Double alum named head of BMO Family Office
Shannon Kennedy’s (BBA ’88, MBA ’96) servant leadership-style and 30 years of experience bring a unique perspective to the world of finance.
Most of her career has been spent in wealth management, with stops at BNY Mellon and Northern Trust. In June 2019, Kennedy returned to Chicago as global head of BMO Family Office, which specializes in wealth management for ultra-high net worth families.
She recently sat down with us to discuss her new position and how Loyola shaped her career.
Tell me about your new position.
BMO Harris is a great institution, and it was a great opportunity for me to take my 30 years of experience and try to build BMO Family Office, which was rebranded as I came on board.
I’m leading a group of professionals with a global client base focused on the exceptionally wealthy market, which is really fun. Right now, I’m getting to know the employees, and I’ve started visiting each family. All the families are unique and it’s about figuring out what matters most to each of them.
What was your career journey?
My parents were teachers and I couldn’t afford college for a variety of different reasons, but I received a scholarship to go to community college and was planning to go into physical therapy. I nannied in New York City for two summers while in community college, and one of their older children was an investment banker. After talking with him, I fell in love with business, did a complete 180, and applied to Loyola to study business. Chicago was my hometown, and I wanted to be in a city where I could get a job after school.
What made Loyola special?
It was a great experience. I loved going to Madonna della Strada for Mass at night and studying in the library. But I think what makes Loyola really special is not only the education, but the ethical values that it teaches.
I also met at Loyola my husband of 29 years, Paul Gadbut. He now sits on the Dean’s Alumni Advisory Board for Loyola’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
What shaped your leadership and business style?
I never really wanted to be in leadership positions, but I kept finding myself in them. My inner belief in saying please and thank you, doing what you say you’re going to do, responding with a sense of urgency, and apologizing quickly when you make a mistake got me here.
I spend a lot of time at work, so you have to laugh at yourself and have fun, and treat your employees like they’re volunteers. I have a servant leader-style because of that.
Advice for young women in finance?
Finance is still very male-dominated but I think my three sayings can help:
- Hug the fear monster: I say this all the time. I think a lot of times people – women especially – are afraid to go for a position. If there’s ten things needed in a position and they only have experience with nine, they won’t go for it. Their male counterparts with five will go for it.
- Lean in: I think my biggest learning experience was moving. It’s scary to go to a new place, but that’s where you grow tremendously, despite the unknowns – lean in.
- No’s are free, just ask: Ask in a respectful way, but it’s free to ask.
How has Loyola’s Jesuit education impacted you?
I try to assume positive intent, and I seek to understand first before making assumptions. A quote from a mentor is “shine through reflected light,” and I try to embody that.
Outside of work, I think we all have a commitment and obligation to the community. If you have the ability to give financially, that’s great, but sometimes you have to give of your time, and I try to do that. It comes down to trying to give back, participate, and help others. I was tremendously helped when I was at Loyola. I have always had a pay-it-forward mentality because of that.
How would you describe Quinlan in 10 words?
Ethical, smart, collaborative, supportive, well-rounded, respected, integrity, fun, metropolitan, and diverse.