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Ampersand Woman: CEO Alexandra Lebenthal

October 21, 2015 | Filed in: Woman of the Week

As the CEO of Lebenthal Holdings, Alexandra Lebenthal is one of Wall Street’s most powerful women, not to mention one of its most sartorially savvy. In true Ampersand Woman style, she spends her days running her financial firm (founded by her grandmother Sayra in 1925), writing novels, and proactively working to build solidarity among women in finance.

Her latest project is the launch of Sayra Magazine, which pays tribute to her grandmother’s trailblazing career and serves as the “voice of female financial advisors.” Below, we chat with Alexandra about her daily routine, the evolution of women’s workwear, and the guiding principles she learned from her mentor.

Alexandra Lebenthal

On Park Avenue in the Etsuko Crackle.

First things first: Did you always want to work in finance?

No. I wanted to be an actress until I was about 19. But I realized I only saw myself thanking the Academy, and I didn’t have the right ethic to really be an actress. After that, my career took its natural course.

Your grandmother blazed the trail for you, and you’ve done the same for other women in finance. As a leader in the field, what does your day-to-day look like?

My day-to-day work can be pretty varied: working on getting us in deals, recruiting new advisors to join our firm, meetings (my least favorite), working with advisors to help them with their clients, or trying to clean up my desk and empty my inbox!

Alexandra Lebenthal

A rare quiet moment in the Emma.

Why did you decide the time was right to launch Sayra?

After so many years in the business, I felt like it was time for female financial advisors to have a voice, a community. I want the reader to be inspired, entertained, and also find ways to build her business. Of course, it’s also a way for us to brand ourselves as the home for female advisors in the wealth management business.

Alexandra Lebenthal

Surveying the scene in the O’Keeffe.

We’ve been thinking about the idea of “practice” lately. How would you finish the sentence: Practice makes…

You not make the same mistake again.

What’s one thing young professionals should “practice doing” every day?

There are actually 41 things. My dear friend and mentor Jimmy Lee, who was Vice Chairman of JP Morgan, sadly passed away this summer. He was the most amazing individual—and a legendary banker. At his funeral reception, they handed out cards with his 41 principles of how to work and act. They included “Respect everyone at your company, from the receptionist to the CEO” and “Being on time is being early.”

Alexandra Lebenthal

Outside her office in the Etsuko Crackle.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to dressing for work?

The dressier the better—and lots of big jewelry, especially vintage.

How has women’s workwear evolved since you started out in the field?

A lot! Women didn’t wear pants when I first started working, and pantyhose were a must. Casual Fridays started in the mid ‘90s, and that was a huge change. For a long time, I only wore pants on Friday. Women have much more freedom to have fun with their wardrobes today.

Alexandra Lebenthal

Taking care of business in the Emma.

Success is… feeling good about your life.

Happiness is… family.

What’s your motto?

Everything works out. (Except I still need to learn to follow it!)

Photos by Frances F. Denny

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Tory Hoen is the author of the novel The Arc. She spent five years as the Creative Director of Brand at M.M.LaFleur (where she founded The M Dash!) and has written for New York Magazine, Vogue Fortune, Bon Appétit, and Condé Nast Traveler. Read more of Tory's posts.

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