Andes Founder On Entrepreneurism And AAPI Advancement

Helen Yang Addresses Hard And Rewarding Work, Stereotypes, And Career Advice For Women Of AAPI Heritage
Helen Yang, Founder & CEO, Andes Wealth Technologies
Helen Yang, Founder & CEO, Andes Wealth Technologies

For each installment of the Pathfinder Awards, including this month’s Top AAPI Industry Leaders of 2024 in celebration of AAPI Heritage Month, we provide a platform for several winners to address the industry on DEI, among other issues.

Helen Yang, Founder and CEO of Andes Wealth Technologies, won in the category of Entrepreneur of the Year. In Yang’s 24 years of experience, she won the 2011 Harry Markowitz Special Distinction Award, invented two patents, and held leadership positions at Thomson Reuters and Charles River Development, a State Street company.

Yang serves on the boards of the Asian Americans for Equal Rights, Chinese Americans of Lexington, Lexington Lions Club and several community organizations.

Yang addresses her experiences in entrepreneurism, how the industry can improve with regards to the AAPI community and advice for women of AAPI heritage who are considering careers in wealth management.

WSR: What has been your experience as a wealth management and technology entrepreneur?

Yang: Being a wealthtech entrepreneur is a lot of risk and hard work – there is no sugarcoating it – you have to do it for the love of it. Medical school students often say the same thing, but most of them do end up becoming doctors, while the vast majority of startups fail.

Einstein said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather be of value.” I started this journey to solve a problem, that financial advisors wanted to deliver personalized services but didn’t know how, and I get a lot of satisfaction from being able to add value to the industry.

Often we go through our lives without realizing the unique skill set we have obtained, and every skill becomes useful as an entrepreneur. My unique journey from two decades in fintech to the classrooms at MIT gave me a unique blend of big picture thinking and fintech know-how to make it possible.

While problem solving is intellectually satisfying, ultimately, it is the people I meet along the way that make it fun and rewarding. I would not have met so many amazing people had I stayed in my corporate job.

WSR: How is the wealth management industry doing with regards to the AAPI community? Where can we improve?

Yang: According to the CFP Board, there are roughly 100,000 CFPs, out of which 4% are Asian Americans. Asians make up 6% of the population in the U.S. – It would be great to see more Asian Americans entering this profession.

On the technology side, other than myself, we have several other prominent Asian American leaders, including Hailin Li, Founder and CEO of Advyzon, and Shuang Chen, Co-Founder and CEO of Right Capital.

There are a lot of myths and stereotypes about Asian Americans. People tend to think that we are good at math and responsible with money, which might not be fair to other groups, but we certainly would not complain. On the other hand, we are generally perceived as good workers but not leaders, which is certainly not true. The Founder and CEO of Zoom, an indispensable tool, and Co-Founder, President and CEO of NVidia, the hottest company today, are both Chinese Americans, not to mention numerous big-name Indian American CEOs.

Please don’t look at us and think that we are different, or assume that we are foreigners. We are the same as everyone else and want to be treated the same.

Please don’t look at us and think that we are different, or assume that we are foreigners.

Helen Yang, Founder & CEO, Andes Wealth Technologies

WSR: What advice do you have for a woman of AAPI heritage who would like to become an entrepreneur in wealth management?

Yang: Being an entrepreneur is hard, and being a minority woman entrepreneur is twice as hard. But if you feel the calling, go for it!

Here are some examples of what it is like. When I first started out, my acquaintances would ask, “Are you doing it with your husband?” How about asking a man if he is doing it with his wife?

In our early days, when I went to conferences with a white woman colleague, people would automatically assume that I worked for her and she had to clarify every single time.

Yes, it hurts, and it hurts more than feelings; it also hurts fundraising and business development. But we live in this age where we have so many great role models who have overcome worse, and anything is possible.

It hurts more than feelings; it also hurts fundraising and business development.

Helen Yang, Founder & CEO, Andes Wealth Technologies

You do have to think carefully about the risks and sacrifices it entails, and make sure that you won’t lose your house, alienate your family or risk your health.

Whatever decision you make, feel good about it. There is so much more to life than a certain career path, and some regrets are inevitable. That is why Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” has such an everlasting appeal.

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

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