Meet Lorraine Fox
Guiding Silicon Valley’s leaders to personal financial success
Lorraine Fox was a young marketing manager at Sun Microsystems when, following the emergent tech giant’s initial public offering, she first sought the help of a financial advisor to help manage her portfolio.
She found the process of interviewing financial advisors challenging. She felt most weren’t listening to her goals and needs at the time, or they couldn’t explain why she should pursue an investment strategy.
“It took me several years to find a good, independent advisor whom I could trust,” said Lorraine, now a director of wealth management and principal in the San Francisco office of Aspiriant.
A Stanford University philosophy graduate with a master’s in business administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Lorraine continued to build a successful career in the tech and venture capital industries of California’s Silicon Valley. In addition to Sun Microsystems, her robust resume includes other prominent companies such as Oracle and Crescendo Ventures.
But through it all, she was not satisfied with the help she was getting managing her assets and evolving financial needs. “I kept thinking there had to be a better way than what I’ve experienced to manage money for people.”
So Lorraine decided to set her career on wealth management. The profession attracted her because, “It combines analytical thinking with creating meaningful relationships.”
Lorraine started at a small wealth management firm in 2009. But she felt the company didn’t have enough resources to serve her clients across all their financial needs. A search of leading independent financial advisor firms led her to Aspiriant. She joined the company as a director of wealth management in 2014 found it to be a “match made in heaven.”
Bringing an acute understanding of the needs of both upstart and successful tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, Lorraine quickly became a principal at Aspiriant and then was elected to its board of directors.
She has also made her mark in the region with the Silicon Valley Business Journal dubbing her one of the “Top 100 Women of Influence in Silicon Valley” in 2013. And Lorraine gives back in a big way to her alma mater, including serving on the boards of the Buck/Cardinal Club and the Stanford Professional Women, and volunteering for Stanford reunions. In turn, the university named her a Stanford Associate, an honor bestowed to its top volunteers.
Today, Lorraine shares how she brings her rich experiences together for the benefit of clients nationwide.
Q: You specialize in working with entrepreneurs of all ages. What do you bring to the table that helps business creators manage their wealth?
A: I have experienced every single issue a pre-IPO executive or employee has gone through. I understand that people who are working so fast and are concentrating on building their businesses and careers still need to focus on their personal lives and financial goals. I also understand the challenges of starting a new company — that it’s an eat-or-be-eaten environment, and many new firms or ventures can fail. For a lot of the clients I serve, their equity in their companies represents a large percentage of their net worth. And the future goals of most entrepreneurs are dependent on realizing some value through a liquidity event.
When getting to know clients, I rely on my personal and professional experiences to get a sense of where they need help and support. I can guide them through the process of managing a private asset to creating liquidity. I help them determine if and when they should diversify from a concentrated stock position. We talk holistically about tax and estate issues, too.
For a lot of the clients I serve, their equity in their companies represents a large percentage of their net worth.
Q: How do you begin to tailor a plan to an individual client?
A: I look at where the client is in his or her career lifecycle and focus on that person’s individual circumstances and what he or she wants to accomplish. Needs and goals often vary depending on which phase the client is in:
- Young entrepreneurs — They are often thinking shorter-term: one to five years. Younger professionals tend to be more focused on building their careers and may not have developed financial goals. They typically seek guidance on what they need to do with their personal finances so they can move on to capitalize on an economic opportunity. I help them manage sudden wealth, optimize a single stock and build a financial plan.
- Mid-career managers — Their goals are typically more developed and complex. Now, they might have to plan financially for both children and aging parents. They may want to give back to their community and seek help setting up an appropriate charitable entity. Some would like to work less, retire early, start new businesses or switch careers and need broader estate planning to accomplish that goal.
- C-level executives — These people’s lives are so complicated, and they are so busy. They may need help with submitting 10b5-1 plans with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell stock, filing taxes, estate planning and securing adequate insurance to protect their wealth. The challenge is finding time to meet or talk with them during their hectic schedules. Once we do meet, they happily realize the value we can provide.
Q: You chose to work with an independent wealth management firm because you had a hard time finding an advisor with whom you felt comfortable managing your money. Why is independence so important?
A: If you’re trying to build a career, you really want an advisor who is like a mentor, who can help you see around the corner while you focus on your work. Building trust is critical. A broker-dealer who works on commission, or a financial planner who is tied to a larger banking firm, only needs to assure the investments are suitable. An independent registered investment advisor is a fiduciary, which means the firm legally must work to a higher standard — your best interests.
Q: As a woman, you certainly have been a maverick yourself: first in technology, then venture capitalism, and now handling complex money management for other people. As you look back on your career, what do you see as a common, motivating thread for your success?
A: Basically, I’ve never been a person to think about barriers. I always think about what I can contribute, and I always try to look for doing things in a positive way.