Laura Wright

Laura Wright | 2019 AACSB Influential Leader

Laura  Wright

Owner and Founder of GSB Advisory, LLC; Retired CFO and Senior VP of Finance, Southwest Airlines

Honoree Year: 2019

Alma Mater:

University of North Texas

College of Business

United States

Area of Impact:

Transportation

Laura Wright proved her business acumen as she helped Southwest Airlines remain successful throughout difficult economic times, and she continues to enable companies, nonprofits, and individuals to succeed through her consulting and volunteer work.

For the last eight years that Laura Wright worked for Southwest Airlines, she served as chief financial officer and senior vice president of finance, where she led the company during the industry’s most difficult times. Under Wright’s leadership, Southwest was able to maintain the strongest balance sheet in the American airline industry, the best fuel-hedging position in the industry, and an award-winning aircraft financing strategy.

Although she retired in 2012, Wright continues to share her wealth of knowledge and business education with others. She accepted a short-term consulting position with the Southwest Transplant Alliance (STA), where she brought the company into the black after six straight years of losses that were capped by a loss of 2.7 million USD. In 2014, STA saw revenue growth of 16 percent and a 68 percent improvement in its fund balance, thanks to her innovative strategies and perspectives.

Wright continues to innovate and lead today, serving as the sole member and founder of GSB Advisory, LLC, where she provides strategic and financial consulting for nonprofit and growth companies. Bestowing her level of expertise on corporations that need it most is an invaluable way for her to continue inspiring others. Wright is also making a positive impact on the greater community by volunteering her time and expertise through numerous prestigious public, private, and nonprofit boards. She also gives back to her alma mater, the University of North Texas (UNT), in many capacities. She is a standing vice chair of the UNT System Board of Regents and served on the UNT 2013 Presidential Search Committee. Additionally, she was a member of the UNT Foundation board and the College of Business Accounting and Murphy Enterprise Center advisory boards. The insight and leadership she provides to these organizations is invaluable; she has helped them navigate through issues and concerns similar to those she successfully overcame in her professional career.

As the CFO of Southwest Airlines, Wright served as an exemplary role model for others, especially women. In 2009, Wright was named one of the top 25 Women Finance Leaders in the November issue of Treasury and Risk magazine. During this time, Wright was the only woman CFO in the domestic airline industry. To earn such an honor, especially during the industry’s most turbulent times, is a testament to the leadership, influence, and inspiration that Wright exudes.

Wright has also earned a number of other recognitions in her professional career: she was named among America’s Best CFOs by Institutional Investor magazine in 2007, 2008, and 2009; awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Air Finance Journal in 2008; and selected as Top Large Public Company CFO by D Magazine in 2011.

 

Laura Wright is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the international business honor society recognizing top performing students from AACSB-accredited schools.