From IWU Magazine, Spring 2013 edition

Journey to Success

To help navigate her clients’ financial futures, Brandt relies on core values

Being listed among the Top 50 Wirehouse Women in 2013 in REP magazine’s February edition is just the latest recognition for Carol Brandt ’78. For each of the past four years, she has also been named to Barron’s annual list of Top 100 Women Financial Advisors.

“It’s a huge honor,” Brandt says of being chosen again for the distinction by Barron’s financial magazine, which also lists her among the nation’s top 1,000 financial advisors for 2012.

As a Senior Vice President and Wealth Management Advisor at Merrill Lynch in Chicago, Brandt holds approximately $800 million in client assets.

“My job is a relationship business based on core values and trust, which were taught to me by my parents when I was growing up,” says Brandt. “These core values were reinforced during my time at Illinois Wesleyan.”

Brandt majored in music education at Wesleyan — a choice that has surprising applications to her current job. “In college, I learned to listen for nuances in music — and I have been able to apply that skill to my business, listening to nuances in what my clients are saying. In my education classes, I learned teaching and mentoring skills which I can bring to my clients as well as trainees within our organization.”

Brandt’s 26-year experience in the financial industry started not long after graduating cum laude from IWU, when she accepted a banking position at LaSalle Bank Chicago.

She says that she was “very fortunate to be chosen for a training class when LaSalle Bank started a bond department” before being transferred to the bank’s Wealth Management group.

While at LaSalle Bank, Brandt earned an M.B.A. in finance at DePaul University in Chicago and also obtained her Certified Financial Planner designation.

At Merrill Lynch, one of the world’s top financial management and advisory companies, Brandt works closely with a team of specialists to assist with accumulation, preservation and transfer of clients’ wealth. Her expertise includes fixed-income investing and bond markets.

“My goal is to provide peace of mind to my clients,” she says. “I take a conservative approach to help them protect the assets they have accumulated. This often involves investing a portion of the portfolio in high-grade bonds, which can provide income and safety of principal.”

Students attend a Council for IWU Women summit.
students attend Council for IWU Women summit

Over the course of her career, Brandt has experienced 12 mergers. The mergers, she says, “enabled me to help my clients navigate and adapt to a changing environment — and to not let short-term events derail their long-term goals and dreams.” Such experiences have also helped her learn to embrace change and the opportunities change can create, she says.

A resident of Chicago’s Near North Side, where she lives with her husband Bill, Brandt is active on the Lincoln Park Zoo Women’s Board. She also stayed in touch with her musical roots as founder and director the LaSalle Bank’s employee choir, which performed the national anthem at Cubs and White Sox games and has been featured on Chicago TV stations.

For her alma mater, Brandt serves on the Chicago Alumni Committee and was keynote speaker for the 2012 Council for IWU Women’s annual summit. She especially enjoys meeting students, sharing whatever advice she can offer to make their post-college transition easier.

“I am hopeful the life lessons I’ve learned can potentially serve as inspiration to the current generation of IWU students,” says Brandt, “and make them aware of the great possibilities open to them.”

To read Brandt's top 10 life lessons, click here.