For her 14th birthday, Shannon Spotswood asked for a subscription to The Wall Street Journal. She was enamored with the stock market and the world of finance. Eventually, she would land her dream job and work in the hedge fund industry in San Francisco for 20 years. But in 2010, she shocked everyone when she quit her job to help with the launch a luxury children’s clothing line called Busy Bees. Under the direction of co-founders Maryam Barrett and Genevieve Chapman and with Shannon as CFO, the brand flourished. However, Shannon returned to her first love of finance, and in 2016 was named president of RFG Advisory in Birmingham, a city she says she’s glad her family now calls home. We’re excited to introduce this week’s FACE of Birmingham, Shannon Spotswood.
Tell us more about your role as president of RFG Advisory.
In my role as president, I’m responsible for the day-to-day management of the firm. Our business is really focused on serving independent financial advisors and their clients, so in any given week, our team will be working on marketing strategies, business development, recruiting new advisors, or looking at potential acquisition opportunities. One of the most exciting things about my job is that no week is the same, and probably the most important thing that I do in my role is working with our team at RFG. In any leadership role, the primary responsibility is really empowering your team to be able to do what fulfills them and to have the resources that they need to be successful and to feel connected and motivated and excited about the culture. So the majority of my time is spent being a sounding board for them to be able to go out there and serve our advisors and win new business.
Several years ago, you left the finance industry to help with the launch of the luxury children’s clothing line Busy Bees. How did that huge life change come about?
It’s important to have some context. I fell in love with the financial markets when I was 14 years old. I just knew it was exactly what I wanted to do. I would visualize what it would feel like to carry a briefcase and hear my heels clicking in the hall. I was so fortunate in my time in San Francisco working in finance, to be a part of two hedge funds that were very successful, to really be in on the front line of the creation of the tech industry, working in investment banking, and seeing Silicon Valley truly be born. It was just the most amazing experience, and I had great partners and great mentors. It truly was a dream fulfilled until all of a sudden it wasn’t.
I had had three children in three-and-a-half years. So I had these very young children, and I was continuing to work in the hedge fund industry and crawling on airplanes and feeling that anguish of leaving my small children. It was getting harder and harder every time to walk out the door. I started to feel, in this very deep way, that I needed to really feed my soul. I fell out of love with the financial services industry.
While I was running and managing the hedge fund, I had done a lot of investing in retail and was very interested in building brands and the business of retail. I met the founder of Busy Bees, and she is this creative force and had this idea that really resonated with me about creating a luxury children’s clothing brand and making timeless heirloom clothing. So I started just toying with this idea of going from working in the tallest building in San Francisco in this very well-known established hedge fund to working in her garage with upside down boxes of inventory everywhere and no idea of what this could be.
How do you feel your time working with Busy Bees helps you in your current role at RFG Advisory?
To be the president of a company is all about taking this experience that you’ve gathered along the way and if you don’t seek out opportunities that push you outside your comfort zone, that challenge you in ways that you didn’t expect—it’s difficult to build up that skill set to then be in a position to be able to really inspire your team to fulfill their dreams and their aspirations. I think that is such an important part of the professional journey. Sometimes you have to do the unexpected.
Now that you’re back in the finance industry, do you have any time-management tips for other women working jobs as demanding as yours?
I think one of the most important things is to take stock of your personal hierarchy and actually write it down. Know where your priorities lie, and make sure that you’re allocating time appropriately, so that the hierarchy doesn’t get out of balance. It’s really easy to say, “My family is the most important thing to me,” and then when you look at how you’ve spent all your time, you find that they are getting the least amount of attention. So, I think it’s about being honest and then identifying how you can spend your time in an impactful way.
It’s really important to me to drop my kids off at school every morning, to have that time driving them to school, to feel connected in that way. It’s really important to carve out time in the evening to put my phone down, look my husband in the eye and talk about what we did during the day. It’s those little things, and not putting the pressure on yourself, especially as mothers, to feel like we have to be present for every single thing.
What brought you and your family to Birmingham?
We actually made a conscientious decision that we wanted to raise our children in Birmingham. My husband’s brother and sister-in-law live here, so we visited for many years. We wanted to be closer to family, and we were really excited about what was happening in Birmingham. I moved to San Francisco in the early ’90s, and I watched the grassroots of entrepreneurialism take root — and there’s so much of that energy in Birmingham. You have this electric scene that’s going on in the food industry. You have a lot of enthusiasm around the entrepreneurial startup community and the recognition that there is so much talent to be harnessed in this city for the future. And I just love Birmingham’s resurrection history. It is a community that has constantly remade itself and there is this passion around “What is the Birmingham of the future?”— and that was something that we were really excited to be a part of.
What are some of your favorite local restaurants?
I’m so devoted to the Frank Stitt experience. The first two years that we were here, we would go to his restaurants, and it was almost like the touchstone as it invokes that big-city feel yet has that community and small-town charm to it. To have those restaurants—and all of the restaurants that have kind of spun out from him—is such a gift to Birmingham.
We go to FoodBar all the time. We live over in Cahaba Heights, and that’s just a fantastic neighborhood restaurant that we love.
What else do you like to do in your free time?
I love to cook, so we do so much entertaining at our house. We love having all the dogs, all the cousins, all the kids, all the neighbors come over.
I’m pretty committed to working out, so I carve out that time every morning or at least five days a week and that is, without question, required for my sanity. And I really enjoy it. I run, I do yoga, I go to spinning classes, I try to do some weight training—I think it’s so important to have that mind-body connection, so I make that a priority.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given or the best advice you have to give?
“If it was easy, everyone would do it.”
This is my touchstone, because we all have those moments — whether it’s parenting, caring for your parents, in your profession, or in your marriage — where you feel so overwhelmed by the daunting nature of what lies ahead. So for me, that “If it was easy, everyone would do it” is a little bit like “Lift yourself up by the bootstraps. Walk through the valley. Fight another day.” That’s the mantra that gets me over it. It tells me, “Stop your whining and get on!”
Name three things you can’t live without.
Sharpies, lip gloss and my caffè latte
Thanks for chatting with and inspiring us, Shannon! And thanks to Eric & Jamie of Eric & Jamie Photography for these beautiful images of Shannon at the John Hand Building.
Get inspired by more amazing FACES of the South here!