It’s hard for Valerie Terrill to predict what she’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis. Her job as community wealth management trust advisor for U.S. Bank has her tackling a variety of tasks and responding to her clients’ needs as they come up, which makes it sound like her job is all reaction.
“It can be at times — but a big part of what I do is also looking for future problems so that we can solve them before they come up,” she said. “To me, my job is problem-solving and putting together puzzles to make sure that we get the best outcome possible for clients.”
Born in California, Terrill is an Army brat whose childhood included stints in Belgium and Hawaii before her family moved to Colorado in the late 1990s. She left to study at Boston College, but she moved back to the Springs after graduating — Boston’s winters were too much.
“I missed our Colorado winters, where you get 50-degree days in January. The snow falls, and it melts, and you get the sun more days than not,” she said. “My senior year of college, [that] January, I think it snowed 5 inches or more every five days for five weeks, something like that.”
Terrill talked with the Business Journal about her path into banking, and embracing her new role.
How have you been weathering this quarantine?
You know, it’s been very strange. In terms of work, I think we’re set up really well [at U.S. Bank]. Most of our team is working remotely, and we’re managing to keep all the balls in the air, take care of clients, do what we need to get done. It’s just strange. I had to go into the office the other day to pick up a file, and downtown was empty. I’ve never seen it like that. I worry about the small businesses and restaurants. We have such a good restaurant scene in town, and it took a long time for us to build that up — so I worry about them.
Tell us about your professional background.
I have been in banking for the last 4½ years. I started with U.S. Bank in November. Before that, I was with ANB Bank in a similar role for four years, and before that I was with a brokerage firm in town, Waddell & Reed, as a financial advisor. I was there for four years. So I’ve been in the financial services sphere for nearly nine years now. I graduated with economics and French degrees into a job market that was not ideal, per the last recession. I kind of fell into [my financial advising job]. But I found a role with ANB Bank in their trust department that I loved. I was really fascinated with being able to work on trust and estate accounts. The opportunity with U.S. Bank [let me] focus more on that and to do less with the investment and financial planning. Luckily, I’m still able to work in a support role for both of those things.
What was it like when you were first getting into this industry out of college?
It was tough. I was in a commission-based role, so it was, you know — you eat what you kill. But I learned a lot. I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay in the financial services world, but I ended up really enjoying working with the clients and doing some planning for them. That was really gratifying, working with people and being able to help them plan for their futures and put together things that will help them achieve their goals.
But that first year out of college was really hard. At that time, I was lucky enough I could live at home, so I didn’t have any significant bills that I had to make sure and get paid. Otherwise, it would have been really difficult. You’re starting from zero, and if you don’t bring in something and you don’t have a commissionable sale for the month, you don’t have any money coming in. It made me appreciate people who can do that long term.
Was there a clear turning point when you felt like you were really getting traction in your financial services career?
I think that turning point for me was at ANB Bank. I had completed some training and had earned my Certified Trust and Financial Advisor designation, and I felt like I was really getting my feet under me within the banking world. [I was] learning [how to handle] trust accounts, learning from really great mentors at ANB and finding the road that I wanted to go down. I took the job at ANB bank because I wanted to get in something a little bit more stable — I found enough stability in the brokerage world that I could pay my rent, I could pay my bills, and I could do what I needed to do, but it wasn’t something that I wanted to stay in long term. So the opportunity with ANB bank came at a really good time. That was where I was able to learn about the banking side and the trust and estate side specifically, get some more training, earn a designation, and then that provided the launching pad for me to move into their organization.
How did you decide to transition from ANB Bank to U.S. Bank?
I changed because [U.S. Bank was a] better opportunity. U.S. Bank approached me at a really good time, and I was really happy to come and work with a little bit bigger bank — a much bigger bank, really — and a bigger team.
Walk us through your day-to-day responsibilities in your current position.
It depends on the day. A lot of it can be what comes in from clients — what they need, if they need bills paid, things like that. Sometimes, I’ll review documents for bank clients who may not be our trust clients, but they may need some clarification on what their trust agreement says. But a lot of it lately, because I’m relatively new, is doing research on my new accounts, learning about the people that I’m working with, and learning about the documents that I’m working on. My job is to administer trusts and estates specifically, so I need to know what those documents say and what they mean. And sometimes, there can be something a little bit sticky with those too. For example, right now, we’re working to try to bring over an account from another institution, and we’re running into a little bit of an obstacle because our processes and [the processes at] that other institution don’t align.
What are your professional goals for 2020?
They’re not huge goals. I want to learn the accounts that I’m taking over. I want to learn the clients that I’m working with. I want to become their go-to person for whatever they need. I’m new to this team, so that’ll be a change for them, but I want to work through that. I am working with my manager on putting together some new outreach events for our clients or our referral sources. That’s on hold for right now, but I do want to get that up and running this year. I am also considering going back to school for my master’s degree.
What do you do outside of work?
I love to go skiing, so it really broke my heart when they had to close all of the mountains. I hike in the summer. Travel is a huge thing that I always grew up doing, and my husband and I both love to go and see new places.
Where do you like to go when you travel?
We went to Cuba last year in the fall. We’re going to Panama this year. We’re trying to plan a trip to Africa. My parents lived for a while in New Zealand, so I got the opportunity to see them, and that made the rest of the world feel not so far away. I don’t know how familiar you are with traveling there, but it’s a 14-hour flight from Los Angeles, so it’s a long time on a plane. Compared with that, a five- to seven-hour flight to Europe doesn’t seem so far.