Business as a Calling
If you’ve ever had feelings of insecurity or doubt, times of wondering what your life is about, or questions about what to do next, please know that you are not alone. Life can be challenging, and it is only with a solid foundation in the Word of God that we can find all of the answers we need, and the confidence to take those bold steps forward.
Although a career in finance was far from anything I had ever imagined as a young girl growing up in Ohio, I found myself having a very successful Wall Street career in the investment management industry. Looking back, I can honestly say that the solid foundation I had from my family and my faith gave me the guidance I would need to navigate a career in some of the largest institutions in the world, and, as a woman, to be a leader in the very male-dominated investment management industry.
Early in my career, I adopted three principles: I would work really hard; I would solve problems; and I would help people. Working really hard meant that when I finished an assignment I would look for another one. I was always asking for more to do. (It wasn’t until much later in my career that I realized not everyone does that.) In solving problems, I found that one of my greatest strengths is making processes efficient—finding a better way to do things (or finding a way to do them at all). I also discovered that I found true joy in helping other people be more successful; as a leader that turned out to be a tremendous quality.
Those principles served me well. In 1994, I was promoted to run a $35 billion global asset management firm, and by the time I was 40 (in 2001), I was recruited to be the CEO of a $55 billion private wealth management organization. I had a career I loved and a wonderful family. That being said, while I lived by a personal commitment to honor God in all I do, I always felt guilty about having a career in business—especially one which I enjoyed and that brought me significant personal rewards. So, in 2005, after a momentous career accomplishment, I retired to finally be able to “serve God.”
After what I call my three-year “wilderness” journey, where I was desperately seeking my purpose, God demonstrated that business was my calling. My job had been my very own mission field. That “freed” me to begin exploring ways to get back in to finance, but, this time, in a way that would also make a positive difference in the world. So, at the end of 2008, I failed retirement. I started an impact investing firm that would create funds that would both deliver market-rate returns, and have positive impact in the world. The years that followed were challenging, although probably not unusual for an entrepreneur, but I had the benefit of knowing, without any doubt, that if I allowed God to lead, He would use my company for His purposes. My job is to stay close enough to Him that I hear and follow His lead. I’m happy to say that here, in 2017, my firm has been an 8-year overnight success, having invested more than $700 million to impact investments that deliver market-rate returns and proof of positive impact in communities around the world.
Gloria Nelund spent 30 years on Wall Street as one of the most successful and visible executives in the international investment management industry. After retiring from Deutsche Bank as CEO of their $50 billion North America Private Wealth Management division, she co-founded TriLinc Global; an investment firm dedicated to launching and managing innovative impact investment funds that will exponentially increase private capital participation to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Gloria presented at the 2017 Pressure Points conference on “Letting God Lead.” She was also the Plenary Speaker for WLI’s Gifted to Influence Conference.WLI