Today, an increasing number of business leaders are focusing their missions on a people-centric approach and driving signiﬁcant changes to their industry using innovative modern technology.
Allison Amadia has always focused on people throughout her three decades of experience managing and scaling technology companies, emphasizing ﬁnancial services, technology, eCommerce, and payments.
As General Counsel, CCO, Head of HR, and Director at Personal Capital, Allison has supported the organization to achieve its business goals while aligning with its mission. With Allison’s involvement, Personal Capital has built its business around people, serving a better, logical, and personal way to invest and manage your money.
Based on Allison’s background leading mission-focused organizations, Insights Success reached out to learn about her professional journey and how Personal Capital is personalizing ﬁnancial management that dynamically evolves with the changing times. We spoke with her about the challenges she faced, her core business values and what she hopes the next momentous change will be to ﬁnancial services.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at Personal Capital. What challenges did you have to overcome to reach where you are today?
My journey as a business leader building and scaling technology companies began over 30 years ago. I have been fortunate to serve as an executive and trusted advisor for public and private technology companies that have spanned several industries, including classic consumer hardware, enterprise software, networking, business intelligence, payments, security, and current wealth management. Basically, I am a technology industry mutt! My breadth of experience across many industries has enabled me to bring unique perspectives to each job. I also “hung my shingle” as an outsourced General Counsel, a successful ten-year experiment that would have continued indeﬁnitely but for a great client and mentor convincing me to close my thriving practice and join his public company. Later in my career journey and now, I value the mission and culture of an organization over anything else.
Work, like life, is never without challenges. However, I don’t think my challenges have been particularly unique for my generation of women. One of my early experiences that epitomizes the unconscious, and even conscious bias, I have personally witnessed and endured throughout my career was when I was a mid-level lead commercial attorney for a software division. At that time, the internet and electronic payments were just taking oﬀ, and banks were eager to leverage this innovative technology. My company approached a bank in Japan that showed interest and then began to assemble a team to close the deal. My boss told me that “Management” was concerned about sending a woman to Tokyo, fearing that I would not be well received as a woman. Fortunately, I refused to accept this view and, with the support of my boss, insisted and ultimately prevailed. As it turned out, the Japanese bank proved to be more progressive than the management team had anticipated, and gender was a non-issue.
Despite these challenges, I have been successful in my career because I never doubted myself and my abilities; and I genuinely love the work I do. But my success was not achieved without the support of many mentors — most of them male because they were in the best positions to mentor and sponsor me. Although society and business have more room to grow, I am grateful for the progress toward gender equality that I have seen and been a part of over the last 30 years. I am also inspired by the many employee-led diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DE&I”) initiatives that have sprouted in forward-thinking companies today, including here at Personal Capital. As the executive sponsor of our DE&I Council, I get to work with amazing, dedicated individuals in our organization that inspire us all to challenge our beliefs and biases; strive to increase all types of diversity and do our part to ensure we nurture our inclusive culture.
Tell us something more about Personal Capital, its mission and vision.
Personal Capital Advisors is a digitally-led investment advisory ﬁrm that strives to empower people to understand their holistic net worth and actively plan for better retirement outcomes. Today we have over 3 million users of our free ﬁnancial tools and over 31,000 clients (as of 1/31/22) of our advisory services with over $22B in assets under management. Our bold mission is to transform ﬁnancial lives through technology and people. We help consumers achieve this by providing industry-leading tools and technology paired with investment management, dedicated Advisors, and ﬁnancial planning experts. We also oﬀer cash management solutions, and we are looking for ways to provide people with innovative technologies, services, and support.
In 2020, Empower acquired Personal Capital, the nation’s second-largest retirement services provider with more than 9,000 associates. Empower currently administers $1.1 trillion in assets for more than 13 million individuals and approximately 67,000 organizations. With this new business combination, retirement plan participants and individual investors will have access to robust, digital ﬁnancial tools they need to see a complete 360-degree ﬁnancial picture, including their personal assets and liabilities, with the ability to track their progress toward ﬁnancial goals.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the Banking niche through your expertise in the market.
I have made a lasting impact on several industries and companies over my career. I have focused on supporting the value-creation of highly innovative companies that bring products to market that truly delight customers. As an early pioneer in technology and innovation, I worked on the design and launch of the very ﬁrst cell phones, the ﬁrst secure electronic payment transmission protocol, one of the ﬁrst consumer bill pay engines, and much-needed solutions for the under-banked, including a cash electronic payment network.
But my greatest impact stems more from leadership and mentorship than technical expertise. What you realize when you have worked for a long time is that it’s people that matter. I have spent my career focusing on mentorship and the development of others. The accomplishments that have been most meaningful to me have been the accomplishments of others with whom I have worked and helped shape in some way. I was delighted to help spearhead our ﬁrst Personal Capital mentorship program in 2021 and incredibly pleased to hear positive feedback from participants.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.
Personal Capital’s culture is perfectly aligned with its values and mission — which means we individually and collectively focus on putting the customer ﬁrst. Our values are reflected in the stories of our founders and the day-to-day attitudes and behaviors of our employees. They are not just slogans or words on paper. We embody them.
Put simply, our values are:
- We get behind being upfront.
- We work hard to make things simple.
- We make all our business personal.
- We team up and break down any challenges.
- We build and uphold our legacy of trust.
These guiding principles make my work leading our Legal, Compliance, and HR functions worthwhile and rewarding.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
Personal Capital has always been at the forefront of technological advancement with our robust digital financial platform offering that empowers users to aggregate all of their accounts in one place and see their net worth. We leverage technology, gaining efficiencies through automation, so we can provide the best service to our clients and make their financial lives easier to navigate. One clear example of this innovation is our Financial Roadmap that enables clients to understand where they are along their financial journey and prompts them to explore their finances and likely financial outcomes by allowing them to focus on and prioritize their financial needs. We will continue to bring best of breed technology to our users and clients to support their financial journey.
If given a chance, what change would you like to bring in Wealth Advisory Services?
There have been positive changes in the wealth management industry in the last few decades, with the rules and regulations moving in the right direction to catch up with technology and the needs of today’s investors. We have also seen the democratization of trading platforms, making investing more accessible and affordable.
However, transparency remains a big issue and is more important than ever in light of the technological advancements bringing the opportunity to invest to many. The average investor does not understand the requirements of a “financial advisor,” who is or is not a fiduciary, and what it means to be one. I am not advocating for more disclosures that are not likely to be read. But I would like to see more transparency and accountability so investors can make smart decisions about whom they should trust with their money.
There needs to be more broad-reaching financial education. There are entire communities today where discussions about wealth and finances are unheard of or culturally taboo. There are also communities that have no awareness of financial advisers or have never considered a career as a financial advisor. I would like to see financial companies like Personal Capital and Empower continue to break down these barriers and support this under-served population because it is the right thing to do.
What, according to you, could be the next big change in the Financial Services industry? How is Personal Capital preparing to be a part of that change?
Broadly speaking, it’s clear to me that the next big change is re-thinking investable asset opportunities. The investment landscape is always evolving as advancements in technology bring new investment opportunities to the marketplace. I believe we are in the early stages of a much larger investable universe, especially for retail
investors. The creation of new asset classes like cryptocurrencies and new alternative investment platforms, which are broadening access to private investments, are paving the way. Personal Capital is always innovating. We are continuously evaluating new investment opportunities for the potential to improve client outcomes. At the same time, Personal Capital believes in diversification and proven investment strategies. That may mean offering some of these new asset classes, but not until we determine the suitability of investments for our clients after taking into account their risk profiles and other circumstances, including their individual goals for retirement.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run and what are your future goals for Personal Capital?
I plan to always be working for a tech-forward, client centered company that is making a real difference in peoples’ lives and with people that care about that mission and each other. The next chapter for Personal Capital is very promising. Personal Capital with Empower means that we can invest more into providing the best technology to our clients and now include defined contribution plan participants. I would like to see Personal Capital’s hybrid model of technology and people change the financial lives of millions in the next decade.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the Financial Planning sector?
I would advise budding entrepreneurs to think creatively and always remember the client. Anyone can make money: But can you sell something that truly helps people — that’s where personal fulfillment comes in. I would also
remind them that even if a financial solution isn’t for everyone, it’s worth bringing to market if it truly supports a smaller segment of society. We need to bring services and products that make our financial system stronger and accessible to those who still are not able to access it today.
Disclosures: Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation (“PCAC”). Advisory services are offered for a fee by PCAC, a registered investment adviser with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Investing involves risk. Past performance is not indicative of future returns. You may lose money. The information contained herein is being provided for discussion purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell securities. Featured individual is an employee and client of PCAC, and the views of the participant do not represent the views of PCAC as a company. PCAC paid for inclusion in this publication, which may present a conflict of interest. PCAC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Personal Capital Corporation (“PCC”), an Empower company. PCC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Empower Holdings, LLC. © 2022 Personal Capital Corporation. All rights reserved.