#WinnersofWealthTech Ep. 57: Leda Csanka, former CTO of Cetera

This month’s Winners of Wealthtech interview is with Leda Csanka, who graduated from University of Connecticut with a degree in management informational systems and later went on to serve as CTO of Cetera Financial Group.  Leda now runs her a consulting firm called Strategic Technology Consulting as well as her own executive coaching business, and is also an author of How To Lead A Corporate Spin-Off: The Tech Leader’s Survival Guide to a Strategic Divestiture.

I was inspired to start the Winners of Wealthtech series by one of my mentors, Tim Ferriss, who is a best-selling author, incredibly successful investor, entrepreneur, and podcaster. Actually, Tim doesn’t know that he’s one of my mentors, since we’ve never met. But his work and his writing have been a big influence on me, so I’m going to keep saying it until he tells me to stop. (By the way, I highly recommend Tim’s latest book, Tribe of Mentors, which you can buy online or even in a brick and mortar bookstore.)

The feedback on this series has been overwhelming! If you have a suggestion for someone you think I should interview, please send it to me at craig@ezragroupllc.com.

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This episode of Wealth Management Today is brought to you by Ezra Group Consulting. If your firm is evaluating new technology or looking to improve your current wealth platform, you need to contact Ezra Group. Don’t spend another day using technology that doesn’t offer an elegant user experience. Your advisors and clients deserve better and you can deliver it to them with the help of Ezra Group.

Companies Mentioned

Topics Covered in this Episode

  • Back to the Beginning
  • Tony Robbins to the Rescue
  • An Overnight CIO
  • First Corporate Spinoff
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Gaining Confidence
  • Life is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
  • How to be a Consultant
  • Cetera Challenges
  • Keeping Up With Industry Trends
  • Secret to Building a Great Team

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Complete Episode Transcript

Craig: On this podcast, I speak to some of the smartest people in the industry who are on the leading edge of both technology and innovation. This is a special series of the WMToday podcast called Winners of WealthTech, where I interview leaders in the industry and disassemble the habits and traits that helped them achieve their success, in addition to trying to extract nuggets of wisdom and best practices to share with all of you.

Today’s Winner of WealthTech is Leda Csanka, former CTO of Cetera. Leda and I have worked together in the past, and when you’re working on very large projects, you wind spend a lot of time together with the team. We talked a lot and I picked up snippets of her life and her background. And the more I learned, the more I wanted to get her on the program. You’re at the airport, you’re at dinner, and you kind of pick up little bits and pieces. There were so many interesting things she had done with her career, that I really wanted to have her on the show so I’m really happy that she is our guest today.

And I’m happy to present my guest on this special episode of Winners of WealthTech, Leda Csanka, principle consultant, Strategic Tech Consulting, and also author of the very popular book on Amazon, “How to Lead a Corporate Spinoff, the Tech Leader’s Survival Guide to Strategic Divestiture. Hey Leda.

Leda: Hey Craig. Thanks for having me.

Craig: Thanks for being here. You made it.

Leda: Finally.

Craig: We’ve been planning this for six months. So thanks for being here. Thanks for agreeing to do this. And we’re happy to have you as a Winner of WealthTech in our Winners of WealthTech series. So we’ve known each other for a bit and we’ve done some work together and the more I learned about your history and the things you had done, the more I really wanted to get you on the program and talk more in depth because of all the work we’ve done together, we’ve only talked about work or things we’re doing now.

Back to the Beginning

Craig: We haven’t really talked about the past and I really like talking about people’s origin stories, how they got into the industry, what made them who they are today, how they got to be the successful people they are. So I really wanted to go back in time a bit and talk about how you got into the industry. Coming out of school, what made you get into the financial services industry?

Leda: Thanks for asking about that. One of the things that I find interesting about my story is that I had no idea of what I wanted to do with my career or my life. When I think back to childhood, my parents and I, we never sat around and talked about going to college. We never made plans. The most I ever thought was like every other eighth grader that, maybe I’ll be a veterinarian. You know, I loved pets.

Craig: That would have been a different roadmap for you.

Leda: So how do you go from there to here is always a fun story. It really happened with some synchronicity. It was junior year in high school, 1983, I was sitting there, it wasn’t even a remarkable teacher who was influential in my life in any way. And we started talking about how there was such a need for computer programmers. And he said, two miles down the road is this technical college. You can go there, learn to be a programmer. And, after two years, only two years, you can get a job in Hartford, Connecticut making $18,000 a year.

Craig: Nice! That’s more than I made at my first job!

Leda: I was sold, working as a computer programmer. That was the day I decided I was going to go to tech school and I went to tech school and I was so thankful that I was actually pretty good at it. And my friends were in the school were not so good at it. I would do my own homework, my own programs. And then I would do everybody else’s, but I would do them a different way. So I was writing the same exercises in three, four different ways, and I got to be pretty proficient at programming in a lot of different languages pretty quickly.

And it was quickly after that, I decided to go to University of Connecticut for a four year degree, get into MIS, management information systems. Then I went right into the financial industry, I started at Aetna Financial Services that ultimately became ING. So it was really a lucky break I got.

Craig: Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than smart. I felt the same way in my career. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time for lot of things.

Tony Robbins to the Rescue

Leda: Then quickly after I got into the industry, I started as a programmer. I actually made a little bit more than $18,000 a year when I started, so I was counting up my wins right away. And then my life goal at that point, I was probably just 21, 22, my life goal was to buy a house.

Quickly after I graduated college, I bought my first home. And now I was sitting at home dirt poor, house poor, and I was watching infomercials. And wouldn’t you guess it, at that time, Tony Robbins shows up selling his personal power 30 day program. So I spent the $300 or whatever it was at that time, got these programs. And from the time I was 23, 24 years old, I started setting goals. And you know, one thing I learned that early in life is you have to set your dreams big. Whatever it is, write it down on a piece of paper. So I wrote down on a piece of paper that day, I was 24, that I wanted to be the CIO of a company and live in California at the beach.

And I basically spent the next 20 years of my life taking every calculated step, as much as I could, often just being in the right place at the right time, but really focusing and working really hard to end up getting there. And I moved to California in 2006 and a few years later, the market crashed. People will remember that. And I was working at ING at the time and they decided to sell our division. It was working within the broker dealer industry in California, and I had literally just gotten promoted to what they called Head of Apps. So all I knew was app dev. They tapped me on the shoulder with twelve other executives and said, go sell your division, we need to raise some money.

Craig: So what was that like? That’s not something you expect to hear.

An Overnight CIO

Leda: No overnight I went from, really effectively, a middle, middle manager to CIO overnight chief information officer.

Craig: What was that like? I mean, that can’t be something you were expecting.

Leda: No, I was very excited, because I was going to meet this big goal of mine, and so my life dream came true. What I wasn’t prepared for was how difficult that transition was, how much I didn’t know. And it quickly made itself apparent that I didn’t really know anything about security, I didn’t know anything about infrastructure, I didn’t know a lot about finances for being part of an executive team on a company. So it was an uphill battle. I didn’t have actually any of my business licenses at the time, needed to also go get my Series 7 at the same time while we were doing this. But it was an opportunity of a lifetime and its sort of sink or swim, well jump in the deep water and sink or swim.

It was a career defining moment for me. Luckily my background at ING had been all program management, so large programs, bigger and bigger as we went. And that huge transformational project program management was my sweet spot. And basically it helped define the entire technology spinoff process for how we would get ourselves away from ING, and stand ourselves up as an independent company. I ran the whole thing like it was giant program, and at that time, my biggest accomplishment was that we came in under budget, and we did it in 11 months.

First Corporate Spinoff

Craig: Ahead of schedule, under budget. What was the biggest thing you learned from that? That was your first corporate spinoff, right? That was the first time you had done that. So what was the biggest takeaway besides the fact you didn’t know what you’re doing? It’s like jumping off a cliff and building an airplane on the way down. What was your biggest learning from that experience?

Leda: Well, there’s not really a single biggest learning experience, other than you can’t do it all yourself. You really need to have an awesome team. You really need to have great relationships with business partners, and you really need to have a lot of strategic partners in your toolbox that you can rely on to come in and help you. I use the word “partners” because a lot of tech leaders say, well, this vendor, that vendor, and it’s all about vendor management. But I would say the culture that I wanted to bring into the organization and effectively I use today now that I’m an independent consultant and a vendor myself, is that partnership, is this the way to go in trying to get whoever it was that I was helping, whether it’s a professional services firm, software firm, infrastructure management, whatever it was, treat them like my partner, get them so that they had skin in the game with my success as much as I did.

That probably was the biggest lesson that I wasn’t an island anymore. You know, everything that gets you to that success is all about your personal performance. And then once you get in that leadership role, it’s not really all about you. It’s about how do you motivate everybody, lead everybody and effectively manage a large effort. It’s not really about yourself anymore.

Craig: Sure. It’s like the image I see a lot talking about the two different kinds of leaders. One is the leader who’s behind their people cracking the whip, go, go, go. The other one is one in the front saying, let’s go follow me. It’s very two very different mindsets.

Leda: Yeah. You have to be out in front, but you have to make sure you’re bringing everybody along. I was putting in tremendous amount of hours for many years. It was around the clock. And sometimes that’s not a good example to set for your people. The second lesson I would say I learned from Cetera was, I had gotten this feedback early on from Valerie Brown, who ultimately is my mentor. She said, it’s okay, it’s a marathon Leda, not a sprint. You got to pace yourself. And then of course I was in my 40s, thought I was invincible. Could do anything. So I didn’t pay attention. And I did ultimately hit a wall a little bit and get burnt out. So the long haul there is, you have to sometimes lead by example. So you have to work really hard, I set the stage, I was out front, but it was dependent on having a great team. And now I would say I try to help people have a little bit more balance in their lives now.

Work-Life Balance

Craig: That’s an important aspect, especially now people are realizing how important the work-life balance is. So I think you’re a bit ahead of the curve.

Leda: It’s hard. Even if you think in the last 10 years, they start talking about, well, the emergence of tech everywhere, wearable devices, they say it’s more about integrated life. And so I totally agree, it is integrated life, but you have to have your go to things that really allow you to recharge. So by balance, I don’t mean you get to work 35 hours a week. By balance, I mean you have that thing that gives you peace, whether it’s your family or whether it’s a hobby or whether it’s your exercise or whatever, is that release for you. That’s really what I mean. Trying to make sure that there’s more than one important thing in your life. It’s more than just getting ahead in your career.

Craig: So let me go back a little bit, one question I forgot to ask. I have a degree in computer science, so I started as a programmer as well. And there were very few women in our degree program, and there were very few women programmers I met at the time. Even though actually as a percentage of programmers there were more back then than there are now. For some reason that the percentage of female programmers has not increased. Did you feel anything different or did you feel that you were sort of alone when you came out of school and you started as a programmer at a big financial services firm as a woman?

Leda: I didn’t feel alone as a woman. I didn’t see it as a gender difference. I just didn’t see it. I did realize a little later on about maybe 10 years in that, there were some ways of interacting with other people that men had that I didn’t have. I didn’t feel uncomfortable, but there were things that I didn’t know about. Simple things that you don’t even think about. So we’d come into a meeting and I was working really closely with this guy. And when another man walked into the room, he would immediately stand up, walk over and shake the guy’s hand. And at first I did it and none of the women would do that, and he wouldn’t do that with any of the women either. So early on, I learned by mimicking this guy, I’m like, Oh, I shouldn’t be doing that. But it’s not like somebody ever told me that. It’s not like, but it was uncomfortable. You know, I didn’t learn growing up, you shake hands with people. I mean, maybe that’s a given today, but back then, I didn’t learn that.

And that was something I learned sort of on the job that helped me over time get a voice. I like to sometimes talk to people when I’m doing motivational speaking, tell people they often don’t believe it, but there was a time in my career where I had a hard time speaking up in meetings of just like 4-5 people and a confidence issue, I guess. And you have to break through that at some point, but I don’t think that’s any different for women than it really is for men.

Gaining Confidence

Craig: How did you overcome that issue about not being able to speak?

Leda: I just pushed myself. I always set those goals, like Tony Robbins. How do I want to want to behave? Fake it till you make it I guess? I would push myself and eventually it became habit. So there’s this saying, I don’t know it exactly, but Lao Tzu said, “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny,” whatever that is. But it’s true of positive stuff too. Like if you put all this positive stuff in your head and you put all this positive self talk, which is what I always used to do, and you could do it, you can pump yourself up. You can shake hands. You can be that over time. It just became natural.

Craig: Again, you’re ahead of the curve. I think those books came out later about the power of positive thinking and self reinforcement.

Leda: Yeah, I was crazy, I had an hour commute from this house I bought, to work in Hartford and I had all these Tony Robbins tapes, and over and over again, I would nonstop listen to everything he said on the way to work and practice all of these techniques. I would practice all this stuff in all my meetings, all day long, and come home and listen to the tape all over again. And eventually all this stuff just became like, stuck. Practice. Everything is practice.

Invest In Others

Life is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Craig: That’s for sure. So we were talking about Cetera, and you mentioned Valerie Brown, who’s a wonderful person, really super smart. I was lucky enough to work with her a little bit, or work for her as a consultant on a project. So I got to know her. And when you said, she told you Leda, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, but you didn’t listen and you got burned out. What did you do to get unburned out? How’d you recharge and refresh yourself?

Leda: Yeah, we have to fast forward a number of years. So I worked really closely with Valerie and I was an executive at Cetera for about six and a half years. Ultimately, in the history of Cetera, there was a sale of a company from Lightyear Capital to RCS Capital. And, at some point, I like to tell the story too, it’s more about myself, Craig, so I’m sorry about that. I was not actually excited about my work anymore. We were not spending money. I was not working on the types of projects I wanted. One of my money’s my paths to burn out was to hire my successor, who I loved. It was Mukesh Mehta, we got along terrific. But I just wasn’t feeling the same passion and energy that I had when I was at the helm and leading the organization through significant transformation. I was out on Friday afternoon, I was out walking on the beach, because they did ultimately get my house on the beach in California. And I was on mile 7 of a 10 mile walk, because I was just trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and I decided right there that I was going to retire. So I was 49, and I wasn’t the only one who was involved with me making that kind of decision, I kind of worked out the details with my partner at the time. And so I went in Monday and I retired. And so I took a couple of years and sort of went soul searching.

How to be a Consultant

You know, really within another week I happened to be at a Deepak Chopra event and he was teaching us how to meditate, and I had, whether it was the euphoria of letting go of work or the responsibility or whatever it was. I had an overwhelming spiritual experience at the Deepak Chopra Center in California and decided that meditation was like the secret way of life. And, what had I been missing out on all this time? I ultimately spent about a year and a half traveling around the world, I went to visit a lot of different countries, meditated my way around. I became an instructor for Deepak Chopra to teach meditation to other people. And I started retraining myself in terms of, being an executive and a life coach. Then ultimately I stumbled across how do you grow your own consulting company?

And I went to workshop and the secret to growing your own consulting company at that time was you have to write a book, right? What are you an expert at? And at this point in time the Advisor Group had called me up and I had done some consulting work for them as they were in the process of spinning off from AIG. So I was able to go over there and leverage a lot of the skill sets and the things that I learned at Cetera. And I did it a second time, but now as a consultant. So when I was in this workshop and they were like, if you want to be consultant, you have to be an expert at something. And I was like, I’m not expert at anything. You know, I just an IT lady. And then ultimately what I figured out is that I am an expert at, running huge, large transformational projects.

I know how to do it. I know how to bring structure. I know how to bring order to the chaos and I know how to lead a lot of people through that. Ultimately I decided I would write the book to just give myself a little credibility and some confidence because confidence is the theme.

Craig: It is the theme, I was noticing that.

Leda: No matter how successful you think you are, some people, maybe everybody, I don’t know, there’s always that little voice that could nag you in the back that says, am I doing everything right? Am I doing the best I can? So ultimately, to answer a long story, I re-tooled myself, I started consulting, I traveled. The spiritual experience that I had with Deepak Chopra Center changed my values overnight. So I literally was a different person. And it took me a little while to get my sea legs back, I’ll call it so to speak. And I’ve recently started working with Advisor Group again, as a consultant, helping them with a large technology transformation project that they have going on. And for someone who’s retired, I’m sure surely working a lot. I still like to hang on to that label like, Oh, I’m retired.

Craig: I’m glad I could tempt you out of retirement for my project last year.

Leda: We worked together and that really just kind of got me excited about working again. So I really appreciate that.

Craig: I have that effect on people.

Leda: Now I bring this new center, different perspective, really everything. And the little things that would trigger me before, when I was approaching burnout, doesn’t bother me. As you know, I’m not gonna say I don’t get my feathers ruffled once in a while, but it’s just not the same. I used to think that the spinoff from Cetera, I mean, to become Cetera was my biggest accomplishment. Frankly, it’s coming back. So coming back now is the biggest accomplishment. And so how did I overcome the burnout? I just took time for myself, invested in myself. And I found myself again.

Cetera Challenges

Craig: That’s great. That’s actually great advice for people to go find themselves. But I wanted to go back to Cetera. So you became a CIO, which was your goal. You made it there, and then you transitioned to CTO. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced In those roles at Cetera? Growing broker dealer. They had 5 or 10 broker dealers, there was a lot going on, a lot of change and a lot of things happening at the time. So what were some of your biggest challenges you faced there?

Leda: Well, as the CIO, the one thing I felt would be the secret to my success was to be really close to the customer. So I spent a lot of time out there talking to the field. I visited many advisor offices. If I said 100 it would probably be short of how many I actually visited. We had multiple firms so I would spend a lot of time at all the conferences. And this is really on top of the day job, because my job wasn’t sales, I was the CIO. But I wanted to have a really intimate knowledge of the advisors and what they needed. What were their pain points? You know, not every single thing an advisor ever wanted would be something that we could run back and do.

You know, there are budgets, there are constraints, there are capacity issues in the organization around how many projects you can work on at the same time. People don’t often remember that. You don’t have unlimited money and unlimited time. The hardest part is constantly was constantly keeping up with the changing trends in the industry. Things were really taking off. Mobility was really in its infancy early on there, and figuring out how to become a player in that space. And then really convincing that that was the right priority for the firm to spend the focus. We were integrating companies and trying to create efficiencies and all of that. So, slick high-tech was competing against other types of merger consolidation type of activities. That’s the balancing act for all senior technology leaders, right?

Craig: Yes.

Leda: How do you find that balance? You have to stay ahead, you have to be innovative. You have to become fresh. And in an industry like ours with so many fintech firms, the advisors are out there and they’re running to these conferences. They’re interacting with fintech firms directly. And so the firms are creating pent up demand with advisors and to be responsive to advisors that are constantly asking, what have you done for me lately? You have to constantly be rolling out new things, and they have to know you have a vision of where you’re going and a roadmap. They have to have trust in you, they can tell the difference. Any client can tell the difference.

Craig: They don’t really mean it, they’re just throwing out the words that they think you want to hear.

Leda: Yeah. And so I would say that’s the balancing act that I had at Cetera. And then the CTO position as Mukesh came on as the CIO, my role was to try to help us formulate some standardized practices in the organization around vendor management and trying to create a cadence around roadmapping in our products and really try to introduce product management as a competency in the organization. And the biggest challenge there is, in a lot of organizations I know, think about it today is big companies work on projects and shifting from a project management to a product management focus when it comes to internally developed software, is a shift. You have to have a constant pipeline of enhancements, a constant pipeline of changes. It’s a different mindset and not all companies are ready to tackle that change.

Keeping Up With Industry Trends

Indeed. Going back a step when you said the biggest challenge was keeping up with industry trends. What would a tip be for other CIOs, a tip for staying fresh up to date with industry trends?

Leda: Well, I did a lot of reading. I’m sure everybody does a lot of reading. I went to a lot of conferences, which just added to the overall pace. What I would do now, is I’d have an innovation, the technology innovation leader on my team, so that I wouldn’t have to be personally trying to juggle that balance. I would have product management as a competency so that would be the number one thing I would try to do. Introduce product management and start having those innovative, field facing people. Again, I didn’t have to do it all on my own, but early on in the leadership position, I felt like I had to catch up and do some of that myself.

Craig: One thing I wanted to bring up was a story you told me, and I think it’s really helpful. You were buying up companies when you were at Cetera, at a pretty quick pace and you were leading that with someone else, I apologize, I can’t remember her name, where you had a process where you’d go into a new broker dealer you were buying, and you had a whole process for integrating them or rather evaluating whether they’d be a good fit and whether you could, how you could turn them around. Can you give some quick notes on how you made that into a process?

Leda: Yeah. Well, I’d have to give a big shout out to my friend and partner in crime during that time period, Cindy Hamill, who is strategic officer at the Advisor Group. And, she and I, and obviously we had teams of people helping on those too, but she and I led the effort often when it came to modeling the portion of the portfolio. If we looked at a potential acquisition, we’d go in, have a full day session. Deep dive through all operational and technology areas in the organization. And we’d powwow afterwards and we’d be able to pretty much tell with a repeatable process, whether it was a good fit. We had a process, we were able to tell pretty quickly what we thought the cost would be, what kind of efficiencies we would find. And we got into a rhythm. I would say, she would probably correct me cause she knows some of these details better than I, I would say we looked at 14 different firms in a very short period of time. And then we ended up acquiring or doing some kind of strategic relationship with at least four of those during that time period. So then we had to execute on that. We proved that we could spin off from ING so quickly and ahead of schedule under budget.

Craig: Now, let’s do the opposite. Let’s buy them and bring them in.

Leda: You know, we had a lot of credibility back then in terms the repeatable process.

Craig: And you could do that with just one day’s evaluation?

Leda: Yeah. I think we might’ve done two days. It might’ve been like one day ops one day tech depending on how big the firm was. Not to say we wouldn’t have due diligence things to look at ahead of time that prepped us. But yeah, it was these two days, one day, two days onsite that really got us what we needed.

Craig: How do you feel about those four firms you acquired? Did those all go smoothly?

Leda: Every time you do an acquisition, there’s always some hidden Easter egg that you didn’t find. And not saying that in a positive way.

Craig: You mean more like a land mine?

Leda: Some little little “gotcha” speed bump. There’s nothing you can’t overcome though, right? Not a single issue. There’s always a way, nothing is ever impossible, but every acquisition, you put it together and there’s some kind of “gotcha”. But I worked really effectively well with Cindy Hamill when we were in that time period, because we could brainstorm and overcome any obstacle together, us and our teams. We would just use plain old decision making, right? What are their options? What are the pros? What are the cons? How are we going to do it? You know? But we could go in on any day and come up with a plan.

Craig: And that’s the mark of a good leader and someone who is confident in their job and has a process. You can make those things happen. So I wanted to transition a bit from the LinkedIn phase of the conversation to more of the personality phase. These are some questions I like to ask the other Winners of WealthTech to try to learn more in terms of what motivates you and what makes you tick. I know you shared some of that already, thank you very much. But here’s a question – now that you’re a consultant, it’s different than your role as CIO and CTO of a multibillion dollar organization with thousands of advisors, how do you stay motivated now? What’s your secret?

Leda: So I also like to tell everybody this one when I’m speaking, so I’ll tell you and your listeners, I just find joy in the process of the work itself. There could be a day when you have really a horrible day and there’s lots of issues and it’s just one issue after another, but overcoming those seemingly impossible challenges is the joy for me. And taking something that looks chaotic, that early phase of the project where it’s just total chaos and you walk in, especially as a consultant and usually whoever hired you is like, we don’t, we don’t really know how to get started. We know what we want, but what’s step one? And, I would say, well, step one is find the right partner. So then they hire me and then I get to come in and I get to make order out of chaos. And that gives me just such internal joy. I just have this passion and this drive from the joy of the work itself.

Secret to Building a Great Team

Craig: That’s great to hear from being a consultant myself. Going back to one of the things you said that was very important in your role as CTO/CIO was building a great team around you. You know, no person is an island. How do you identify people that will be a good fit on your team?

Leda: I’m so glad you zeroed in on this a little bit more. Here’s the thing, the secret of success and having a great team, I used to read books and they used to say, Oh, hire a good team and get out of their way. I actually don’t believe that at all. I think you absolutely need to have a phenomenal team, but you have to be aware of all the issues and no one to dive in and you have to really get to know your people so that you know their blind spots and you can, push them in the areas where they’re probably not looking. And it’s really about, some people say verify, but trust. It’s not really about trust. It’s about knowing when they can benefit from having your engagement. And you can’t be hands off. So even though you hire a great team, you don’t leave alone and you can’t be hands off. You have to be there with them, involved, knowing what’s happening, knowing the issues, you really have to have a pulse. And the challenge for any leader, we’re pulled in so many directions, is how do you get to the point where you have that level of transparency in everything you’re doing? And as a consultant, our job is to give them transparency into, into things. And sometimes that means telling people difficult messages, delivering some issues that we see, it’s highlighting things that they personally might want to ignore, or they have their own blind spot.

But really the secret is transparency. So you hire great people, and you don’t hire yourself, right? You can’t hire somebody who’s going to be your BFF, that has the exact same personality as you, because we all have our blind spots. We all have things that we don’t do very well. And you have to create a team that consciously is filling the breadth of skills needed to be successful as a team. I’m in the process of talking to a company about potentially being on their board, and one of my first questions to them is what skills are you looking to add to the team? That’s the only way I’ll know if I’m a good fit or not.

Craig: Do they have an answer, or do they go “blah blah blah, we just want you on the board”?

Leda: No, it’s a dialogue, right? It’s like, Oh, we need to think that through a little bit. So you look at every candidate and not just, who am I going to really like, who am I going to get along with, but who’s going to supplement this group of people to create no more than the sum of the parts.

Craig: Everyone’s always giving out advice, but one question I like to ask is what bad advice do you hear being given out a lot?

Leda: Gosh, I don’t know.

Craig: Well what’s the worst advice you’ve heard?

Leda: I think there’s some spirit of truth in piece of every bad advice.

Craig: What’s the bad advice you’ve heard that has truth in it, but it’s still bad advice?

Leda: “Don’t worry about it, he’s got it.” Right? So someone says, don’t worry about it, I got it. Well, then I start to worry.

Craig: Indeed. What would your close friends say that you are exceptionally good at?

Leda: I think anybody who knows me, whether they’re close to me or not, is going to say that I get very focused. I set my mind to it and I make it happen. I like to set goals. I like to accomplish things, and I would say that they would, they would say that I have like a sticktivity, a stick-to-itness that really, is probably a little bit different than a lot of people. When the going gets tough I kind of dig in and keep going.

Craig: Do you gift any books to people? And if you do, what have you gifted most often?

Leda: Well, I have a new book that’s not really an IT book, not a wealth management book. The book I’m giving out mostly these days is called “The Energy Codes” by Dr. Sue Morter. It’s really about bridging the world of quantum science and spirituality. It’s about how science and spirituality are kind of converging on to a single body of truth. It’s a new path for me that I’ve discovered since I had this awakening at the Chopra Center, and I think it’s a way of igniting an energetic flow in our bodies that allows us to even start doing self healing. I feel younger, I have more joy than I did maybe six, seven years ago. And a lot of it has been to become more aligned with myself and to follow some of these Eastern practices, whether it’s doing yoga, or breathing exercises and meditation, and Dr. Sue Morter in her books talks about bridging that East and West. It’s a great book, I recommend it for everybody. Besides my own book, which, which I give away to get consulting gigs.

Craig: Of course. So now that we’re both advanced in our careers, but we learned a lot getting to where we are. So if you could send a message to your 25 year old self, what would that be?

Leda: Yeah, it would be, it would be the same advice Valerie gave me, but just different words, I would say, slow down, enjoy the journey a little more. I always enjoyed, I always had a lot of passion, but I always was looking at what’s next. And I think that I probably should have celebrated the wins a little bit more along the way, and smell the roses a little bit too.

Craig: That’s good advice. Final question, is there a quote that you live your life by?

Leda: There is a quote, I’m not really great at quotes and memorizing things, but generally it says, “Goals – you need to set your dreams high. You may not reach them, but there’s a beauty and joy in the process.”

Craig: That’s a great quote Leda. Thank you for sharing that, and our time is up. See this was easy. It wasn’t hard.

Leda: Thanks for having me. I know we had trouble getting it scheduled. I enjoyed it. I worry about talking about myself too much, but

Craig: No. On this program you can’t talk about yourself too much because that’s all it’s about.

Leda: Okay. Thanks Craig. See you soon.



The Wealth Tech Today blog is published by Craig Iskowitz, founder and CEO of Ezra Group, a boutique consulting firm that caters to banks, broker-dealers, RIA’s, asset managers and the leading vendors in the surrounding #fintech space. He can be reached at craig@ezragroupllc.com