Stacy Francis has made both a business and a mission of helping women achieve financial security.
That work began at her own door at age 19, when her grandmother confessed that she had stayed in an abusive marriage because she didn’t have the skills to deal with money. Swearing she would never be in that position herself, Francis got educated — and then got busy.
“Watching someone you love be hurt and feeling helpless to change it is never a feeling that I want to have again,” she says. “It changed the course of my life. Instead of [being] a French and Spanish major, well, it became French and finance.”
Francis soon plunged into the male-dominated world of investment banking. But after five years at big Wall Street firms, she began looking to move to a smaller company where she could have the freedom to pursue a dream: starting a nonprofit to help women get smart about their finances.
The small firms where she interviewed liked the idea of the nonprofit, but they saw marketing gold, not a social calling. So Francis decided to hang her own shingle instead. In 2002, she used personal savings to found Francis Financial, a New York wealth-management firm that specializes in helping women navigate financial challenges during big life changes, like divorce or the death of a parent or spouse. That same year, she started Savvy Ladies to provide free help to women of lesser means.
Being young, female and without an “old boy’s network” to help build a client base, Francis created her own network and professional reputation through media appearances and public speaking. For years, she operated alone — until she got “a great wakeup call” when had her first child and took only three days off. “I had not assembled a team yet” and realized “I need to do something about it,” she says.
Today, Francis Financial has nine employees and $1.6 million in annual assets-under-management revenue. Francis, who is 40 and president and CEO, starts her day at the crack of dawn so she can leave early on Mondays and Fridays to pick up her kids, Sebastian, 9, and Samantha, 6, from school and then hang out. “I finally feel now, for the first time, that the firm could do just fine without me, and that actually has been my real goal.”
Meanwhile, Savvy Ladies, her “third child,” has provided free financial advice and education to 12,000 women through webinars, live seminars and a “financial fitness” helpline where they can speak with a certified financial planner. Francis says her passion for Savvy Ladies comes from for her mother, who throughout her childhood was active in an array of community causes, while working, getting a Ph.D. at night and raising two children.
Francis showed similar grit at 16, when she sustained a traumatic brain injury but worked extra hard, overcame it and graduated in the top of her high-school class.
“I believe that success starts from within,” she says. “From the beginning, empowering women to be financially secure and independent has been my main mission. Every day, I am excited to go to work because I am proud of the company I have built and the people who have helped me get there. In the end, it’s not about how much money we make. It’s about the difference we make in the lives of the people we work with.”
Why do you deserve to be on the Power List?
“I wake up each day determined to change the status quo — to make life better for our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, best friends. I believe women deserve financial stability and financial knowledge. Through my firm and my nonprofit, I seek to provide women with financial knowledge and to empower them to take control of their financial futures.”