It’s never too early to start saving money. My Dad used to say, life doesn’t get less complicated or less expensive — encourage young children to start saving birthday and holiday money. Talk to kids and young adults about how much things cost and why it’s important to save.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Carly De Diego. Carly works with financial advisory firms to drive growth and execute at scale. As the first employee hired at AdvisorEngine, she possesses in-depth knowledge of all our products and services. Carly brings over 15 years of experience in the financial services industry leading training, product development and client success teams. Prior to joining AdvisorEngine, Carly worked as a business analyst at TD Ameritrade and was part of the Managed Account Advisors team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch where she garnered years of valuable experience working with custodians, managed accounts, clearing, and middle and back office functions. Carly holds a degree in Business Administration from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri.
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the banking/finance field?
I was raised in a small Nebraska town by entrepreneurial parents. From the ages of 7 and 8 my sister and I worked at our dad’s small-town grocery store. We helped with everything; unloading delivery trucks, facing shelves, peeling onions, wrapping raw meat, breaking down boxes, restocking candy (my favorite) and most importantly, counting back change to customers. My dad wholeheartedly believed in teaching us the value of a dollar…and how to go about earning one — while modeling a strong work ethic along the way.
My parents have always served as role models for fiscal responsibility and exceptional money management. They were able to support our family, retire early and now are enjoying life, debt-free. This commitment to financial freedom and investing wisely was actually what motivated me to consider opportunities in the field of finance. It is also something that I aspire to pass along to my children; the ability to have a healthy relationship with money.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?
Startups get glamorized in the media, but they’re hard work. If you’re someone who can remain calm in the midst of change and chaos, you will thrive. If you’re not, you should avoid joining a growth company at all costs.
Working at a startup has been the most interesting adventure of my career. As the first employee of AdvisorEngine, I have experienced the true nature of the startup culture. I have also made my fair share of mistakes. Take the time I single-handedly took the site down over the holidays and was told to “fix it,” which I did by promptly interrupting our development manager’s Christmas dinner. Talk about a call you wish you never had to make!
The beauty of working in this environment is that you learn how to take chances, make mistakes and develop the ability to fix them. It has been a privilege to share my wins, and losses, with the team in an effort to shape the identity, culture, mission and especially the products of our company.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Historically, only wealthy families have worked with a financial advisor. And there is a clear reason for this: managing money has been a manual, labor-intensive process. But I think we’re on the cusp of a new age of wealth management — one where millions more people have access to quality financial advice. I’m proud to work at a company that will enable this change.
At AdvisorEngine, our mission is to create a future of financial advice that is personal, scientific and beautiful. We’re doing that by building super modern technology and putting it in the hands of existing financial advisors. It allows them to serve MANY more people, FAR more effectively.
Some of our competitors have garnered a lot of attention talking about disintermediating the financial advisor using robo-advisor technology. We see it differently. When money is involved, human relationships and judgment are still really valuable. So we think we’re delivering the best of both worlds, combining technology plus people.
Instead of disrupting financial advisors, we’re simply modernizing how they do business; automating their operational tasks in order to save time, infusing data into their day-to-day to make them smarter, and creating digital engagement so that clients “feel” their value 24/7 — instead of only once per year at an annual checkup meeting.
One specific project I’m pumped about is ‘smart notifications.’ We’re providing dashboard-style alerts throughout the day, which allow financial advisors to be proactive in serving clients instead of reactive. It might sound simple, but it’s actually fairly radical for this industry.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The people. I recently attended AdvisorEngine’s annual user conference, >drive 2019, and was excited to see the number of deep personal connections being made throughout the event. This is the third year I have attended and each year it’s refreshing to see attendees hugging their client service representatives, introducing themselves with a big smile. Hearing statements like, “It’s me! Kathy G!” and seeing the light go off and hugs being exchanged.
Our people are extraordinary. There’s nothing more powerful than our employees’ passion and initiative to make clients happy. I strive to ensure every one of our clients are happy and serve as a bridge between great customer experience and business growth.
AdvisorEngine also stands out in the way in which we are building features and functions that suit our clients’ needs. Always exchanging product ideas with product managers to help ensure we are a design-led organization, transforming the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI).
Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all-white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?
Women have been advocating for change across all industries including opportunities for organizational leadership roles and gender differences in pay as well as their own personal financial planning given their longer lifespans.
We’ve also been leaning in and earning a seat at the table. The financial industry, among other industries, has also been more open to having women in leadership positions than ever before. Companies need to continue to assert a commitment to gender diversity. I am a firm believer that improved representation of female leaders will lead to a more rounded view of the client and customers — and if we’re being honest, who wouldn’t want that?
Men and women alike can do a better job empowering ALL around us. We all need to listen, be humble and show support. When we work together, great strides can be made toward success.
Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and /or c) society to support this movement going forward?
While I was sitting at my computer, preparing for this interview, my son came over and asked what I was working on. I let him know I was reviewing questions in preparation for this interview and asked him to read through the questions. When he got to this question, I asked him to pause and re-read it. He read it again and looked at me confused. I explained that half of the world’s population are men and the other half are women. Then I asked him to read the statistic again and asked him what he thought. His response was clear, “That’s just wrong!”
Individual contributions can be made on the interviewing and hiring front by making a conscious choice to consider other candidates with the same qualifications, those that may not have been considered before. Ensuring that they listen as often as they speak and are open-minded to opinions that differ from their own.
Companies can obtain candidates in non-traditional ways, for instance, if a firm’s candidates are typically sourced from a single recruiter, consider another recruiting firm that specifically focuses on sourcing candidates from diverse backgrounds.
You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1) It’s never too early to start saving money. My Dad used to say, life doesn’t get less complicated or less expensive — encourage young children to start saving birthday and holiday money. Talk to kids and young adults about how much things cost and why it’s important to save.
2) Talk openly about money. Kids, both young and old, need to take part in the daily financial tasks of their parents; budgeting, paying bills, using credit cards, tipping, donating, saving, etc. The conversation should continue into adulthood where topics may include the costs of healthcare and assisted living.
3) Max out your 401k contributions. There’s no better time to save money than as a single, young person. Get a jump start with your finances by creating a budget that allows you to have a little fun and save for retirement.
4) Open a brokerage account. Learn about the market by researching and investing in companies as a young adult.
5) Understand compounded interest. Albert Einstein famously said, “Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.” Einstein believed interest is the most powerful force in the universe. I couldn’t agree more, people should understand how interest works; how it can harm and help you.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents are single-handedly the people I am most grateful towards. They taught me that perseverance, a solid work ethic, honesty and some grit could get you where you wanted to go. That set of characteristics has carried me through career changes, relocations and has honestly helped me earn a seat at the table.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could inspire a movement it would be for the next generation to invest early and avoid debt. Living with debt affects people’s lives in so many negative ways. It’s not just about the money, the stress of debt can lead to a number of emotional and psychological issues — taking a toll on health.
Some nearing retirement age now are still focused on debt repayment rather than continued savings. The next generation can learn from this and focus on living within their means. You don’t need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ — it’s not essential to buy the latest electronics, designer clothes, or even that flashy new, leased vehicle. You can make do without ‘things,’ especially when your goal is freedom from debt — the sacrifices are worth it. It simply takes willpower not to overspend.
One of the first major financial decisions young people face is selecting a college or university. Make sure that choice fits into your greater, long term financial picture. How much does it cost? Will it require you to incur debt to complete your degree? How long will it take to pay off such debt? What type of career do you plan to pursue? Will it be worth the return on investment? Answers these questions to help plan and then navigate your roadmap for success — planning is the key to achieving financial freedom.
I encourage everyone to start saving early and often. When you begin your career, maximize your 401(k), utilize Roth IRA’s and open brokerage accounts. Make your money work for you. Take advantage of that compounded interest that I mentioned before. The comfort of a rapidly growing bank account can provide you with peace of mind, happiness and a lifetime of financial freedom. Who wouldn’t want that?
Thank you for all of these great insights!