Continuing on its mission to transform its technology offering for advisors, Cetera Financial Group is looking outside the company, and outside the advisor industry, for new leadership.
Robert Moore, who took over as chief executive officer of Cetera in 2016, announced Tuesday that Michael Ragunas would take over as chief information officer. Ragunas will be responsible for developing and implementing Cetera’s new technology strategy, particularly the new Advice Architect Ecosytem plan to unify Cetera’s formerly disparate technology offerings. Ragunas will also oversee all aspects of Cetera’s information technology, cybersecurity and telecommunications.
Ragunas most recently served as the chief technology officer of Payfone, a provider of mobile-authentication and fraud-avoidance technologies for financial institutions. Before that, Ragunas was chief information officer of Fanatics, an online retailer of sports merchandise, where he led the migration of the NFL, NBA and NHL stores onto the Fanatics site. He’s also held senior technology positions at Bank of America and Staples.
Moore told WealthManagement.com that while Cetera considered internal candidates, the company wanted someone with consumer-orientated technology experience when developing its new advisor platform.
“We wanted to attract the very best talent we could across the full range of capabilities that are needed, but we wanted a particular emphasis on someone who isn’t a by-product of the industry itself,” Moore said, adding that Ragunas’ experience at Fanatics in particular showcased his ability in direct-to-client engagement. While this doesn’t mean Cetera has plans to enter the retail brokerage market, Moore said that it's more important than ever for the firm to deliver technology that is on par with what both advisors and their clients expect.
That is, technology that is modular and widget-ized, flexible and adaptable, and accessible across all devices.
“All these things matter to advisors and their clients,” Moore said. “We have a belief that in the future, the way that advice will be delivered, the way relationships will be deepened with advisors…and how [clients] want to relate to that financial plan, that is going to be increasingly different than it was for the past 30 years.”
Moore added the firm took into consideration the fact that Ragunas has not worked with advisor technology in the past, but pointed out he is no stranger to the financial-services industry. And while wealth management carries its own regulatory nuances, Moore said Cetera has “literally hundreds of people with deep, deep experience, and they can assist [Ragunas] tremendously.”
Cetera began rolling out the first components of its ecosystem in May with My Advice Architect, a new wealth management platform to help advisors match clients with investment products. In June, the company added a new facial-recognition program to help advisors discover deeper insight into how clients feel about financial goals, decisions and concerns. Moore said that with these foundational aspects in place, Ragunas will be able to build on them and accelerate the company’s roadmap.
Ragunas was unavailable for a statement, but in a press release said, “The significant strides [Cetera] has made in developing and integrating technologies to help transform the way advice is delivered is only the beginning of what I’m confident will be a remarkable strategic journey.”