Avantax’s Laurie Stack – Woman Business Development Executive Of The Year – On Leading Her Firm’s Women’s Advisor Forum, Industry Mindsets And Reaching Women Clients
Many of this year’s winners of WSR Pathfinder Awards – Top Women Industry Leaders of 2023 are actively involved in advancing DEI in the industry. This includes Laurie Stack, Vice President of Business Development at Avantax, who leads her firm’s Women’s Advisor Forum. WSR named Stack the Woman Business Development Executive of the Year.
Avantax created the Women’s Advisor Forum in August 2022, which constitutes part of the firm’s overall DEI programs, and appointed Stack, who led business development at the firm for four years, to head the forum.
Stack has built a reputation for excellence in wealth management over three decades in the industry. She previously served in executive roles at Cetera Advisors, LPL Financial and The Wealth Consulting Group and has participated in numerous industry organizations over the years. These currently include the Securities Insurance Licensing Association Council and FINRA’s Licensing and Registration Council.
As the Pathfinder Awards serve a dual purpose of recognizing exemplary leadership in the industry and providing a platform for voices of persons from underrepresented groups to speak on DEI issues, we invited Stack to speak with us about the Women’s Advisor Forum, changing the industry mindset toward women and serving women clients.
WSR: Tell us about your experience leading the Women’s Advisor Forum at Avantax, including challenges, initiatives and achievements.
Stack: Less than a year after launching the Avantax Women’s Advisor Forum, I can confidently say our biggest challenge has been channeling the groundswell of positive energy from across the Avantax community. Our women financial professionals and their staff, and women from the home office, have stepped forward to do whatever they can to support the Avantax Women’s Advisor Forum. So, too, have many of our male allies.
Together, we are finding ways to do the right things for women financial professionals at Avantax today, and those we’re recruiting. We’re living the cliché “crawl, walk, run” process, but we’re moving through it intentionally and with energy. I’m pleased with our achievements in this early stage of the forum, including that 90% of our women financial professionals replied to a survey about what they’d like from the forum.
We’ve held webinars and steering committee planning sessions, and at our first-ever networking event, during the Avantax National Conference in November 2022, attendance far exceeded our expectations. Everyone’s been passionate and excited about the forum, and we drew on that to get us going. Now, we continue working toward executing more best practices to empower female financial professionals.
WSR: From your vantage point as a business development leader, what are the major unique challenges faced by women-led firms?
Stack: I don’t know that there are unique challenges – I think there are unique opportunities because I truly believe that in our industry, most women got their opportunity from a great male ally who believed in them. So, I view it more about changing the industry mindset toward women. Men and women can be very different, but it’s how we work together to create opportunities for women financial professionals that’s most important.
For example, a woman who might have started and grown her career at an accounting or wealth management firm owned by a male ally, has grown her capabilities in so many areas, but maybe doesn’t have as much experience in areas like mergers and acquisitions. Supporting her with the right resources when it comes time for her to buy or even sell her own practice is part of the Avantax Women’s Advisor Forum’s educational focus.
People spend a lot of time talking about the challenge of women breaking barriers. We’ve broken through those barriers, and it’s time to help women financial professionals create a brand, evolve and grow their business in ways that help them achieve all their personal and professional dreams, no different than men in our industry.
WSR: What are the key steps financial advisors and professionals can take to better reach and serve women clients?
Stack: This is one of many areas where advocating for women financial professionals dovetails with Avantax’s overall diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. To successfully reach women end-clients, you need to demonstrate that your firm has women with whom those female clients will interact. Whether your audience is women or any underrepresented group, they must see people at your firm who look like them and share similar life experiences, because that’s where empathy truly comes from.
Specifically for women end-clients, think about this: Surveys show that by the end of 2032, two-thirds of American wealth will be controlled by women, and I can tell you firsthand, women prefer working with women. Similarly, I know that women really care about networking and getting referrals they can trust.
So, if you want to be more successful reaching women clients, learn about your local networking events and put a fine point on your marketing and lead-generation efforts. Be sure women can see women at your firm, in your marketing materials and on your website, and at the right networking events and centers of influence.
Janeesa Hollingshead, Executive Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at email@example.com