Rose Palazzo, the new head of MoneyGuide, never thought an early job in hospitality would land her a gig at one of the nation’s leading investment banks. But after talking to her customers — and budding financial advisers from Merrill Lynch & Co. — at a local hotel bar in New Jersey where she worked through college, she immediately traded in her biology major for a degree in finance.
“What drew me to financial planning was not this giant profit center, but that it was so interactive,” Palazzo said. “I fell in love with it.”
Planning was still a budding area of expertise in the early 2000s, but it allowed advisers to get the broadest view of financial plans, from asset allocations to tax harvesting, and what roles those segments played in client outcomes.
Palazzo soon landed with Merrill Lynch, and originally wanted to become a customer-facing adviser working with clients to help solve their financial needs. Instead, she found herself building the technology that helped all of Merrill’s 14,000 advisers work with clients on a daily basis.
“Underneath it all, I’m a little bit of a problem solver,” she said. “I love the idea of what fintech does for people, that there’s this amazing creativity component to it, and thinking about what’s next.”
One of the early fintech tools she worked on was designed to recalculate portfolios, Palazzo recalled, and was loaded onto laptops using a CD-ROM.
Her team asked themselves: How can we best help clients understand these complex portfolio constructions? “We were actually still helping clients by building these tools, just in a different way,” she said.
As she makes the move to the leading turnkey asset management platform Envestnet in November, Palazzo will push her vision of financial planning forward as group head of MoneyGuide, the financial planning software company Envestnet acquired in 2019 for $500 million.
“The future is comprehensive financial planning,” Palazzo said.
More than half of wealth management clients are willing to pay more for personalized service, according to a recent survey by Ernst & Young and Palazzo is hoping to be on the forefront of that tectonic shift. In exchange for greater personalization, the majority of wealth management clients (71%) are willing to share personal data with their primary wealth manager, a higher proportion than those willing to share with doctors, retailers, technology firms and media platforms.
“Clients want a [holistic] experience, but we are only actually managing a small portion of client assets. Some current supervisory processes just aren’t necessarily ready for the advances we want to make in financial advice,” she said.
“There are tons of dynamic and strong [female] voices,” Palazzo said. “I found for myself and women that I’ve mentored, especially in fintech and platform development, it can be intimidating and a little bit like you can’t participate in the same way other folks are participating.”
Research shows a record number of women left the workforce during the pandemic, but some businesses have put tighter inclusion requirements in place to elevate women into leadership roles. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, approved the new Nasdaq Board Diversity Rule in August, which requires all companies listed on the exchange to disclose board-level diversity statistics.
There are also various types of leadership roles, she said, where women can thrive. “You don’t have to be the strong, loud voice in the room,” Palazzo said. “You can make yourself heard in many different ways.”
As for women looking to forge a career in wealth management, Palazzo admits it’s important to have a plan. But it’s equally as important to be open to every opportunity that comes your way, she said, recalling her time as a bartender in New Jersey. There are opportunities that young professionals will come across in any industry, she said, they just have to be ready and willing to adapt.
“I do think being aware that you are that example for other women can resonate, and serve as an invitation,” Palazzo said.
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Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.