“Female Leader of Finance” Alexandra Browne shares educational insights on financial literacy, successful women, and gaining knowledge
“As part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Browne. Alexandra had an unconventional and unforgettable introduction to finances — playing poker with her grandmother with a stack of pennies at the age of four. Since then, female mentorship and financial savvy have been an ongoing theme in Browne’s career. Browne studied genetics and biochemistry at Texas A&M University, where she developed a passion for analytics. After graduation, she began her career as a senior consultant in the health care industry. Browne worked directly with hospital executives and physicians across the country assisting them in building their medical programs with the aid of her analytical process and deep passion for people. However, Browne felt herself pulled in another direction, after her time as a successful consultant. Determined to defy the odds and stereotypes she would continue to face, Browne leaped from the male-dominated world of science to the male-dominated world of finance. In 2008, she switched industries to join a boutique analytics and research firm that had expertise in developing quantitative methodologies for intellectual property used by the global financial and institutional community. Her work ethic and professional talents continued to set her apart and spur her success. Browne had found the industry that combined her passions with her strengths in connecting with people. At the quantitative money manager, she worked with her team to create, design, and manage a hedge fund that was utilized by family offices across the country. It was then that Browne discovered another invaluable skill — a deep understanding of the needs of high-net-worth clients. Browne’s tenacity, knowledge, and analytical skills brought her to Lido Advisors, LLC in 2014, and she has since become a major asset and made substantial contributions to the firm and its culture that has developed into leading a team of eight skilled advisors. Browne lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and their three very active boys. She loves to cook, travel internationally, snowboard, and spend time with her family.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?
Coming from a blue-collar family, I had a very non-traditional introduction to finance relative to many of my counterparts. My parents worked 24-hour shifts and struggled to put food on the table. Investing was not in the cards for them, let alone educating me. From a very young age, I knew I wanted a different outcome for my life, and I felt that becoming a doctor would be the surest path to success. Starting at the age of 11, my passions and studies were all focused on going into medicine. I doubled up on AP science and math classes in high school and studied biochemistry and genetics in college. Throughout my studies in college, I gravitated toward the physics classes much more than biology. I realized I had a numbers brain. After graduation, while studying for my MCAT during the day, I waited tables in the evenings at an upscale steakhouse to cover my bills. A famous Wall Street trader often frequented the restaurant. I didn’t know what he did, but I knew he was well known and respected in the finance space. I asked him for a meeting to express my interest in getting into finance, and I needed some direction. It was much different than becoming a doctor where your path is outlined through school. I knew nothing about finance, but I knew I loved numbers and had the drive and passion to work in that space. That first meeting turned into a job with this trader at his managed futures shop in early 2008. What a time to enter the finance industry! Ironically, our managed futures strategies soared relative to most all other sectors at that time. I constantly studied the finance language, writing down new words and phrases I heard others say and soaked up anything I could watch or read related to the industry.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?
I remember this moment so vividly. I was at a financial conference as the managed futures specialist standing at a booth to help educate institutional advisors who wanted to learn the mechanics of our strategy. At that moment, I was the only person from my team in the booth. A gentleman stopped at the booth, expressed an interest in learning more, and asked me when the team would be back to explain the strategy. When I began to engage his questions and explained I was the specialist for the team he was taken aback and apologized. He said, “I am so sorry, I was under the impression that the team hired you to stand here at the booth and attract people to stop. I didn’t realize that YOU would be the specialist on the strategy.”
Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
This was not the first nor will it be the last time women are faced with these challenges. If we look back on our country’s history over the last century, perceptions of women in the workplace have come so far yet we still have so much further to go until we are perceived as equal to our male counterparts.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Oh, of course! Too many to share! I am so proud to work at such an innovative firm. I work with an incredibly creative team. Whether the task is looking for protection in these crazy markets without necessarily compromising return or finding alternative sources of income with interest rate uncertainty underway, we are always developing new solutions. One specific investment we offer that stands out this year is in Qualified Opportunity Zones. We have used this offering to help many people diversify concentrated holdings and take advantage of the many potential tax benefits this asset can provide over time.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our unique custom solutions are endless and non-traditional to most retail advisors. I love walking into a room of finance professionals and starting my meetings with solutions that I know are brand new to them regardless of their years in the industry. My passion lies in educating individuals on how to perceive the markets through a different lens. Many clients grow out of their existing advisors. We often share that Lido Advisors is a firm you grow into regardless of your level of wealth. There are opportunities in every market — the question is, are you with a firm that has the knowledge and systems to take advantage of those opportunities?
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all-white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?
As our country continues to evolve, women are more prevalent in the workplace. More and more women are taking over magazine covers in the business section of bookstores. It’s a great sight to see! Women often relate to other women. I love bringing on female clients and have built a strong client base of professional women. I find it is as if we can relate to each other by each of us going through the same maze of career challenges and making it to the other side successfully. There is an unspoken respect for one another that can blossom into a strong relationship. I am so lucky because it is as if I have a built-in group of women mentors from many industries. I advise them on their retirement and they advise me on how to manage a successful career while also being the best mother and spouse I can be. Also, they tell me my kids are going to turn out okay whenever I am having a hard time about missing another soccer game!
Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?
To help even the percentages, it will take work from both men and women. More to the point, it will take work from those in the managerial positions to mentor women entering new positions at any particular company. As a woman, it is hard to find a relatable mentor to help navigate the workforce when the majority of managers are men. In the finance world, this mentorship is crucial. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, if you don’t have someone at the top guiding you and your decision-making processes, then it can be very difficult to advance. Thus, it is crucial for men and women currently in senior roles to guide and tutor young women entering the workforce.
Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?
I don’t doubt these numbers. I had no exposure and knew absolutely nothing about finance until I jumped into the industry headfirst. A big contributor to these unfortunate numbers is the language. You are forced to learn a new language to understand the acronyms and terminology. This lack of language knowledge is one of the biggest barriers to financial literacy. It’s surprising to see company executives struggle with the language. It is just as surprising when so many well-educated people do not understand how a basic bond works. Often, just because you run a company and have money doesn’t mean you understand the basics of investing.
If I had the power to contribute greater change, it would be in expanding basic financial education within our elementary school system. While we are all told to save from a very young age, I don’t recall anyone ever explaining to me why that is necessary. You need money to make money. The more money you save, the more you can make. Industry language is not necessary for children to learn, but children should learn the importance of a dollar’s worth and why it is necessary to save. My second recommendation would be to read, and read as much as you can. If you don’t understand something, look it up and ask questions. Don’t let the fear of not knowing keep you from advancing. Lastly, I would advocate asking for help. Many big banks where most keep their checking accounts offer extensive amounts of educational resources. These resources could be anything from seminars and dinners to a professional representative that can help youth navigate the early years. If you are a banking client, ask what resources your bank offers.
You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about five non-intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each?
I was an adult when I became financially literate, so this list contains five things that helped me:
1. Read a financial newspaper as often as you can. While you may not know what you are reading, the more you expose yourself to the language, the easier it will become over time. I love the “What’s New” column on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. It is a concise column and an easy way to gain exposure to all sectors and current developments in the finance world.
2. Both my team and I subscribe to a daily e-mail from the Morning Brew. It is a finance-focused, five-minute read sent to your inbox every morning. It is entertaining, enjoyable, and very informative.
3. I lived on Investopedia in my early career to educate myself to overcome the language barrier. Words I would hear in conversation I wrote down and would later look up. It is a great starter dictionary that provides detailed definitions and examples for use.
4. I learned a lot of the basics by studying for my license exams. You don’t have to be a financial professional to order the books. These books start from the beginning, teaching the basics of what a stock and bond is, as well as the essentials of rules and regulations in an easy-to-understand manner. If you have a passion for learning the industry, those books are great reference tools to keep on hand.
5. Tune into the major financial networks on TV and radio. The more you are exposed, the more it will all come together for you.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a person who you are grateful toward who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I do not have one particular person, but I do have a group of people I owe gratitude towards that aided in my career growth. First, I received strong female mentorships from my grandmother and mother, who instilled the importance of confidence and dreaming big. The next person I owe gratitude toward is my husband. He is my biggest supporter, my sounding board, and my rock. We have a strong home partnership, which is so crucial for a woman’s success. He has an equally demanding career as a trial lawyer and we truly share the balance of home life and raising kids 50/50. Finally, the amazing group of people I am grateful to work with at Lido Advisors every day continues to push me forward. In addition to my incredible team that supports me and our clients, the mentorship at Lido is immeasurable. My partners are some of the most amazing mentors with open minds and diverse views. I am so lucky to learn from them each day. While I am proud of where I stand today in my career, I have big dreams for tomorrow and know that I have a supportive team behind me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My hands-down favorite quote is actually a question. “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” I have lived by this quote for as long as I can remember. The fear of failure stops so many people from reaching their fullest potential. I come from very humble beginnings as the first person in many generations of my family to graduate from college. I had so many obstacles along the way, but I refused to let the fear of failure stop me. I am a dreamer and my dreams only get bigger with time.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your ideas could trigger.
Our youth contains innocent minds unexposed to the harsh realities the real world often brings over time. We are not born fearing failure. Young children have big dreams of becoming president, a professional athlete, an astronaut, etc.; somewhere as children grow older, these big dreams change. Adults can learn so much from this innocence. I have a strong passion to empower our youth and to find a way to teach them to never stop dreaming big. The power of the mind is an incredible tool if we are taught not what to think, but how to think. How to use our mind to overcome what can be our biggest obstacle — ourselves. I would love to develop a curriculum that starts at the earliest stages of education, instills confidence, removes fear of failure, and promotes big dreams. “All meaningful change starts first in the imagination and then works its way out. Therefore, dream often… and dream big.” — Dan Zadra
Thank you for all of these great insights!