Practifi COO: Fintech COOs in Constant State of Evolution

Janeesa Hollingshead, Senior Editor,
Wealth Solutions Report

WSR Pathfinder Award Winner Emily Wilcox Says Fintech COO Role Shifting Towards Front and Middle Office Revenue Generation

The daily work life of a Chief Operating Officer reflects the life of the company she manages. In the fast-paced, dynamic world of fintech steeped in startup culture, a COO’s day-to-day can be a roller coaster defined by constant innovation, new clients and strategies, rapid expansion and new risks and compliance issues. 

It takes a passionate, energetic person to step up and thrive in that type of environment. WSR Pathfinder Awards – Top Women COOs in Wealth Management winner Emily Wilcox joined Practifi, the performance optimization platform provider, in 2015 as its third employee following its founding in Sydney, Australia, after discovering that a career in law didn’t suit her.

Emily Wilcox, COO, Practifi

Having managed various roles and tasks through the early startup phase, she rose to COO almost four years ago at the now Chicago-based company, which achieved growth of almost 70% in North America year-on-year in 2021, in large part due to her leadership.

We caught up with Wilcox to ask how she chose a career in operations, and learn about the evolving role of a COO in fintech.

WSR: What was your inspiration to join the wealth management industry and fintech? How did you decide to focus your career on operations?

Wilcox: Entering the industry was in some ways a happy coincidence that has ultimately become central to my career. With the knowledge and passion I have built over the past seven years, I’ve learned that there is so much more to the world of wealth technology than most people realize. 

As COO, it takes an extensive pool of knowledge and a lot of crucial decisions to make!

This industry brings together some of the smartest and most creative people I’ve encountered anywhere across technology, financial products and governance and compliance. It’s the collective innovation of these people that has nurtured my interest and allowed me to thrive. 

I chose the path to COO because it placed me in the epicenter of decision making and it means I can channel my obsession with detail and outcomes productively – it allows me to have awareness and impact across every aspect of the business. I consider myself a generalist specialist – or a professional busy body as many may say! 

WSR: How do you see the role of COO in fintech and wealth management evolving? What trends are reshaping your work?

Need to oversee all aspects of the business much more clearly!

Wilcox: The role of a COO can be dramatically different depending on the company. As COO in a rapidly scaling and innovation-obsessed fintech company, I have the good fortune of being central to every aspect of the business. 

From the enormity of governance, risk and compliance requirements, to the cut and thrust of our sales strategy, there is literally nothing I’m not touching day-to-day. The central nature of the operations function means it’s constantly in a state of evolution. 

I see the COO role increasingly as an extension of the revenue machine – more front and middle office than perhaps the ‘traditional’ middle and back-office focus. It’s exciting to be a part of this transition and I’m proud to play this role for Practifi.

Janeesa Hollingshead, Senior Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at editor@wealthsolutionsreport.com

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