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Powerful Women: Let's Talk - 103: Shannan Denison

Shelley Irwin welcomes financial advisor Shannan Denison to Powerful Women: Let’s Talk

Shannan Denison believes in sharing her knowledge and experience to help others as a financial advisor and more. She writes articles on financial topics, she’s been honored as an outstanding Internship supervisor, and she loves Jazz. We welcome Shannon Denison to WGVU’s Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.

Powerful Women: Let’s Talk is created by WGVU NPR and made possible by WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at wgvu.org/donate to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.


Narr. Produced by women, about women. Powerful Women: Let's Talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world; transforming who we are and how we live.


Shelley Irwin: Shannan Denison believes in sharing her knowledge and experience to help others as financial advisor and more, she writes articles on financial topics has been honored for an outstanding internship supervisor position. And she loves Jazz so welcome to this edition of Powerful Women. Let's Talk. Hi to you, Shannan.

Shannan Denison: I'm good. How are you?

Shelley Irwin: Good. Did you have a piggy bank when you were a little girl?

Shannan Denison: Yes, I did. As matter of fact, and this will probably date me. I had a Raggedy Ann and Andy Talking bank.

Shelley Irwin: Were you brought up in a family that cared about finances?

Shannan Denison: We did. I was taught, you know, the difference between needs and wants, you know, I wanted the designer jeans, but I only needed, you know, that regularly denim and then also don't get into credit card debt. That was a big thing is don't spend more than you make. Don't get into credit card debt because I think like a lot of American families, my parents did get into some trouble with that, and they got it paid off. And that was a big learning lesson for them.

Shelley Irwin: Did you seek out this career as a financial advisor?

Shannan Denison: Not really. Interestingly enough I studied psychology. And I knew I wanted to help people. And one of my favorite adjunct professors at Grand Valley, he said, you know, Shannan, and you can help people by cleaning toilets. So you're really going to have to get more specific about how you can help people. And my mom as an elementary school teacher. She always said I should be a teacher because she said you're good at that. And I feel like that is what I do. But it's a different way, right? I'm a financial advisor. So I teach people how to make smart choices with their money.

Shelley Irwin: So how did you get into the business? Talk a little bit about your career journey to inspire me.

Shannan Denison: So I as I said, well, I started at Grand Rapids Community College studied there. And then I went to Central Michigan University and had a good time, but not really a learning time there. And so I took a little break, actually, that's when I went to France and was an au pair and I learned a lot there and that experience. And then when I came back, I decided to get it done and go to Grand Valley State, then which was a great decision because I had a wonderful education there and I studied psychology. So I didn't know what I wanted to do. I knew I want to help people and my mom, like I said, always thought I should be a teacher. And I knew that that was something that I can do is help people understand things. And so I interviewed with different companies and insurance companies and that were mainly like, hey, you can solve all your clients issues with life insurance. And I thought, oh, that's probably not exactly right. But I remember that place and it was downtown and they're still downtown. I won’t say their name. But they had a sign on the table that said a great career for women as financial advisers right now like one of the hot careers. And I thought, you know, I guess I do want to know more about that and what that means because I'm a people person and relationships are important too. And then I interviewed with another company that was mostly about investments. And, you know, they said you can solve a client's problems with these mutual funds. And I said that’s not right either. And then I went with American Express financial advisor and they were very much, you know, there is no cookie cutter approach and you have to tailor it to what your client needs. And I thought that was good. And they also had a very rigorous entry program and they did a role playing exercise. And it was you didn't know it at the time, but it was about ethics. And they said, OK, you have to sell this. You know, it was a travel package. But, you know, don't sell something more than somebody can afford. And it was kind of like that. And I passed it, of course, but some people, then some people really want to make the sale. It was interesting.

Shelley Irwin: And what brought you to all say, taking the risk of opening your own practice?

Shannan Denison: So it was back in 2013 and that I that I was independent. And it was really kind of, you know, I thought it was independent. But you're not really when you're part of a bank franchise. You know, you think you can offer things. But, you know, it's really not until you go independent that you have a full array. It was it was then that I looked and was able to really just learn more about what I could do for people and have just a vast array of financial products to be able to use it to help people get the things that they want out of life.

Shelley Irwin: You have perhaps an unique niche. Where does the word holistic come into play with your service?

Shannan Denison: So I am a holistic fee-based financial advisor. And what that means to me is not only do we look at the 6 years of financial planning, but I get to know my clients and get to know what makes them tick. So one of the tools I use is called financial DNA. And it's an assessment that really helps identify how people think and behave about their finances because some people are naturally savers. Some people like to spend, some people are risk takers, and some are more risk averse and it's really helped identify, you know, where people naturally lie and what might be their challenges. So I think of myself more as a financial coach, and we really look at the whole picture. So I tell people all the time you’re really just paying me to be, you know, professional nag because ultimately it's like anything else in life. You know, we procrastinate, there are definitely things that, you know, we know we should do. And we all say, oh, yeah, that's a great idea. I Should do that. And then you just need somebody to help push along and say yes, let's get that done You said you wanted to get that done. Let's get that done

Shelley Irwin: Nag may be a strong word. Maybe accountability. You have been recognized as an outstanding internship supervisor. So you're obviously paying your talents forward to the next generation. What's this about?

Shannan Denison: Yes, that's important to me. I try to look for college students that are looking for experience in the financial advisor realm and really wanting to be a mentor to give back because that happened for me, you know, and I think it's important to be able to, you know, instill not only the ideas and concepts of industry, but also work ethic and values.

Shelley Irwin: Bring the community into your life. What's this about jazz?

Shannan Denison: Well jazz is a big part of my life. I am currently serving as vice president on the West Michigan Jazz Society Board and the Jazz Society, their mission is to advance and uphold and sustain live jazz through performance and promotion in education. I love Jazz. I went to Northview High School, excellent music program. And but it wasn't really until I was in France that I that I kind of sparked my love of it. Because they had a lot of jazz on vinyl there. Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis. I listen to it all. And, you know, they love it so much. And it's so American and you don't really realize until you're somewhere else like this is our music and just taking pride in what is truly American music. And I love it. It covers such a vast genre within just the term jazz. You know, Dixieland to Bebop and everything in between.

Shelley Irwin: All a part of Shannan Denison’s work life balance. In addition to jazz, you work which you love. Nature, you get out and about?

Shannan Denison: Yes, we do. Love nature, go for hikes regularly. Love Lake Michigan. I just think it's super important, too, be able to go out and have that reset. You know, remember when we went for the hike with Diana Burdick and you know her as an artist, her thing was, you know, being able to look and notice different things. And I think in an ever-changing environment with the seasons, it's just so beautiful and helps you stay in the present moment and really gives you a reset. We try to get out to the lake at least once a week all year long.

Shelley Irwin: We are powerful women, but I always review fun facts with my powerful peeps. How did you spend your time in France? You brought it up a couple times.

Shannan Denison: I was an au pair meaning that I was hired too, it's like an exchange program, culture exchange program. But the primary role is childcare. So I was taking care of two young people. And I also was studying French at the time. And I was in a really tiny village called Penosa between Lyon and Grenoble and like 400 people. So and it was a great experience for me.

Shelley Irwin: And you mentioned that it was a time of your life that didn't perhaps you needed a change and you took a chance?

Shannan Denison: I did. And it was one of those times were, there were a lot of naysayers when I said I wanted to do this. I want to go to France. You can't do that.

Shelley Irwin: You were in your 20s.

Shannan Denison: Yeah. You can’t do that and well, yes I can. I took a break from college and went over there and did it. And I was so glad I did. It was a life changing experience

Shelley Irwin: Those little kids or adults themselves. Alright, fill in the blank. You were the first female financial advisor at International…

Shannan Denison: International Assets Advisory which is the broker-dealer I clear through.

Shelley Irwin: How important is that to be a first female back then?

Shannan Denison: Yeah, it's super important and we need more females in this in this business. I was just an event last night where I was the only female adviser at the table. I think it's a relationship business. And we're good at that. And we're also good with investments, you know, because we think about it a little bit more. Well, diversification is key in spending the time to look at things is important too.

Shelley Irwin: You like a jazz but a little birdie tells me you can also sing?

Shannan Denison: Yes, I do sing. right now I am singing with the Threshold Choir. The Threshold Choir is a very special group. It's an international organization and we sing to people who are making their transition on their death beds, usually in trios, threes or fours at the most. Not always deathbeds, sometimes it's when somebody has had surgery or there was a woman that we sang to that was going through postpartum depression. So it's, you know, people who are in transition and it's a very wonderful experience. And it lifts the person you’re singing to. And all the people in the room and of course yourself as well.

Shelley Irwin: Yes, believe in your product. All right there is a wedding ring story.

Shannan Denison: A wedding ring story. Yes, so I worked, my husband, Kevin and I both worked on Mackinaw Island and before we were married. We worked at the French outpost, which is now the Gate House. But French outpost was run by Debra and Sandra Orr. They were female business owners. And we worked there and we had to clean the place every day in clean every morning, which I thought was silly. However, one night when my husband was cleaning, or he was not my husband at the time, but he looked on the ground, saw something very sparkly. And it was a very tiny, but near perfect diamond. And so, of course, he, you know, reported it and in the policy was, well, nobody claims it then it's yours. And so that is one of the diamonds on my ring. And actually, we just had this made this year. So and I was just told by a friend that these trio sets are, part with the past, plan for the future, and live in the present.

Shelley Irwin: Again, all part of your balance and why does giving blood matter?

Shannan Denison: Super important because people's lives are saved with it. And something actually that both my parents did and encouraged me to do and I started blood drives and I get my husband to start donating blood. And it's something that I think is just if you can do it, not everybody can, but if you can do it, it feels good to give back. And knowing that you're helping save somebody's life.

Shelley Irwin: What is your message to the young Shannan Denison who is looking to find her way?

Shannan Denison: Trust in yourself and don't hesitate to take steps towards your dreams.

Shelley Irwin: Yes, and do you read any good books? Do you sit down long enough to do that?

Shannan Denison: Yes, actually one good book that was part of the Grand Valley Laker books discussion, book club. It's a virtual book club. Was called Decisive. And that is about how to make better decisions in your work in life. Excellent book. And also, we just also finished reading just for fun, but called The Murmurings, which is by the late author, David Walk-As-Bear and it's a Michigan author and it's a set mostly in the UP. And it's a sci-fi suspense, kind of a mystery. But it's based on true story. And it was a fun read.

Shelley Irwin: All right back to reading books and obviously crunching the numbers for your clients. Shannan Denison thank you for this opportunity to feature you as a powerful woman and we just talked. Thank you.

Shannan Denison: Thank you Shelley.


Narr. Produced by women, about women, these powerful podcasts focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are, and how we live. Want to hear more Powerful Women: Let’s Talk? Get additional interviews at wgvu.org or wherever you get your podcast. Please rate and subscribe. Powerful Women: Let's Talk is produced by WGVU at the Meijer Public Broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University. The views and opinions expressed on this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU, its underwriters, or Grand Valley State University.


Shelley Irwin is the host and producer for The WGVU Morning Show, a newsmagazine talk-show format on the local NPR affiliate Monday through Friday. The show, broadcast from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. features a wide variety of local and national newsmakers, plus special features.
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