Michelle Avan, Director Southwest Market Administrative Manager for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management
Photo by Valerie Goodloe
Michelle Avan, Director Southwest Market Administrative Manager for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, seems to have the perfect balance in her life. Merrill Lynch Bank of America is one of the world's largest financial institutions.
Avan recalls, “I didn’t want just a job. I wanted a career.”
Avan began her career as a receptionist 19 years ago with Dean Witter. Meanwhile for 4 years her desire to grow and learn brought her to interview for a lesser job with Merrill Lynch.
During first interview with the firm in New Orleans, she was told, “you are over qualified”.
Her response was “I am never over qualified to learn. But I understand you guys don’t know me. May I suggest you hire me and I promise that I will be the best employee?”
It was gutsy but he offered Avan the job that day. He admitted he had never done anything like it before.
Avan said it's not possible to work as hard as people in her business do without loving it.
Perhaps not surprisingly, since Avan speaks positively about the job officials are doing and sees reason for optimism.
According to Avan there is a fallacy that African American women can be vary aggressive, dominating, even intimidating.
“I had some tough feedback” says Avan earlier in her career. Concerned with her rigid approach, several people offered some career advice. They offered a different approach.
Michael Rogers, Regional Managing Director, and former boss her my mentor. Avan has a fondness for him. She was urged to soften my touch, and a makeover that provided a subtle change to instantly her update your look.
Michael taught me importance of eye contact when I was counseling people face to face or even a smile. “It was the little things that transformed me into the person I am today,” recalls Avan.
Chandeler Root, Southwest Market Executive, two years ago, recruited Avan to manage a new structure in the firm.
As Root was looking to build his leadership team he was surprise that Avan was sitting in his market all the time and he didn’t know it.
“She is very dynamic,” says Root. “She is my detail person, very process oriented. She pores over information tirelessly.”
He adds, "She drives everyone around her to find the best solution, she is unbelievably tireless and enthusiastic.
Avan sings the praises of an amazing network of people who saw her potential.
“I work really hard. I have a hard work ethic,” says Avan. “I’m very conscious, thoughtful, and diligent. I love to learn. You point me in the right direction I’ll make something happen.”
Brent Hamlet, Financial Advisor, has been a friend of Avan for 13 years. He acknowledge she brings a unique prospective as a black female.
Watching her grow and develop has been an absolute joy, says Hamlet and “I am so proud of her.”
He also believes she has evolved into a dynamic leader and because of this her perspective maybe effecting how Merrill Lynch Bank of America search assignments are used to identify, evaluate, and recruit more black execs.
Avan manages 1200 managers in the Southwest market that spans three states and $1.3 billion in assets. Her primary responsibility is compliance and keeping our investors’ money safe, secure, and we are meeting our clients’ goals.
Avan profess the wonderful thing about this industry is the time and work you put in to achieve your license is prove that you are dedicated and worthy.
A staunch proponent of mentorship, Avan advises, I must practice what I preach. I often tell young people not to get stuck on the fact I got hear with no degree. That’s a rare occurrence.
She recounts, “Was it uncomfortable, yes it was?” She remembers sitting among her colleagues as they discuss their alma mater, while displaying their big plaques, in the office. “It was difficult.”
Yet she decided to enroll into college while continuing to work. She graduated with honors from University of Phoenix with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management.
Nevertheless, she stayed flexible, and her ability to adapt to and manage change has been a key to her professional growth. Avan holds multiple FINRA securities licenses including the Series 7, 9, 10.
A staunch proponent of mentorship, Avan advises, professionals and young people too. She has an affinity for young people. “I have a personal obligation to make sure I’m imparting the right behavior for success, says Avan. Knowing that I can make an impression on someone else’s life.”
Malyric Nelson, 18, is Avan’s mentee. She says Avan’s will to be successful is encouraging. “I highly respect her because she is a great example of what is possible,” says Malyric.
Outside the office, Avan enjoys spending time with her family. As the mother of son, Tre'von, 21, and daughter Nyah, 12, she has a remarkable balance between her personal and professional life.
All this while husband Henry, is deployed on USS Harper's Ferry.
Elenita Nelson, Avan’s best friend, said she loves to have fun. “We go bowling, shopping, just a fun.” Elenita adds, “she has integrity, cares for you, and she is a wonderful person.”
Elenita is not just a best friend but she is Avan’s hair stylist.
Avan has a lot of pride for her company. Bank of America invest in its resources by hiring diverse candidates, and promoting within our organization.
As a result, Avan adds, “people who look like me can have the opportunity to become Director at Merrill Lynch, Bank of America. I’m living example that we practice what we preach.”