Meet Lisa Fuentes – Chief Operating Officer

Nov 21, 2021

Lisa Fuentes is Chief Operating Officer for Alteris Financial Group and has been with the company for almost 20 years, having joined Alteris when it was based in Parramatta. She started as a Client Services Manager and then moved into a Team Leader role, before commencing as a Practice Manager, then into Head of Corporate Services and now as the Chief Operating Officer.

Lisa’s younger life circumstances have given her a unique insight into taking on challenges and adapting to her environment which she has segued neatly into her corporate life. At the age of 13 Lisa moved with her family to Chile to be closer to her extended family.

Not only was this a huge culture shock for this Australian-born girl, but she had to learn how to read, write and speak in Spanish in order to attend school. Lisa found she loved the amazing culture of Chile, with its focus on family, fun and dance and spending time with cousins she had never before met.

Lisa’s independent streak saw her take an extended holiday back in Australia and then a stretch of 8 months in Los Angeles, before settling back in Australia permanently when she was 18. After working part time, she moved into a sales role and then into a superannuation admin role at ING.

 

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“For the first time ever, I felt safe to tell colleagues that I work full time and I’m a full-time mum.”

In some ways, Lisa always knew she was destined to be involved with numbers and says she always felt inclined to seek work with a bank or with money in some way. In Chile, she was always the one to manage money and always had an interest in numbers – at school, her top grades were always in maths.

Lisa stayed with ING for a number of years, working into a specialist area of key contacts and, from there, into the world of financial planning as a Client Services Manager, before moving to Alteris Financial Group.

“Work has always been a really safe space for me,” Lisa explains. “It’s exciting to be a part of a business that’s growing and to be able to grow alongside my peers. When I started there were 4 people in the business, and now there are close to 60. My focus is always on creating success in others and, ultimately, that’s how I measure my own success”.

Lisa credits Keith Jones (founder and CEO of Alteris Financial Group) with supporting her from their very first meeting, and allowing Lisa to create her own space within the business and to almost “personalise” her career path. Keith created an environment in which Lisa was able to develop both as a woman and as an employee, and the opportunities and pathways he provided have allowed Lisa to excel within her career at both a personal and professional level.

This drive to see others succeed was a huge part of establishing Alteris Women. Lisa had been networking for a number of years with other females in similar roles and similar industries and found that conversation often strayed from work into a range of subjects. As a wife and mother, Lisa found she was able to connect with other women also juggling work, home, success, career and she found a sense of comfort in being able to be so vulnerable in this circumstance.

“For the first time ever, I felt safe to tell colleagues that I work full time and I’m a full-time mum,” Lisa says. “It’s such a challenge to get that balance between career and family right but networking with these ladies made me feel ‘normal’ – we were all successful and managing many of the same challenges”.

Lisa feels strongly that women need permission in the workplace to be vulnerable and to be safe to be honest about the home/work juggle. “As women, we leave so much behind when we walk out of the house in the morning,” she explains. “The things that mean a lot to us – family, children, commitments – they have to get left behind in order for us to go to work and do what we need to do”.

Lisa uses her personal experience to create empathy with her teams, and to use her leadership role to help influence others to feel valued, safe and respected. She sees her main value to the business is in focussing on people – they are more important than the systems and processes. As the full-time carer for her mother who developed early onset dementia in 2017, Lisa has faced many of the same challenging situations and heart-wrenching discussions as many AFG clients who access the services of the Lifestyle and Care division. “The journey with my mum showed me there are times in your life when you have to make very difficult decisions,” she says. “I learned you have to rely on friends and family to help get you through challenging times and, in drawing on their strength, I was able to stay true to my values and be myself at work. If I didn’t have my work, I don’t know that I would have survived that journey, but work has always been a safe haven for me.”

Loaded with energy (Lisa enjoys her daily, early-morning workouts), Lisa decided in 2020 to start her MBA. Partially fuelled by a desire to stay busy during the COVID restrictions, Lisa also saw this as an opportunity to invest in her ongoing professional development and, although it’s been a challenge going back to studying, it has been a very enjoyable experience.

As a morning person, Lisa finds this time of day to be the most productive so she has developed a routine that sees her do a workout every weekday morning at 5am. It’s the best way to set up her day and manage energy levels, particularly given she rarely has a “typical” day.

As a COO, Lisa’s day can comprise a range of tasks including dealing with HR matters, liaising with the marketing department, communicating with the external IT company, spending time with Client Services Managers, setting up systems, working through budgets, attending meetings, and so much more. Lisa is literally involved in every aspect of the business.

Lisa knows she is incredibly lucky to have had the opportunities her work with AFG has provided but she has also worked incredibly hard to ensure she delivers only the highest-quality work. Having been with the company for a very long time, Lisa feels she has grown as the business has grown and, in turn, seeks ways she can provide similar growth for other employees.

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