Written by Kevin Tung on January 09 2019

Through My Lens: Christina Gustin

Art and finance may seem like polar opposites, but Christina Gustin has harmoniously incorporated both into her life and career.  Christina is a Board Member of Outside the Lens, and the current Board Chair. She is also a financial advisor at the downtown San Diego branch of UBS, a wealth management firm.  Originally from northern California, she moved to San Diego with her family in middle school. She attended UCLA, and graduated with a degree in Art History. After college Christina began her career in finance, and has lived in Spain and New York City.

She has been at UBS since 2005 and in that time they became the first corporate sponsor of Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair. Christina and her team, RKG Wealth Management, have hosted a reception each year on opening night, and it was there that she met the Outside the Lens team.  Christina and OTL developed a relationship, and OTL became a non-profit partner of RKG W.M., presenting a new exhibit of student photography each year at the RKG W.M event.

Why did you decide to become a Board Member of Outside the Lens?

“I joined the board because I really believe in the mission of this organization, and I want to do everything in my power to help them grow their impact to reach more youth.  There are so many layers to what OTL does. I started out understanding it as an arts education organization, and believing that the arts can enrich education in any topic or subject matter. Which in and of itself is a noble mission. But I’ve come to realize that there’s much more going on here. You teach a skill like photography, but then you empower kids to find their inner voice, and tell their own unique stories with photographs. You teach them to tell other people’s stories, and how to create change in their communities.  You’re creating these artistic, expressive, empowered community activists, who want to change the world and they actually know how to do it. That’s such a powerful thing.”

What excites you about the work of OTL and your involvement?

“One of the most exciting things we’re doing now is helping kids really understand digital media.  We are all being inundated with so much digital imagery now, and you have to teach kids to be discerning about advertising, video content, video games, the list goes on.  They need some way to process what they’re seeing, and a lot of kids don’t have the tools to break it down and understand it. Educating them is vital because the quantity and velocity of digital content is only accelerating.”

“I think about my own kids who are 10 and 14 now.  What jobs will they pursue when they get out of college?  What new jobs will be available that we haven’t thought of yet?  How will the workplace evolve? Equipping kids to function in that digital realm is crucial right now, and participating in that dialogue is a really important thing.”

“As far as my involvement is concerned, we’re undergoing a major strategic planning initiative this year, and I’m feeling really energized by the process and optimistic about the outcomes. I think it’s going to give us clarity about our longer-term goals, and help us move forward in a really focused way.”

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Christina with her husband Chris, and their two sons, J.C. and Roman

What are some other causes/organizations that you are passionate about?

“Most of my free time revolves around my two boys, so kid’s sports.  I grew up with a sister who was athletic, and I was not. I didn’t really get the whole sports thing.  Now having two boys that are into baseball, football, flag football, soccer, and track, it has been really interesting for me to watch all the character building that goes on.  The coaches and instructors give so much time to the kids, so I try to give back by volunteering for our Little League board of directors, AYSO, and school sports booster club.”

“Another thing I’m super passionate about, that is related to UBS, is empowering women financially, and helping women find financial independence.  I recently started a speaker series, with a partner, called “What Women Need to Know.” There’s all this research about the relationship women have with money and how women have a tendency, if they’re in a relationship with a man for example, to abdicate financial responsibility to the man.  It breaks my heart to get a phone call from a woman saying her husband passed away, and she doesn’t know how much money they have, where it is or how to manage it. Many women aren’t comfortable talking about money, and we need to change that. Many of my clients are incredible women, highly accomplished in their professional fields, but they don’t understand our horrible financial industry jargon.  My goal is to simplify the message, communicate clearly, and make it personal so that women understand how critical it is.

Women tend to have more gaps in their careers due to caregiving for family members, which can result in lower average salaries and less money put away for retirement. This is a tremendous financial disadvantage.  In my profession only 33% of financial advisors are women. It is a very homogenous industry, and our clients are not homogenous. We should be serving them with an understanding of everyone’s different needs and financial life cycles.  I really want to find a way to get more women into finance as a profession. The younger we can educate women about finance, the better prepared they will be. It’s something really near and dear to my heart, and it’s a personal cause for me.” 

What do you tell women who are interested in a career in finance?

“Don’t write yourself off.  Having mentors is important, and believing in yourself is critical.  Creating opportunity for yourself when no one else is going to give you an opportunity, is not an easy thing to do.  But it’s something that you have to do. Be brave, and don’t cheat yourself out of an opportunity with self-doubt. Don’t be afraid to kick down doors.”

“I have had two children while working, and taking maternity leave is not easy.  I see these young guys working fourteen hour days and seventy hour weeks, but I have to go home and help someone with homework, so I can’t do that.  I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished so far, but you really have to make choices and hard decisions, and that requires a lot of self-awareness about what is important to you.”

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Christina on the set of Good Morning San Diego

Do you have your own artistic interests that you pursue?

“The joke in art history circles is that those who do not have their own artistic talents study those who do.  I have always very much enjoyed dabbling in photography. The only thing I have time for now is taking pictures with my phone, but I love playing around with the filters on Instagram.”

“Art history for me was always about beauty, and learning to see the beauty all around you.  I think that sometimes we walk through our worlds, and we get stuck in the rat race, and everyone is so busy that we miss that beauty around us.  I think that’s what art and photography mean to me. Aside from the literacy and job skills, and all the great things you can do with digital media and art, it’s just that core appreciation of beauty and finding happiness there.  It feeds my soul.”

What are some of your own personal interests?

“I love museums.  If I have a free afternoon I’m going to spend it in a museum.  The reason I loved studying Art History at UCLA is because art is really a lens to understand culture.  If you understand the art of a given era, you can learn to understand what was happening in the economy, politically, socially, you learn the whole context.  I love the process of learning about all the different artistic movements throughout history; what people were rebelling against, what inspired their innovation, and what were the various influences.  That’s a big puzzle I love putting together, and I couldn’t believe they gave me a diploma for it.”

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Christina on set at The Big Biz show

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