Community-building has driven Kristen Lucas’s career development, unexpectedly, into financial services, equipped with an English degree.
“I’m a writer… never thought I’d end up in finance.”
“I was just temping here [Fairport Asset Management/Luma Wealth Advisors] and interviewing in New York City… and interning at the Cleveland Museum of Art,” and the firm interrupted her search by telling her, “’we could totally use you.’”
Fourteen years later, “Kristen joined the Executive Leadership team in 2017, and is considered one of the strategic leaders of the firm,” Heather Ettinger wrote, partner at Fairport/Luma and YWCA Woman of Achievement (Class of 2001). Ettinger nominated Kristen for the Distinguished Young Woman recognition.
“I had no idea they nominated me. It’s so funny because I do all the nominations.” Kristen reacted to being recognized with a surprised, “Oh! This is for ME!”
“I don’t like math,” but she found out the financial services field is about people and relationships. She worked her way up from receptionist and client services, when she saw a gap in the business model.
“We needed a coordinated effort…everyone on the same page, to communicate the firms’ value in a crowded field and an intimidating industry.”
“Financial services has a very bad reputation. We are very confusing… to explain the value of the work they do with their clients. Everyone can give you a financial plan, but it’s the relationship firms offer that set them apart and bring real value to the client,” she explains.
There was no job description for a marketing manager in her field at the time when she saw the gap. Most financial firms didn’t have dedicated marketing people, but accounting and law firms do.
So, Lucas interviewed those firms to develop the job description that she pitched at Fairport Asset Management in 2006 that transformed her career and the firm’s way of functioning. Now she is the Director of Marketing at a firm that manages over a billion dollars.
One year ago, Kristen shaped the launch of a new Fairport service, Luma Wealth Advisors, excited to be able to “shape the experience from a blank sheet.”
They chose the name Luma to signify the illumination of financial services to be “clear and transparent” to women clients.
Heather Ettinger wrote in her nomination that Kristen “interfaced with multiple vendors in running the launch, placed outstanding media, and helped to create multimedia content and messaging that has helped place Luma as a nationally recognized brand.”
Luma is trying to fill the need in an industry that is sometimes dismissive and condescending to women, especially wives of clients, according to Lucas. Women outlive men and the financial services field are going to have to learn how to respect women’s power over their family’s wealth, she explains.
Luma builds community because, as Lucas explains, many of their clients never knew the family’s advisor before a death in the family, and may not know the details of the finances. Some of Luma’s clients came to them after working with the inhertied advisor who rush women to complete complex paperwork and make complicated, unfamiliar decisions right after a death of the primary contact to the advisor.
This challenge drives event-planning for Lucas, doing intergenerational events and developing a community of women among their Luma clients through a mix of social, appreciation, and educational events.
“What I’m really good at is events. I love bringing people together.”
For one appreciation event, she brought 350 people together at the Rock Hall, where the Hall’s Director of Education did a presentation on Madonna to her audience of women from 17-70 years old. Lucas enjoyed families of women having fun with a “controversial and educational” topic.
Despite the grand size, Lucas thinks the keys to success at events is having smaller events with a good mix of types of invitees and a variety of types of events. Educational and social events are limited to a dozen so that the intimidation factor for sharing is low.
She explains that even for their crowded appreciation event, “Before the event we get together and review the guest list so we know all of our guests. All of the employees know each guest and what is current with them.” After each event, they review the list again so that it is not just social, but practically effective to the work of the clients’ teams.
One of her favorite things she has heard from a guest at her appreciation event is “I never saw so much hugging at a corporate event.”
Through community-building strategies, clients know not only their team but a lot of people at the firm.
Launching the Luma brand, she learned to never underestimate the power of networking and connections.
“Heather’s sheer connections in media, industry, and custodians created so many advocates who wanted to help us, who were longing to help us launch Luma.”
Kristen Lucas has also developed a connection between Fairport/Luma and the YWCA of Greater Cleveland.
Heather Ettinger wrote, “Kristen is an alumnae of the YWCA’s professional leadership [training entitled] Bootcamp and a YWCA Woman of Professional Excellence. She has coordinated speakers for various programs, spearheaded the nomination and successful recognition of two senior partners as Women of Achievement. She has volunteered at numerous events where Fairport/Luma have been active participants like Circle, the Woman of Achievement luncheon, the launch of Breadwinner study with Momentum graduates and more. This year Kristen was instrumental in pushing for the YWCA to be Fairport/Luma’s Beacon sponsor where we will volunteer, contribute financial and human capital to various programs.”
“What was really fun was we volunteered at the carnival [for the YWCA Early Learning Center families]. It’s always a joy to interact with kids, but it was fun to see your staff in action.” Sharing her excitement for our new work with women experiencing homelessness, Fairport/Luma is organizing a supply drive later this year for Norma Herr Women’s Center.
“During the holidays we’re going to serve breakfast.”
“When you can take an interest with the folks the organization is impacting, that’s the most meaningful.”
Making an impact and connecting personally runs deep in Lucas’s personal history.
Apparently an event planner from youth, in 2nd or 3rd grade, Kristen organized a neighborhood circus that raised $42 that she donated to JDRF, formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Kristen’s parents were honest in her childhood that her father had Type 1 diabetes since he was 7 years old. He had 5 shots a day and, as a child, she knew how to call 911 and what to do if he had complications.
The disease, she remembers, “shaped the person he was and my relationship with him. I lived with no regrets. What a gift.”
“The insulin he took as a kid fried” his circulation, she explains. Her father died at 62 after having difficulty recovering from a quintuple heart bypass.
For seven years at Fairport/Luma, she served as team captain and top fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes, according to Ettinger, and now she is focusing her support on JDRF. There’s no word if another circus is up her sleeve.
Besides her marketing career and fundraising to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes, she has her own family career with a 3 year old daughter.
Their favorite local destinations are the Natural History Museum, the Holden Arboretum and Cleveland Botanical Gardens.
“All summer, we’ve been on a hunt for weddings” because her child “loves seeing brides.”
“Love love love the Botanical Gardens and Holden Arboretum. Holden is such a magical place.”
“Growing up in Euclid with a small yard,” she remembers, “my dad and brother and I used to fish in their ponds.” Now she enjoys the canopy walk and tower, recent additions to Holden.
The YWCA looks forward to continuing our relationship with Kristen as we wrap up our year as Fairport/Luma’s Community Beacon partner.