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Women in WealthTech: Pamela R. Ellis of Bank of America-Merrill Lynch

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Pamela R. Ellis’ current work includes the design, development and strategic fit of technologies that support the Consumer, Small Business & Wealth Management; Merrill Lynch Wealth Management; and U.S. Trust businesses. This encompasses development work on all products, services and solutions for investments, credit cards, deposits, consumer vehicle lending, client underwriting, retirement, lending and mortgages.

Prior to joining BofA four years ago, she was the chief information officer for Nationstar Mortgage, as well as Technology Director at JPMorgan Chase, CIO and COO of Vantium Capital, and SVP Technology at Lehman Brothers.

What makes your job special and interesting? The advisory space is a competitive, dynamic landscape.  What differentiates Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a market leader is the scale, sophistication and flexibility of our technology platforms.

Our platforms aim to enable execution of business strategy by providing our Advisors with the relevant information and insights that inform richer, more meaningful client discussions. Access to world-class banking and wealth platforms also gives us the ability to deliver for our wealth management clients with an integrated and differentiated experience across banking and investing.

I have a passion and drive to lead an organization of technology teams energized by challenging the norm and innovating in the space with a relentless focus on maximizing the return on technology investment and driving client and associate satisfaction.

This is an organization whose products and solutions have been recognized by the industry for innovation and excellence in using technology to create business value.  Our goal is to provide the world’s best wealth management platforms to serve advisors and clients, leveraging our scale and expertise to help make their financial lives better.

What tech area do you most focus on in your job? A leading focus area for us continues to be to increasing Advisor productivity by continuing to enhance our industry leading wealth management advisory workstation. We have created solutions that provide Advisors with holistic information anchored from a client and portfolio perspective.  Advisors have at their fingertips all the information needed to serve clients.

We are focused on enabling our advisors to harness the same power through mobile devices when they are on the road meeting prospects and clients providing rich functionality through market leading digital channels. We are also rapidly evolving the workstation to become a more “intelligent” platform, serving up insights to advisors to enable them to anticipate and proactively address client needs and changes in their financial lives.

In today’s environment, CRM, social media, AI, cybersecurity and wealth platforms have become table stakes.  So we find ourselves focused on all of them in varying degrees with a constant priority on cybersecurity. We use social media to help our advisors connect with their clients how they want and when they want, while rethinking CRM to deliver the capabilities to best understand and serve our client needs with a relationship deepening view providing our advisors and market managers with a best in class client insights platform.

What technology are you bullish on in the short term? There are quite a few, but two key areas are:

  • Mass Affluent strategy has provided an industry differentiating hybrid approach to discretionary offerings, bridging the gap between traditional advisory and self-directed options. Our approach provides clients with a low cost enhanced digital experience with a dedicated advisor.
  • The increase in digital and online capabilities has created an opportunity to leverage the technology of conversational commerce and voice driven cognitive help and search. The capability to sift through the vast and complex store of data and information that is now available in our digital world can be powerful for our advisors and clients alike. It is the natural progression of how we continue to make technology work for us.

How about longer term? We have an aggressive interest in is artificial intelligence and machine learning automation. As we explore this, we have to be continually mindful of our regulatory environment and our responsibility to protect against bias and unintended consequences to ensure that any utility is conducted in a responsible way.

What keeps you up at night? Information security. We face an array of threats and we face new risks every day, so it is imperative that we stay alert, take appropriate actions, and act responsibly.

In addition, as an organization committed to celebrating the diversity reflected in our society, we are forever focused on making sure that we are providing high-tech high-touch services to everyone in our diverse client base.

As an example, the millennial investor is a rapidly growing market segment. Millennials may approach investing differently than what may be considered traditional matriarch and patriarch investors. We have to build digital capabilities that are not only appealing while anticipate their needs, but also exceed their expectations. At the same time we cannot neglect our traditional investors.

Delivering technology solutions that meet the needs of our wide spectrum of clients is what will keep us competitive and sought after in the financial services industry.

Which woman do you most admire in the field? Cathy Bessant, Bank of America’s Chief Operations and Technology Officer, she is influential in the industry and inspirational as a leader.

What’s your go-to source for tech info? Bank of America Merrill Lynch has a treasure trove of leading-edge market research and other materials to keep Advisors current and up to date. Our targeted materials are a great way to stay in the know about what is going on in the Advisory and Advisory Technology arena.

What is your favorite app or tool for your job? I am always looking to learn more about emerging technologies, how others are solving problems, and looking at trends and challenges in the industry and technology space.  Engaging in dialogue with technology leaders across our organization, with leaders in the industry, and thought leaders and disruptors in technology.

And off the clock? I am experimenting with IoT.