As a high school majorette in Atlanta, Lori Clos could twirl three batons — all on fire — at the same time. That should surprise no one who knows her. Forty-four years later, Lori Clos Fisher, SCHC ’83 finance, is leading more than 1,500 people across three continents as a managing director of Credit Operations at Bank of America. It’s a job she relishes.
“I’m a problem-solver and a people-developer,” Clos Fisher says from her 15th-floor office in midtown Atlanta, where she returned after earning her Master of International Business from the University of South Carolina in 1985. Having declined an offer from a New York money center bank, where she would have serviced solely one industry, she joined C&S, a regional bank that provided more variety in the work. It was a good decision on all counts. C&S is where she met her husband, Ed, and where she’s met hundreds of others, some of whom she managed in the new associate training program fresh out of college.
“There are several of those individuals in very responsible positions, and I knew them back when we were trying to get them in professional form,” she says. “I’ve had people who’ve worked for me multiple times. They worked for me in one job, then went to another, came back to work for me, left again and came back again. The greatest compliment is when they say, ‘you made a difference in my career.’ When they tell me what they learned as a part of my team, and that I gave them the skills and confidence to develop, that’s the best part of my job.”
Clos Fisher has experienced plenty of drama in her profession, from financial crises to interstate mergers and acquisitions. Though she travels frequently on business, she stayed in place as C&S became C&S/Sovran and then NationsBank and eventually Bank of America. In July she will celebrate 38 years with the company.
“I didn’t expect I’d be a banker my whole career, but finance gives you that entree to learn so many different industries in different places,” she says. “It’s almost a language you can use across different countries, industries, and profits and not-for-profits.”
She credits the late Dr. Robert Porter with spurring her love for finance as a subject. “I didn’t get it immediately, and he challenged me. I had to work for it. Once I did, it all came together.”
‘Positive and encouraging’
Clos Fisher grew up along the eastern seaboard, starting in New Jersey before moving to the Washington, D.C., area and then the Georgia cities of Macon and Atlanta. Her father’s work as an insurance executive moved them around, while her mother managed the family and earned her teaching degree part time over nine years. While she respected her mother’s accomplishments, she didn’t want to take that path to higher education and a career.
“I wanted to get my degree as soon as I could and be capable of taking care of myself and not asking for help,” she says. “When I accuse my parents of raising me to be independent, they say, ‘Lori, we had nothing to do with that. That’s the way you came.’”
Ironically, teaching and counseling are careers she might have chosen had she not gone into finance. But she’s doing that anyway, helping employees find their strengths. Often, she knows that before they do.
“As you mature in your career, a lot of what you do is listen to people, assess their talents, give them confidence and give them opportunities that didn’t align with what they thought they could do, that they didn’t think about,” she says. “As a leader, you try to be what you want in a leader. I want someone who is transparent and open with me and positive and encouraging, who paints a picture of the future you can get your mind around.”
It's important for employees to know they are valued, Clos Fisher believes. Just as “How do you add value?” is her professional motto, “to whom much is given, much is expected” is her personal one. That’s why she’s served on the SCHC partnership board for years, and why she and Ed established the Clos Fisher Family Endowed Scholarship in 2022. Unlike many scholarships, its only requirements are need and the desire for a college education.
“I really wanted to make available the resources for our admissions and recruiting folks to help students who maybe couldn’t come to USC unless they had that additional resource,” she says. “There are some students who might benefit the most and might add the most to the school and its diversity of thought but may not have the easiest time affording it. I wanted to give the admissions folks another tool in getting those interesting, diverse, amazing people to the college.”
The first scholarship will be awarded in fall 2024.
‘A good thing, especially for a young woman’
Growing up in very different places was a good thing for Clos Fisher.
“It broadened my perspective,” she says. “It drew me to wanting to be in international business, and I think that’s from experiencing different cultures at a young age.”
Her father, in Columbia on business, picked up USC materials for his daughter her senior year. Interested in the university’s MIBs program — and having experienced her springtime “Horseshoe moment” — Clos Fisher arrived on campus with an alumni scholarship to help with tuition. The SCHC’s small classes suited her academic ambitions, and she preferred assignments, projects and discussions to standard tests. The result was immeasurable.
“They helped me build confidence because they challenged me and I succeeded,” she says. “That’s a good thing, especially for a young woman. The Honors College started me on a career that took lots of twists and turns, and you’ve got to build that confidence somewhere.”
She recalls her tendency to doubt herself, particularly when she was younger. “I would look good on the outside, but on the inside I was fretting. With each new challenge I’d be asking, ‘can I really do this?’ I try to be less of a fretter, but it’s a conscious effort. It doesn’t really help.”
What her family calls “A-itis” is linked to her innate perfectionism, which can manifest as procrastination, she says. “I’ve learned over the years I’m going to make mistakes. I’m not perfect; you just pick yourself up and move on to the next thing. That’s harder when you’re younger and you don’t have the perspective.”
As with many SCHC alumni, she remembers what it’s like to learn you’re not the smartest person in class anymore.
Liking and understanding numbers
Recipient of the SCHC’s 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award, Lori Clos Fisher shares her knowledge and confidence with others who work for her at Bank of America. She mentors women and diverse associates from Atlanta to Asia, London to Hong Kong.
“I like numbers, and I liked the way you understood numbers — how you could use that information to make all kinds of decisions for the good of the group, the good of the person, the good of the company,” she says. By studying numbers, she knows which employees and teams are exceeding quantitative goals and can reward them. She knows when the work gets high enough to warrant more resources and people. She can tell when they need to be more innovative tracking manual work.
“It’s all about the people and how you develop that team — whether you’re building a strategy, managing or developing new products, or servicing our clients or operations that support our clients,” she said. “People are our biggest resource.”
A lover of travel, vintage detective stories and creating her own recipes, Clos Fisher also serves on philanthropic boards that support economic mobility in several forms. It’s a busy, fulfilling life, anchored by work she’s not ready to leave after almost four decades.
“At some point it will be time to step away,” she says, “but I’m not there yet.”