Colleen Bell, Executive Vice President & CFO, Cambridge Investment Research

Accomplishment(s): The greatest accomplishment over the past year has been to launch to our advisors a fully integrated digital solution that delivers value to their clients and increases advisor efficiency.

The vision was to partner with industry leading WealthTech firm’s and then build a fully integrated solution that syncs data for the advisor and client regardless of where they enter the information. This initiative was meant to solve the industry issue of several disjointed but desired WealthTech offerings.

As a financial solutions firm, our responsibility is to create a better experience for our advisors and their clients. Our solution, CLIC Advisor and CLIC Client, will provide a digital solution that is designed to evolve as the WealthTech landscape continues to change.

We have built the infrastructure that will support existing and new technology solutions such as financial planning, CRM solutions, trading, marketing and document storage. The possibility of how it will continue to evolve will keep me and the team motivated to continue to deliver enhancements.

This initiative took a great amount of collaboration amongst several firms working towards a common goal. In launching a solution of this size and scope, I have learned to respect the various strengths of people and partners, overcome obstacles and stay focused on advisor needs.

Ultimately, we were able to deliver a value to advisors so that they can focus on what they do best, which is to help their clients meet their financial goals.

How to get more women into WealthTech: First, we need to recognize that there are women that are a part of the WealthTech innovation in financial services.

Women will participate when they know there is a safe and innovative environment that values their expertise. I truly believe we have hit a tipping point in the industry, and we will continue to see the number of women in our industry rise in the future.

Second, every woman and man in our industry can invite more diversity into our organization by proactively engaging with women who could have an impact in financial services. There are many women in other professions who are not aware of the benefits of a career in financial services.

I was driven to join our industry after college because I knew I could help others save for their retirement and protect their financial assets. Today, I find a sense of joy that we are able to help clients save for their children’s education, retire when they desire and through innovative technology visualize all of their financial goals.

I believe other women will feel the same so we need to continue to create awareness and again, extend the invitation to make a difference through financial services. Cambridge’s leadership team, including assistant vice presidents and above, reflects over half as female (56% of AVPs are women, 50% of VPs are women), so it is possible to accomplish with the right environment.

Advice for those starting out: I started in financial services focused on compliance and regulations the year I graduated from college with absolutely no experience in our industry. My degree was actually in management information systems, which only became relevant in my career when I started working on our technology initiatives many years later.

One piece of advice I provide to our interns every year is that your degree provides a basis for how you learn and apply your knowledge, but will not necessarily shape your entire career. I suggest that others be open to careers that are not at all related to their degrees because they will be able to provide a unique perspective in their chosen field.

The other advice I would give my younger self and others starting in their career is to get comfortable working in the unknown. I always wanted to be completely confident that I could take on a new job or initiative before I actually applied, but I have realized over time that my greatest growth has come from opportunities that challenged my confidence.

Going into the unknown made me try to solve for as many of the unknowns as possible and that has made me a better leader and deliver better results.

Sources of insights and inspiration: My inspiration comes from many sources both within financial services and other professions. I love to learn from others and proactively seek business insight from authors such as Simon Sinek and so many TED Talk speakers.

However, I also find it extremely useful to look outside of financial services to other professionals such as medicine, transportation and politics.

I use my everyday experiences at the doctor’s with my children to shape how our advisors could deliver digital advice to their clients. After my daughter was experiencing an earache in the middle of the night, I tried the virtual doctor offered by our family practice clinic and realized that advice could be provided digitally via FaceTime rather than missing work and school the next day.

This was one inspiration to focus on digitally enabling our advisors to provide advice to their clients and let the clients enter their information, saving both parties time and effort.

I also find quite a bit of comparative insight in the transportation industry; if we can deliver technology that will literally drive me to work in the future, we certainly can deliver technology that will notify clients that their financial decisions will be taking them off course to meet their goals.

We do need to engage not only technology but also more behavioral science to shape the future of financial services.

Finally, I look to the success of women in politics in the 2018 election. There were many trailblazers that laid the groundwork to allow that change to happen and there have been so many inspiring women in our industry. If they can make the change in Congress to engage more women than ever before, financial services can do it too!