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Latino leads digital at Northern Trust Wealth Management

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By David Steinkraus, 

Negocios Now

With 134 years of history on paper, Northern Trust in Chicago is making a strategic, careful, conscious move into the digital world, and managing that effort for the Wealth Management business is Lucino Sotelo. 

Sotelo, who is Chief Digital Officer, Northern Trust Wealth Management, joined the company about 2 1/2 years ago after stints at HSBC, BMO Harris Bank, Grainger, and the recreational property management company KemperSports, among others. He came to Northern Trust for the possibility it presented. “You don’t often have career opportunities where you build something special. Our strength will always be our people, but what a great opportunity to then build upon that strength with augmented digital capabilities,” he said. 

Digital future

Creating digital products means designing them for wherever people are, Sotelo said. “Some people may be fine writing a wet signature and sending documents via FedEx,” he said. Other people prefer tobe served digitally, he said, to view documents in a secure online hub that they and their advisors can access. 

There’s also a need to include other members of a household in a digital design because they may help a client, Sotelo said. Such design also represents an investment in the far future. “If we can surprise and delight the youngest member of the household, of the clients that we currently serve, now we have that capability that we can use to attract other clients who prefer those kinds of digital interactions now,” he said. 

For instance, one application for digital strategy is the firm’s Goals Driven Wealth Management, which relies on insights produced and disseminated from technology to assist with holistic planning and better execution. By using detailed planning, supported by technology tools, the teams can incorporate plans that can involve entire families, span multiple lifetimes and incorporate wealth planning for groups such as individuals, businesses and philanthropy.

Sotelo noted that he is not building anything from the ground up. Northern Trust assembled a team to advance its digital strategy about two years before he joined the company, he said. 

Inspiration for change comes first from clients and their reasons for building wealth, and Northern Trust has 130 years of client service to guide that, he said. After that, he said, inspiration can come from anywhere. Even ChatGPT, the latest artificial intelligence craze, may be useful, he said. “I view all of these things as I view all technologies: as a source of inspiration but not a Holy Grail.” 

Childhood blessing

Sotelo was born in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, and raised in a village in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. His parents emigrated to the United States when he was 2, he said, but they couldn’t support a family immediately, so he lived on a ranch with his grandparents. 

“I didn’t think of it as a blessing at the time, but it definitely was a blessing,” he said. He learned a work ethic and an appreciation for what he had, he said. Because the ranch was so remote, the family didn’t go into town often and instead lived off the land, growing vegetables and making their own cheese and tortillas. “It was a privilege for me to have a Coca-Cola, or a piece of bread once a month, a piece of fruit once a month on the ranch.”

At age 10 he joined his parents in Chicago. Only about a third of his high school class graduated. “There was a lot of gangs. There was a lot of drugs, a challenging environment to navigate.” 

He was underprepared for college, he said, but people at DePaul University recognized that and his potential. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and a few years later earned an MBA. When he completed it in 1997, Sotelo said, he did a lot of consulting work. The digital world was blossoming, and he said he found talking to clients more interesting than accounting, so he specialized in marketing, analytics and digital.

Digital is an area all Latinos should look at as they pursue careers, he said. To be effective in digital work, he said, you need to understand analytics and how customers make decisions, need to be good at reading and writing, and need to be curious and take chances.

Latinos also have a responsibility to participate and help educate their community about the digital world. “This is the way of the future, and if we don’t participate and actively engage, we will be left behind, and we cannot afford to do that,” he said. 

Whether it is ChatGPT or some other digital technology, all have inherent bias, “because they do not have all of the context and all of the information about all of the communities,” Sotelo said. “The only way to change the narrative is to be part of the narrative, is to be intimately involved in tech.”  NN

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