Regtech Rapidly Changes, Reflected in New CEO of Smarsh

Sander Ressler, Expert Columnist, Compliance & Regulatory Affairs, WSR

New Leader of Digital Communications Compliance Solutions Brings Tech, Financial Services and Risk Management Savvy as Regulators Create More Complexities

Major changes appear to be happening at regtech firm Smarsh.

A widely recognized provider of digital communications content compliance solutions to independent wealth management firms in both the RIA and IBD segments, Smarsh officially has a new CEO.

The Portland, Oregon-based company announced last week that it has appointed Kim Crawford Goodman to the top job, replacing Brian Cramer, who will retire from management and shift to the company’s board of directors.

During Cramer’s tenure, Smarsh grew significantly via acquisitions.  The company reportedly nearly doubled its size with its acquisition of Digital Safe in late 2021.

Cramer also oversaw the acquisitions of artificial intelligence-focused Digital Reasoning and cybersecurity provider Entreda, both in 2020.

Here comes the new leader of success!

New CEO with Tech, Financial Services, Risk Experience

While Goodman may not be immediately known to the independent wealth management channel, her background is impressive, to say the least.  

One of the biggest challenges in finding leaders for regtech firms is the need for expertise across technology, financial services and risk management.  It’s a combination of skills that isn’t easy to find.

In Goodman, Smarsh appears, at least on paper, to have struck gold.  Most recently, Goodman ran Fiserv’s payments and risk solutions units.

A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Business School, Goodman started her career at consulting giant Bain and Co., and in subsequent years has held leadership positions with American Express, Worldpay and Dell.

There are always bonus points when you can add corporate governance experience to a CEO’s resume, and Goodman certainly brings that to the table as well.

According to the press release from Smarsh announcing Goodman’s hire, she is a member of the Board of Directors of Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) and has served on the boards of Alcatel-Lucent, Brocade Communications Systems, Inc., and National Life Insurance Company.

What’s Next for Smarsh?

On the surface, it’s a good gig, with Smarsh seemingly primed to keep growing in the years to come. 

While its digital communications content capture, archiving and e-discovery tools for RIAs and broker-dealers will never make the company a consumer household name, the clearest response to that would be, “Who cares?”

The wealth management space is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the country, and for very good reason.  And Smarsh continues to be front and center as a service provider for chief compliance officers, chief legal officers and other senior home office staff.

Indeed, the role Smarsh plays for independent wealth management firms is arguably positioned to become even more outsized, as hybrid work and remote work continue to define the industry landscape, the exhortations of Elon Musk notwithstanding.

All of which translates into continued steady demand year in and year out for the company’s core regtech solutions.

Future Regulatory Challenges

But Smarsh also faces challenges going forward that Goodman will need to carefully navigate.

For example, we have a slew of new products – including, but not limited to, cryptocurrencies, NFTs and other digital assets – that have been emerging for wealth management firms.

While many firms have been approaching these products cautiously, there’s no question that they have consumed considerable time and attention from home office staff who have been actively exploring how to best engage with them.  Meanwhile, many RIAs and family offices have already been engaging with these solutions.

Smarsh needs to address the compliance and supervisory needs of its home office customers to ensure wealth management firms have the tools necessary to prevent and detect wrongdoing in the digital assets space.

New products, new regulator – new solutions?

This applies both in terms of activities in the rear-view mirror, as well as future activities in crypto and digital assets, the latest headwinds this asset class is facing notwithstanding.

On a related point, it appears today that the CFTC will be having a say in the regulations of digital assets.  What does this mean for Smarsh?  

The company will need to provide its wealth management firm customers with the tools necessary to respond to new and different document requests from at least one new regulator which, without a doubt, will be quite active.

Customer Segmentation

Also, there’s the issue of balancing scale with flexibility.  Without question, Smarsh is a giant in the regtech space.  

And in theory, that industry-leading scale gives Smarsh the resources needed to pivot rapidly to address customer needs as they emerge.

But for large organizations that have grown significantly in recent years by acquisitions, this can be more easily said than done.

Can giants pivot to avoid danger?

Additionally, Smarsh has a global customer base that encompasses large international financial institutions as well as US-based independent wealth management firms.  These are two fundamentally distinct customer segments with very different needs and goals.

For Smarsh to remain relevant and growing in the independent wealth management space – especially vis-à-vis the fast-expanding RIA segment – it will be critical for the company to stay focused on its bread and butter:  Making digital content capture, archiving, e-discovery and cybersecurity comprehensive, friction-free and priced right, regardless of multiplying financial products and rising regulatory and legal complexities.

It isn’t the most glamorous business, to be sure.  

But it is absolutely necessary from a regulatory perspective, which translates into economic value if Smarsh, under its new CEO, plays its cards right. 

Sander Ressler, WSR’s Expert Columnist, Compliance & Regulatory Affairs, can be reached via ContributingEd@wealthsolutionsreport.com

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