The job switch by Dani Fava — formerly TD Ameritrade Institutional’s innovation chief — to lead strategic development at Envestnet is getting a thumbs-up from industry watchers and technology experts.
“It’s a great hire [for Envestnet] and a great fit,” said Joel Bruckenstein, publisher of the T3 Technology Hub and producer of the annual Technology Tools for Today (T3) events.
“She’s a great speaker and forward-thinking person who spends lots of effort on [understanding] new technologies and … how they are applicable to our business,” Bruckenstein explained in an interview.
Was the fintech expert surprised at the development? “Not at all,” he said. “In the current circumstances of [TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab’s] merger, it makes sense that Dani would be looking for a new home. She needs to be with a big firm that has [lots of] technology and that gives her big challenges to work on.”
Schwab has about 21,800 employees, TD Ameritrade close to 10,000, and Envestnet some 4,100.
Envestnet’s turnkey asset management platform, technology and other tools are used by about 103,000 advisors and 4,900 companies, including RIAs, banks, wealth managers and brokerage firms.
The firm is “very aligned with financial wellness and a technology-first approach, which is still being defined as we speak,” said Tim Welsh, head of Nexus Strategy, a consultancy.
“Someone like Dani can bring experience and insights to the new role, which is similar to the one she had before,” Welsh explained in an interview.
Envestnet leaders and staff seem to know Fava well, and she likely has gotten to know them over the years while working for the fintech firm Fiserv (2009-2012) and afterwards at TD Ameritrade, says Craig Iskowitz, CEO of the tech consultancy Ezra Group.
“In other words, she’s a known commodity there,” Iskowitz explained in an interview.
“Envestnet is a large firm, but it still figures out ways to be innovative and to continue to lead the industry — which is unusual,” he added. “In general, large firms can stagnate as they let their legacy businesses weigh them down.”
Fava’s hiring “is a sign of Envestnet’s continued belief in looking past where they are and not falling into what [author] Clayton Christensen called ‘the innovator’s dilemma,’” Iskowitz said.
That dilemma arises when large players feel they can’t go into a new market or pursue other opportunities for fear of hurting their older businesses.
Follow the Puck
“Dani’s one of those people who say ‘let’s go here,’ even if there is no short-term profit with the new business,” the consultant said.
“She’ll say ‘we need to go where the puck is going,’” he added. “Having this type of individual on staff allows you to grab opportunities before it’s too late.”
At TD Ameritrade, Fava managed the launch of the iRebal portfolio rebalancing tool on the Veo platform and the Model Market Center. She also led the rollout of the firm’s voice-first technology.
“Dani comes along at just the right time for Envestnet,” according to Gavin Spitzner, president of Wealth Consulting Partners.
Her hiring takes place as the fintech giant works to put in place its “vision for financial wellness, leveraging its capabilities across financial planning, data and analytics and advice implementation,” Spitzner said via email. “Given Dani’s background on the custody side and working closely with advisors, she has her finger on the pulse of what actually matters vs. what might sound good in the home office.”
— Check out Dani Fava Has a New Gig at Envestnet on ThinkAdvisor.