WealthConductor LLC Co-Founder and CEO Sheryl O’Connor spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about her entrepreneurial experience and involvement in Connecticut’s growing FinTech ecosystem.
NAN PRICE: Give us a little background. Have you always wanted to be a business owner?
SHERYL O’CONNOR: No. Originally, it was my husband who had always wanted to be a business owner. In 2005, he and a partner were interested in starting a business. I facilitated a business plan for them and then they asked me to join them.
We started our investment management firm, 3D Asset Management, in East Hartford working at Founders Plaza. We had $0 assets under management and have grown that company to about $900 million of assets under management.
We service our clients using a turnkey asset management program (TAMP) we developed. Through the TAMP, I got to know Phil Lubinski, a financial advisor based in Denver. Phil oversaw a large, multi-state office and had built this office based on a retirement income distribution strategy he had developed.
At one point, Phil was going to sell his practice to a transition partner but didn’t want to retire. He asked me to help develop technology based on a strategy of distributing income. The goal was to help advisors not only create an income plan for their clients but track and manage it efficiently and compliantly.
We decided to work together, got a developer on board, and started to build IncomeConductor®. In 2017, we separated the technology and founded a FinTech firm, WealthConductor. Our focus is getting this technology out to financial advisors and helping them service retirees.
We brought on my son, Tom, as another co-founder. He had been CTO at 3D Asset Management and helped us do some things with the technology development along the way.
WealthConductor is based in Hartford in the same office as 3D Asset Management, which is nice because we continue to help out that company. I’m still a shareholder and my husband is president.
NAN: Tell us about your involvement with startup resources in Connecticut.
SHERYL: When we looked into breaking off the technology and forming a new company, I started to make connections with Connecticut infrastructure that supports entrepreneurship—specifically technology companies. I connected with Peter Longo, Senior Managing Director of Investments at Connecticut Innovations and Bruce Carlson, who was President and CEO at the Connecticut Technology Council (CTC) at the time. I was asked to join the CTC’s Board and became a member in January 2019.
As I made more connections, I was introduced to CTNext. WealthConductor participated in their latest Entrepreneur Innovation Awards on April 25 and we were awarded a $10,000 grant.
I originally contacted CTNext to learn about their mentorship program. That’s how I connected with Entrepreneur-in-Residence Lalitha Shivaswamy, who connected you to me.
Through Lalitha, I met another CTNext Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Eric Knight. They both were supportive and provided feedback to help me develop my presentation for the Female Founders in FinTech competition in New York City in March.
Now Eric is going to help us apply for the VentureClash competition that will be held in October, which is really taking it to the next level. The top prize is $5 million.
NAN: You won first place at the Female Founders in FinTech competition. ongratulations!
SHERYL: Yes, thanks! A little background: The competition got almost 100 applicants from 24 countries, and I ended up being one of the five finalists. The event was sponsored and organized by Quesnay, which has sponsored entrepreneur pitch competitions for a few years. They noticed there weren’t many female applicants, so they decided to encourage women entrepreneurs to apply by having a competition focused on female founders. The first year’s competition was focused on females in InsurTech; this year was a FinTech focus.
NAN: We talked about mentorship you’ve received. Have you been able to give back and mentor others?
SHERYL: Yes. The competition gave me a lot of exposure through LinkedIn and other media. Women who are doing startup accelerators all over the country started contacting me. It’s been a great opportunity to make connections and meet younger women who are just starting out. They just have an idea—and a lot of questions. How do I structure a business? What kind of resources do I start out with? Who are the key people who can help me with what I need based on what I bring to the team? Who do I need to add to that to build a company?
NAN: It’s wonderful that you’re able to offer some guidance. What’s your best advice?
SHERYL: You need to have a very clear vision and know what you want to accomplish. Do your research and make sure your business plan is solid and stable.
Have a plan and a strategy. Be willing to take in good ideas and have the flexibility to incorporate those along the way. But also, don’t get diverted by people bringing their own ideas to the table when you start to talk to them about what you’re doing. Some of those ideas are very valuable and some can steer you in a different direction than where you really want to be.
NAN: Where do you see for the future of Hartford?
SHERYL: I see a lot of innovation happening here in the BioTech, FinTech, and InsurTech space. I hope Hartford continues to grow and become more of a vibrant city—and I hope that as it grows it will focus on the technology space and we’ll be able to attract and retain young talent.
Our office is over on Constitution Plaza by the UConn MBA program. It’s fantastic to see so many young people in the city. I think attracting and keeping people in their 20s and 30s, who want more of an urban experience, is critical.
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