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Women in WealthTech: Neesha Hathi of Charles Schwab

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Neesha Hathi leads the Digital Services group, which serves some 11 million accounts with $3 trillion in client assets in Schwab’s Investor Services and Advisor Services units. She oversees the digital platforms that support retail and registered independent advisor clients, digital advice solutions, including Schwab Intelligent Portfolios and Schwab Intelligent Advisory, Schwab’s data office and business innovation.

Before moving to Schwab in 2004, she worked for startups like Enuvis, focused on GPS technology for wireless devices, and teen-media company Kibu. She began her career in investment banking at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Everen Securities.

In 2016, she received the Industry Leader Award from the Professional BusinessWomen of California. In 2012, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women also honored Hathi with the Women’s Human Rights Award for Leadership.

“I focus on how technology can improve the overall wealth management experience for investors — either through a professional … or directly through a website or mobile app,” Hathi explained.

“This means not only thinking about how we make the overall wealth management experience better — simpler, more transparent, more seamless — but also how technology can make the core principles of wealth management, like financial planning, diversification and advice, more accessible to those who otherwise can’t afford it,” she said.

“In an industry as complex as ours, it is a challenging proposition, but also a motivating one,” Hathi added. “If we do this right, we help more individuals reach their financial goals and advisors grow their businesses.”

What tech area do you most focus on in your job? Our mandate is focused on our client’s overall digital experience, so my team’s focus is spread across a broad range of technology areas – from mobile to machine learning.

Some key areas of focus include: streamlining and automating the manual aspects of our industry to make it easier for clients while continue driving down the cost of investing for all, leveraging data and insights to better personalize experiences for clients, and designing powerful digital capabilities that simplify the complex and help clients engage so that they can achieve their objectives.

What technology or tech trend are you most bullish on in the short term? It’s hard to pick just one! I think it’s actually the combination of technologies that is and will continue to create the biggest impact on advisors and investors.

For example the combination of mobile, machine learning and digital messaging can be powerful combination for helping advisors to keep clients calm during a volatile market. The maturing cloud and API ecosystem makes integration across platforms simpler and easier and will open up opportunities to deliver new, innovative experiences to clients.

How about longer term? In a business where trust is paramount, I’m looking forward to seeing the evolution in security and authentication. Passwords are not the way of the future and I’m excited to see how alternative methods of authentication, such as biometrics or even further out, blockchain can help us all feel more secure and confident.

What keeps you up at night? I am sure I am not alone in thinking about cybersecurity: we are in the business of “other people’s money” and the bedrock of that is ensuring that the assets advisors entrust with Schwab are safe and secure. When we are applying new technologies to our business, we have to do so in a way that balances the security of assets and data while leveraging the capabilities to make the experience easier and better.

What woman in the field do you most admire? I wish this was an easier question to answer. Neither financial services nor technology are known as being industries friendly to women so role models are hard to come by.

One female leader that comes to mind is Melinda Gates. The work that she does, particularly the focus on improving gender diversity in technology and driving global financial inclusion, is impactful and inspiring.

What is your go-to source for tech news? Well, WSJ Tech is always a standard, but I also really like Wired, particularly the focus on design.

What’s your favorite tech tool or app on the job? We use Confluence to enable collaboration and transparency.

As we’re applying Agile principles across more areas of the company, it’s not just used by our product development teams anymore. I like the ability to see what is in progress at any point and be able to see the collaboration across teams in action.

And off the clock? I’m kind of fitness junkie and am loving how wearables and connected devices are getting more people hooked on exercise and helping them improve and stay committed.

Two of my personal favorites: my Peloton bike that helps me push myself by competing against my own “personal best.” And Orangetheory Fitness – the heart rate monitor and big screens helps you keep pushing to your desired effort level in a fun and engaging way vs counting miles and reps.