WSR Awards Industry Veteran COOs Emily Wilcox, Carly Maher and Tarah Williams with WSR Pathfinder Awards
By Janeesa Hollingshead
March 29, 2022
Like the first officer on a naval vessel, a COO executes strategy throughout an enterprise, monitoring the finances, legal and compliance risks, employees, partners, strategic accomplishments and yet-to-reach goals on a daily basis.
Needless to say, a COO must possess extreme organization skills, an ability to envision all the parts of the organization as real-time moving pieces, excellent persuasion and leadership skills and boundless drive and energy.
Many wealth management companies from small firms to industry giants have hired women COOs in recent years, both raising them up from within company ranks and hiring lateral veterans with the necessary skills for the next stage in growth, expansion and strategy.
From a group of many worthy candidates, the WSR editors selected three top women COOs leading their firms to new levels and redefining what a skillful COO can accomplish in the industry.
The editors reviewed criteria similar to the other WSR Pathfinder Awards for Women’s History Month including recognition within the industry, years within the industry and at leadership positions, charitable activities and impact on the industry.
Please join us in congratulating the following winners, all equally deserving and in no particular order.
Emily Wilcox, COO of Practifi
With seven years of experience at wealth management solutions platform provider Practifi, Emily Wilcox rose to the rank of COO almost four years ago.
Founded in 2013, Practifi added Wilcox as its third employee in 2015 and moved its headquarters from Sydney, Australia to Chicago in 2017 to gain better access to the North American market.
Having learned all aspects of the company hands-on through the startup phase, Wilcox now deploys that knowledge to manage operations in the company, which nine years after its founding still grows rapidly under her leadership, including 70% growth in North America in 2021.
Carly Maher, Head of Wealth Management Strategy and Business Operations of Park Avenue Securities
Recently transitioning from COO to Head of Wealth Management Strategy and Business Operations of Park Avenue Securities, a broker-dealer and RIA subsidiary of Guardian Life Insurance Company, one of the nation’s largest mutual insurance companies, Carly Maher leads the charge to operationalize plans for driving new growth for Guardian’s wealth management services.
Maher previously served as Senior Vice President of Enterprise Initiatives and, before that, Senior Vice President of Products and Services Management at broker-dealer and financial services holding company Ladenburg Thalmann. Prior to that, she was Senior Vice President, Sponsor Relations and Conferences at Commonwealth Financial Network.
Tarah Williams, COO of Prospera Financial
As punctuated by their December 2021 acquisition of Dorsey & Company, a $1.5 billion New Orleans-based wealth management firm, Texas-based independent broker-dealer and corporate RIA Prospera Financial has demonstrated that though they are mid-sized and privately owned, they are not only here to stay but determined to grow, including by continued acquisition in this new phase of intensified consolidation.
With 15 years of experience at Prospera, Tarah Williams has led multiple advisor growth and corporate growth programs and strategies as COO and before that, as Chief Administrative Officer and Senior Vice-President, Marketing and Advisor Loyalty, and leads the way in operationalizing the firm’s ability to expand both through acquisitions and organic advisor business growth.
In her charitable activities, Williams serves as a Junior Board Member for the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.