For Financial Professionals in the US

Invested in Connecting Women: Lindsay Lewis, a champion for diversity in financial services

On this episode of Invested in Connecting Women, host Olivia Hails interviews Lindsey Lewis, Director and Chair of the American College Center for Women in Financial Services. Lindsey talks about how she built a career around championing women and diversity within FinServ.


Olivia Hails

Olivia Hails


Apr 28, 2023
31 minute listen

Key takeaways:

  • As the leader of the American College’s NexGen Advisory Task Force, Lindsey is an active mentor to women pursuing degrees and/or careers in financial services.
  • She also helped form the college’s “Women Working in Wealth” program, which provides resources and workshops to support the advancement women in financial services.
  • In 2021, Lindsey was recognized as one of Investment News’ “40 Under 40,” which celebrates up-and-comers in the financial advice industry.

Olivia Hails: Welcome back to the Invested in Connecting Women podcast. I’m your host, Olivia Hails. Today, we are honored to have Lindsey Lewis with us. Lindsey has built a career around women and money. She not only helps women take charge of their finances as a Chartered Financial Consultant and a Certified Financial Planner Professional, but also is a champion of diverse talent in FinServ.

She does this in her role as the Director and Chair of the American College Center for Women in Financial Services and as the leader of the college’s NextGen Advisory Task Force. And something that she probably wouldn’t have just put in a bio about herself, but in 2021, she was recognized by Investment News’ “40 Under 40,” which we’re definitely going to get into a little bit more today.

I wanted to bring Lindsey on the podcast for multiple reasons. A, I want everyone to know her story, but B, I want to spread the work that Lindsey is doing. She is an absolute advocate for women and all things financial literacy. So with that, let’s meet Lindsey. Lindsey, welcome to the podcast. Who are you, and how did you get here?

Lindsey Lewis: Well, thank you so much for having me. Honored to be here and honored about this topic and about women and elevating and building a practice. So, a little bit about me and how I got here. I am unique and I did my undergrad in personal financial planning, which, yes, people do go to school for that on purpose, and yes, I am one of those people. So, the reason being of why I went into that profession is that I watched a lot of really smart people make really dumb financial decisions, and those decisions impacted me and my life.

I come from a town, now I’ll call it a city, a city in Utah, and grew up in a very conservative theological group and community, and there weren’t very many women who were income-producing outside of the home. And oftentimes, people will say working or non-working spouse, but I like to call them income-producing or not income-producing, because I am a mom of two and every day that I’m home with my kids, I am working my tail off.

So having been through this experience, my mom ended up becoming the breadwinner in our household. I have six brothers, I’m the only girl, so there are seven kids. And her becoming the breadwinner really opened my eyes to seeing the power that a woman has in people’s lives.

I have always had the impression that a man is not a plan and that there are three Ds in life that can happen: Death, disability, and divorce, and that women need to be prepared for all sorts of outcomes that could happen in life. And really, helping women champion their financial well-being is one way to kickstart them and to help them change the whole trajectory of their life. So really dedicated my upbringing, and also my background to helping women and helping them see the picture and how important financial literacy and financial well-being is in their lives.

Hails: So I was going to ask you maybe how you got involved in financial services, but that’s a joke, because you went to school for it and you saw that growing up. So were there things that your mom did? So obviously, with seven children, the breadwinner of the family, were there certain things that she taught you all that you picked up on along the way?

Lewis: Yes. So my mom did have a degree, so that was one thing that was really important. And she also worked in accounting, so we are very math oriented in our house. And she always said, if you get a job in finance or accounting, you’ll always have a job, and if they’re ever going to do lay-offs, you’re going to be towards the very end. And that stuck with me.

Growing up, I was an athlete, and a lot of my time was dedicated to being in sports, and I always thought I was going to be a doctor. But when I looked at financial services with the ability to be a parent as well as be a working professional, that was really important to me. Because being a parent and raising children, I always knew I wanted to do that, and the path and the trajectory in financial services was much faster. So my mom really did teach me the importance of having, one, a great accountant, but two, having that financial focus when thinking about your career.

Hails: Yes, which is so true. So you have a degree then in financial planning, and then I know you’ve got your Certified Financial Planner as well. When did you really learn that you wanted to have an emphasis on women? So not just financial services generically, but how did your passion really domino into where it is today?

Lewis: Yes, that’s a great question. So when I look back at my life, I grew up with six brothers, so being in a male-dominated space, very comfortable. Actually, I feel very at home when we’re talking about sports and all things male-driven. However, when I came into financial services, I noticed that there weren’t very many women there. And to step in a room and there aren’t very many women, I didn’t feel uncomfortable, but I was like, where are the rest of the women at? And especially growing up where I grew up, where really there weren’t a lot of income-producing women outside of the home, and then you layer in a more technical financial planning or finance or accounting, you just weren’t seeing women there.

So even in my undergrad, I started to help women along, but once I finished my MBA, I really wanted to give back to my alma mater. So I started a mini-conference, so it was a half-day, four-hour, five-hour conference dedicated to women, leadership, women in leadership, entrepreneurship and financial planning, really to just help them learn about the industry.

So I witnessed this discrepancy. I witnessed what I felt in my first job. I was the only female financial advisor at a point. And I was like, we have, one, an image issue within financial services, two, an education issue with people knowing about financial services, and three, really a cultural aspect that women can have a seat at the table. So I started this practice, and I’ve done it for four years, of helping young women and women get interested in financial services, really just learning about what the industry is, what it has to offer. And then that ended up becoming my full-time job.

I was an advisor for a number of years. I worked at a registered investment advisor, where I helped retirement plans build their 401k line-ups for their employees, and I helped high-net-worth individuals build their financial plan. And now, at the American College, what I do is I help women learn how to get into the industry, learn how to stay in the industry, and also help advisors better serve their clients. So it’s interesting that this passion project post-MBA has really come to fruition as my full-time job.

Hails: I think it’s so funny, because when I first learned about what you were doing with the American College, I was like, this is exactly what I’ve been complaining about that the world needs more of, is a centralized location for women to go for education for financial services.

So, with that, tell me a little bit more about that. Because one thing that really irks me is just when, not necessarily just men in the business, but when the business puts out their Women and Wealth. Okay, great, Women and Wealth. What does that mean? And when you and I first talked about it, I liked how you broke that down. What makes the efforts of what you’re doing right now different? How do you say, okay, Women and Wealth, but here’s what that really means?

Lewis: Yes. I’m with you. There’s a lot of lip service that happens.

What’s really cool about the work that I do is I’m all action oriented. I am over lip service. I’m over we’re just going to throw up a banner and that’s going to be good. So we’ve put together a “Women Working in Wealth” workbook that lays out what it means to be an ally, what it means to be a sponsor, what it means to be a mentor, what it means to advocate for someone, what it means to be a champion, where we put out actual definitions.

Because what we did is, we did some research through our awards, and how people answered those questions was vastly different, like what it means to sponsor, what it means to mentor. There was no consistency. So we’re like, okay, this is what it means. Here. It’s out there.

We also have a toolkit within that workbook of how to reach out to your alma mater to provide a presentation around careers in financial services. You might be thinking, hmm, I don’t have a presentation made. Well, great. We already made one for you that you can customize, so that you can really [make it] turnkey. And also, we have ways that firms can implement practices where they can become more female friendly, whether that is including a parental leave policy, whether that is working on flexible hours, whether it is having job share opportunities, whether that’s using a teaming model.

But we are research driven. So, we’re data informed when we’re making these workbooks, and it’s not just like, “This is what we think” – it’s data informed, research driven, and it’s actionable. That’s the main thing is, you might hear the saying, “I want to help, but I don’t know how to.” Boom, we have a workbook for you. We know how to help. And that’s a great first step.

And that’s one thing at the Center for Women that we want to do, is we just want to be action oriented. When you look at the statistics of females that hold the CFP designation, two decades ago, [it was] 23%; fast-forward [to] today, still 23%. Why hasn’t there been a big shift in that percentage when people have been throwing up banners for two decades? So there is an action component that is required if you’re going to make that shift in gender parity.

Hails: Yes. And tell me, in your research, Is it predominantly male oriented, is it predominantly executive C-suites, or is it women that have left the business?

Lewis: We do have a research report called “The traits of successful advisors,” where we interviewed men, women, and non-binary folks, and we do have a focus on ethnic groups as well, so we can have a breakdown so we can see the perspective. We had over 800 people respond to that. And we’re asking them about their designations. We’re asking about what makes them successful. We’re asking about what they want to see from the industry, their barriers, their obstacles. So, it is a broader scope.

The one thing about empowering any marginalized group, but especially women, is that male allies are one of our greatest, if not our greatest, tool to help us advocate moving forward. Finding ways to find a great male ally will actually pay really large dividends. And for any of your male listeners, that is one way that you can be a great advocate and an ally. And small ways that you can do this is that you’re in a meeting, let’s say Olivia provided you an idea, and in the meeting, that idea comes up and you give credit to Olivia. And then you email her boss afterwards, saying, “I was so impressed by this idea. Olivia did it.” How long does that take you? Two minutes?

Hails: Yes.

Lewis: Male allyship doesn’t have to be marching down the streets, but it can be just the small things or calling out microaggressions or calling out unconscious bias that are happening within offices. It doesn’t have to be this big scale. But yes, we look very broad when we’re looking at our research. We like to focus in on women to see what women’s needs are, but still 50% of the population is male, so we definitely need to make sure we have their perspective as well.

Hails: Yes. Well, and it’s… I think I was with a group a couple weeks ago, when I was doing an education session on a client loyalty program that we have called The Art of WOW at Janus Henderson. And it’s a bunch of assistants who are fabulous, work with great advisors, but it’s all women. I probably should start surveying, and say, “Do you want to become an advisor? Why or why not? What are the restrictions? What are the barriers that you may see?”

Lewis: But you see more women at institutions. A lot of them might have more of a 50% demographic within home office. However, when we’re looking more at client-facing roles or leadership type of roles, that’s where you start to see more of the discrepancies.

So that cohort of women, first of all, it also might be the career track that they’re on. They initially got a job title that had a client relationship name in it, and they might have been doing what’s paraplanner work. However, because they didn’t have a paraplanner title, they end up following an operations career trajectory, versus if they did the same work and had a paraplanner title, then they would be considered in those junior advisor or advising roles. So it’s even as simple as inception of title can change the whole trajectory of someone’s career.

Hails: Yes.

Lewis: But it also could go way further back when you’re also thinking about women’s perception around what are analytical, math-driven roles. So, girls’ confidence in math peaks at age nine, and then you’re looking at STEM type of jobs, which I would put financial services in that math equation. Then they’re thinking… They’re self-selecting out. They’re like, “I’m not smart enough to do this.” Which, you definitely need to know math, I’m not going to lie to you there. However, it is more of a relationship-driven business. So as long as you can hold up the math arena to do all of your exams and keep that analytical mindset, it does get to more of the social aspects.

Hails: Is there anywhere else maybe that we’ve been getting it wrong for women in financial services? Because for me, I am not math oriented. I overcame that objection. I am as social as they come and love this business and will never… You will have to fight me tooth and nail to get out of this business. But is there anything else, or assumptions that you see, that maybe where we’ve been getting it wrong overall?

Lewis: Looking at our research, women tend to like team-based models and compensation may not be the most important for them. And then you look at a lot of these different firms, and initially, it’s 1099, eat what you kill, you’re a lone wolf. And they’re like, “Why can’t we hire women into this?” And so you’re trying to get someone to be interested in entrepreneurship as well as financial services and also have a heart for this. And so there is this dichotomy between attraction and retention and making sure that the business model fits women or that you can change the business model to better adapt and fit for women. So I think that’s where the industry is feeling this.

But ultimately, if consumers keep asking for more women and these firms lose clients because they are non-diverse, whether it’s women, people of color, LGBTQ, etc., clients’ dollars are going to speak the fastest. So if you are a client and you want a female advisor, or you want a female advisor on your team, and you keep asking those questions, that’s going to pay big dividends.

So I think the industry, with business models and recruiting and retention expectations, is still what we’re getting wrong, which is what I’m trying to remedy with our NextGen Advisory Task Force, is we’re working on curriculum that shows the landscape of financial services on the front end. Because oftentimes, you don’t know what you don’t know going into this industry. A wirehouse might be great for you, or an independent broker-dealer or a mutual fund manufacturer or a fintech firm. There are so many facets that change that dynamic.

The two biggest levers that I see are income risk tolerance, so if you don’t get a paycheck, how does that affect you? And then income risk capacity, if I don’t get a paycheck, how does that affect my household or my family? So we’re really working on a couple of things here, but educating on the front end around these different types of firms and the pros and cons. Do I want to be 1099? Do I want to be commission? Do I want to be fee-based? Do I want to be fee-only? But there’s so much jargon on the front end that if you don’t know, how are you supposed to…? You’re like, you know what? I think I want to be commission-based.

Hails: For those listening that have the ability and are in leadership roles, to really make a difference there, to make the business model more approachable, to educate on the opportunities that women do have in financial services, because they are not limited. It is so far-reaching in what you can really be doing. If you’ve got a passion for understanding money and being able to help people grow with money, the world is a lot of endless possibility there.

So, I love the work you’re doing. What else is the NextGen group doing? If there’s anything else you want to touch on for that, and then I want to talk about some of your personal accomplishments.

Lewis: Absolutely. Our NextGen group is really focused on attracting new talent to the industry, and we do this in a number of ways. And that is really having appropriate representation. So, our NextGen group, we have all different backgrounds, all different practices, different racial groups. We have different sexual orientation, LGBTQ-plus. We’re setting the example, so to attract good individuals and people that want to enhance and improve the industry.

We’re also bringing them alongside the College. And so what that means is, what does it mean to be a financial professional? Why do designations matter? Why should I take this route? When should I take this exam versus this exam? Really helping people navigate that, and then cultivating cultures of inclusivity and belonging.

There’s a lot on the D&I [diversity and inclusion] initiatives, but that belonging piece is so vitally important when you’re talking about diverse talent pools, is that you can put them in there, but if they don’t feel like they belong and their voice matters and that they’re making a meaningful impact, there’s going to be a turnover and it’s just going to continue to exacerbate the problem. So we’re really focusing on that.

There is one thing I did want to circle back to is that having that financial well-being at earlier ages. So the one thing that the College is doing is a program called “Know Yourself, Grow Your Wealth.” And that is our financial well-being and inclusion introductory course that anyone can take. And it’s so important, because if you get that good financial foundation, then you’re able to make better decisions. And you talked about your job, you didn’t know about it. My first job… So, I went to school for Personal Financial Planning. I ended up working on the institutional side with retirement plans, building 401k plans for participants. And I went to school, and I didn’t know educating people on their 401k plans and financial wellness was what I was going to end up doing. So it’s…

Hails: Yes.

Lewis: It’s hard to say these are all the job possibilities. I would go to different companies. I went all around the country, going to different companies. We had a cruise ship that was a client. I literally went on a cruise ship and educated people on the back end of the cruise ship around their benefits and financial well-being. So things like that, where you just don’t know.

The cool thing about the College is you have that “Know Yourself, Grow Your Wealth” program, and that can give you that great foundation. And at the NextGen Advisory Task Force, really what we want to do is just build that awareness and help people navigate it, and find people who are like you, that have similar lived experience, so that you can bounce ideas off of them. I think that’s one important thing that I found in this industry, is finding a community that helps you and buoys you up. And I’ve done that digitally. So, it’s like how I met Olivia or many of my other friends.

Hails: Yes. So, for anyone that is in college or has a child in college and wants to push them to do this, are you looking for ambassadors on college campuses? Or is it something that’s just through the American College, that it doesn’t matter what their phase of life is per se, they can become a part of? Or…

Lewis: It is on campus for a number of HBCU universities. If you go to our Center of Economic Empowerment and Equality, you can find the “Know Yourself, Grow Your Wealth” program, and you can reach out to that team and you can see if you can offer it on your campus. So it is definitely scalable.

Hails: Yes, it’s definitely a mindset shift, especially when you’re in such a crazy time of life in college, young ages, whatever it may be. It’s survival mode a little bit. But if you can start educating yourself early on, the benefits are limitless once you can wrap your mindset around the power of saving and what money does long term.

Alright, I want to gravitate a little bit to some of the accomplishments for you personally, Lindsey. And you know that I gravitate towards women in the business and women that are trailblazing, doing things in our business that no one else is doing, which is how I was introduced to you and gravitated towards you. What’s something that you are most proud of to date?

Lewis: Yes, I would say that Investment News 40 Under 40 was something that was really important to me. It really was a great testimony to me of putting your mindset out there, and also, you can put things on your vision board, you can speak it out into the universe. And so that’s something that I really celebrate, and now I have the ability to share that with others. So then the following year, one of my really good friends was like, “hey, would you nominate me?” And I nominated them and she was selected as another recipient. And so it’s that pay it forward.

And that’s one thing that I find really important about being a woman in this industry, is that there are women that still subscribe to what I call “horizontal oppression,” which is tearing other women down because you only think that there is a seat at the table, when there is a whole table set out for you. And being willing to help and advocate for other women and celebrate in their successes, I think is so vitally important. And what I am really excited about with this next generation of women is that they do have that mindset of celebrating others and bringing them along and helping them out.

And recently, I was part of an Excel Award. And the two other candidates, I love them to death. And I’m like, they’re so great. And it was also reminding yourself that you are also great if you’re in that group of candidates. And so I think for me, the other thing I celebrate is just that mind shift and that change, that it’s okay to celebrate your wins and it’s okay to relish in a moment. But what you do afterwards and how you empower people after that is what’s most important.

Hails: Yes. One of my female mentors in the business, one of the early things on she told me was always, always surround yourself with people you consider smarter than you. And it’s so true. And then for you to have that and to win an award in a group of people that you consider maybe smarter than you or people you’ve looked up to, that’s got to feel really good. So congratulations on that front.

Lewis: It’s very true. Surround yourself with people that you consider smarter than you. And I think that women, to your point earlier, we’re such storytellers. We are creatures that look for community and cling to community. I always tell the old African proverb I love so much, that if you educate a man, you educate an individual; if you educate a woman, you educate a family and a nation and a community, and fill in the blank with whatever there.

But it’s so true, because we tend to be such storytellers. And so what we’re on a mission to do, too, is just make that story about financial planning or financial literacy or why aren’t we a part of that, just one little, small thing there, we can slowly start to make money not something so taboo to talk about, and get more seats at the table by supporting each other to do that and overcome those taboos together.

Hails: Okay, one thing you haven’t talked about that I’m really proud of you for is your Women Working in Wealth Summit. So would love for you to tell listeners what it is, how it came to life.

Lewis: Thank you. Yes. So, the Women Working in Wealth platform is a community that we founded through the College to really help women and their male allies within financial services. And they don’t necessarily have to be College alumnae or alumni. You just come in there. And the Women Working in Wealth Summit was really the idea around having an action-oriented event. So last year was our inaugural summit, and we had CEO/Co-Founder Sallie Krawcheck there. And it was really about how to become an ally and mentor, etc. And this year, we have the CEO of JP Morgan Wealth Management, Kristin Lemkau, and we’re so excited to have her.

And this year, we have information for practitioners so that you can continue to enhance your practice with CE-driven content, and also for leaders. And this day is really to celebrate women and our allies and also shine a light on an amazing industry that has an interesting past, but we can make the future so bright. And so we participate in this walk on Wall Street. So we take all the women, we walk to Fearless Girl, and it is such a beautiful vision when you have a giant cohort of women. That never happens on Wall Street, right? You have this giant cohort of women who are all in the industry celebrating, and really want to enhance the industry, make change, elevate, and really break gender bias and embrace gender parity and gender equity.

Lewis: I wish you the best in the Summit this year. I know it will be great. Two things to wrap us up here and bring things… If there’s something I missed, please tell me what it is. And then what can you arm our listeners with? I know you’ve talked a little bit more about the NextGen, but what else can they learn or where can they go to learn, whether they want to be in the business, or maybe they just want to learn a little bit about our business and financial services?

Lewis: Yes. So, you can find us at Women Working in Wealth on all social platforms, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. We would love to have you in one of those communities. Also, you can find us on the Center for Women website.

And for our NextGen folks, you can listen to our NextGen in 10 podcast, which is just vignettes or little audio vignettes of things that you can hear about the industry, which has been really great. You can do it on the go. And then we will have things coming out with our NextGen in 10 podcast as well as our Advisory Task Force in the coming year.

So that’s where you can find us. You can always connect with me on LinkedIn. It’s Lindsey Lewis. Message me. I do a lot of grassroots phone calls. If you want to have a session and just chat about financial services, my calendar is open for that as well. So, lots of ways to engage and to figure out about the industry. And I love it when people connect with me and we chat, so don’t be shy.

Hails: Yes. And you are a great sound board, I will say, a wealth of knowledge, but also just a great listener I have found too. So, I think that’s something that is sometimes overlooked, is recognition of good listeners…

Lewis: Thank you.

Hails: …in the business.

Lewis: I love listening, but I love just hearing people’s story. I learn something new every day, and it’s really amazing.

Hails: Yes, I feel the same way. This industry really gives back a lot to you when you put a lot into it. I feel that way. All right. So my lightning-round ending, too, for fun, for people to get to know you a little bit better as we end. So I’m going to shoot off a couple of lightning-round questions at you for one-word, quick-thought answers, and then you can send a couple back my way, and then we’ll wrap up.

Lewis: Okay.

Hails: Alright. So here we go. My childhood nickname.

Lewis: Bubba.

Hails: Oh. Favorite city besides the one you live in.

Lewis: New York.

Hails: Texting or talking?

Lewis: Talking.

Hails: Yes, same. Although most of our generation is texting. Do you correct other people’s grammar?

Lewis: Yes.

Hails: Same. Alright, you’re up.

Lewis: Okay. Do you prefer Zoom calls camera on or camera off?

Hails: Camera on.

Lewis: Oh. Okay, hot take. How long is too long for a meeting?

Hails: Oh, it depends. I’m more of what’s the subject of the meeting. I would… But, oh, that’s hard. I would say anything over an hour is too long.

Lewis: Okay. Which updates should be in an email versus in a meeting?

Hails: Oh, that’s a difficult one. I would say… Which updates should be in an email versus…? I would put subjectivity in the meeting. I would put things that aren’t open for discussion in the email.

Lewis: Oh, love it. Okay. And then if you could live in a foreign country, which country would you live in?

Hails: Oh, that’s hard because I haven’t been to all the ones that I want to go to yet. But because je parle français and I love France, probably France.

Lewis: I’m a Francophile too.

Hails: Yes.

Lewis: There you go.

Hails: We want to thank Lindsey for joining us again today. Again, Lindsey has built a career around women and money, and if you can’t tell that she is passionate about this business, maybe press rewind and relisten to this. So Lindsey, thank you for your time, and we will look forward to having you on our next episode of Invested in Connecting Women.

Stay tuned for our next episode, featuring LPL’s Crystal Walker, as we discuss why crisis should not be the reason that you are forced to educate yourself on all things financial literacy and planning.

If you like what you hear, subscribe via Apple or Spotify or wherever you get your podcast. And if you know a woman in the business that has a story worth sharing or a woman who has been impacted by our business, please contact us at

Olivia Hails

Olivia Hails


Apr 28, 2023
31 minute listen

  • As the leader of the American College’s NexGen Advisory Task Force, Lindsey is an active mentor to women pursuing degrees and/or careers in financial services.
  • She also helped form the college’s “Women Working in Wealth” program, which provides resources and workshops to support the advancement women in financial services.
  • In 2021, Lindsey was recognized as one of Investment News’ “40 Under 40,” which celebrates up-and-comers in the financial advice industry.