Can the financial services industry do more to attract women? How will technology shape the role of the modern adviser? In our latest interview, Andrea Solana of MASECO Private Wealth tackles both subjects with gusto.
After eight years working for Wolf Group Capital Advisors in Washington DC, Andrea Solana left her native US to undertake an MBA at Imperial College Business School in London. Nearly six years later, she’s still here, thriving as the Head of Advanced Planning at MASECO Private Wealth.
Hard graft on both sides of the Atlantic has laid the foundations for her career, but she’s quick to make clear that being open to new opportunities has also been vitally important.
“I speak to a lot of young women who still think quite traditionally in terms of what their opportunities might be,” she tells us. “The world is a big place and there are so many interesting opportunities out there, you should never stop trying to learn and grow and experience new things.”
For the last three years, Andrea has been trying to help fellow Imperial graduates do exactly that. Aware that opportunities, particularly for young women working in finance, don’t always present themselves on a plate, she helped set-up The Imperial Women’s Network offering peer-to-peer professional and personal networking support for female alumni.
“Many young women are either intimidated or are not really exposed to what financial advice actually means,” she explains. “I feel like a lot women might still shy away from wanting to be a wealth manager that provides financial advice and i think there’s still a lot more work that needs to be done to raise that profile and demystify what that entails.”
There’s a special mention for ISABELLA — named after Queen Isabella I of Castille who financed Columbus’ 1492 journey — a community that helps women better manage their money by stripping advice of the jargon that makes it seem like ‘rocket science’.
While her industry’s gender imbalance is slowly being redressed, “it definitely has changed, but there’s a long way to go” she notes, Andrea is eager to highlight that companies, whatever their focus, should be providing more guidance to those coming up through the ranks.
“Having a level of mentorship and support, exposing younger women that are earlier in their career to some of the broader possibilities can really encourage them.”
Andrea’s role at MASECO sees her managing the wealth of US nationals living abroad. Having the chance to showcase her expertise to compatriots on this side of the Pond has helped her strike up an easy rapport with clients and shielded her, to a certain extent, from ‘old school’ British ways of doing things. “My personal experience has been that I’ve had a lot more opportunities here than in the US,” she explains.
As for differences in the two markets, Andrea touches on the lower fees involved with investing in the US. Compared to the UK, where there’s more regulatory red tape, “the industry [Stateside] has been quicker to provide solutions for people with fewer assets to invest while still being profitable from a business perspective.”
Can fintech lower the barrier to entry for prospective low-end investors? Andrea acknowledges the convenience and growing appeal of robo-advice and firmly believes more platforms will become interconnected thanks to open banking APIs. She also sees the benefits of everyone having a “holistic picture” of their finances.
For all that, Andrea maintains her industry is not about to turn it’s back on the human touch.
“There is still a bit of a general pushback with regard to whether or not computers or technology can really replace the idea of giving advice.”
Instead, technology should be used to streamline processes and remove friction. “Where these sorts of solutions can be really valuable is more from an operational efficiency side of things, streamlining costs versus trying to replace an individual giving advice to a client.
“I certainly think cost compression is going to continue to be a factor in this industry and businesses are going to have to think about ways they can cut costs. Any use of technology in that way is going to be a positive thing.”