The Story of Westfuller

A Predestined Connection An Enduring Partnership

Founded 2011

Our story began with a mutual admiration for the work of New York artist Norman Lewis. On the one hand, a deep appreciation for his vast catalog of midcentury paintings and, on the other, a familial reverence and respect. The Harlem-bred painter who created a legacy as one of the original Black abstract expressionists was, unknowingly, the catalyst for Westfuller.

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“It is discovering what one can achieve, what excites you and what you want to see in the world that hasn't been done.”

Norman Lewis

The Black-majority, woman and LGBTQ-owned investment advisory firm that is Westfuller today was not even a blip on Lola C. West’s radar in 1982 when she was looking to acquire her first piece of art. In the market for a notable work, she set off to see what art dealer Peg Alston had to offer. The dealer had procured a new parcel of Norman Lewis paintings and Lola was all about it. One painting in particular caught her eye and she was not about to go home without it.

Soon after purchasing her first Norman Lewis canvas, Lola was getting recognition everywhere she went. But not for being Lola C. West, patron of the arts. It was for someone named “Ouida,” whom everyone seemed pleased to run into out on the street. These identity mix ups were happening at a high enough rate that Lola finally stopped one of her mistaken greeters to inquire further. The answer she got was unexpected. Her apparent doppelganger, Ouida, was none other than Norman Lewis’ wife. Yes, that Norman Lewis, the artist whose painting she had just purchased.

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After three years of successful partnering at Merrill Lynch, Ian and Lola knew they were on to something good. Their confidence in each other flourished, and their values and work ethic naturally aligned. Ian gained inspiration from Lola’s conviction, generosity of spirit and extraordinary relationship-building skills, and her unwavering trust in Ian was backed by his tireless work ethic and absolute fearlessness.

Fast forward to 2004, Lola’s a senior advisor at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, and she’s recounting the story to one of her clients. Halfway into her account, the client shot up in his chair and exclaimed, “I have someone you’re going to want to meet.”

Without hesitation, Lola showed up at the address her client had handed her and was greeted at the front door by Tarin Fuller, Ouida’s daughter, and the mother of her future business partner, Ian Fuller.

When Ian met Lola, he was at a crossroads. He had just finished his graduate degree at NYU and knew he wanted to have a social impact, but was equally concerned about his student debt. Having spent time at Goldman Sachs and from his experience as an analyst at the UN, he knew that a key component of moving change in society is resources and capital. The belief that one cannot drive change without resources started Ian thinking about a career in finance again. When Lola learned about his past experience in finance, she suggested he consider Merrill Lynch as his next career step. Ian pursued her suggestion, but now he was pursuing finance with a sense of purpose.

After three years of successful partnering at Merrill Lynch, Ian and Lola knew they were on to something good. Their confidence in each other flourished, and their values and work ethic naturally aligned. Ian gained inspiration from Lola’s conviction, generosity of spirit and extraordinary relationship-building skills, and her unwavering trust in Ian was backed by his tireless work ethic and absolute fearlessness.

Her clients were his clients and thus the partnership was sealed.

Above: Photo Credit ©Alain Schroeder @alainschroeder

Cue the financial crisis of 2008, the industry would forever be altered and the timing was right for the duo to form their own investment advisory firm, one with an operating ethos of integrity, objectivity and prioritizing clients’ interests first. An open architecture would allow them the flexibility to choose a fund or manager solely in their clients’ interests. Gaining access to new channels not available at a large firm would open worlds of possibility. A firm designed to be a reflection of the world they want to see. A diverse world built on equity, mutual respect and striving together to build a vibrant planet.

From day one Westfuller artfully orchestrated investment strategies around initiatives highly important to them and their clients – racial, gender, economic and environmental justice, and consciously avoided industry sectors such as defense and fossil fuels.

Lola and Ian have always had an unwavering commitment and felt an urgency to devote their expertise and time to public service. For Lola, her long standing focus on civic uplift was instilled in her at a young age – do all that you can humanly do, as often as you can, to help others. For Ian, witnessing the economic struggles and social injustices in his communities, he adapted a sense of urgency and the conviction that if you take issue with social, economic or racial inequity, you get involved and try to solve it. And if it can’t be solved by you alone, you join forces with those who are in a position to address it.

“I always dreamed about building a practice that is diverse in nature, and that represented and reflected the face of America. That is Westfuller today.”

Lola C. West

“Westfuller represents a cosmopolitan mashup of activism, art, literature, design, legacy, purpose and impact through finance with the inimitable style, grit and excellence that a multiracial, gender diverse team brings to our craft and to the world.”

Ian S. Fuller

Above: Portrait of Ian S. Fuller by John Madere. Image courtesy of Ian Fuller.

Westfuller’s founders apply their “service to benefit others” mindset across everything they do from their clients and communities to society and the planet. As individuals and investment advisors, they reach for new ways to transfer their knowledge and nonprofit know how to organizations and people who will benefit the most. Over the years they have taught financial literacy courses at community centers, and for various churches where they also have managed their endowments. They actively serve on 10 boards in and around New York City and across the country, including the racial justice organization Color of Change and New York Women’s Foundation, which is committed to bringing economic security, health access, and reproductive justice to women and girls.

Whether you’re an individual investor vitalizing future generations or an institution diligently working for systemic change, Westfuller makes it their business to understand your needs and your world, and to actively participate in it.

As with Norman Lewis, who is finally and posthumously being celebrated for his undeniable contribution to the art world, the need was there all along.

Citation for Norman Lewis Quotes:

Oral history interview with Norman Lewis, 1968 July 14. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.