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Mercer Hires Its First CTO, a Former Edelman Financial Engines Exec

Mercer Advisors is poaching talent from Edelman Financial Engines, onboarding the architect of Edelman Financial's client portal.

Mercer Advisors has named Christine Cataldo as chief technology and digital officer at the wealth management firm, as the organization faces a wealthtech environment that has changed drastically over the past 18 months. The former Edelman Financial Services chief operations and technology officer spent more than a decade with her former company, rising through the ranks from analyst to C-suite executive. Cataldo is Mercer Advisors’ first CTO and first CDO.

At Mercer, Cataldo will oversee technological and digital efforts as a member of the firm’s senior leadership team. She’ll be joined by the firm’s new chief marketing officer, Gary Foodim, who is moving over from financial consulting firm Strategic Financial Solutions, where he was also CMO. Mercer’s current CMO, Karen Lee, is moving up to a new position as chief business solutions officer.

Cataldo, who was at Edelman Financial before it was combined with Financial Engines, built the Edelman Online Portal in 2012. At Mercer she will not only lead digitization efforts but also oversee efforts to hire new developers and build out a client portal, she said. Cataldo expects client portal construction to begin in earnest in 2022.

Backed by Oak Hill Capital and Genstar Capital, Mercer has been growing quickly this year, following a dizzying year of deal-making in 2020. Some of the top priorities for innovation shared by CEO Dave Welling have been in estate and tax planning, areas ripe for technological disruption in the wealth management industry.

The timing of Welling’s hiring decision could prove troublesome for Edelman Financial Engines. Cataldo said she left Edelman Financial Services in April. Meanwhile, Edelman Financial Engines CTO Hamesh Chawla is planning to leave the firm, too, confirmed a spokesperson.

Those departures come even as the firm has grown to be one of the largest firms of its kind, with over $280 billion in AUM, according to David DeVoe, founder and CEO of wealth management consultant DeVoe & Company.

Cataldo played a crucial role in using technology to help fuel the company’s growth at Edelman Financial Engines, and she’s leaving behind systems that have impressed industry observers and consultants like DeVoe.

DeVoe told during a recent Advisor Innovations podcast that at a recent conference Edelman Financial Engines “alluded to tens of millions of dollars they are spending on marketing and technology, using almost creepy Cambridge Analytics [sic] to mine the U.S. universe and start to help clients, U.S. investors, understand how money can be managed better by the wealth management industry." That data is then used to “ultimately connect and even funnel 200,000 leads—200,000 leads a year—into their advisors.”

Similar to her role at Edelman Financial Engines, at Mercer Cataldo will be bringing client data—and the capabilities around that data—together into one portal.

“Mercer is large enough to do this in-house,” she said, “whereas many smaller RIAs just have to use one portal or the other.”

But even smaller RIAs could get to use the tech. Mercer is open to the possibility of selling its tech to nonassociated RIAs, she said. But even if Mercer opts not to sell its tech, RIAs targeted for acquisition by the firm might see the tech as a differentiator. “It’s a benefit to why an advisor should sell their practice to Mercer,” she said.

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