October 28, 2013
Risk (n.) – the possibility that something bad or unpleasant, such as an injury or loss, will happen.
Risk is an unavoidable part of life for each and every one of us. It can be unsettling at best, and downright terrifying at its worst. But according to Lisa Mortensen Woods, a two-time B&E alumna who traded on Wall Street during the bull market of the late 1990’s and the bear market of the 2000’s, risks both personal and professional are what make all the difference.
“In my experience, you rarely regret the risks you’ve taken, but you often regret the risks you didn’t take,” she said.
Woods received her B.S. in Marketing in 1992 and her M.B.A. in 1994. Upon receiving her master’s degree, she moved to New York City to begin her career, at first as a financial advisor and then in trading.
“I started trading at a small NASDAQ firm. This was when trading was really exploding, business was taking off. Then I was hired as an assistant trader by Charles Schwab, which was then the biggest NASDAQ trading operation. I worked at Schwab with the top technology trader and really learned the business. I was promoted to senior trader in January 1998- the youngest trader there at the time,” she recalled.
“Post 2000, a lot more regulations came into play. Many firms were automating their NASDAQ trading business, so I decided to move to a NYSE firm. That was still a very profitable business at the time and I traded listed equities for about three years,” she said. “While I absolutely loved trading, it’s definitely a demanding, stressful job. So after 12 years, I started exploring opportunities in the hedge fund space on the marketing side.”
That’s when Woods accepted her current role as Managing Director of Marketing and Investor Relations at Dunbar Capital, a multi-strategy fund of hedge funds that serves financial advisors. For the past 6 ½ years, Woods has kept clients informed –and hopefully happy- concerning Dunbar’s investment choices, portfolio changes and fund performance.
Woods travels around the country speaking at conferences and financial advisory offices to meet with financial advisors and investors. “On the marketing side, my job is centered around education. I educate financial advisors about hedge funds and the value they can add to a portfolio,” she explained.
“I love my current role. I love that every day is different and presents new challenges and opportunities. My position here is very diverse. I really enjoy the travel and the social interaction my current job allows,” she said.
Aside from work, Woods has two other passions – her two year old daughter, Quinn, and traveling. Woods has traveled extensively, visiting six of the seven continents and hopes to visit Antarctica eventually.
“Travel broadens your view of the world. It’s been helpful in business as it makes me a more accepting person. I’ve worked with people from many different nationalities through the course of my career,” she said.
The biggest piece of advice Woods has for aspiring business professionals is to meet with as many new people as possible as soon as possible to begin developing your network.
“The sooner, the better,” she said. “You never know where a great opportunity may originate. Get yourself a mentor in a field you’re interested in and you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of other people. Ask for introductions. Follow up with everyone. Always be respectful, appreciative and never burn bridges. The world is smaller than people think,” she said.
She shared this advice because following it was an integral part of how she landed her first position in the Big Apple.
“When I was getting my MBA, I knew I wanted to go into finance, and I always found the stock market interesting. But I wasn’t sure what careers would be available to me,” she recalls. She attended a WVU sponsored career day and met a local financial planner from Morgantown.
“I asked him if I could come spend a day in his office (at Prudential Securities) and pick his brain, talk to him for ideas. I shared my desire to move to New York and asked him if he could put me in touch with anyone in the New York office,” she recalled. Through her persistence, she eventually was able to find someone in the New York office to take her around and show her the operation.
“It was great. I had never been in a firm on Wall Street before,” she recalled. “I stepped on a trading floor for the first time and was absolutely fascinated. I didn’t exactly know yet what people were doing. But I felt that I wanted to do it.”
Although Woods is no longer a trader, the passion she has for the finance industry has not waned.
“Don’t settle for a job or an industry you’re not passionate about. No job will be exciting every day, but its where you’re going to be spending the bulk of your waking hours for the next two, three or four decades,” she said. “I’ve been in this industry for years now. And while not every day is a walk in the park, after nearly two decades I am still fascinated by the investment world. I still learn new things every day and I still enjoy reading the paper and keeping up on the markets. And that’s not something you can force. I’ve seen many friends of mine stay too long in a position or an industry that’s not right for them for fear of moving on or fear of the unknown,” she said.
But she explained that young professionals especially do not need to fear the unknown when it comes to fitting into a career.
“You can reinvent yourself, but that becomes more and more difficult as time goes on,” she said. “It’s much easier to reinvent yourself and launch a new career at age 26 than it is at 36 or 46. So I would say the big lesson there is don’t be afraid to take risks.”