heather Campbell, a commercial/retail space designer, two granddaughters Vanessa and Isabelle, and my newest grandson, Parker.
#2: My Clients! I am passionate about my work, as I see meaningful results every year in my clients’ lives. When I see them achieving their goals, I feel a personal win.
I am also passionate about Wine. When not at work, I can often be found doing work of another sort: I have made wine for over 12 years – winning several local and national medals for our efforts”. Deborah obtained her WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Advanced Certificate, Level 3, in pursuit of the Masters of Wine designation. Her team at Danielson Financial Group willingly supports Deborah’s efforts and has helped in naming her wine, creating her winning wine labels, and every year, they gather together to help in the bottling process. With names like Zin City Zin, Problem Child, Don’t Whine for Me, and Bodaciou$ BorDough, it’s easy to see that Deborah and the Danielson Financial Group team are passionate about having fun, just as much as creating a great wine.
“I have a wine cellar with 3,000 bottles of wine, in which I inventory, tag, and have notes. I love to collect great wines that will age gracefully over time. My award-winning wines are, 2009 Zin City Zin, National Double Gold Award Winner, 2010 Bodaciou$ Bor-Dough, National Bronze Medal Winner, 2011 Screaming Gringo, National Bronze Medal Winner and Local Vino Meritorious Award, 2012 Bello-Bar-Bare-Ahh, National Silver Medal Winner, 2014 Chile Chilean, National Bronze Medal Winner, 2015 Zin City Zin Again, National Bronze Medal Winner, 2016 Our Problem Child, Local Outstanding Label Award, 2017 Don’t Whine for Me Argentina, National Bronze Medal Winner and Local Vino Meritorious Award and my 40th Anniversary Wine “My Blessed Legacy”, currently under review for a national medal”.
“I also love to travel. I have been to 95 countries; my favorites are: Italy and Uganda plus, as always have several trips planned.
Most recently, I took a drive down the California coastline and visited wineries, enjoyed the Pacific Coast Hwy 1 beaches, and stayed at The Post Ranch Inn in a treehouse”.
What awards and acknowledgments have you received over the years?
Danielson’s reputation has led to appearances on newscasts live from the floor of the NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange, and to being a guest on FOX Business, CNBC, and Business News Network.
“Industry Awards honor and recognize financial advisors for outstanding achievements within the industry that have raised the bar by delivering superior solutions to clients each year. With reputation and trust a driving factor for the whole industry, I have been able to lift this perception across the profession through unwavering ethics, unique ideologies, and actions. For example, being invited to the opening bell ceremony at the NASDAQ in New York City when LPL Financial went public on November 18, 2010, was truly a highlight of my career. I was blessed and honored to be there”.
+Forbes Awards:
Forbes Best-In-State Wealth Advisors in 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021
Forbes Top 200 Women Advisors in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021
Forbes Top 200 Wealth Advisors in 2016, 2017 & 2018
^Barron’s Awards
Deborah Danielson CFP®, CFS®, MSFS, has been ranked by Barron’s as one of America’s Top Financial Advisors every year for the past thirteen years. Barron’s Awards honors America’s best financial advisors organized by state. The rankings are based on data provided by over 4,000 of the nation’s most productive advisors. Factors included in the rankings: assets under management, revenue produced for the firm, regulatory record, quality of practice and philanthropic work.
Barron’s Top 1,000 Financial Advisors in America, February 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013 then they went to 1,200
Barron’s Top 1,200 Financial Advisors in America, February 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021
Barron’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisors, June 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2016
Barron’s Top Financial Advisors 2021 is based on assets under management, revenue produced for the firm, regulatory record, quality of practice and philanthropic work.
**Registered Rep’s Awards
Registered Rep. awards are based on assets under management, revenue produced for the firm, regulatory record, quality of practice and philanthropic. Registered Rep’s Top 100 Independent Advisors, August 2008, 2009 & 2010
***Other Awards
America’s Top Financial Planners / Consumer’s Research Council of America, 2005-2006 America’s Best Financial Planners / Consumer’s Research Council of America, 2009
****LPL Financial
I have received LPL Financial Executive Council award consistently since 1999 and numerous awards throughout my years with LPL.
In October 2021, you will be Celebrating Your 40 Year in Business. Tell us about it.
“Life is never without its challenges in your personal life or business life. You must develop a “can do” attitude and have persistence. On October 7, 2016, when the mayor of Las Vegas proclaimed “Deborah Danielson Day” in the city of Las Vegas, my team and I were sky high with pride. Just a few weeks later, with no prior knowledge of any illness, my husband died of pancreatic cancer. This threw my year-end into a whirlwind. He was a serial entrepreneur with seven companies and employees that needed leadership and along with running my own company; let’s just say it was a challenging time. I had just completed a book and hired my copy editor with a goal to have it finished by the year-end. I had to put it on hold. Flexibility and persistence are needed to succeed. I know all too well, in the face of pain and agony, it is difficult to stay persistent.
Like everything in business though, knowing and accepting obstacles allows you to prepare for setbacks. Nothing was ever accomplished without adversity, but we had the goal to succeed”. Danielson began forty years ago with a great attitude and progressed with persistence. “It is what we have done and hope to continue for many years to come”.
What will you be doing in the next ten years Deborah?
“I will be growing Danielson Financial Group by buying other financial planning firms and growing my client base. I also hope to spend more time with my children, grandchildren, enjoying wine with family and friends, and of course, traveling”.
Deborah Danielson, CFP®, CFS®, MSFS is an LPL Financial, Investment Advisor Representative. Securities, advisory and financial planning offered through LPL Financial, registered investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC.
*As reported by Financial Planning Magazine, June 1996- 2020, based on total revenue.
+The Forbes ranking of America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors, developed by SHOOK Research, is based on an algorithm of qualitative and quantitative data, rating thousands of wealth advisors with a minimum of seven years’ experience and weighing factors like revenue trends, assets under management, compliance records, industry experience and best practices learned through telephone and in-person interviews. Portfolio performance is not a criterion due to varying client objectives and lack of audited data. Neither Forbes nor SHOOK receives a fee in exchange for rankings.
+The Forbes Best-In-State Wealth Advisor ranking, developed by SHOOK Research, is based on in-person and telephone due diligence meetings and a ranking algorithm that includes: client retention, industry experience, review of compliance records, firm nominations; and quantitative criteria, including: assets under management and revenue generated for their firms. Portfolio performance is not a criterion due to varying client objectives and lack of audited data. Neither Forbes nor SHOOK Research receives a fee in exchange for rankings.
^Barron’s Top 1200 Financial Advisors 2021 is based on assets under management, revenue produced for the firm, regulatory record, quality of practice, and philanthropic work.