Opportune Start in Private Banking
How I Got My Start in Finance
Featuring Barbara Young
Published on: April 22nd, 2019 • Duration: 8 minutesBarbara Young discusses how she came into her career in private banking during the real estate boom of the 1980s and how she overcame the challenges that she faced as a woman in a heavily male-dominated field. This video is excerpted from a piece published on Real Vision on March 7, 2019.
JUSTINE UNDERHILL: On today's "How I got My Start in Finance," Barbara Young sits down with Real Vision's Grant Williams to discuss the beginning of her career in the 1980s. Known as the golden girl of West Coast private banking, she talks about the challenges she overcame on her road to success.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Barbara, thank you for taking the time to come and chat with me.
BARBARA YOUNG: Absolutely. It's a pleasure.
GRANT WILLIAMS: It's very, very kind of you. I know it's a busy conference here at the TIGER 21 event in Boca, but I though it was a great chance for you and I to sit and talk and walk through your career because it's an interesting story, and you're one of a one of a minority in the finance industry. You know, women--
BARBARA YOUNG: Unfortunately that's true.
GRANT WILLIAMS: --are underrepresented. Yeah, exactly right. I'd love to, as I love to do with people, take you back to the beginning and talk about how you got into finance, whether it was an itch that you wanted to scratch when you were a kid or you just kind of found your way into it.
BARBARA YOUNG: Oh, it was very definitely something I fell into. I came out of college being what was deemed to be overeducated and couldn't type. So I had a difficult time finding a job, and banking looked appealing because I thought they worked 10:00 to 3:00 since that was banking hours back in the day. And I got a job working at a bank thinking that I really wanted to work with autistic children. So it was a really far cry from what I thought I would be doing.
But once you got on a path of actually being employed, it was very difficult to give up a paycheck and go back and do something else. And then I realized I really wanted to be a lawyer, but back in that time it was not common for women to be going to law school. So I really wanted my husband to go to law school, and he was not so thrilled about the thought of going to law school.
So I stayed working in banking, but I did get a masters in law, thinking that I would somehow migrate into that. I progressed so rapidly in the banking situation that it became even harder to leave and start something else. So then I decided I'd get an MBA, and that propelled me even further. And I happened to be deemed a golden girl and just progressed very rapidly and started actually the private bank at the institution I was with, which was unknown at the time, especially on the West Coast-- very different from the East Coast. And that just propelled me. I just kind of got into that groove and never came out of it.
GRANT WILLIAMS: So back then, what was-- now what are we talking here? What time frame are we talking here?
BARBARA YOUNG: I started in the '70s, so decades ago.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Yeah, but banking was-- I guess you got into the private banking in the late '70s.
BARBARA YOUNG: Yes.
GRANT WILLIAMS: So what was it like back then? Because obviously we all kind of a sense of it today, but it was very different.
BARBARA YOUNG: It was very different, and it was very different from the East Coast. The East Coast I think viewed private banking more as it is today where it was a lot of investment and concierge-type services. On the West Coast, it was really helping wealthy individuals finance their investments. And so I was working with people that were-- being in California, wealth was generated at that time primarily from real estate. So I was working with a lot of real-estate investors and developers and had a very great aptitude for real estate. I loved it. I learned it very quickly and worked with a lot of the great real-estate folks in California.
And then in the '80s it turned to the venture capitalists-- not so much the entrepreneurs but the capitalists themselves. So I had a really strong background in both real estate and in venture capital, not so much in public equities. So it was a very different type of private banking. It was really financing the investments of the wealthy, which meant I was reviewing their financial statements and their income-tax returns, their trust documents because I was doing almost like a private-equity type of investigation of their financial background. So it was a very different type of private bank than it is today.
GRANT WILLIAMS: But the early '80s-- obviously 1981, '82 was a fantastic time to be looking to buy real estate.
BARBARA YOUNG: Oh, it was fabulous, yes.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Take us back to that time because obviously with today's real-estate market all across the world it's really hard to imagine depressed real-estate prices.
BARBARA YOUNG: Well, and interest rates, if you recall, back then were 16%, 17%. I mean, that's very hard for people to remember too. It was really outrageous. But back then real estate was booming, and in San Francisco it was especially booming, and there was a lot of redevelopment, a lot of building going on both in new office buildings, a lot of rehab of existing buildings, and a lot of development going on in housing, both in downtown San Francisco and in the outlying areas. And it was not yet the boom of Silicon Valley. It hadn't really started picking up there. But the housing boom was still going on quite strongly very near in to San Francisco.
And so I was working with a lot of developers and a lot of individuals that were just buying properties and refurbishing them and holding them for their own book or flipping them. It was a time-- and a lot of people that were buying properties and doing work-live space. That was very popular back in that time.
So it was a real amalgamation of different types of real estate, but everything was going up. And it was a time that banks were-- or at least most of the major institutions were making a transition from having all of the lending done in the branches. If you can remember that far back, all of the decision making and the lending was done in the local branches, and they were starting to centralize it. So they would have a commercial group and a corporate group and a real-estate group.
And so at the institution I was with, they were starting to centralize that so that all of the developer loans were being centralized into the real-estate industry's group. So I was charged with getting a lot of these real-estate developers to make that transition, which they did kicking and screaming.
GRANT WILLIAMS: I'm sure.
BARBARA YOUNG: They knew that they could have a lot more flexibility if they were dealing in the branches than if they were dealing in the head office.
JUSTINE UNDERHILL: For Barbara Young, falling into finance turned into rapid career advancement in private banking. For Real Vision, I'm Justine Underhill.