COO, SVP, Private Client Group
Managing Director, Head of Diversity & Inclusion
Morgan Stanley Wealth Management
Assistant Professor & Director of Financial Planning Program
California Lutheran University
Principal, Chief Diversity Officer
Maria Contreras-Sweet was sworn in as the 24th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and as a member of President Obama’s cabinet on April 7, 2014.
The SBA is charged with supporting America’s 28 million small businesses, which create a majority of U.S. jobs and employ half of our nation’s private-sector workforce. The Agency oversees the world’s largest seed fund and the largest middle market fund of funds, as well as a $120 billion loan portfolio. It also directs the world’s largest business counseling network and one-quarter of the federal procurement activity to small businesses.
As a business leader, California state cabinet official and entrepreneur, Contreras-Sweet’s achievements in bringing efficiencies and modernization to large scale organizations have earned her international acclaim. Her drive to bring SBA into the digital age, and expand into broader domestic and global markets, has yielded record results in lending and contracting for small businesses.
Contreras-Sweet started three businesses, including a community bank in downtown Los Angeles, focused on small and mid-size businesses where she served as its executive chairwoman for seven years.
Prior, Contreras-Sweet served as the California cabinet Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, where she oversaw 44,000 employees, a $14 billion budget, and 14 state departments, including the departments of Transportation, Highway Patrol, Housing, Financial Institutions, Corporations, Real Estate and the DMV. She also oversaw the creation of the Department of Managed Health Care and its Office of Patient Advocate. During the state’s energy crisis, she was asked to serve on the board of California’s electrical power grid, CA-ISO, and helped to stabilize the volatile energy market amid the state’s rolling blackouts.
At the age of 24, Contreras-Sweet served as a district manager for the U.S. Census Bureau, hiring and managing 700 employees. She was then recruited by Westinghouse and joined their commercial division’s 7-Up/RC Bottling Company, at the time the largest 7UP bottler in the world, where she later became an equity partner. During her tenure, they posted double the national average sales and she helped lead California’s legislative negotiations for the creation of the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act.
Contreras-Sweet is a founding director of The California Endowment, a $3 billion foundation dedicated to improving the health status of Californians. She served on the Boards of Blue Cross of California and numerous nonprofit organizations.
Contreras-Sweet sees entrepreneurship as a force that can change lives and lift whole communities around the world. Entrepreneurship helps people realize dreams and brings dignity to those who embrace its challenges.
Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU School of Law. He was educated at Harvard (B.A. 1991), Oxford (M.Sc. 1993 as a Rhodes Scholar), and Yale Law School (J.D. 1996). He taught at Yale Law School from 1998 to 2008, where he served as Deputy Dean (2005-6) and became the inaugural Guido Calabresi Professor in 2006. His fields are constitutional law, anti-discrimination law, and law and literature. He has received several distinctions for his teaching, most recently the Podell Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014.
Yoshino is the author of three books—Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial (2015); A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare’s Plays Teach Us About Justice (2011); and Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (2006). Yoshino has published in major academic journals, including The Harvard Law Review, The Stanford Law Review, and The Yale Law Journal. He has also written for more popular forums, including The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
Yoshino makes regular appearances on radio and television programs, such as NPR, CNN, PBS and MSNBC. In 2015, he became a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine’s podcast and column “The Ethicists.”
In 2011, he was elected to the Harvard Board of Overseers for a six-year term. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for Talent Innovation, the Board of the Brennan Center for Justice, the External Advisory Panel for Diversity and Inclusion for the World Bank Group, the Global Advisory Board for Out Leadership, and the Inclusion External Advisory Council for Deloitte.
He lives in New York City with his husband and two children.
Ms. Salene Hitchcock-Gear serves as Director at Pruco Life Variable Contract Real Property Account and Pruco Life of New Jersey Variable Contract Real Property Account since March 2019. She has been President of Individual Life Insurance at Prudential Financial, Inc. since June 15, 2018 and was its President of Prudential Advisors until June 15, 2018. Ms. Hitchcock-Gear represents Prudential as a director on the Women Presidents’ Organization Advisory Board, and also serves as a director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and as a member of the New York State Bar Association. Previously, she served as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Prudential Financial from May 2017 to November 2017. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, a Juris Doctor degree from New York University School of Law, as well as FINRA Series 7 and 24 securities licenses.
Kate Healy is Managing Director of Generation Next at TD Ameritrade Institutional. In this role, she oversees TD Ameritrade Institutional’s industry-leading NextGen initiatives, including scholarships, grants, a career exchange and an internship network, all designed to help registered investment advisor (RIA) firms bring younger and more diverse talent into the business.
Kate joined TD Ameritrade Institutional in 2008, most recently serving as Managing Director of Marketing responsible for the development of marketing strategies and the execution of programs to help increase awareness and deepen relationships with nearly 5,000 independent RIAs who custody with TD Ameritrade Institutional. She oversaw the growth of the TD Ameritrade Institutional brand, including the division’s website, social media, acquisition and advertising efforts. Additionally, she was TD Ameritrade’s 2014 Impact Award winner for Diversity and Inclusiveness. Kate has spent more than 20 years in a variety of roles supporting the program development and marketing of financial and estate planning services in the financial planning industry.
She is a trustee for the Foundation for Financial Planning, a member of the Invest in Others board, is a founding member of the Center for Financial Planning Women’s Initiative (WIN) Council, and sits on the Center for Financial Planning’s Advisory Council. As an advocate for the industry, she was named to InvestmentNews’ inaugural “Women to Watch” in 2015, and to Investment Advisor magazine’s annual list of the 25 most influential people in the industry. Kate holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Rutgers College and has completed the Securities Industry Institute program, sponsored by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) at the Wharton School of Business.
Sam Palmer is a Managing Director and the Head of Business Development and Strategy for Chase Wealth Management (CWM). In his current role he is responsible for identifying and executing opportunities to drive growth, performance, and health of CWM. He is the Chair of CWM’s Diversity and Inclusion Programs which aim to drive diverse thought, experience, and equitable distribution of opportunity among CWM advisors. He is also managing the direct-to-consumer wealth management business.
Prior to JP Morgan, Sam spent 10 years at McKinsey and Company where he advised executives of retail banks and wealth management firms on a number of topics ranging from overall strategy, to driving revenue growth, to value proposition design, working with leading firms across the US and Europe.
Sam enjoys kitesurfing, skiing, and sailing, and is an avid musician. He graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Economics.
Mr. Mark C. Tibergien is Chief Executive Officer of Pershing Advisor Solutions, a BNY Mellon company. He is also a Managing Director for Pershing. In addition, he was named to BNY Mellon’s Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Council to the CEO. Prior to joining Pershing in 2007, he was a principal at the accounting and consulting firm, Moss Adams LLP, where he was partner-in-charge of the Business Consulting group, chairman of the Financial Services Industry group and partner-in-charge of the Business Valuation group. Previously, he was president of a nationally recognized bank and business training and consulting firm, a principal in an investment management and business valuation firm, a writer for a financial trade magazine and a general assignment newspaper and radio reporter. He has worked with public and private companies on matters related to business management, transition planning and strategy formulation since 1976. This includes hundreds of independent registered investment advisors, broker-dealers, investment managers, insurance companies and other financial services organizations in the United States, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and Canada. In a 2017 Investment Advisor survey, he was named The Most Influential Person in Financial Services, with almost half of respondents voting for him. For his contributions to the industry, in 2016 he was named to the 2016 InvestmentNews’ Icons & Innovators list which recognizes those who have shaped and transformed the financial advice profession. In 2015, Private Asset Management magazine honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication, commitment and achievements in the industry. He has been recognized 14 times by, Investment Advisor (IA) magazine as one of the “25 Most Influential People” in the financial services industry and, in 2016, IA ranked him as number one in the “Top 7 Most Honored People in IA’s 25 History.” He received the 2015 Insiders Forum Leadership Award, and was named to the 2012 InvestmentNews “The Power 20” list. For eight consecutive years, Accounting Today recognized him as one of the “100 Most Influential” people in the accounting profession. He is the author of four books published by Bloomberg Press (John Wiley & Sons), Practice Made Perfect, How to Value, Buy or Sell a Financial Advisory Practice, Practice Made (More) Perfect and the latest, The Enduring Advisory Firm, co-authored with Kim Dellarocca, Global Head of Marketing for Asset Servicing and Technology at BNY Mellon. He has also been a regular columnist for Investment Advisor magazine and monthly contributor to ThinkAdvisor.com on management issues since 2005. He has previously served in a variety of community and industry organizations including the Rotary Club of Seattle, Travelers Aid Society, the Foundation for Financial Planning, the International Association for Financial Planning and the SIFMA Foundation. Most recently, he was named to the Advisory Council for the Center for Financial Planning whose mission is to promote diversity in the advisory profession.
Amy Philbrook is the head of diversity and inclusion for Fidelity Investments, a leading provider of investment management, retirement planning, portfolio guidance, brokerage, benefits outsourcing and other financial products and services to more than 26 million individuals, institutions and financial intermediaries. Ms. Philbrook assumed her current position in 2017 and leads the effort to ensure that Fidelity is a workplace and service provider where everyone can fully be themselves. In her role, she is responsible for creating and attracting a more a diverse workforce, tapping into the power of our differences to develop and retain talent, creating a culture of inclusion, and showcasing Fidelity’s reputation and brand as an inclusive employer and service provider. Ms. Philbrook joined Fidelity in 1995 and has held a variety of positions throughout the firm, including in human resources, compliance, retirement investment services, marketing and sales, and quality assurance and risk management. Prior to joining Fidelity, she worked in human resources for Fish & Richardson P.C., an intellectual property and litigation firm. Ms. Philbrook received a Bachelor of Science in political science and government from Northeastern University. She also holds the FINRA Principal Series 7 and 24 licenses.
Ronald J. Adams is the Head of Field Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) at Northwestern Mutual where he leads a team of diversity practitioners responsible for the creation and execution of D&I strategies for the organization’s career distribution system. In this role, Ron co-leads the Northwestern Mutual D&I Corporate Committee and serves on the Field Experience Talent Management Leadership Team focused on developing and delivering core components of the overall field talent strategy to ensure the industry-leading Northwestern Mutual career distribution system is strong and vibrant.
Ron joined Northwestern Mutual in January 2015 with 26 years of military experience where he held various leadership roles including the Wisconsin National Guard’s Diversity Officer, Equal Employment Manager, Human Resources Branch Chief, Operations Officer, Public Affairs Officer, and Commander of a logistics company and a public affairs detachment, respectively. Ron continues his 31-year military career as a Coach, Observer, Trainer (OC/T) in the Army Reserves.
Ron is a founding board member and immediate past president of the Wisconsin Veterans Network (VetsNet) – a nonprofit organization serving veterans and their families throughout WI. He is a member of the national diversity committee for the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting (AALU). He serves as a member of the advisory committee and a young adult mentor for the MKE Fellows program creating a pipeline of African-American male college graduates ready to return to Wisconsin to excel in their careers, build wealth, and become engaged leaders. Ron is an executive coach for mid-level cross-sector leaders enrolled in The African American Leadership Program (AALP) in partnership with The African American Leadership Alliance of Milwaukee and Cardinal Stritch University.
Ron is a recipient of the Army’s General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, the NAACP Roy Wilkins Renown National Service Award, a member of the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara, and numerous military awards and decorations. He is a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the National Guard Officers Association. He is the past president of the board for the Greater Madison Federal Agency Association and past vice president of the board for the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative (MHVI). Ronald holds Master of Arts in Strategic Communications and Leadership (MASCL) from Seton Hall University and earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management while serving in the military from Phoenix University. Ron is a Results Certified Coach, through the NeuroLeadership Institute.
Ron and his wife, Angela, reside in Milwaukee, WI and they have one son and three daughters. He is originally from Brooklyn, NY where his enthusiasm for sports, music and culture began.
Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column The Color of Money, which appears in The Washington Post on Wednesdays and Sundays. Her award-winning column is syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group and is carried in dozens of newspapers nationwide. She has written three personal finance books, including her latest, “The 21-Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom.” Singletary was the financial expert for “The Revolution,” a daytime program on ABC. For two years, she was host of her own national television program, “Singletary Says,” on TV One. She is a frequent contributor to various NPR programs and has appeared on national talk shows and television networks, including “Oprah,” NBC’s “Today,” “The Early Show on CBS” and CNN.
In her spare time, Singletary is the director of a ministry she founded at her church, in which women and men volunteer to mentor others who are having financial challenges. As part of this ministry, she and her husband also volunteer to teach financial literacy to prison inmates. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park. She has received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a master’s degree in business and management.
Elissa Sangster serves as CEO of Forté and brings to the role extensive knowledge of issues affecting women’s abilities to seek, prepare for and attain business leadership positions, drawn from her prior experience as Assistant Dean and Director of the MBA Program at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. There she oversaw all activities related to the full-time McCombs MBA program including marketing, admissions, student services, and alumni relations. Before McCombs, Elissa was Assistant Director of the MBA Program at Texas A&M University’s Mays School of Business. Elissa currently serves as Treasurer and Board Member for the Thirty Percent Coalition. She also sits on the Women’s Initiative Council of the CFP Board (Certified Financial Planning Board). She is past Chair of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Annual Industry Conference and formerly served as chair of MBA Student Services Professionals (MBA SSP). Elissa sits on the board of Forté as an ex-officio member. She enjoys reading, running, cooking, and Aggie football. She lives in San Antonio with her husband, Jeremy, and their daughter, Anna Leigh. Elissa received her MBA and her B.A. in English from Texas A&M University.
Cheryl D. Creuzot, a 35-year industry veteran, is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of Wealth Development Strategies, LLC, a position she has held since 2001. Wealth Development Strategies, one of Houston’s oldest comprehensive financial planning firms, offers contemporary, personalized solutions for individuals and business professionals who wish to protect, grow and efficiently distribute their wealth. The boutique firm consists of 30 plus associates who combine extensive financial experience and expertise to affect personalized client solutions. Ms. Creuzot carries the same spirit of service delivery to her numerous civic and charitable endeavors. She is currently a Director of The Greater Houston Partnership. She was also recently appointed as Chair to The University Of Houston Board Of Visitors, and serves as Vice Chair of the University of Houston Foundation (Investment Committee). Ms. Creuzot serves on the Board of Visitors of the MD Anderson Cancer Center (Government Relations Committee), as well as the board of the Frenchy’s Companies, a 45-year-old family owned restaurant and food processing organization. Ms. Creuzot is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors and a member of the Tri-City Chapter of Women Corporate Directors.
Luis focuses on helping people build a better financial future. Luis is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and is enrolled to practice before the IRS. This diverse industry knowledge allows him to best serve his clients by understanding how one financial decision affects the other, allowing him to better guide them toward achieving their goals. Luis has been quoted in articles published in NBC News, Yahoo Finance, Investopedia, Business Insider, The Daily News, and other online publications. He’s also one of the few Spanish speaking CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals in the country. Although he lives in the Las Vegas area, he works with clients all across the country using video conferencing . When not helping a client, volunteering, or hosting an event, you can find Luis eating at one of his favorite vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Los Angeles or Las Vegas.