Culture, service and deep roots in the community are the primary pillars of HighTower Somerset Advisory — a planning and investment management firm taking into account all aspects of clients’ lifestyles to maximize their wealth. These ideas are also the guiding stars for the company’s founder and managing director Lauren Pearson. She wanted to blend the robust resources of a larger firm with the personability of a smaller one. So, she created HighTower Somerset. Since developing the company, Lauren has been named one of Forbes Magazine’s Top Next-Generation Wealth Advisors and received many other recognitions for her impressive acumen and trailblazing spirit. Her knowledge, relatability and positive outlook are what make her our latest FACE of Birmingham!
Describe your role with HighTower Somerset.
I’m the founder and managing director of HighTower Somerset. Before I joined HighTower, I worked (as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™) at Merrill Lynch for 10 years and was looking for a place more congruent with my values, which is holding to the fiduciary standard of care. I looked at a few local firms and couldn’t find anything that was a perfect fit. I wanted the scale and sophistication of a larger firm paired with the responsibility of a registered investment advisory firm. That’s really what led me to create HighTower Somerset.
How did the company’s mission come to fruition?
It used to be everyone was at larger firms because they had the only access point to investments clients might be interested in. They had a more robust set of offerings. So that’s where people usually started in the business. Plus, they were just true financial planners. We do planning investments, portfolio construction and asset allocation. With improved technology and the emergence of new ideas in the financial field, there are emerging firms and HighTower is a leader in the industry. These firms are able to pair the scale and sophistication of the bigger firms with the responsibility of a smaller firm, which is acting as a fiduciary. A fiduciary is someone who puts their clients’ interests above their own. They have a legal obligation to do so.
Why do you think it’s important that women have a strong grasp of their financial goals?
The financial industry was built for men by men because, at one point in time, those were the only people dealing with money. As there are more dual-income families and as women have taken on larger roles within the home and outside the home — now, if you’re married, both people touch the money in some way. What we learned at our practice was we really need to focus on the issues women want to know about. Women want to feel safe. They want to feel like they can have a wonderful home. For example, we talk to our female clients about interior design, how to pay for it and think about it. There are some elements like that. In addition to that, the nurturing aspects of life — caring for children. Questions like – Do we have enough to send them to college? Can we pay for their wedding? Women are usually more concerned with these familial financial issues that typically don’t have anything to do with performance or return.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Developing meaningful connections with clients. We don’t take on a ton of clients, so for us, having these relationships where we are intimately involved with every aspect of our clients’ lives is rewarding. We know more about their lives sometimes than members of their own family. It’s the way we fit into the fabric of their life, and we really love that part.
What’s your best piece of advice for reaching financial goals?
Sitting down and creating goals is the first step. Life goes fast. I’m 40 this year, and I have three children. I’m working full-time and so is my husband – life is really busy. Focus on what you want your money to achieve. Maybe it’s retirement. Maybe it’s philanthropy. Helping people through those decisions and goals is important, but the first step is to sit down and set the goals, and then we back into them. Also, don’t spend more than you make!
How has leading HighTower personally affected or changed you?
I would call myself an accidental business owner. I love the work and the clients and knowing all the details. I’m passionate about the work. I wanted to work at a responsible firm. And what’s been fun, which I didn’t expect, is I can relate on a much more personal level with a lot of my clients who own businesses. It’s also given me the ability to dream and create and have a space where we can build our own world with high conviction.
You’re also a mom — what kind of legacy would you like to leave for your children?
I am raising three women, and I’m so passionate about women in general. I want my girls to know they can do whatever they want. They can work outside the home. If they want a business, that’s great. If they want to work in the home, then they can do that. I think for my girls, I want them always to be contributors – to contribute to something greater than themselves, and know whatever path they take, they don’t have to fit inside a certain mold.
Shifting gears, what’s your favorite Birmingham restaurant?
What is your favorite book?
Something that’s helped me in creating this business is a book called Traction by Gino Wickman. That book, over any other book in the past couple of years, has made me change the way I think about business.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My first boss told me, “The harder you work, the luckier you will become.” I’ve always felt that if you do the right thing, then it all kind of works out. If I’m doing the right thing and serving clients well, I think it’s working out.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Thank you for your insight, Lauren, and thanks to Eric & Jamie for the fabulous photos!
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