Susan R. Colpitts

Founder, Chief of Client Experience

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Resume

Susan R. Colpitts is a Founder of Signature Family Wealth Advisors and leads the Client Services Team as the Chief of Client Experience. She is an expert in the technical areas of financial, tax, trust, and estate planning. She is particularly interested in working with clients to create meaningful philanthropic strategies that match their passions and financial resources with appropriate planning structures.

Susan is recognized nationally for her thought leadership and accomplishments in the areas of client experience, financial strategic planning and philanthropic planning. A frequent speaker, Susan has recently presented her work at national conferences for Family Office Exchange. Susan has received various national recognitions for her accomplishments, including Research Magazine’s Advisor Hall of Fame and the United Way of South Hampton Roads Volunteer of the Year.

Susan earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and her Masters in Accounting from the University of Virginia. She is an experienced accountant and Personal Financial Specialist.

Susan is actively involved in her community, engaging in volunteer activities which currently include being a Director of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation and Vice-Chair of Virginia Humanities Previously, Susan served as Trustee of the Eastern Virginia Medical School Foundation, Director of Building Goodness Foundation, past Chair of the United Way of South Hampton Roads and past Chair at the Virginia Symphony. Susan has also delivered speeches at conferences held by Family Office Exchange.


Q&A

What do you do at Signature?

When Anne [Shumadine] and I founded this firm in 1994, we aspired to create a place where clients could have their financial needs met in a way that maybe they couldn’t even anticipate.

Today, that’s the reality, and we work hard to keep it that way. I helped build a really great team to serve our clients over the last 23 years, so now it’s a matter of making sure our intellectual capital is always growing, our teamwork is always improving, and we’re finding new and better ways of solving client problems and sharing those insights across the platform.

What qualities make you best suited to do what you do?

I have a real passion for attention to detail, and I really care about the uniqueness of individuals. I think it’s a fairly unique intersection that reflects across the people who work with me. Especially on the client-facing side, all our team members are people who, despite very technical training as a CPA or a lawyer or something, wanted more from their careers. What they really wanted to do was take that skill set and use it to benefit families who are making a difference in their communities and in their own lives.

What is your favorite thing about coming to work every day?

I love that we have the capacity to help clients create a strategic plan for their wealth. To build the kind of dashboard they had as CEO of their business, so they can relate to their wealth, gauge how they are doing, and feel a sense of control over something that may be very foreign to them.

The other piece is the quality of the team we’ve built. I just love wrapping myself up in the caliber of the people here. You know, when you bring smart, values-driven people together at work, that’s a really cool place to put your energies. It’s almost luxurious.

How is Signature different than a Wall Street firm?

Almost everybody here has worked for a big company, and the problem with a big company is that somebody else sitting in an office far, far away gets to determine your strategy and your goals.

We’re in a position to keep our clients at the center of everything that we do. If the right thing to do for the client means that we lower our margin, then we get to decide that.  Because we have that long-term view.

You know, we made a business plan in 1993, and the business that we run today is almost exactly that plan. That’s because it was based on a really profound idea, and we have not allowed anybody else to tell us that we were wrong. And we happened to be right.

What do you wish more people understood about their wealth?

That you can get excited about it. The notion of wealth doesn’t have to be so serious.

Yes, wealth presents challenging issues, like raising well-adjusted children. It can be intimidating. But we spend all of our time working with families who do a fabulous job because they are thoughtful, optimistic, and values-driven. Their children wind up becoming even more incredible, with even greater opportunities.

So instead of being bored or worried about your wealth, you can hold it up like a snow globe and look at it. Ask yourself, “Wow, what could I do?”

What personal accomplishments are you most proud of?

I’m going to say the same thing that everybody says: my children and my marriage. I have three wonderful daughters. One is a doctor, and two are involved in theater, which is pretty strange cause I’m not a theater person, but they’re all independent, kind of social justice feminists with awesome world views.

I’m really proud of what my husband and I did, particularly because I was also building Signature. From time to time I will ask my daughters, “Did you resent my job?” And they’ll say “Oh no, Mom, we think it’s super cool that you do what you do.”

And you know, I’m very proud of my book club, which I helped start 10 or 12 or 15 years ago, because I needed girlfriends and ideas in my life.

What role does community service play in your life?

You know, I was an English major in college. I waited tables for a few years after school. I got my Master’s in Accounting to build a more stable career, and when I got started, one of the stories that I told myself was that I would use anything I learned to make a difference in my community.

These days, taking my business lessons and what I’ve learned from my clients to make a difference in my community has been kind of the icing on the cake. Turns out that working at Signature, in the intersection of business and making a difference, means that we can be pretty effective board members or community leaders.

What do you love to do outside of work?

We have a house on the eastern shore which we built, and I make time to be there with my husband in the peace and quiet. You know, I’m really a hippie on the inside. As much as I love our neighborhood in Norfolk, it’s really important to me to get out in the woods. It restores my soul.


Resume

Professional highlights

  • Founding Signature and creating a firm where employees can be financially successful, have a great time a work, and keep the client at the heart of everything
  • Building a deep and long-lasting relationship between Signature and The Women’s Initiative, which provides mental health services to women regardless of their ability to pay

Education & accreditations

  • M.S. in Accounting with a concentration in Taxation, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
  • B.A. in English, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

Service highlights

  • Trustee, Eastern Virginia Medical School Foundation
  • Director, Hampton Roads Community Foundation
  • Director, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
  • Director, Building Goodness Foundation
  • Planned Giving Advisory Board Member, University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce
  • Chair, United Way of South Hampton Roads
  • Chair, Virginia Symphony Orchestra
  • President, Virginia Symphony Foundation