Applauding Alumni: Rebecca Sorensen, BAC '85

Applauding Alumni: Rebecca Sorensen, BAC '85

Rebecca Sorensen, BAC ’85, Walsh alumna, is an institutional consultant, senior vice president of Investments, and wealth advisor with UBS Financial Services’ Birmingham, Mich. office. With more than 25 years investment industry experience, she is a CPA, Certified Financial Planner, and Certified Investment Management Analyst. Additionally, she has completed the Wharton School’s IMCA program on Alternative Investments. A specialist in financial and retirement planning, Rebecca assists clients with asset allocation, investment selection, and performance monitoring.  Clients include individuals, foundations, endowments, and corporate and municipal retirement plans.  Rebecca has lectured frequently on the subject of asset allocation and retirement planning. She has given presentations to the Michigan Association of CPAs and employees of Ford and Chrysler, as well as many other companies in Michigan, and to members of various business groups.

Rebecca received the 2009 UBS Exceptional Client Experience Award which recognizes a financial advisor's commitment to excellence within the firm.  Rebecca holds the designation of Wealth Advisor within UBS Financial Services.  This designation requires highly specialized knowledge in the areas of asset allocation and security selection.  Rebecca is also a member of the UBS Defined Contribution (DC) Advisory program, eligible to advisors who demonstrate extensive experience and knowledge related to Defined Contribution Retirement Plans. UBS advisors within this program are subject to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (The Act) including the fiduciary standards of conduct set forth in the Act. 

Rebecca is a member of the Investment Management Consultants' Association, a member of the Financial Planning Association, and a member of the MICPA and the AICPAs. She is past chair and current board member of the Oakland County Economic Development Corporation, is a current board member of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Michigan, serves on the Legal/Financial Network of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, served on the Foundation Board of Walsh College, and is past chair and past board member of Lighthouse PATH of Oakland County.  Rebecca is also a member of the Distinguished Clown Corps supporting The Parade Company and served as the Grand Jester for America's Thanksgiving Parade in 2012.

In 2001, Leadership Oakland recognized Rebecca as one of its 2001 Distinguished Leadership Award recipients in the individual category.  She is also a recipient of the 2003 State of Michigan Governor’s Award for Volunteerism for her work with Lighthouse PATH. And most recently, Rebecca has received the national distinction of being named a member of the 2014 Financial Times Top 100 Women Financial Advisers.

Interview with Rebecca:

Where is the financial industry headed?

“I believe the financial Industry will continue to thrive and the need for financial services will only become greater. Most financial advisors are much more sophisticated and knowledgeable than in the past.  The term “stockbroker” is from a bygone era.  Successful advisors have strong financial planning backgrounds, are often CPAs or attorneys, and need to be extremely analytical. 

“We live in an era where information – good and bad – is constant.  It’s often hard to discern what news is and isn’t relevant, making it difficult at best for the average investor to make timely and wise decisions. Adding to this, investments have gotten more complicated and the market moves much faster.   Additionally, society has changed tremendously.   Defined benefit plans are largely a thing of the past.  Employees now move from job to job - often leaving unvested retirement benefits on the table.   It is rare to see quality education provided to employees sufficient to make proper decisions on 401(k) investments.  The average person has little personal time due to the hectic lives we live to properly educate himself or herself on the market and investments. Reliance on a trusted advisor for sound financial advice is a way to protect against all of the above and help ensure financial health.  Having a good advisor should be considered as important as having a good physician.  Sound financial decisions throughout one’s lifetime have a major impact on quality of life. ”

You have lectured frequently on the subject of asset allocation and retirement planning. With a large portion of the population moving towards retirement, what is important for everyone to know?

“Asset allocation is an important aspect of not only retirement planning but also life planning.  To invest properly, it’s important to understand the risks and rewards of different asset classes and how they are correlated.  It is also important for investors to understand the timing of their need for funds. Funds invested for short-term goals should always be more conservative.  Longer-term needs can be invested to withstand more volatility and therefore be more risk based, i.e. include higher exposure to equities.  When advising clients, I recommend that they keep cash equivalents on hand for emergencies.  For retirees this is especially important as it removes much of the fear of stock market volatility.  We suggest that retirees have at least three years of cash on hand (the typical length of a market downturn and recovery). This then allows for a balanced approach with the remainder of the retirement funds.  When the market does well and returns are positive, withdrawals can be taken from the investment portfolio.  In the event of a market downturn, the cash can be used until valuations return.  It is also important for investors to understand that there are many types of risk.  Most people associate risk with the volatility of the stock market.  I truly believe that the riskiest asset is cash – especially in today’s interest rate environment.  Not being able to keep up with inflation is the greatest risk that most investors will face over a lifetime. A meaningful exposure to equities is the best way to overcome this risk – but only for investors who can stay invested for four years or more (a typical market cycle).”

You serve on the board of the Oakland County Economic Development, the board of the Crohn’s Colitis Foundation of Michigan, and serve on the Legal/Financial Network of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan; how has your involvement on these boards brought value to your role as a leader?

“I have long taken an active role in our community.   I received an academic scholarship from Walsh, without which it would have been difficult financially for me to complete my education.   My volunteerism began as a way to give back but quickly turned into so much more.  I have been able to selectively get involved with organizations whose missions I am interested in. For example, one of my daughters has colitis, so getting involved with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation enabled me to learn first- hand information about her disease.  I have also been a longtime volunteer for Lighthouse PATH, which provides transitional housing to homeless women and their children.   My interest in helping homeless women stems from my own early marriage and divorce.  Governor Snyder recently appointed me to the new Detroit Police and Fire Pension Board.   I readily accepted this volunteer position as I love Detroit and feel strongly that all of us in Michigan should do what we can to support its resurgence. My community involvement has included chairing investment committees, through which I learned much about the institutional market. I was able to carry this knowledge through to my practice at UBS, which includes a large institutional component. I have grown tremendously through my volunteer work, and I have learned a great deal that I have been able to integrate with my career.”

With so much involvement, how do you find time for more? The Smart Girls Book Club (SGBC)?

“I have a great team at UBS that is supportive of my outside activities.  And while I am on a number of boards, the actual time commitment for each is only a few hours a month.  I am always interested in learning and continuing to develop, and I have been accused of having more energy than most people.   Something I am most proud of is the book group my friend Laurie Horvath and I started two years ago.  Laurie is a partner at the CPA firm of Baker Tilly and a former Walsh College adjunct professor.  We often meet for coffee or drinks to discuss work, kids, and issues of the day.  Two years ago, shortly after the Sandy Hook school shooting, we met and discussed how we could reach out to other women like us. Our goal was to tackle current issues, get others more involved in our community – both locally and nationally, and perhaps affect positive change in our world. From this meeting we started a non-fiction book group for professional women originally called Books for Women with Passion and Purpose.  This quickly morphed into Smart Girls’ Book Club (or SGBC).  Our roster has grown to over 100 women from diverse backgrounds. We have tackled issues such as immigration, the economy, race, religion, conservation, and women’s rights.  Most of our meetings now include guest speakers who are experts in the topics we discuss.  Our book group has been one of the most interesting projects I have taken on.  I have learned so much from the books we have read and, perhaps more important, from the other women in our group.”

What advice would you give a new alum or current Walsh Student?

“There was a time in my life that I never believed I would graduate from College.  Walsh believed in me and supported me financially.  The help I received was not only monetary but also emotional and made a tremendous difference in how I saw the world and myself.  I truly believe that with enough effort, most people can achieve what they dream.  This is true for current students and for alums.  Dream big, work hard, and develop a financial plan that will take you to where you want to go.”

Please join Walsh College in applauding Rebecca Sorensen in her continued success by adding your comments below.

To nominate an alumnus to applaud, contact Duc Abrahamson, Alumni & Student Relations Officer, at (248) 823-1298.

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