Karen E. West celebrates nearly five decades of trailblazing work in the financial services industry, including becoming the first female vice president of the Vanguard Group. Ms. West began her career in 1966, when she completed an Associate of Arts in accounting and business administration at Goldey-Beacom University. As she was preparing to graduate, she told an adviser that she found the field boring and no longer wanted to pursue it. After being asked if she enjoyed any aspect of it at all, Ms. West realized that she was drawn to the investment industry, and decided to focus her efforts exclusively on building a career in investment.
Ms. West began her professional career with Sears Roebuck’s acceptance department, working as an accounting department manager from 1966 until 1970 in their commercial paper area. Based on her prior experience, she was recruited by Wellington Management Company in 1970 as the company was preparing to launch its money market funds division. By 1970, Ms. West had already developed a reputation for excellence in management and an attention to detail that Wellington Management Company felt would be perfect for starting a new investment division. She spent four years with the company in a variety of roles, a period of time that she credits with allowing her to learn about a variety of types of funds and accounts in-depth and gather the experience that would allow her to go on to build her career with Vanguard.
In 1974, at the request of Jack Bogle, Ms. West left Wellington Management Company to become a fund controller for the Vanguard Group of investment companies. Over the next 29 years, she continued to hone her abilities and rise through the company. In recognition of her outstanding work in the role, she was presented with a Quality Award, the Vanguard Strategic Thinking Award, and the Vanguard Award of Excellence, among other honors. Widely respected for her creative approach to funds management and long-range perspective, Ms. West was named principal of the company and became its first female vice president, paving the way for other women in the field. In 1999, she stepped down from her role to enjoy retirement, only to be invited to return to the company’s board of directors just a year later.
Ms. West sat on the Delaware board of directors of the Vanguard Group until 2014. She attributes her success in the financial services industry to her passion for the work and her talent at finding opportunities to cut costs and develop strategies to streamline processes. In her retirement, she has dedicated herself to charity work and is active in service to her faith community as an ordained deacon of the United Church of Christ. Continuing to share the skills that she refined during her years as a fund accounting manager, Ms. West served as a member of the board of West Rehoboth and Miriam’s Table, a Delaware-based charity partnering with faith-based organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo to provide nutritional and medical services to children. Presently, she is chairwoman of Epworth United Methodist Church Pre-School and chair of investment at Epworth. She looks forward to continuing her charitable and humanitarian work in the coming years, and hopes to find additional opportunities to build on her past business and administrative expertise to connect with the community.