Audra Lalley ’90 is a woman on a mission. From the moment she set foot on campus at the College of William and Mary, she knew she wanted to attend.
“It seemed like exactly what I had been looking for, it was kind of the quintessential college look. I liked the small class sizes, the on-campus living, and the quality liberal arts education focus.” Lalley was an athlete at William and Mary, on the varsity swimming team.
She had a leg up in her college search. “My dad was a high school guidance counselor for over 30 years,” she says, “So he was a tremendous resource helping me figure out what I wanted and what would be a good fit.”
Lalley always knew that she wanted to get into business, and narrowed her focus to finance shortly after arriving at William and Mary.
“It was different once we declared majors, there was more focus of course, and I liked that a lot, but if I was in the business school today I would like it even more!” she laughs. “What an absolutely fantastic facility!”
Lalley tried to maximize her college experience while at William and Mary.
“I think I tried everything when I was a freshman, I ran for student government, joined a sorority, I think I took in just about everything William and Mary had to offer,” she says.
After graduation in 1990, Lalley moved to northern Virginia to work for KPMG, a consulting firm specializing in audit, tax and advisory services. After two years, she moved to GE Capital Asset Management, working on residential mortgage loans in states of delinquency or default. This gave her a something of an insiders view on the circumstances surrounding the current recession.
“What went on then, what we were working on, helped me understand what’s going on now,” she says.
Lalley was transferred to California with GE Capital and loved her time there, spending two years working in California before heading to the University of Chicago to get her MBA.
While at University of Chicago she honed her business interests.
“I wanted to do something in the investment banking realm, and I figured out pretty quickly what part of investment banking I wanted to be in, specifically the transactional side,” she says. “So I went to Lehman Brothers the summer between my first and second years to do an internship in sales and trading in New York.”
Lalley graduated business school in 1998, and decided to work for Goldman Sachs in private wealth management, as it gave her the flexibility to work with many different financial instruments. In March of 1999, she moved to Los Angeles with Goldman Sachs, switching firms to Morgan Stanley in 2002, where she continued in private wealth management.
“It was two buildings away, and closer to Starbucks,” she says. “Pretty much all the banks are on one street, called Avenue of the Stars.”
The address is appropriate for the kind of business Lalley does. In private wealth management, the clientele are the well-heeled and wealthy.
“My colleagues and I are tasked with finding wealthy people, those with $20 million dollars or more to invest, and convincing them that Morgan Stanley is the best place to have their assets managed,” she says. “Because we’re dealing with individuals and not companies, we also have to work with them on estate planning so that their legacy is taken care of, as well as their children, grandchildren, and any philanthropic needs.”
Lalley is responsible for advising her clients on the best ways to turn their wealth into more wealth, and it requires a breadth of knowledge. “My role is advising on investment, so my job is staying on top of markets, products, trends, currencies, all of those things,” She says “So that I can advise clients what to get in to, what to get out of, things like that.”
But Lalley’s fast-paced work life is not the only activity that requires her to push herself. She has been an avid athlete her entire life, and recently her exercise regimen has taken a turn for the extreme. On Nov. 6th, 2010, Lalley was in Panama City, Florida, participating in her second Ironman Triathlon.
Training for these events requires some creative scheduling. “Ironman is an individual pursuit when you really get down to it, you have to do some of the training on your own schedule whenever you can fit it in,” she says, “So if that means getting on the bike trainer at 3 o’clock in the morning, you do, and if you have to go for a run at 9 o’clock at night, you do.”
Lalley also participates in half-Ironman Triathlons, as well as shorter races, and is hoping to participate in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in 2013. Qualification requires that Lalley meet certain criteria in a qualifying race,
“If you win your age group you are definitely in, beyond that it depends on how many people are signed up for the race, and how many people are in your age group,” she says. “So if there are 10% of the people of the race are in my age group, than my age group will get 10% of the slots for the World Championships. Trust me, its hard!”
She started training for the Ironman as a result of the financial crisis in 2008. “There was so much negative news, and our clients were upset.” She says, “Either I was trying to calm someone down, or working to get someone out of an investment that was keeping them up at night.” The intensity of the training helped Lalley take her mind off of work.
Lalley has found time for philanthropic work as well. She is on the board for a non-profit called Kids of Kilimanjaro, which seeks to provide healthy school lunches for children in Tanzania. She combined her work with that charity with her latest Ironman Triathlon, raising money by seeking pledges for her participation in the competition. She was amazed by the support she received from William and Mary alumni.
“The support of William and Mary faculty, staff, everyone, really was astounding to me, they got behind me so much,” she says, “It showed me that William and Mary really is a special place.” Lalley raised $130,000 dollars for her charity, which made her the fourth highest fundraiser at the Ironman in Panama City.
She also finds time to serve as a member of the Swem Library Board of Directors, where she is responsible for working with the faculty, staff and students to support the Swem Library and making sure that it maintains its role as a premier research facility.
Audra Lalley is not about to slow down any time soon. And if she has her way, the next time we see her she’ll be crossing the finish line at the Ironman World Championships in 2013.