Angela Pecoraro took over the top job at Advicent last week, focused on continuing the four-year-old fintech firm's growth in an increasingly competitive field.
Recognizing the challenge of pushing Advicent's development forward, Ms. Pecoraro, 40, said the key is to keep the firm nimble and ready to react to new demands that could come from financial advisers, regulators or advancements in technology.
"We need to be agile in our approach, forward-thinking and very open to change," she said. "We need to have the fortitude to change on a dime."
Milwaukee-based Advicent, which has 4,000 clients serving 140,000 financial professionals, sells NaviPlan and plays in the same financial planning tech space as two industry stalwarts: MoneyGuidePro, created by PIEtech, and eMoney Advisor, which Fidelity bought two years ago. Nearly two-thirds of advisers use one of these two firms for their financial planning software, according to the 2017 InvestmentNews Advisor Technology Study.
That survey shows Advicent as the third most-preferred vendor, with 8% of advisers relying on its tool to evaluate and plan for their clients' financial future.
With two giants and several smaller players in the business, technology experts said Advicent will need to innovate to continue growing its share of the market.
"There are many planning software options for advisers to choose from, and it's difficult to differentiate them once you get beyond the top layer of whether they are goal-based or cash-based," said Sue Glover, president of Susan Glover & Associates, a financial services technology consultancy.
Advicent, which has about 300 employees and was spun out of a company focused on insurance firm software in 2013, announced a big win in January when Janney Montgomery Scott chose to use the tech firm's financial planning software for its 750 advisers.
Ms. Pecoraro, who was president and chief operating officer of Advicent before taking over the CEO role from Phil Cunningham, said the firm expects to announce more enterprise deals soon.
She is one of few women leading fintech firms aimed at financial advisers, a circumstance that is not surprising since the field lies at the intersection of two sectors heavily dominated by men: technology and finance.
"It's still relatively rare to see a woman running a major firm in our space," said Joel Bruckenstein, president of Technology Tools for Today.
Ms. Pecoraro, who spent the last 16 years inside technology companies building them from the ground up, said she has started to see more women coming into the business through technology roles instead of mostly from the sales side, like she did. She has a master of business administration from Alverno College and a bachelor's degree in entrepreneurship from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
"I have often been one of the youngest, and one of the only women, in the room over the years," she said.
She plans to make sure Advicent is working closely with financial advisers to understand their needs and the desires of their clients.
"Ultimately, we want to help people understand their financial future," she said.