Alexandra Armstrong Award

Elissa Buie

Co-founder and CEO, Yeske Buie

Elissa Buie didn’t set out to build a career in financial planning, but a “light went off” during a financial planning class in grad school and she was hooked.

It’s been more than 35 years since Ms. Buie took that class at the University of Maryland, while temping at a brokerage firm, and she now runs a $700 million registered investment advisory firm with her husband, David Yeske.

Ms. Buie graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in commerce in 1982. She recalls being grateful in a “rough job market” to work as a temp as she prepared for grad school.

“It was a small firm and you did a little bit of everything,” she said. “I ended up starting a financial planning arm, and I remember clients really liked the planning part.”

The rest would be history, except she isn’t done yet.

Ms. Buie, 59, co-founder and CEO of Yeske Buie, is the 2019 recipient of the InvestmentNews Alexandra Armstrong Award for Lifetime Achievement in Financial Planning, which recognizes one woman each year for her career-long contribution to the industry.

In addition to having a reputation for appreciating good wine, being quick to laugh and being a dedicated mother, Ms. Buie has spent her career pursuing ways to improve the overall financial planning industry.

“Elissa has helped to evolve the profession through her example, her hard questions, her leadership, innovations and by walking the walk,” said Elizabeth Jetton, industry consultant and adjunct professor, Golden Gate University. “She is fierce in her dedication to making this profession better and to developing the next generation of true financial planning practitioners.”

While building a bi-coastal financial planning business with offices in San Francisco and Vienna, Va., and raising two daughters, one of whom is now a partner at the firm, Ms. Buie has maintained a passion for bigger-picture issues, including helping to promote pro bono financial planning services.

Ms. Buie is wrapping up her 13th and final year on the board of the Foundation for Financial Planning, which she helped steer toward a singular focus on pro bono services.

When pressed to talk about what she does for fun, Ms. Buie mentions the financial planning classes she co-teaches along with her husband at Golden Gate University’s Ageno School of Business.

“We are also avid wine tasters, we travel, read and watch too much news,” she said.

Mr. Yeske, 62, sees it pretty much the same way, with financial planning being a “24-7 thing.”

“We have always lived and breathed financial planning. It’s part of what brought us together,” he said. “If we take a walk on the weekends, we’re talking about the business. In some ways it’s hard to escape.”

The couple recently adopted two senior dogs, Ravioli and Sidesalad, which Mr. Yeske described as “the next round of children, or grandchildren or something.”

But it would be a mistake to assume this means Ms. Buie is preparing to ride off into the sunset.

On the matter of fiduciary standards, for example, Ms. Buie is fully engaged.

“The CFP Board did a great, amazing thing when it came out with standards whereby all CFPs have to follow fiduciary standards, unless they’re order-takers,” she said. “That makes sense because the public thinks you’re a fiduciary, but I’m very surprised the CFP Board did this because it doesn’t make all constituents happy.”

And then there’s the ever-growing focus on diversity and inclusion across the financial services industry. Ms. Buie isn’t sure the industry is taking the best course toward progress.

“I do believe we’re trying to force something to happen from a push standpoint,” she said. “Back when I got into this business, it seemed like there was the same percentage of women as there are today. We’re not making any progress, and something is missing.”

One theory Ms. Buie has as to why more women and young people, in particular, are not pursing careers in financial planning relates to the quality of the financial planning education that is making those graduates more appealing to higher-paying Wall Street jobs.

In terms of more women not joining the financial planning ranks, Ms. Buie said the profession is where many of them should find everything they want.

“A lot of women do look for a career where there is some flexibility, and this career affords that,” she said. “I’ve wracked my brain, and I can’t figure it out.”

-Jeff Benjamin

In its fifth year, the InvestmentNews Women to Watch recognition program is honoring 22 female financial advisers and industry executives who are advancing the financial advice industry.