The financial services industry and technology companies are both attempting to increase diversity in their workforces, but the industries remain dominated by men.
So, it was noticeable when Advicent, a company that straddles both industries, announced the promotion of Angela Pecoraro to the role of CEO. She replaces Phil Cunningham who joined Advicent as CEO in 2014.
Advicent focuses on developing technology for advisors, including financial planning tools like NaviPlan, Figlo and Profiles, as well as the Narrator client portals. Pecoraro joined the Milwaukee-based company in 2013 and was responsible for Advicent’s client engagement and experience program.
She is one of just a few women leading a major wealth management technology firm. WealthManagement.com had the chance to talk to her about her experience in the industry, plans for the firm, and diversity in the industry.
WealthManagement.com: What were you doing before you joined Advicent?
Angela Pecoraro: I’ve been in technology for the past 15 years. I started with an incubator business that was very entrepreneurial in the early 2000s and was part of a team that took a business through its highest growth phases. It was in the financial services arena, providing software for independent insurance brokerage firms primarily in the U.S. That business, Zywave, was acquired by what we know today as Advicent.
WM: How are you looking to make your mark on the company?
AP: One is our customer-first attitude and direction — making sure we’re providing solutions to not only help advisors achieve their business objectives, but put their clients first. Keeping those investors in mind.
And two would be the continuation of our advancement of our product platform to continue to lead in a very dynamic industry. I very much respect our history and what we’ve done here and will not slow down.
WM: Speaking of a dynamic industry, what do you see changing and how will you change Advicent with it?
AP: I think the industry is just on the cusp of all of the change that we’re going to experience in the years to come with the introduction of new technology — the robo advisor phenomenon. All of the regulations we’re seeing now are the beginning of the change. Ultimately, the consumer is going to demand the direction we’re going. They’re going to decide where we shift.
Beyond the digital movement, from the advisor perspective, it will be to continue to enable firms with insightful data.
WM: Both finance and technology are traditionally male-dominated industries. What has your experience been like as a woman working where the two meet?
AP: I’ve actually enjoyed my career all along the way. I’ve been fortunate to work with many talented people who have guided me and mentored me all the way. I have found myself to be one of the few women and one of the youngest people in the room, [but] it’s become the norm.
I have noticed over the years that we’ve seen more and more women in the space, and that’s something I’ve been excited about, especially in the technical areas of the business. Traditionally, in the early parts of my career, I saw more women in the operational side — sales, customer support, that sort of thing. Now we’re seeing gals come out of college and go into the technical side right away.
I’m proof that someone, man or woman, can be successful in the software industry without having a technical degree.
WM: Where did you go to college and what did you study?
AP: I’m a lifelong resident of Wisconsin and went to a public state school — the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater — that specializes in business. I have a [degree] in entrepreneurship and an MBA from Alverno College.
WM: Is diversity an issue at Advicent that you’re looking to address?
AP: We hire the brightest and most talented people in the industry. I might be biased, but that’s what I believe. Those folks happen to be men and women. We have several women in leadership roles. I feel [that] we’re properly represented across both genders and will make sure diversity will remain a part of our organization, for sure.
WM: What are your thoughts about the diversity challenge throughout the financial services industry in general?
AP: It provides a lot of great opportunity not only for software, but for the folks in the advisory role. What comes from pressure and dynamics like this is a great experience for everyone involved.
I challenge the industry to think about the end consumer, the clients that we serve, and continue to invest in people and technology that will get us there. I definitely like to see other women be successful, but like to see men be successful too and organizations do the right thing for their customers.