For Colorado Springs native Ashley Schuermann, Colorado Springs is home — and she’s never strayed far away.
Born and raised in the Pikes Peak region, she attended Cheyenne Mountain High School before leaving for the University of Colorado Boulder, where she earned her undergraduate degree. She immediately moved back to the Springs and enrolled at UCCS, earning an MBA. Today, Schuermann is a retirement sales consultant at T. Rowe Price and, in her free time, works with filmmaker husband, Pete, to create cinema right from her hometown.
This week, Schuermann spoke with the Business Journal about working in finance and how her latest film project has gone to the dogs.
What was your undergrad degree?
Psychology. I came back to Colorado Springs right before [Sept. 11, 2001] and wasn’t sure what to do when I moved back here.
A mini-recession hit in 2001 and so I got my MBA in finance, marketing and international business. I ended up going back later and getting an emphasis in accounting.
Did you ever pursue a career in psychology?
I debated that and thought about going to law school; I was pre-med at one point. … But I’d always had an interest in psychology and declared that my major my freshman year thinking it would help me out with anything in my career path. I’d think about getting my master’s in counseling — I’ve always been the person who counsels my friends. But I’d never seriously gone in that direction. I did enjoy studying the subject and figured the liberal arts background would be a great baseline for business.
Why did you pursue business?
I was always really interested in marketing in college. I took advertising classes along with psychology classes and was interested in the human mind and the buying behaviors of people.
After college, I thought I really wanted to pursue an MBA in marketing and about halfway through I thought, ‘You know, I’m gonna graduate in two years so I might as well add another area of emphasis.’
I thought finance would be a challenge for me. I was never great at math.
They say if you can get an MBA in finance, it looks impressive, so I thought it would be great to pursue with marketing as a fall back in case I don’t find a great fit in marketing or advertising.
After graduation I interviewed at a couple of ad agencies. I kind of looked into pursuing that. The most job opportunities I could find were in the financial field. I more or less thought I would get into this for a couple years and ended up really liking it. Here I am, 15 years later. I started in banking but have been with T. Rowe Price for 10 years.
When did you know finance would be your career track?
After college I interviewed with a local ad agency. It was down to me and one other person for this job I really wanted. They gave it to the other person. I was crushed, but a friend of mine who worked as a property manager in the Palmer Center downtown said, ‘There’s a new company coming into the building. How about I pass your resumé along?’
It was a business bank, Colorado Capital Bank. I was impressed they called right away. I had coffee with the CEO for my first interview. They really treated me well. … I got a great feeling about the company and saw it as a chance to work at, basically, a startup, wear different hats and do different things.
What did you do?
I was hired with the intention of being a credit analyst. We were such a small shop, four people at our branch when we opened the doors. So I started working at the front desk, opening new accounts, answering phones, conversing with the tellers and learning their job.
About six months later I moved to credit analysis. … I moved from credit analysis to junior commercial lending. When I left the bank I was assistant VP of treasury management.
So I kind of moved over to more the sales side of things — trying to get more deposit business. And then, at the time, I met my now husband. He has his own video production business and needed someone to help him with business development and account management at that time. I was ready for something different. We weren’t married yet but it was headed in that direction. We got married the same month I left [the bank]. I left in February 2008 and worked with Pete for about eight months. But in late 2008, we know what happened with the economy. Things started to get a little bit tighter and production work wasn’t as plentiful as it was earlier in the year.
Talk about working at T. Rowe Price.
I started out as a 401(k) representative, working the phones and helping 401(k) participants when they called.
I got my licenses and about six months later, I got an opportunity to travel and give presentations to 401(k)participants. Fall is the busy season for participant education because of open enrollment. They want someone out there getting people enrolled in 401(k) plans. That got me off the phone about half the month and I got to travel, meet people face to face, speak in front of groups from 350 [people] to maybe four or five. I spent a year and a half doing that and then moved into client account management. I worked with a book of clients and I was basically their day-to-day contact. … I did that for 3½ years and then moved into sales and was sales support for an internal sales consultant for two large market sales producers. So when they’re out on the road, which is a lot, I was their internal counterpart and acted as their representation.
Is that where you are now?
Two years ago I was working with a sales producer who’s based out of San Francisco. His specialty is client retention. So he and I work together to retain our largest 401(k) clients — plans anywhere from about $100 million in assets to multiple billions. They, more or less, created the position for me because client retention is such a huge goal of the firm. Obviously it’s a lot easier to retain the clients you have than go out and find new clients.
With fee transparency in the industry, there are more clients more frequently looking and comparing fees.
Has the city changed for young professionals?
I think it’s changed quite a bit. There are so many people moving here as opposed to Denver. We have such a beautiful environment. I personally don’t know why anyone would choose to live in Denver over here, if you’re looking from a beauty perspective.
I would love to see the wages get to where they are in Denver and the kind of jobs young professionals want to be in move down here at a greater frequency. But I think we’re moving in the right direction.
Talk about your film production work.
I’ve worked on and off with my husband throughout the years as a producer on different film projects. … Schuermann Collective is the umbrella company, but each project is under a different LLC.
The project we’re working on currently — we recently created a nonprofit called Sit.Stay.SpeakOut!, which was created to bring awareness to animal issues through media.
The initial project for this nonprofit is the movie “A Voice for Lil Olive.” It’s a movie about a puppy mill survivor and Pam Horton, who adopted her. It’s a story about the love the dog has for her and that Pam has for the dog. We’re working on the project right now.
Ultimately we want Sit.Stay.SpeakOut! to perpetuate. We’d like to do PSAs and short videos, social media pieces, educating everybody about the importance of adopting … and not getting dogs through pet stores or even reputable breeders.
When does the film come out?
We’re looking for a release date in 2019. We’ve been working on it for about two years now. We’ve been trying to get funding to finish the project but we have about a third of it shot. We’ve traveled all over the country. …
Kaley Cuoco from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ is actually part of the project. She’s going to be narrating part of it. She’s a huge supporter of animal rights and what we’re doing.
How did that connection happen?
We were working with a publicist who reached out to Kaley. We sent her a care package and information about the movie. Lil Olive has a Facebook page with 52,000 followers. I think Kaley started following the Facebook page and really loved the story of Pam and Olive. … She’s become very good friends with Pam. … [Cuoco is] an amazing person that goes out of her way to do good things for other people and animals. We appreciate what she’s doing.