The financial piece came first. Born and raised in Jamaica, Bell was accepted by Harvard University, where she graduated magna cum laude in history and science/biochemistry. Then fate stepped in after graduation.
"I took what I thought was a summer job with a financial firm on the East Coast," she said. "But I fell in love with the profession and decided to stay."
Bell has stayed in investment management for more than 20 years, including 10 years managing a global equity mutual fund for Merrill Lynch Investment Managers (now BlackRock Inc.). Since joining San Diego-based wealth management firm, Dowling & Yahnke, LLC in 2007, she has been managing client portfolios and relationships as a member of the firm's investment and marketing committees, and as a member of the management team. She holds the designations Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
Bell is a member of the CFA Institute, the CFA Society of San Diego Inc., the Financial Planning Association and the Harvard Club of San Diego. She also serves on the board of the San Diego Women's Foundation.
Several women influenced her decision to pursue a professional career path.
"My mother was a banker, so I always had her as an example of a woman with a career, and she was my first inspiration," Bell said. "As for investment management, when I took that initial summer position my boss was a woman, which was pretty rare at the time. She was very inspirational in giving me the confidence to say, ‘Yes you can do this even though it's 99 percent men in this field.' She was a real mentor.
"I tell women getting into our profession to study hard in school, get good grades and particularly pursue the Chartered Financial Analyst designation, which sets people apart as being serious about investment management. In terms of your first job, look for a firm that will give you opportunities for training and education, and where you will get a mentor who can help you figure out the field."
After moving to La Jolla in 2006, it didn't take Bell long to figure out she loved her new Bird Rock neighborhood. With a desire to help out in the community as strong as her desire to assist her financial clients, she jumped in and joined the board of the Bird Rock Community Council in 2008, serving as treasurer and vice president. She was elected president in January. The council's mission is to "engage in all activities that enhance the growth and development of the Bird Rock neighborhood."
"I believe Bird Rock is a very special place to live and I want to help keep it that way," she told a local newspaper recently.
Bell gets to know her clients well, so they may not be surprised to learn their investment manager loves to dance the salsa and tango. But she takes her greatest pleasure in helping those clients achieve financial security.
"Being an investment advisor is a very rewarding career psychologically and personally for me because I feel like I really am helping my clients," she said. "Some come to me with very little experience with finances, especially in a situation where someone has just been widowed and never had anything to do with the family finances before, and is overwhelmed and distracted. I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from being able to work with someone like that and give her peace of mind so she doesn't have to feel stressed, doesn't have to be thinking about her financial situation all the time.
"I'm there for clients to help them navigate the entire world of personal finance. I'm happy to educate them as much as they want to be educated. But if they don't want to be educated and just want to leave it in someone else's hands, I'm happy to take that burden off their shoulders. I find that tremendously gratifying."
12340 El Camino Real #450 | San Diego, CA 92130 | PHONE: (858) 509-9500 | www.dywealth.com
~ By Glenn Grant, Special to The Daily Transcript