Lowell Putnam

Lowell Putnamage 32

CEO and co-founder, Quovo Inc.

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Lowell Putnam really — really — doesn’t like PDFs. The co-founder of financial data-aggregator Quovo Inc., quoting someone else, describes the ubiquitous files as a 21st century solution to a 20th century problem.

He thinks wealth managers are starting to aspire to do better things with data than just dumping a lot of information into a document.

“We can use data to tell a story or unlock an insight,” he said.

For an adviser, seizing the opportunity could mean learning which clients need to be spoken to when their portfolios slip.

“There’s an opportunity for you to get in front of bad news” — or good, he said.

Mr. Putnam’s message is part shot across the bow and part life-hack for advisers, whose approaches tend to be more old world. Yet for all Mr. Putnam’s bona fides — a Harvard degree, a job as a Lehman Brothers investment banker and a great-grandfather, George Putnam, who founded Putnam Investments — the startup executive said he’s still got more to learn about the business.

“It’s a mature industry,” he said. “There are unspoken social rules. We’ve tried to be respectful.”

That approach may be starting to pan out.

“There’s even more opportunity today than there was two years ago, because the incumbents are looking for change,” Mr. Putnam said, referring to large firms that are recognizing the need to embrace technology, and even starting to push for something they once resisted.

“The people we’re working with today wouldn’t have taken our calls before,” he said.

— Trevor Hunnicutt

Fast Facts

  • Guilty pleasure is spicy takeout food
  • Three guests he’d invite to a dinner party: Ernest Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov and Kurt Vonnegut
  • Has two cats, Ivan and Franklin
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