August 30, 2018

Lead(H)er: Cara Reisman, Head of Betterment for Advisors

The more Cara Reisman can do, the better. As the head of Betterment for Advisors, Reisman relishes working in a cross-functional and client-facing role, soaking up the challenges and problems around her and working to figure them out.

“I like creating clarity from chaos,” Reisman said.

Before she realized where she wanted to begin creating that clarity, Reisman cut her teeth at BlackRock, the largest asset manager in the world. During her nine years there, Reisman worked in several roles, gaining her first insight into the varied work she would come to love.

She began in hedge fund sales and product development, then moved to a newly-formed team in which she was able to develop BlackRock’s relationship management strategy—with its largest trading partners.

Years later, after working on the COO team at BlackRock, she transitioned to her final role there as the head of the company’s distribution strategy for Active Equities.

Rather than feeling lost at the large company, Reisman said that it was the perfect post-college job.

“The great thing I found about being there was that if you performed and delivered, you were afforded the opportunity to take on different responsibilities,” she said.

The stability and experience she gained there allowed her to pursue her MBA at Columbia University, where she first heard about how technology was changing the way people managed their money and financial lives.

“It really started to awaken me to these bigger trends in the industry in terms of how technology is changing the way we consume and distribute financial products,” Reisman said. “I wanted to be at the epicenter of that.”  

When her now-colleague Dan Egan spoke to one of her classes at Columbia about Betterment’s goals, Reisman knew she had found the next phase of her career.

“I liked being able to collaborate across teams and translate big-picture ideas into execution in order to scale client-focused businesses,” Reisman said. “That’s how I came to Betterment.”

An online financial advisor that offers financial management services for retailers, other businesses, and financial advisors, Betterment uses technology to automate and streamline investment management. The company has three business lines: Betterment, Betterment for Advisors and Betterment for Business.

As the head of Betterment for Advisors—a white-labeled solution for financial advisors to augment their businesses and provide the best experience to clients—Reisman is in her ideal role: one that challenges her and allows her to apply her commercial mindset to the forefront of decisions.

Reisman constantly thinks about how she can untangle challenging situations by asking the right questions and coming up with actionable plans for change. Right now, her biggest challenge is how to go about developing new technologies that empower advisors and save them time.

“If technology can do things better than you or I can, or there’s software that can remove some of the emotions in processes that sometimes can lead to mistakes, we should let it do that,” Reisman said. “I have a young daughter at home and I think about it all the time: Where can I save time in my day so that I can actually spend time with her, spend more time doing other things that I enjoy?”

By worrying less about how technology is replacing and more about how it’s being used to augment, Reisman hopes to develop increasingly helpful technologies that impact more and more people.

“For me, the thing that’s even more exciting when I think about next steps is doing it on an even bigger scale with our advisor clients always in mind” she said.

Rapid-Fire Questions

What do you like to do in your free time?

Right now for me, it’s all about spending quality time with my daughter. She’s almost 14 months old, and I love watching her develop skills, whether that’s taking her first step, or her newest thing is about identifying animals. It’s so amazing watching her because the way she explores everything is super refreshing.

How do you typically manage your stress?

I like taking stroller walks with my daughter in the morning so we have a little time together. I also love making lists to keep myself organized and crossing projects off. Sometimes it’s about putting a couple of things on there that I know I will be able to complete in the next couple of hours or the next day, to make sure there’s that sense of accomplishment. Delivering on goals, even small ones, gives me momentum and fuels me further. As my last stress stopgap, I ’ll watch an episode of Million Dollar Listing: New York.

How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?

I stick to one cup of coffee, and it’s usually aroundmid-morning. My team will definitely tell you that I have boundless energy and I feed off of other people’s enthusiasm and tackling challenging problems. That fuels me more than coffee.

What’s your favorite spot in the New York City area?

There are so many! I think right now, with my young daughter, it’ll be parks. Specifically,  the Carl Schultz Park on the Upper East Side. We love going there for the swings and the sprinklers.

Aside from family, what do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

I’m proud of the team I’ve built with Betterment for Advisors and the passion and resourcefulness we’ve demonstrated as a collective group. It’s not only resulted in meaningful AUM growth, but I believe it’s also resulted in empowering a new group of financial advisors who are using technology to improve the experience that they’re offering to their clients. Another thing that I’m proud of myself for is my ability to be a strong advocate for this business line within the overall company and the work we’ve done to bring client insight to the forefront of product. I think that’s key at a technology company.

Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?  

Ten years ago, I was only a couple years out of school, so it’s definitely hard to say. I didn’t think of this company or this business model, but I learned pretty early on that I enjoyed working with clients directly and would like across-functional general manager kind of role where I’m able to work with individuals from different teams or different functions to take that big picture strategy and turn it into an actionable plan for growth.

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

Find an opportunity or a company where you can learn as much as possible, and always say yes to a challenge. Don’t spend too much time finding the ideal role, because no role will be perfect. Sometimes, especially even now, it’s about learning what you don’t like so that you can better evaluate the next opportunity. Don’t focus on the ideal, focus on learning and saying yes. And if it doesn’t pan out, define what you maybe didn’t like about that specific role and utilize that in future decisions.

Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.