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Women in WealthTech: Lori Yaverbaum of Commonwealth Financial Network

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Lori Yaverbaum cut her teeth in customer service at Fidelity Investments from 1989 to 1999 and was recognized for her work on the first online information system for customer-service agents. She went on to contribute to two Internet startups and joined Commonwealth in 2001.

In addition to starting Commonwealth’s usability department, Yaverbaum created a website-builder program for advisors and formed a new front-end development group.

“Her ability to understand and predict user behavior has continually proven ongoing thought leadership in developing software that is easy and engaging to use,” according to the firm.

“If I’m doing my job right, clients shouldn’t ever have to think about ‘technology,’” she explained.

What’s the focus of your work? I am incredibly fortunate to be able to focus on what I believe to be one of the most important areas in technology, and that is in how we can create intuitive, trusted and engaging experiences for our internal and external customers as they work with our software and our people. If our customers can’t, or don’t want to use our technology, nothing else really matters.

The range of what I work on spans from creating more effective technical communications to leading efforts around creating software and processes to reduce customer frustration, proactively provide solutions, and empower those in our community to work more efficiently and effortlessly.

What technologies are you bullish on in the short term? Sentiment analysis, predictive analytics and biometrics.

Sentiment analysis because we respond to every piece of feedback, our advisors have learned it’s worth their time to continue giving it. Sentiment analysis will help us better ascertain and react to our customers’ greatest pain points. We’ve already been experimenting with this technology, and I’m very optimistic about the value it will provide.

Predictive analytics because we always try to provide service before our advisors even know they need it (we call this “indispensability”). Predictive analytics will provide us with a higher quality of information, resulting in more confidence in what can, will, or possibly happen based on a given set of circumstances.

This takes Business Intelligence one step further, and I see a twofold benefit: one to Commonwealth as a company as we will become more efficient and effective in highly impactful decision-making, and a second to our advisors, as we become more proactive in addressing problems and providing solutions.

Biometrics because we are consistently balancing information security and ease of use, which is why I’m especially excited for biometrics. More widespread adoption will enable us to keep our information secure while also providing a better customer experience.

What are you bullish on in the long term? AI is extremely exciting to follow and I’m looking forward to the benefits I am sure it will offer in our industry. I would say the vast majority of both our competitors, and even those in entirely different vertical categories, would say the same.

I’m also interested in cryptocurrency and how that may or may not impact us. In particular, I have questions around how both current and future generations of advisors and clients would accept and adapt to such a complex and open technology specifically related to financial services.

What keeps you up at night? Information security is imperative, but how can we ensure it without completely disrupting the customer experience? The challenges exist in something as simple as changing a password policy and extend to all the complexities associated partnering with other vendors or taking advantage of cloud technologies.

Who do you most admire?  I would have said Sheryl Sandberg (and probably be in good company) because of her simple message to “lean in,” which resonated and influenced my own progress since 2013.

However, a more accurate answer is far closer to home for me, and that would be my mother Gayle Yaverbaum. She completed her Ph.D. in computer science and became a professor at Penn State University in 1977, when mainframe computers took up a room larger than our house and there were very few women in the field.

From the time I was five years old, I never questioned that if I put in the hard work and effort, I could do anything I wanted. It makes complete sense that I landed in IT so many years later and am still inspired by her as she continues to be a leader and volunteer in accreditation of college computing programs, teach and mentor.

What would you recommend that advisors keep up with and/or follow on Twitter for tech information? My favorite newsletters for advisors to keep up on tech information are those in publications written specifically for financial advisors as the audience, so it’s relevant to their work and there’s no assumed knowledge of technical jargon or expertise.

Twitter is so fluid, and I’m constantly changing who I follow based on top interests at any given time. I generally advise our advisors of who to follow based on the method in which my Twitter follow list was formed and continues to evolve.

I pay attention to who is writing the content I am reading on news sites or in blog content I come across. If I find the content especially interesting, or if I notice a trend emerging from a particular author, I will simply start following that person or publication. It’s as easy as a click to unfollow if the value stops. With that said, obviously, @Commonwealthfn is a favorite!

What’s your favorite app for your job? Twitter is my go-to app first thing in the morning and periodically, as I have time in the day.

As mentioned above, I follow people I have immense respect for that have their pulse on the topics I care most about. I personally follow several analysts from Forrester Research in the Customer Experience and Digital Experience space, and I also spend a great deal of time on their website in general reading their analysts’ reports.

And off the clock? I love my Apple watch, particularly the activity app. I’m obsessed with closing my fitness rings every day, but I also love the social aspect and friendly competition I have with my family around health and wellness. Waze, Instagram, Audible and Reminders are other favorites.