Wright State graduate Lesley Ott is paying it forward

Lesley Ott, who received a bachelor’s degree in business with a major in finance and an MBA from Wright State, is chief operating officer and chief compliance officer at James Investment Research.

Growing up in a small farming community of just more than 2,000 residents, Lesley Ott had a good idea of where she wanted to attend college. It was a mere 38 minutes south of her hometown village.

Wright State University offered characteristics that were a great fit for the Saint Paris native. She says class size and accessibility were important to her.

“Classes are smaller so you can develop a personal relationship with professors and approach them before or after class, as well as during their office hours,” she said. “Faculty take a personal interest in students and want you to be successful. They really strive to utilize community connections to offer hands-on experience opportunities for students. These are attributes I share with prospective students to this day.”

Ott, chief operating officer and chief compliance officer at James Investment Research, Inc., in Dayton, points out that Wright State was great for commuting from home while acquiring some experience in the workforce.

She is particularly thankful for Fall Ainina, Ph.D., her favorite professor of finance at Wright State, who informed her of an internship opportunity at James Investment Research in Xenia while she was in school. Ainina was a consultant for James at the time and is now the director of research.

“I acquired experience as a student, graduated, worked remotely, and returned to James in a full-time capacity,” Ott said. “This all happened because Dr. Fall was very connected in the community and took the time to bring me out to the office and introduce me to professionals in the office. Since Dr. Fall did that for me, I would like to try and do those same things for current students.”

Ott, who received a bachelor’s degree in business with a major in finance in 2004 and an MBA with concentrations in finance and management, innovation and change in 2011 from Wright State, has done everything she can to fulfill this pledge.

She serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board of the Raj Soin College of Business and has served as an adjunct professor for an undergraduate capstone management course. She was also recently named named to the Dayton Business Journal’s 2022 Bizwomen Power 50 list.

Ott has also been a judge for the Wright Venture competition, a program designed to encourage and advise entrepreneurial students. A student recruitment advocate for Wright State, Ott makes herself available and has become a role model for young people at her alma mater.

“It is important for the business community to get to know our students and identify potential candidates to bring on board,” she said. “The professors always went out of their way to help me. I want to pay that back by helping our students.”

Her own Wright State education laid a foundation for substantial success as a finance and management professional.

She serves a pertinent dual role with James Investment Research, Inc., the largest money management firm in the Dayton region, with $2.11 billion in locally managed assets. As chief operating officer and a management team member, she plays an instrumental role in furthering the company’s success, primarily centered on deepening relationships and providing premier service to clients.

The Wright State alumna also mitigates any compliance or ethical concerns as James’ chief compliance officer, ensuring that it is always operating in the best interest of clients. She particularly enjoys establishing relationships with clients and developing a personal connection.

“Trust is a primary factor when you are acting on someone’s behalf especially when it comes to their financial well-being. I want to know clients personally, including how their grandchildren are doing or what sports their children are playing,” she said. “We want our clients to know that we care about them.”

James announced earlier this year that it is expanding its services. For the last 50 years, its primary focus has been investing its clients’ assets to help meet their financial goals and objectives. Ott says this will continue to be an essential component in the company’s business model. But James is providing additional value to clients by offering wealth management services, which include comprehensive financial planning, estate planning and in-depth educational resources for clients and the public. New team members have been brought on board to coordinate this effort.

“It is one-stop shopping for our clients. It deepens our relationships with clients which is very important to us,” Ott said.

“Lesley is a wonderful example of the outstanding high school students who chose Wright State over other options and had the great educational experience we work hard to provide to all of our students. I am proud that Lesley had a great education here and has had a great career,” said Thomas Traynor, Ph.D., dean of the Raj Soin College of Business.

Whether she is serving her alma mater or clients in her professional career, Ott’s support of women and people from underrepresented communities is always essential to her. She has assumed a leadership role in the Dayton community and strives to make a difference for diverse populations.

Ott is an Advisory Board member for the Dayton Business Journal’s Bizwomen’s Insiders Club and a member of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce Executive Women’s Council. Her leadership also includes membership on the 100+ Women of Greene County Making a Difference and the Greene County Community Improvement Corporation Board. She previously served on the Women’s Board for Dayton Children’s Hospital.

Her exploits have been recognized. Ott was named one of the Dayton Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 award winners in 2020. The DBJ also recognized her as one of the 2020 Emerging Leaders, a group of professionals between the ages of 20 and 50 who are standouts in their field.

“There are a lot of people who are worthy of those honors. But as someone who grew up on a farm and worked to get to this point, it was wonderful to be recognized,” Ott said. “I always figured that hard work and moving up the ladder in my company would position me to network and help my university and community even more. It will help me become a better leader and person.”

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