Penn State Smeal Executive MBA student, CEO is making a difference in the world

Dana Wilson, the CEO of CHIP, is leveraging her Penn State Smeal Executive MBAcurriculum to further develop her leadership skills.

CHIP, a business-to-business financial services marketplace, makes it easy to find Black and Latinx financial professionals

Posted February 2022

Portrait of Dana Wilson.
Dana Wilson, the CEO of CHIP, is leveraging her Penn State Smeal EMBA curriculum to further develop her leadership skills.

After 15 years in the financial services industry, Penn State Smeal College of Business Executive MBA student Dana Wilson decided it was time to pave the way for more representation in the field.

She now runs her own business that aims to solve the problem of access and visibility for financial professionals of color. In 2019, Wilson launched Changing How Individuals Prosper (CHIP), a B2B financial services marketplace that makes it easy to find Black and Latinx financial professionals. 

“Throughout my career, I realized that parts of the financial industry lacked support, upward mobility, and empathy for Black and brown financial advisors like myself,” Wilson said. “Our goal is to bridge the gap between consumers of financial products and financial professionals of color.” 

As CEO of the company, Wilson is leveraging her EMBA curriculum to further develop her leadership skills and make a positive impact in the financial services industry. 

“In my role as a CEO, I must understand every aspect of my business to ensure I’m making the best decisions towards growth,” Wilson said. 

CHIP operates on both the web and a mobile web app-enabled platform that promotes visibility through its customizable directory and consumer pairing option with built-in algorithms for consumers to “find their best fit based on their unique financial goals.” 

Wilson’s experiences in her early career taught her the value of persistence. Once she took a leap of faith and began building her own independent investment advisory practice, she said it became even more apparent that her community was underserved. 

“These experiences motivated me to face this challenge head-on, creating a start-up that sits at the intersection of consumers and professionals of color,” Wilson said. “We must rally together and change the financial landscape for communities of color.”

Self-described as a “Jersey Girl,” Wilson grew up in Montclair, New Jersey,  before enrolling at North Carolina Central University where she earned a bachelor’s in business administration. In 2021, she decided to take her career to the next level and pursue her executive MBA in Philadelphia from the Smeal College of Business. 

At Smeal, Wilson is studying strategic leadership and will complete a graduate certificate in corporate innovation, in addition to her EMBA. She was inspired to pursue her EMBA in order to evolve her brand and operate her business at its full potential and scope. 

Teresa Avery, EMBA managing director, said Wilson is changing the financial services world — and that Smeal is proud to partner with her in getting the education she needs to keep doing it.  

“Her passion for bringing more professionals from underrepresented communities into the finance industry is so palpable in any conversation with her, and the work she has put into creating and running CHIP has already been recognized by people across the sector,” Avery said. 

Wilson said the most significant advantage of going back to school for her EMBA has been retaking classes like Financial Accounting and Communications because of how different her perspective is the second time around. 

She also emphasized that her cohort has played a paramount role in setting her up for success, contributing to the high level of classroom conversation and bringing a diverse set of skills to expand both her personal and professional perspective.  

“Leaning on your cohort to help you solve real-time problems or capitalize on opportunities is an invaluable part of the program,” Wilson said. “After our first residency week, I realized the culture at Penn State brings together a specific character type, including integrity, brilliance, collaborative spirit and, most importantly, wit, because we have the best sense of humor.” 

Wilson has embraced the power of Smeal mentorship, taking advantage of the extensive opportunities for personal and professional growth through networking opportunities and mentor relationships. She emphasized that the power of mentorship and coaching is an important part of her EMBA experience. 

While launching a startup and enrolling in an EMBA program at the same time may seem overwhelming to most, Wilson called it the best decision she has made, emphasizing that she’s acquiring a more robust knowledge base that will allow her to become a more competent and successful leader. 

In 10 years, Wilson said she envisions that CHIP will be “the go-to place for finding credible financial professionals of color,” adding that she hopes her business’s scale will expand outside of the U.S. and operate globally. 

While the biggest challenge CHIP currently faces is raising capital to scale, Wilson emphasized that it is actively fundraising and looking for investors who understand the organization’s mission and will help it grow — and she is hoping her Smeal curriculum will help her in these endeavors.

“Every time I step into the classroom, I’m leaving more energized and prepared to put what I learned right into my business,” Wilson said. “As I am also doing more speaking engagements, having my peers’ immediate feedback on presentations has already paid dividends as my stages get larger.”

It’s evident that her hard work and commitment to bettering her company has paid off. In 2021, Wilson was named a “See It Be It Role Model” as part of Investment News’ Excellence in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Awards. She said the award, which highlights individuals who advance diversity and inclusion in the financial industry, has validated that the work she is doing has an impact. 

“The best part of running my company is standing alongside other companies and organizations that are at the forefront of breaking down barriers for people of color in the financial services industry,” Wilson said. “There is nothing more significant than doing work that is not only gratifying but immediately world-changing.”