Meet this weeks Unstoppable Woman of FinTech, Margaret Hartigan, Chief Executive Officer and Founder at Marstone. Read more below on Margaret’s journey in becoming a leading lady in the FinTech realm and more on her inspiring advice that has helped her in getting where she is today.
Q: How did you end up as a leader in the FinTech Industry? Briefly, what has your career journey looked like?
A: In college, I was a humanities major, and early in my career, I worked as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch for twelve years. While there, including amidst the 2008 recession, I realized the sheer number of people who lacked financial literacy as well as the disconnect of financial institutions to efficiently engage and serve a new generation of investors. At the time, professional wealth management had been reserved only for people who had enough money to invest through a financial advisor.
I found myself consumed with the idea of what a new model might look like that served all three stakeholders – client, advisor/banker, and institution. Though terrifying to take a leap, it felt like a calling to solve these issues and that’s why I founded Marstone. I worked tirelessly to maintain an independent voice in the fintech community and forge partnerships that ensured low minimum investment requirements so world-class portfolios can be available to customers of all financial means. I’ve always believed that digital advisory solutions are the best way for financial institutions to deepen engagement with their existing customers and attract new ones – and amidst the pandemic, online digital wealth management has become more important than ever.
Q: Who / What inspires you most? Is there a quote you “live by”? Are there any mentors that have helped you get where you are today?
A: There are two: “Always forward, rarely straight” is a quote I find particularly meaningful. The other one is from my friend Connie McDonald, the co-founder of Levain Bakery in NYC, who said something along the lines of, “I can teach anyone how to bake anything, but I can’t teach them how to be nice and get along with others.” I think of that often because it’s really true. Soft skills, kindness, integrity, and work ethic aren’t easily taught or learned.
Q: What is an accomplishment you are most proud of?
A: Professionally, it’s Marstone. We have an incredible team. They are wildly talented and super fun. But even more so, they are wonderful people. I am very fortunate to be a part of it.
Q: What advice would you give to young women looking to start a career in the industry? What skills do you find most helpful in this career?
A: There are so many points of entry to our industry now which is very exciting. Mentorships during the school year or during the summer are great ways to get exposure to a company or a sector. We have always had interns, and fortunately for us, a number of them have become permanent team members. Another path is to join a training program at one of the larger banks or insurance companies. What is great about these programs is that you often get exposure to different facets of the business. Lastly, explore working at a start-up like Marstone. Fast-moving companies give exposure to lots of different parts of the business from engineering to sales and product.
Q: What does digital transformation mean to you and/or your organization? What advances or trends in technology are you most excited about? Is there one piece of technology you can’t live without?
A: Digital transformation means helping organizations better serve their customers and internal team members. For some organizations, that means reducing manual processes through automation. For others, it means making their digital presence more user-centric. One trend we are seeing is financial firms using digital platforms to engage clients that were previously underserved. By launching digital banks as well as wealth and wellness platforms, banks can reduce their cost to serve clients and acquire clients. Digital platforms also allow financial institutions to extend their footprint and hours of operations cheaply and organically.
Q: What do you see as the biggest, most pressing issue for women in our industry? How can women (or allies) help other women advance within our industry?
A: Finding mentors is really important. Try to find people that you admire and aspire to be like. In particular, find people that have managed to grow professionally but have also flourished personally. We have a terrific board of directors and advisors, and one of the qualities I really admire in all of them is their attention to their personal lives and outside passions. You want mentors who are interested in you as a whole person. If you are not able to find anyone, follow people on social media who you admire.
Q: What are some of your favorite ways to spend your time outside of work? Any tips for relaxation and de-stressing?
A: I love to travel and find the best way to de-stress is to vacation in another time zone. A five or greater hour time change forces you to unplug. No one is awake to read your emails or answer your calls. I also love being with my family and friends.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: There isn’t one path to a desired goal. Also, don’t underestimate the valuable lessons learned during those summer jobs in high school and college. I know that some of my best lessons came from humbling summer jobs. I learned how to cultivate important muscles like how to advocate for myself, how to communicate with different types of people, and how to interact with prickly characters. I have found that people who have worked in the service industry have been some of our most outstanding team members. They tend to be open to feedback, demonstrate great work ethics, and have tremendous humility.