CEO, The Jamrog Group
She Impacts Her Community, Her Industry, and the Lives of Her Clients
Amy Jamrog likes to say that she wasn’t raised in Holyoke — she was raised by Holyoke.
By that, she meant the community’s people, businesses, business owners, institutions, traditions, and more certainly influenced her and shaped who she is today — much like a family would.
As an example, she noted her first job, which she took at age 14, at a business called the Party Store, a part of the former Quirk Paper Co., located in the city’s Flats section and owned by Jon and Helene Florio. This was a learning experience on more levels than she could count.
“I worked there all through high school,” Jamrog said. “And I met so many Holyoke residents who wanted to shop locally and support local businesses, and I really came to understand the DNA of Holyoke. I also learned customer service, what it meant to be a part of a community, and the importance of giving back, which they [the Florios] did so much of.
“So many of the things I learned growing up were about community, giving back, volunteering … and all of it happened here,” she went on. “It stayed with me.”
Suffice it to say that Jamrog — who has long had a Holyoke address for the Jamrog Group, the financial-advisory firm she founded and now serves as CEO — has spent a lifetime applying the lessons she learned while at the Party Store, as a candystriper at Providence Hospital, later while working at the Holyoke Mall, and while compiling a record that would earn her the rank of valedictorian at Holyoke Catholic High School.
“So many of the things I learned growing up were about community, giving back, volunteering … and all of it happened here. It stayed with me.”
Indeed, when she started as a financial advisor, she was focused on making a difference for her clients and their families. And while that focus remains, she has broadened and deepened her impact, committing herself to making a difference within her community, meaning the 413, and within her industry, especially with women in the profession or thinking about getting in.
She does this in many ways — through service as a board member to organizations like the Girl Scouts and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts; as a mentor to countless young people in the industry, especially women, who face the same challenges as men and others that are unique to them; as an author, through two bestselling books, Life Savings Conversations and Confetti Moments: 52 Moments to Spark Conversation, Connect Deeply & Celebrate the Ordinary; and, most recently, though her election in June to the board of Finseca (Financial Security for All), a nonprofit organization advocating for the financial-security profession.
In 2020, she created a resource for financial advisors called Four Wings Consulting, with a dragonfly as its symbol. Four Wings was formed to help advisors cope with the many challenges they have been facing in recent years, from the pandemic and its many side effects to the wild swings in the stock market; from soaring interest rates to general uncertainty about the economy and what will happen next.
It’s just one of the ways in which Jamrog has become a true Woman of Impact.
Dollars and Sense
As she was cleaning out her office recently while preparing to relocate the Jamrog Group from its former home on Northampton Street in Holyoke, not far from where she grew up, to a small suite in the office tower at 330 Whitney Ave. in that same city, Jamrog came across a note she wrote to herself years ago, when the firm was in Northampton.
It took the form of a 10-year vision statement, something she updates every year, which included the goal to buy a building in Holyoke.
“I wanted to build an office that felt like an extension of home for people,” she recalled. “And I wrote in my 10-year vision that I wanted to own a building on Northampton Street, come back to my roots, be a taxpayer in the community that raised me, and build something permanent — which was the building I ultimately bought. And 10 years later, that actually happened.”
That note, and everything that has happened after she wrote it, speaks volumes about Jamrog and why she is a Woman of Impact — everything from her commitment to long-term planning and her ability to make plans reality to that strong attachment to the Holyoke community, to her understanding that ‘permanent’ is a relative term.
“For people who come into this business specifically wanting to make money, it can be very disappointing because it takes a long time, and you need grit and perseverance and a great work ethic to make it through the first five years. Most people don’t.”
Indeed, 10 years after she moved into the property on Northampton Street, the landscape had changed profoundly. Her team works remotely most days of the week now (everyone is in on Mondays), and clients see their advisors far more on Zoom than they do in the office. These are changes that negate the need for an office that feels like an extension of home.
The moral of this story, if it can be called that, is that planning is important, but revising the plan to meet a changing world is more important.
This is the basic advice Jamrog gives to her clients as a financial advisor, a profession she assumed after taking a somewhat winding career route.
After she graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, she entered the healthcare field, working first for Baystate Health and then for Hospice of Pioneer Valley, as a community liaison between hospice and the physicians in our community.
“My job was to meet with physicians and explain to them what hospice was really about so they could refer their patients earlier in their terminal diagnoses so families could take full advantage of hospice services,” she explained. “It was interesting work; I was 22, 23 years old … I was young, but I learned how to communicate effectively with physicians. Then I was recruited to being a financial advisor; it was a very natural transition.”
As for that recruitment effort, it was undertaken by Andy Skroback, then 62, who became her first mentor in this difficult business. And it was during her first few years under Skroback’s tutelage that she realized the profound impact she could have, as a female advisor, on families.
But over the course of her career, she has broadened her scope when it comes to impact, a pattern that continues today.
“That word ‘impact’ has always been important to me,” Jamrog said. “I began my financial-services career really wanting to impact families and my clients, many of whom were physicians. Today, our clients are corporate executives, small-business owners, and nonprofit endowments, where we manage their portfolios. That’s where the shift to having a bigger impact on my community really started to matter. The work we did with nonprofits helping nonprofits manage their endowments really got us grounded in how important philanthropy and our nonprofits really are.”
Risk and Reward
After successfully building her business — there are now nine team members — and becoming actively involved in the community on a number of levels, especially with nonprofits devoted to “women and children as leaders,” such as Girls Inc., Girls on the Run, and the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts — Jamrog added an additional point of emphasis: impacting her profession.
She does this in many ways and through many vehicles, including Four Wings Consulting. Her specific focus is women in the industry, she said, adding that she coaches more than 100 of them across the country.
“Making an impact on women in our business is very important to me,” she said. “The business itself is difficult, but to be female is really challenging. So if I can help shorten their trajectory and become successful sooner, and realize just how much impact and satisfaction this career can have — that’s some of my favorite work.”
Elaborating, she started by saying that financial-security work is much harder than it might look to those receiving such services. The hours are long, the work difficult, and the failure rate is quite high: close to 90%.
“For people who come into this business specifically wanting to make money, it can be very disappointing because it takes a long time, and you need grit and perseverance and a great work ethic to make it through the first five years. Most people don’t,” Jamrog said, adding that, while it’s certainly challenging for everyone, the attrition rate for women is even higher, for reasons she explained in detail.
“Without stereotyping too much, most of my male counterparts — their one job is to be a financial advisor,” she explained. “Most of my female counterparts … one of their jobs is to be a financial advisor; they also have spouse, mom, the prepper of the meals, the taker of kids to school, and all the other things that women tend to have on their plates.
“So I try to really help women figure out the integration of all of the responsibilities and goals that they have and how we manage all of them and be successful in each of them; that’s the ultimate challenge,” she went on. “I often hear women say, ‘if I’m successful as a financial advisor, I’m not being successful as a mom, and if I’m focused on being successful as a mom, I’m less successful as a financial advisor,’ and that, to me, is such a sad statement because it doesn’t have to be the case.”
Jamrog knows because she’s lived that life for 27 years. She says it’s a constant challenge to be successful in the multiple roles women accept, but it is “absolutely doable.” She has shown that one can successfully balance work at home, in the office, and in the community, and succeed in each realm.
And in another realm as well: as an author. Her second book, Confetti Moments: 52 Moments to Spark Conversation, Connect Deeply & Celebrate the Ordinary, a collection of Jamrog’s uplifting blog posts from the deepest months of the pandemic, sits on a number of bestseller lists, including the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, and USA Today. It has become popular with CEOs, team managers, and even families as a way to motivate, accent the positive, and even build teamwork.
The Next Chapter
Jamrog is essentially done with her third book, which she described as her college thesis. “The paper copy has been sitting on a shelf for 30 years, and I’m in the process of editing it.”
This is a coming-of-age novel about 12-year-old girls, she told BusinessWest, adding that readers from this area will find that it sounds quite familiar; it’s about growing up in a small town in Western Mass., as she did.
Then again, she didn’t just grow up in Holyoke, she was raised by that remarkable city, and everything she learned growing up there has helped shape her into a Woman of Impact.