Deborah Abildsoe took her college year studying abroad a little further than most. After finishing her degree while studying overseas, she was offered a job working for Den norske Creditbank in Oslo, trading fixed-income securities.
“I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll work here a little bit, because my chances of working overseas will be slim to none once I get back to the U.S.’ A husband and two kids later, it just took me 20 years to get back,” she laughed.
Being introduced to the sharp-elbowed world of international finance in Scandinavia did give her a somewhat different perspective than most.
During her time in Norway, she had been her family’s primary breadwinner. When she transitioned her career back to the States, she said that “one of the things the bank did was give me access to a [career] advisor, and the first thing he said to me was, ‘So, what does your husband do?’ And I said, ‘Why is that relevant?’ And he said, ‘Well, we need to know what your husband does so that the job we find for you will fit in his schedule.’ And I said, ‘This interview is over.’”
In the years since she returned to the States, Abildsoe has taken her fixed-income knowledge in a more personal direction. In 1999, she launched her own firm, Asset & Investment Retirement Associates (ARIA) to advise high-net-worth individuals on how to invest for their retirement.
Perhaps having had a taste of the power of bad advice, Abildsoe relishes the challenge of helping individual clients.
“It’s more of a listening job,” she said. Unlike an institutional investor, who aims to hit a specific target each quarter, “You’re not taking aggressive action so much as listening to what each individual’s situation is and creating a profile around that situation … it’s more fun, because there’s a lot of interesting people out there.”
A recognized expert in her field, Abildsoe has written several scholarly articles on estate and tax planning and co-authored Understanding TIAA-CREF: How to Plan for a Secure and Comfortable Retirement for the Oxford University Press. In 2011, she partnered with Guilford Savings Bank to help grow the bank’s personal asset management division. It’s proved a fruitful partnership, growing the bank’s assets under management by over 78 percent, to approximately $165 million in just three years.
Much of that is down to Abildsoe’s leadership. “Deb has been an inspiration to me and a pleasure to work with. Coming from a much larger, publicly-traded bank, I find the lack of politics, mutual respect and professional work environment to be refreshing. Working in a harmonious office where my strengths are appreciated and entrepreneurialism is welcomed is truly rare today,” said Brant Walker, a portfolio manager with Guilford.
A Branford native, Abildsoe enjoys giving back to her community. She currently serves as president of the Guilford Free Library Board and board member of the Guilford Art Center.