“Adapt or Get Left Behind”

Will fintech forge the path for financial literacy?

Christina Yuni

With a world filled with smartphones and mobile apps, the future of finance is changing fast. Christina Yuni, Executive Director, and Financial Advisor of her own wealth management group at Morgan Stanley believes that the power of technology driving the fintech industry will make financial literacy and education more accessible than ever before.

Growing up in Indonesia, Christina Yuni knew she wanted a finance career early on. And she learned early on about the challenges of financial illiteracy. She works with ultra-high-net-worth clients —has worked her way up to lead an all-female team at one of the largest financial services corporations in the world—and is paying it forward by empowering others with financial literacy.

Christina splits her time between her family and the clients that have trusted her guidance throughout her two-decade career. When envisioning the future of fintech, Christina believes financial literacy and education will have an opportunity to expand and improve lives at home and in the office. Where will these changes and expansions take place? In the epicentre of the fintech industry and the place she calls home—Silicon Valley.

Here’s what she had to say:

Christina Yuni (Full Q&A Interview)

Q: What inspired you to join Morgan Stanley?

A: Joining Morgan Stanley is a full-circle moment. I actually started at Morgan Stanley after college. I went on to spend nearly twenty years at Merrill Lynch, building an exclusive book of business. During that period, I cultivated strong relationships with clients and other executives in the industry. Still, I knew I was ready for the next step in my career, and returning to Morgan Stanley was a no-brainer.

These days, financial planning is evolving at Morgan Stanley, and I love that. We have the resources and all of the current technologies we need to do our jobs and help our clients manage their wealth from beginning to end – soup to nuts. The biggest bonus—building my all-women team of diverse advisors and associates.

We’re also seeing an incredible shift in the financial industry. The evolutions and innovations coming through fintech are challenging the banking industry for the better. Being based in Silicon Valley creates an opportunity for both sectors to work together to improve internal operations and, moreover – our clients’ lives.

Q: Working in wealth management has no doubt been challenging for the past six months. How’s it going?

A: The first half of 2022 has proven difficult for everyone, not just in the financial sector. I’m very fortunate to have long-standing relationships with many of my clients – so we have a history together. Meaning we have weathered other economic storms, both personal and global, together. The key is communication and trust.

In tough times, I make sure I’m always available and tend to reach out to clients more frequently; I want them to know where I stand on the current markets and that I’m always accessible. This level of communication and transparency with clients establishes trust, allowing us to work through highs and lows confidently. I let my clients know that things are complex and challenging but that I’ll be here when they need me most. I’ve had many clients ask me to reduce their exposure to market risk, while others ask me to keep them invested, even when they are worried about the markets and the future. My job is to act as a voice of reason and continuously monitor the best opportunities and strategies for my clients, no matter the financial climate.

Q: How often do you work with fintech founders or those working in fintech who’ve experienced that “overnight success” we read about?

A: Oh, absolutely! Living and working in Silicon Valley, we’re surrounded by fintech-ers. And listen, everyone needs a sounding board, right? These whiz kids (or adults!) need sounding boards, too. Many executives devote their time and effort to being the best in their fields but still require financial decision-making guidance. Particularly when times are tough and when industries are fluctuating and seeing dramatic change. This is the best time to prove your worth to your client.

Q: Why is it important to leverage fintech when improving financial literacy for not only kids but adults, as well?

A: Fintech is opening doors for the average American or consumer to understand and feel in control of their financial decisions. The banking industry has seen so many changes over the centuries (currency development, electronic banking, and so forth) and is continuously looking for ways to serve clients better. However, the innovations coming from the fintech industry make managing your personal finances easier than ever.

Unless you sit down with a financial advisor or wealth manager, you probably don’t have the time or resources to understand market changes and investment opportunities. With new fintech tools and startups, consumers can have a more hands-on approach to financial decisions thanks to the power of technology. This hands-on approach to financial management allows the everyday person to learn and apply what they learn when it comes to financial decisions.

Q: Are there any fintech-related trends that have stood out for you lately?

A: I love how vast the fintech world has become. We are seeing an emergence of startups and tools for customers to operate with a hands-on approach to their financial planning, but we are also learning the fundamental principles of financial literacy.

I’m glad to say that the fintech world is empowering more and more people. We’re no longer limited to traditional online banks and investment platforms. We have a diverse marketplace of options now, and I’m excited to see what comes next.

Q: If you could share one of your favourite quotes, what would it be?

A: “Time is money!” Simple, but so very true. Our job, in any financial sector, is to provide a service that will allow our clients to have more time to focus on the things that matter to them and not waste time with inefficient technology or archaic systems.

There’s a great quote from David Brear, “Technological innovations will be the heart and blood of the banking industry for many years to come, and if big banks do not make the most of it, the new players from fintech and large technology companies surely will.”

Adapt or get left behind.

Q: What is the one piece of wisdom that you could share with Fintechly’s readers?

A: Next-gen adults, especially those in college or recent graduates, are not typically equipped with a manual on how to manage their finances. If you’re building a startup or fintech business, it’s important to have a good grasp of your financial planning. The second most significant reason startups fail is running out of funding and personal money. With the emergence of fintech applications and resources, you can act now and start building your financial knowledge base.

I had little financial know-how when I moved to the United States for college. My roommate at the time suggested I open a bunch of credit cards to build my credit — and that is precisely what I did.

Huge mistake! I had no financial literacy or understanding of how the FICO system worked. With no existing credit history, I got rejected by the card companies, plus it hurt the start of my credit history! I wish I had known more, but that was an important lesson, one that I never forgot. Instead of letting this hold me back, I took it as an opportunity to learn and grow. I worked hard, learned as much as possible, made different financial choices, paid down the debt, and subsequently fixed my credit.

You should feel comfortable enough with your advisor to raise any concerns or fears you may have. Don’t be afraid to speak up! Ask questions about their recommended course of action, and be sure to express any concerns you may have. We all have different risk tolerances and goals, and a good advisor should be able to help you navigate through various investment options.

Q: Please summarise your business life in three words.

A: “Empathy, Integrity, Excellence.”

There is no shortage of financial advisors in this business, so listening to your clients is everything. I’m nothing without it.

Q: What’s next for you in the years ahead?

A: I’m very much in a growth mindset. The next 1-3 years are about cultivating our team and mentoring those who took the leap of faith to join me in this new venture. My goal is to expand our client portfolio by bringing on clients in new booming sectors. My team and I are also looking for ways to incorporate more fintech into our business to help provide our clients with superior metrics, better tracking, and more autonomy. We’re continuing to keep our finger on the pulse of emerging opportunities in the space for partnership and support. I believe many positive changes will come about in the next few years for my team, the fintech industry, and Morgan Stanley.

Q: Lastly, what is the one thing you want everyone to know about Christina Yuni?

A: Relationships are the most important part of this business to me. My mother was a banker, and she inspired me to pursue finance as a profession. I majored in finance but chose to become a financial advisor because I enjoy establishing connections with clients. Even with the advancements in technology and fintech , there is something invaluable about the human connection – especially when it comes to something personal and salient in one’s life. I believe it’s essential for a client to feel like they are your only client; that level of attention can lead to long-lasting relationships.