In 1995, third-generation Asheville native Laura Webb returned to her hometown with a dual purpose: using her years of investment consulting experience to launch her own independent wealth management firm, and carrying on her family’s long tradition of service to Western North Carolina. Twenty years later, there’s little doubt she’s succeeded. Webb Investment Services is celebrating two decades of helping a largely local client base navigate the twists and turns of long-term financial planning and investment management, while Webb herself has become a successful entrepreneur whose philanthropy has made her pillar of the community.
“When I was asked recently to articulate my goal in life, I said it’s to be a good wife, a loving friend, a trusted advisor and a good steward of the community,” Webb said. “I’m proud of the legacy of my family in this area, and I hope I can do it justice through my own business and volunteer work.”
A graduate of Asheville Country Day School, Webb obtained a degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before heading to Atlanta. There, she worked as a financial services associate for Robinson Humphrey, then as director of asset management for FSC Securities. She then became the first female regional vice president for Florida-based Eagle Asset Management.
“After nearly 14 years of moving up the corporate ladder and traveling all over the country for work, I wanted to lay down roots and be part of a community,” she said. So she returned to Asheville and started Webb Investment Services in a spare office at Webb Insurance, which was founded in 1925 by her grandfather, Stan, and at that time was led by her father, Robert “Chic” Webb, Jr. Her brother, John Webb, took the reins in 2000 and continues to lead the business today.
Laura Webb developed a niche for helping clients navigate dramatic changes in their lives. Perhaps they inherited money from a loved one’s passing, or maybe they wanted to ensure their assets were properly secured in the event of their own death or that of their spouse. Whatever the case, Webb crafted a practice that allows her and her team to break wealth management and its myriad processes and systems into bite-sized, manageable pieces that clients can fully understand. She often serves as team coordinator for all of her clients’ service providers, including CPAs and attorneys.
She describes her business as “an advisory-based practice, not a transaction-based practice. In other words, the focus is on the client, not the commissions,” she said. “I like to sit on the same side of the table as the client and help them make smart decisions about managing and keeping their wealth.”
Today, Webb Investment Services operates from a sixth-floor office of The Capital Building in downtown Asheville. Webb and her staff – Client Relationship Manager Carrie Martin and Client Service Specialist Gwen Gadd – serve a client base that’s about 75 percent local. In addition, hers is a female-owned firm in an industry that’s still male-dominated; only 12 to 17 percent of advisors are women, and only a handful of those own their own business. As a result, women are drawn to Webb Investment Services, with 70 percent of her clientele either women or couples in which the woman has directed the relationship to the firm.
Webb said she enjoys working with women and “giving them more control of their lives and more self-confidence, which ultimately influences their family’s well-being.
“Everyone is so busy that having a trusted advisor – a good ‘thinking partner’ – is a welcome addition to their lives,” she added. “It helps them sort out what’s important, what needs to be addressed now and what we can work on later.”
In 2002, Webb was honored with the ATHENA Award by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, honoring her as a valued business and professional leader in the community. Her strong desire to encourage and support women business owners led to Webb Investment Services picking up sponsorship of the award the following year. The firm continues that sponsorship today, with the award now known as the Women Entrepreneurs: Best in Business Award.
Webb currently serves on the board of directors for the Asheville Chamber (her second appointment to the board) and the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She also has served on the board of directors for RiverLink and the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC). She was a steering committee member for the CFWNC’s Women for Women giving circle, and Webb Investment Services has sponsored the organization’s popular Power of the Purse luncheon since its inception. Webb is also a longtime supporter of the YWCA of Asheville, both personally and professionally.
One of Webb’s newest passions is serving with her husband, local dentist John Hoskins, as regional leadership chairs for YMCA Camp Watia, an affordable, resident camp that will provide an opportunity for all children – regardless of socioeconomic background – to enjoy a meaningful outdoor camp experience. The 900-acre camp, which is located near Fontana Lake in Swain County, is scheduled to open in summer 2016.
She’s also passionate about conservation, having used her financial planning skills to help her family deal with a tract of 1,000 acres in Jackson County that nine relatives had a stake in.
“Some wanted to sell, and others wanted to conserve,” she said. “I was able to lead the family through a peaceful resolution so 400 acres could be sold, with the rest going into an easement managed by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, which I’m a big supporter of. It’s my proudest accomplishment so far.”
Webb’s philanthropic nature and love for the mountains is in her blood. Her great-grandfather, Charles A. Webb, was a three-term state senator who was instrumental in the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (He was also owner of the Asheville Times, co-owner of the Asheville Citizen and – when the two papers merged – the first president of the Asheville Citizen-Times.) Her father, Chic, was president of the Asheville Jaycees, and her mother’s involvement with RiverLink led to a park being named after her: Jean Webb Park, located on Riverside Drive in the River Arts District.
Laura Webb said she shares her forefathers’ goal of “making Western North Carolina an even better place to live, work and play. “In 1939, when my great-grandfather was publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times, the masthead said, ‘Dedicated to the Upbuilding of Western North Carolina,’” she said. “That is my goal … to be able to do that for my clients and those who live in this beautiful place. I think he would be please that I was doing exactly that.”
For more information on Webb Investment Services, visit www.webbavl.com or call (828) 252-5132.