Trailblazing financial advisor Lisa Miller has paved the way for women to progress in the finance industry.
By Cy White, Photo by Olympia Sobande of Kerry Howell Photography Group
The name Lisa Miller is nondescript enough that when you come across it, nothing immediately stands out. But dig a little deeper. What you find will both astound and inspire you. Lisa “Ivie” Miller is a remarkable woman. A force to be reckoned with who’s created opportunities and incredible success in spaces where a woman’s presence was rarely considered. Miller describes herself as a “performance-based, results-driven leader,” and her work in the finance world certainly attests to the self-analysis. Formerly the senior VP and director of Government Relations and Education at South Texas Money Management (STMM), and now the principal financial advisor for Captrust (who acquired STMM in 2019), Miller thrives in high-stakes environments.
Miller has paved the way for women to make their mark in a mostly male-dominated industry. With Captrust’s Women’s Initiative, the company now employs a majority of women, 14 of whom the National Association of Plan Advisors recognized on this year’s Top Women Advisors list. It’s safe to say Miller’s influence has inspired a shift in the finance sector. She continues to be a guiding light for women looking to find their way in the industry.
Tell us a bit about how you got interested in finance?
In 2003, when the governor’s office contacted me about the appointment to run the Office of the Fire Fighters’ Pension Commissioner, which had oversight of over $1.5 billion in pension fund assets, the aide said I needed to know about three things: the fire service, the legislative process and investments. I knew the fire service. Had worked with all of the firefighter leadership entities—the unions, the chiefs and the volunteers—as both a senate staffer and a lobbyist representing their interests. I knew the legislative process from working in and around the capitol for 15 years.
However, I did not know much about finance except about balancing my checkbook and staying out of debt. I have two degrees in criminal justice management and administration. And I had taken both accounting and business finance classes, but outside of those, I was a social scientist. The good news is that when you work in the Capitol, you are trained to learn about many issues quickly. I took the request as a challenge. And I not only learned about finance, investments, actuarial science and fiduciary duty. I was charged with helping 280 trustees learn the same. I created curriculums comprised of topics in areas where I needed to learn, and we all learned together. My interest in retirement security and building personal wealth has continued today.
What about South Texas Money Management (and now CAPTRUST) drew you to the company?
I had several opportunities to work at larger pension systems. But a dear friend who had a long stint in government running several agencies told me I should “try the real world; you can always come back.”
I was hesitant to leave the government world where I felt safe. And I happened to love my job at the time. But one day I was having lunch with the women of STMM, who had been very supportive of my efforts educating trustees, and I held them in very high regard. I was telling Jeanie Wyatt, the founder and CEO of STMM, an icon in the investment business industry, about these opportunities and she said, “You can come work for my firm.”
It took me by surprise, but she was very persuasive. About nine months later at another lunch, she made me an offer I could not refuse. I grew up in a working-class family in Amarillo and paid for my education with a Mastercard. An opportunity like that does not come along very often. My job was to introduce the company to entities that needed our services. But I did not realize the level of philanthropy I would have the opportunity to support. I love giving back to my community but really learned the art of giving back working at STMM.
Sadly, we lost Jeanie in April 2019. Through joining Captrust, that culture has continued on an even grander scale. In 2020 and 2021, we have given back over $400,000 to communities throughout Texas. Our employees have raised over $5 million for the Captrust Community Foundation.
What about the landscape of your industry do you think needs to change in order for women to be better represented?
Once we can recoup from the “Shecession” where over one million women had to quit or lost their jobs due to COVID-19, we are going to have to educate our young girls and women that they can be in this business and make a good living for themselves and their families. In the next two decades, Baby Boomers are predicted to transfer over $68 trillion to their millennial successors. There is going to be an incredible need for advisors to assist with this transfer.
Women are natural advisors.
We have a mix of perspectives, life experiences and diversity of thought. It is estimated over 80% percent of consumers are women [Source: Catalyst], and over 40% of women are the breadwinners for their families [Source: Center for American Progress]. This industry has begun to recognize these statistics. At Captrust, we are making great strides to recruit and retain more women advisors. As Melinda Gates says in her book The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World when talking about family planning in third-world countries, if you can get the men of the tribes engaged, there will be change.
Captrust CEO Fielding Miller feels strongly about hiring women to work in this industry. At Captrust, more than 25% of our financial advisors are women whereas the industry average for women is 15%. We have a strong Women’s Initiative that is focused on encouraging and mentoring women to recognize their talents and help them grow and advance in the financial services industry, more specifically at Captrust. Recognizing that many women have high emotional intelligence and can listen to the wants and needs of the women who are making financial decisions for their families is an incredible recruiting tool to get more females in the investment business. The landscape of the industry not only needs to change but is changing.
There aren’t many women in leadership positions in the financial industry. What does your advancement in the industry do for women who are just trying to step in the door?
If you find something to do every day that you love, you will never work a day in your life. My path has been that of service, and that has led me to some incredible experiences, opportunities and personal growth. My advancement in the financial industry happened because I recognized that I did not become this successful on my own. I took opportunities that I may not have been 100% qualified for. No matter what industry you are in, you must find and keep people around you that lift you up and support you unconditionally.
As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, mentor and friend, know that your time is precious and limited. Part of guarding your time is not only surrounding yourself with people who uplift you, but letting go of people who want to keep you down. A dear female mentor that runs a multibillion-dollar manufacturing company told me once, “People come into your life for a reason and a season.” The hardest lesson I have learned is to let go of people who are not positive and supportive of you and your goals.
Any words of advice for women who want to advance in finance?
If you are currently in this business and want to grow, ask someone you admire to mentor you. Ask if you could shadow them for a day and just watch, listen and learn. If you don’t know something, admit you don’t know and ask questions. People love to share what they know and generally are happy to share their knowledge, experience and the hard knocks along the way. My favorite quote, by Ruth Bader Ginsberg: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
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