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Top Women in WealthTech 2020: Allison Couch Pratt of Advisor Group

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Accomplishment(s): Advisor Group has invested greatly in business building tools for our financial professionals. Our biggest challenge is that those professionals are focused on their clients, and reading every home office email and attending every webinar is not at the top of their priority list.

With that in mind, I led our effort last year to partner with ActiFi to build our MyBusinessBuilder platform. MyBusinessBuilder supports advisor growth by aligning resources that can help them pursue opportunities or address challenges in their businesses. It personalizes the delivery of Advisor Group’s consultative resources by narrowing the focus to what each advisor needs, based on where they are in the evolution of their business at any given time.

For us, the platform produces and institutionalizes critical qualitative and quantitative knowledge regarding advisors’ businesses that was previously unavailable, and helps us draw on that information to empower their growth.

This is a technology solution that scales practice management. I’m very proud of the role I played in spurring collaboration from professionals across six of Advisor Group’s different functional areas to get this done. Not only did it result in a capability that will drive business growth and retention, it created synergies within our organization.

How to get more women into WealthTech: Raise your hand. At the heart of an advisor’s ability to scale their business so they can deliver more holistic wealth management services — is technology. Today, 97% of clients are demanding more digital engagement and getting it independent of their financial advisor.

All of this means that opportunities to drive innovative solutions through technology are available to entrepreneurially-minded professionals throughout an organization, in a way that we have never seen before.

For example, my “title” is National Sales Manager for a wealth management firm. But in that role, technology is a critical part of my day-to-day engagement both across our corporate organization and with our financial professionals.

That perspective allows me to drive innovation for advisors and our company, because I can see what advisors need and play a proactive and meaningful role in developing the technology solutions to help us meet those needs.

All of us, women and men, need to stop thinking of “technology” as a separate discipline or siloed “department.” For other women in the industry, don’t think that if you don’t have a computer science degree you are not qualified to influence technology innovation.

Most technology professionals have not had the opportunity to sit in an advisor’s office across the desk from the client. My team has, just as many other female professionals in the industry have. You can help translate advisors’ needs into business requirements. We all own technology.

Advice for those starting out: One, take more informed risks. One of my only regrets is that I was too cautious early on in my career. I was 10 years in before I had the confidence to really step out of my comfort zone and go for a role that made me think, “Wow, I might be over my skis.”

Two, hire a coach. Three years ago I had the opportunity to work with an executive coach. I approached the engagement somewhat reluctantly, but I decided if I was going to do it — I was going to be all in. Candidly, at times it felt like therapy, but I learned one of the most important lessons of my career — leadership is about influence, it’s not about the title on your business card.

What a release that was. It gave me permission to stretch within my current role and not always have my eyes on “what’s next.” Sometimes the most important lessons to be learned, the skills that you need to develop the most — are the ones that are right where you are at that moment.

Three, do not underestimate the importance of balance. This is not a 9-to-5 industry. We all work countless nights and weekends. Make balance a priority — exercise, spend time with your family, take that vacation you keep talking about. This industry has had some tragic losses in the past year; don’t leave this world with regrets.

Sources of insights and inspiration: I’m an industry trade junky — I skim all of the online publications for topics that interest me — practice management, new products, regulatory updates, new technology — I love op-ed and thought leadership pieces.

For meaty insights — the Cerulli Reports and the Cerulli Edge. The MMI/Casey Quirk by Deloitte studies have been invaluable. We leveraged the data from their 2017 study “Investors First: Rebuilding the Advice Business around Client Needs” to inspire our thinking on how to prepare for the fiduciary era. In 2019 they delivered “Meet me in the Middle: The Intermediary of 2025,” which affirmed our approach to Wealth Management.

For industry wisdom, I’ve been fortunate to work for one of our industry’s pioneers twice in my career — Valerie Brown. I will always consider her a mentor, and attribute much of my professional growth to her teachings — and as she and I would joke, not all lessons learned are easy ones!