Austin is having a moment right now and Lisa Dallmer is part of the wave of new arrivals to the Texas state capital. She recently relocated from New York City to take the role of Global Chief Operating Officer at Dimensional Fund Advisors, where she runs finance, operations, and technology for the $637 billion asset manager. “My favorite part of the move has been exploring the food, culture, and neighbourhoods of Austin,” Dallmer says. “I’ve also discovered that I really enjoy mountain biking, which my kids got me in to when we moved here.” The Lone Star State is just the latest stop in an impressive career that has taken her around the globe.
Before entering asset management, Dallmer spent 14 years working in capital markets technology at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), where she worked her way up to be the Chief Operating Officer at NYSE Euronext. “While working at the NYSE I got to participate in the early development stage of the ETF industry,” Dallmer says. “It helped me gain an understanding of how asset management operations connects to the investment process.” This experience certainly came in handy when Dimensional entered the ETF market in late 2020. In June, her team supported the firm’s historic conversion of four of its US tax-managed mutual funds into transparent ETFs, turning Dimensional into one of the largest active ETF issuers in the US practically overnight. While it wasn’t the first conversion of a mutual fund to an ETF, it was the most complex and largest by far, totalling $29 billion in assets. Dallmer and her team have blazed an operational trail for other managers to follow that could lead to up to $1 trillion in mutual fund assets converting to ETFs over the next decade, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
Dallmer views her career as a diversified portfolio and has always looked to expand her skillset with each role she has taken. “I've been really pleased that I’ve been able to string together my career and keep adding to my portfolio, which keeps me learning.” Her impressive portfolio also includes stints at a FinTech startup and Chief Operating Officer of global technology at BlackRock.
One of the biggest changes Dallmer has seen during her career is the alignment of technology and operations, as evidenced by the fact that she oversees both at Dimensional. “Technology is a powerful tool to increase efficiency but if the operating process isn't well-designed then we're just automating something bad,” Dallmer notes. “We always have to think about the process and the technology side-by-side.” When building her team, she looks for a broad set of skills with diverse backgrounds and stresses the importance of having the diversity of thought. “We used to try to hire for problem solving, now we need to hire for problem anticipation. To do that we need people with accounting and finance backgrounds, computer engineers, and people who have worked in the front office,” Dallmer says. “Having all of those perspectives around the table gives you the diversity of thought that you need to successfully design a new process or implement a new technology.”
When mentoring young women, Dallmer always advises to be proactive and willing to learn. “Take a class, do research, network with experts. Once you've done that, put that knowledge into play by taking a risk and raising your hand for something different,” Dallmer recommends. “It's uncomfortable but you will grow and, in the end, you'll broaden your lens and make yourself more valuable.”