An Interview with Bella Loykhter Allaire
Bella Loykhter Allaire, a member of the Raymond James Executive Committee and the firm’s executive vice president of technology and operations, is committed to supporting advisors.
And with more than three decades of experience in financial services technology, she understands advisors’ needs. That’s why she and her team have transformed the firm’s technology platform through a dedicated focus on providing seamless, integrated and leading-edge technologies that keep the advisor-client relationship at the center.
Bella began her career at Prudential Securities, where she worked for 26 years in a variety of capacities in its technology area before being promoted to executive vice president and chief information officer in 2000. Prior to joining Raymond James in 2012, she was managing director and chief information officer of UBS Wealth Management Americas. Born and educated in Ukraine, she earned her bachelor’s degree from Lviv University. She immigrated to the United States in 1977.
Q. After many years at wirehouses, what makes Raymond James right for you?
A. Raymond James prides itself on being different, and we are different. The focus is on advisors and, in turn, their clients. When I joined the firm, there was concern from advisors that I was coming from a big wirehouse and wouldn’t listen to or understand their needs. I had a conference call with a group of advisors, and one of them asked me, “What do you think is most important for us?” My response at that time was, and my belief is still today, that technology should free up advisors and give them more time to spend with their clients. That is what everyone works on every day – making our advisors’ work easier by giving them the tools and support they need so they can better serve their clients.
Q. During your time with the firm, what are the greatest accomplishments you’ve seen regarding technology?
A. Anybody who deals with or reads about technology hears about the power of data. To unleash that power requires a significant amount of work and financial commitment. And even though everyone recognizes that data is important, it is not always easy to justify such a large investment in something that is not product-centric and perceived as somewhat behind the scenes. This means data-focused projects are very difficult to get funded at most firms.
I was able to do it here at Raymond James. Fortunately, Paul Reilly, our CEO, recognized that a solid data platform is a critical foundation for the future of the firm. With his support, our team put together a road map for our data platform. And we are in year six of that journey. That journey is about creating one source of truth with consistent and accurate data, which allows for integration, then translates to ease of use. Everything we do is about that ease of use. Advisors from other firms, that’s one of the first differences they acknowledge – we provide one platform. The work will never be complete – it will constantly evolve. But, for me, it’s the best thing we have done for the firm.
Q. What advancement are you most proud of?
A. Advisor Mobile. It’s the best and most advanced tool that exists on the street. Nobody else has it. Our advisors can access the information they need from wherever they are – on their smartphone or a tablet. It’s probably the most exciting technology we have.
Q. Can you tell us about your approach to development and how you engage client advisors in the process?
A. Nothing upsets me more than to hear an advisor say, “The home office doesn’t get it.” So we make sure the advisors are part of the process. Let’s say you’re building a house. No matter how wonderful your architect is, you want to have input. It’s the same with advisors. We have 25 advisors on our Technology Advisory Council – a very dedicated group. They are the spokespeople for the firm, and they take their role very seriously. We have calls every month, and once a year they come to the firm’s headquarters for two days. That group helps us prioritize. Then we also create working groups where we have advisors building out screens with us, helping us with navigation. We showed them the first version of our new order entry platform and they said, “This is not right.” So we tore it all apart and started from the beginning.
Q. What is your vision for technology and operations?
A. To be invisible. Our goal is to enhance advisor-client relationships, to be seamless, to make it possible for advisors to spend more time with their clients. We’re doing our job best when advisors are thinking about technology and operations in the same way they think about access to electricity and water in their homes – in other words, it’s so reliable and critical to their lives that they’re not even thinking about it.
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