Lisa Frison had a life-changing experience as a child that set her on a path to success for years to come: She loved watching her older brothers prepare for school, come home for lunch, return to school, and then return home again to do their homework.
So, on her first day of kindergarten while growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., she thought she was returning to school with them after lunchtime. That’s when she learned she only went to school for a half day as a kindergartener.
“I cannot tell you the devastation that I felt. I was thinking, ‘nobody prepared me for this,’” said Frison, whose early penchant for learning helped propel her to a career in the high-flying world of banking at Wells Fargo, where today she leads the company’s African-American Segment strategy. “I just had such a yearning for school at a young age, which really sparked a lifelong love of learning.”
Frison, 44, credits that spark to her family, who instilled in her a deep desire to learn and achieve. They also taught her to follow her passion, which translates into giving back to the community on the job and to her family on her own time.
“I ensure that the company has a lens around the African-American segment in their business strategies,” she said. She also delivers insights about African-American consumers for Wells Fargo’s business partners to help serve the financial needs of Black consumers.
Frison, who is married and lives in Charlotte, N.C., has been able to parlay her financial savvy into providing good advice to friends and family. One of her strongest memories is of helping her now-21-year-old niece, Brianna, understand the importance of making smart money choices. While spending the weekend as a 5-year-old, Brianna forgot her toothbrush and wanted to buy a Mickey Mouse toothbrush at the grocery store. Frison told her no and bought a cheaper store brand.
“She said, ‘Auntie Lisa,’ you’re cheap,” Frison recalled. “I explained that it was a waste of money on a secondary toothbrush when she already had a nice one at home. To this day, we’ve had lots of conversations about money. Back then she called me cheap, now I’m the aunt she calls when she has a question about her finances.”
While she enjoys her job, Frison says it’s not the work she dreamed of doing as a little girl.
“I say that because during my younger, formative years, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an African-American segment strategy leader,” she said. “I couldn’t have known to aspire to this. It’s the next progression of matching my skill set with new opportunities, but not one that I could have predicted.
“I really feel fortunate to work for Wells Fargo, whose goal is to help customers succeed financially,” she said.
Frison received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Clarkson University and a MBA from the University of Rochester.
Prior to Wells Fargo, she worked at Disney, holding several roles in brand and alliance development. She says she successfully launched Disney’s Visa Credit Card. Her professional journey began at Xerox supervising a manufacturing product line and eventually transitioned into a finance and business strategy planner.
These days, in order to remain grounded, she tries to maintain a healthy balance between work and life. She starts her mornings with personal devotion and exercise to help set the tone for the day. Even with her busy travel schedule for work, she carves out meaningful time with her husband, James, and takes weekend trips when she needs to recharge.
Summing up what drives her professionally, Frison says, “I’m really, really passionate about my people and our right to economic power and freedom. In a lot of ways, the keys to that are through knowledge, education and access. I’m in a role where I get to help provide all of that.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Amy L. Campbell