When Richmond native Debbie Wagner came into work one day in early March, there were signs, banners and streamers everywhere; there were flowers on her desk, and there was free lunch and cake. They were celebrating “Debbie Wagner Day,” the 35th anniversary of Debbie's employment as a sales assistant in the Richmond, Va., offices of Wachovia Securities.
“That's my family. I love these people,” says Debbie. “Who besides your family do you know for 35 years?” Wagner asks. Indeed, Wagner grew up at work. She was only 18 years old, just married with a three-month-old daughter, when she started working in the Richmond brokerage office — in those days the firm was known as Wheat & Co., and it relied on calculators and electric typewriters. Wagner's mother used to do the firm's payroll back in the salad days, when there were about ten people working at the firm (now, decades and scores of acquisitions later, Wachovia Securities).
Wagner, 54, works with Rebecca Robertson of The Robertson Group, a team of three financial advisors managing $430 million for 1,300 clients. Needless to say, the phone rings all day long, and Wagner says she talks to 100 to 200 clients a week. Wagner tells clients they don't need to call Robertson if they have a problem, because she can probably take care of it herself. The only thing Wagner can't do is handle trades or orders, which she takes down and passes on to Robertson. “Every chance I get with the clients, I make the most of it,” she says. “I make sure they're okay, and that they're happy.”
The funny thing is, Wagner was once Robertson's boss — 20 years ago when Wagner managed 15 to 20 sales assistants. “She told me she would make me successful, and she has,” Roberston says.
Wagner doesn't take lunch because she says it disturbs her workflow, and she doesn't like taking vacations because she doesn't want anyone messing with her clients. “I always say the hardest part of my day is getting dressed. It's not working — this is enjoyable,” she says. “I love what I'm doing, I don't think I'll ever retire. When you find something you like, you stick with it,” she says.