The new Senior Vice President and Director of Wealth Planning at Comerica Bank is not a man, but a fearless woman named Lisa Featherngill – wife, mother, accountant, and “builder.” Comerica Incorporated is a financial services company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with almost 600 retail banking operations in several states and an emphasis on business banking. Lisa is one of the rare 20% of women who are currently rising to leadership positions in the financial world of wealth management. She has spent over 35 years helping people make successful financial decisions, from retirement to taxes! In this male-dominated industry, Lisa has spent much of the time being one of the few, if not the only, woman at the decision-making table. “I could count on one hand how many women were in the room and usually had some fingers to spare!” Lisa describes herself as a builder and has a gift for planning. In her new role and in her past leadership roles, she builds work cultures that are collaborative, inclusive, and empowering for women. In a 2020 OP-ED for the Glass Hammer, Lisa explains, “I have made sure that my teams have flexible work schedules and resources available to them so they can do their best work while still managing their personal lives. Ironically, working from home during the COVID-19 virus has shown other leaders that we can be effective with flexible work schedules and working from home.” Lisa and her husband, Lance, apply flexibility and collaboration at home, too, as they raise their two sons and support their community.
While accounting and finance may not be the first profession that comes to mind for many young women, they tend to be effective when it comes to wealth planning. In Lisa’s experience, women are empathetic, active listeners, and convey sincere, multidimensional advice that helps their clients reach their financial goals, whether in business or their personal lives. To move more women into leadership roles, women in finance would benefit from support from male colleagues who are educated about the challenges of moving into leadership as a woman. Aspiring female leaders could benefit from a male “sponsor” or mentor, as well as other female mentors. Lastly, Lisa feels that the work culture, which is typically slow to change, should become more collaborative. Exposure at an early age to examples of female leaders would also empower women to succeed in financial careers. As a young girl, Lisa learned about successful females from her mother, who, as a single mom to her and her brother, worked in the White House with Presidents Johnson and Nixon, despite not having a high school degree. With a strong heritage (a combination of Jewish-Lithuanian immigrants – think Fiddler on the Roof- and Irish-Portuguese immigrants), Lisa was told at a young age that she could be anything she wanted to be which was not as common a message as it is today for girls.
Even though girls are entering into more diverse fields than in the past, Lisa still feels that it is important to encourage interest in financial responsibility and decision-making before college. Lisa is a member of the Davie Community Foundation and is involved in the development of educational modules that will provide curriculum focusing on financial planning to boys and girls in the public school system. This type of community engagement, along with programs like Junior Achievement, can create awareness of potential careers in finance and are important steps in building a leadership path for girls, according to Featherngill. Lisa leads a new team of highly credentialed financial planners which is 50% female! She continues to deconstruct the jungle gym that challenges female leadership and builds a ladder instead, right into the board room.