Women in Leadership at Wiss

Marketing Associate, Harriet Levenston, sits down with Stephanie Hughes, CEO of Wiss Family Office, to talk success, resilience, and motherhood.

“We feel fortunate as women, as mothers, and as leaders, to work for a firm that values balance, and understands that employee wellbeing correlates with productivity.”

Harriet: Hi Stephanie. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me about your personal background and where you are today, professionally.

Stephanie: Absolutely!

Wiss is proud of its female leaders and employees, and, more broadly, of women achieving across the board — in business, in sport, and beyond. Could you speak to your experience as a female leader at Wiss?

SH: I consider myself very fortunate to be part of the incredible Wiss team. I received the opportunity to lead a practice area, and by definition that has allowed me to use my voice.  Every single day I think of how grateful I am to be here and have this incredible opportunity.

Tell me about your business.

SH: We are essentially an outsourced MultiFamily Office catering to High Net Worth and Ultra High Net Worth individuals and families who have amassed their wealth through a business.  This includes everything from creating a financial and legacy plan for them to investing their money to helping them with tax strategies, as well as paying their bills.

How did you come to head this practice?

SH: 3 years ago, Wiss gave me the opportunity to come kick off the wealth management practice area for the firm. Together with the Wiss leadership team, we built it from scratch. This included the strategy and execution of all operations, compliance, client services, investment strategies, trading, etc., while upholding the highest level of service.  It was such a mentally exhilarating experience.  Most recently, we integrated the wealth management area with tax, outsourced accounting and other services to create a true cohesive offering and one stop shop for our clients.

Pre-Wiss, how did your career evolve?

SH: My trajectory and passion for helping families with wealth and investments was really shaped by three factors: my interest in macroeconomics, my experience working in banking, and my family’s story.  I was born in Europe and came to the US.  My dad was an entrepreneur. He managed the business, while my mother managed the family. This worked, until it didn’t. Unfortunately, our family experienced financial turmoil and we were fully unprepared. This had a knock-on effect, which became even worse after my father fell ill. Having to go through this first-hand with my family deeply affected me and I realized families needed help to avoid this.

Would you say that these personal experiences play into your professional experiences?

SH: 100 percent. I have so much empathy for our clients. The pain points I experienced, I believe, continue to help us build a better business each day. I appreciate on a personal level the consequences of being a business owner and not having a financial plan and not saving for finance retirement or preparing for illness. I am here to protect our clients against financial turmoil and to set them and their families up for generational success. I’m honest with people and am willing to lean into having difficult conversations. I’m really proud of what we have built which starts and ends with empathy and trust.

How have you been able to balance your commitment to your clients and to your family? I know that you have two wonderful children!

SH: Firstly, I’d like to say, it’s not easy, and this year in particular was very challenging! Wiss has been extremely supportive. The firm grants us flexibility and continues to be a very progressive place. My female colleagues would agree. We feel fortunate as women, as mothers, and as leaders, to work for a firm that values balance, and understands that employee wellbeing correlates with productivity. My husband is also very supportive and has been key, especially during Covid.

Do you consider yourself a role model for your kids?

SH: That’s a great question! For my daughter, I’m hoping she thinks of women as being in the same positions as men and for my son, I’m hoping that he expects women to be in leadership positions; that it’s just a normal thing. Also, my kids experience firsthand the personal sacrifices required to be in the position I am in, and I hope they are learning to not expect success to be easy. Building something unique and worth building means working very hard day in and day out, outside of your comfort zone, and I think they see that. Also, I know they see me as “perfectly imperfect” as I drop the ball here and there at home and try not to sweat the small stuff – I think it’s teaching them to be resilient.

That’s an insightful and candid response. What were you doing before you became a mom?

SH: I worked on the institutional side of large banks, in sales and trading, in London. My clients were international hedge funds, asset managers and central banks. This experience taught me a lot about markets, liquidity, risk, and people.

Has being a woman played a defining role in your career to date?

SH: Yes, it absolutely has. It propelled me to be the best I could be and set a very high bar for myself.  Given the low percentage of female financial advisors in the business (16%), I figured there may be biases as soon as I walked into a room with a prospective client.  I realized that if I wanted to be successful, I had to eliminate any reason they could come up with to not work with me immediately. I knew I had to me more prepared, smarter, and different than my competition to win. I also knew it was a long game, and that biases could continue. So, I decided that, over the long term, I would also win by outworking, and adding more value than, my competition. I knew I could also relate to moms and working moms, and to people’s children. I embraced that – and so did my clients. It turned out that they love how we at Wiss Family Office speak to the entire family. Being a woman in this business is a real gift!

An inspiring chat, as always. Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing.

SH: It’s been my pleasure!

How can our Family Office team help you today? Get in touch with Stephanie today.

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