RFG Advisory’s President Describes the Tenacity and Drive Needed to Rise to the Top, Advises Constant Learning, Grit, Prayer and Gratitude
CEOs are often known as visionaries who lead with inspiration and COOs as operations managers who roll up their sleeves and dive into the details of every department across an organization.
What if you met someone who simultaneously engaged in the macro-vision for a company and managed every team in the org chart? WSR Pathfinder Awards – Top Women Leaders in Wealth Management recipient Shannon Spotswood does exactly that on a daily basis as President of RFG Advisory, on the one side developing and achieving organizational goals, while on the other side personally relating to team leaders and employees across the business.
Under six years of Spotswood’s leadership, the tech-focused hybrid RIA has grown to serve 79 advisors, increased its assets by $1.3 billion between December 2019 and December 2021.
During this time, Spotswood has led multiple strategic initiatives at RFG Advisory, including a financial education platform for women, a training program for administrative assistants, a charity fundraiser for The Boys & Girls Club of America and the creation of three advisor-focused podcasts.
We caught up with Spotswood to ask about the president’s role in an enterprise, the lessons she learned as a banker and investment manager and her advice to women aspiring to top executive roles.
WSR: How is being a president different from other C-suite and senior executive positions? What are the necessary traits to be successful in this kind of a role?
Spotswood: Being president requires you to be a visionary and a leader. Presidents have a responsibility to shape and guide the direction of the company, set goals and manage operations. As president of RFG, I am responsible for leading all functional teams – business development, compliance, finance, human resources, marketing operations and technology.
I have two amazing partners, Bobby White, CEO & Founder, and Rick Wedell, CIO, and together we have built a team of A-players who are passionately committed to serving our independent advisors with a servant heart and a warrior mindset.
Effective presidents are fierce and unrelenting in their determination to achieve goals. They possess compassion, humility and penetrating insights into people while staying focused on executing plans. Successful leaders are never satisfied with the status quo. They challenge themselves to do better by defining and maintaining high standards for themselves and others and take agency of their leadership and their mistakes.
WSR: What did you learn from investment banking and investment management that gives you an edge as an RIA leader?
Spotswood: I have identified two commonalities, cultivated over time, between both roles in my professional career: fearlessness and decisive decision making. Years later, strategic execution and razor-sharp problem-solving skills are my superpower and today, give me a competitive edge as an RIA leader.
While working as an investment banker and hedge fund manager, I learned how to make decisions quickly, perform under pressure and adapt to changing circumstances. Both experiences taught me numerous positive things, including fearlessness, discipline, details matter, the power of a high-performing team, performance under pressure and how to recover from mistakes.
With investment banking, you get one pitch to get it right and that framework has stuck. I have become an adaptive leader who thrives under pressure situations and absolutely loves being an entrepreneur.
WSR: What advice would you give to a female student today who wanted to aim her career towards top management positions in wealth management someday?
Spotswood: My advice for a female student today who aspires to be in top management is to stay in the game. When you feel burnt out or need a change, pivot by seeking new opportunities and experiences. The more skills you learn and the harder you work, the more confident you will become.
Second, have grit. Jump into the deep end of the pool – raise your hand for jobs even if you feel unprepared. Try not to take things personally and trust that people are doing their best. Show grace while advocating for yourself. Keep a sense of humor and maintain a positive attitude, especially in the boardroom.
Finally, execute around a set of daily disciplined habits that include prayer and gratitude. Write down goals, have an abundant mindset toward failure and risk taking. By doing so, you will have the fortitude and strength to show up when everyone else quits.
Julius Buchanan, Senior Contributing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org