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Mentoring young financial advisors leads to career success

October 2011

When Long Island native Samantha Clark ’01 interviewed with Buffalo’s Alliance Advisory Group (AAG) 10 years ago, the company’s CEO told her that the career was going to be extremely difficult for her because she had no experience and no strong ties to the community.

As a recent college graduate, it would be next to impossible for people to trust her as their financial advisor, he warned.

Instead of turning away, Clark took up the challenge.

“Every other company was telling me that I was going to be a millionaire and driving a Ferrari by the time I was 25,” Clark says. “AAG told me that this career path was tough, and that they had never hired a recent college graduate before because the learning curve was so large.

“I told the CEO, Bob Fashano, ‘Many other companies are giving me offers. Give me a chance to prove you wrong.’ And he did. It was the hardest few years of my life, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world,” she says.

Clark spent two years building her career and learning all she could. Her diligence caught the attention of another advisor, Jim Fashano, who asked her to become part of his team. As they grew more successful, they brought in additional junior associates, who have since gone on to become successful advisors themselves.

“Jim and I realized that the team approach of bringing on inexperienced advisors was critical to their success later on,” she says. “But they needed exactly what I had needed: a mentor. They needed someone in their corner to pump them up when they were having a tough day, and most important, someone who has been through the same experience so they can see there’s a light at the end of tunnel.”

With this in mind, Clark dedicated herself to helping new advisors grow into successful professionals and business owners. She was appointed career development supervisor at AAG, with the responsibility to help in the development of three advisors who had been with the company a short time. About a year later, she was promoted to director of career development, with the increased responsibility of five advisors.

Clark is now AAG’s vice president of career development, responsible for all advisors with six years of experience or less in the Buffalo office. She also recruits and develops new talent for AAG. “Luckily, with our company model, I am still able to run my personal business and help my clients grow and develop financially,” she says.

In addition, Clark founded the Buffalo Niagara chapter of Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS). “WIFS is the premier organization dedicated to helping women develop their talents and achieve their fullest potential in our industry,” Clark says. Their mission fit right in with Clark’s philosophy of helping advisors become successful. “Networking has always been a huge part of my life.”

Clark’s professional success and volunteer efforts have not gone unnoticed. This year, she was named to Business First’s “40 Under Forty” list of rising business and community leaders in Western New York.

Outside of work, Clark enjoys spending time with her husband and two young children. “Our children are the light of our lives,” she says. “My hope is to build their foundation to be wonderful, caring citizens who want to inspire and help people each day.”

Written by Cathy Wilde