Smarsh’s Cruz: Technology Reduces Barriers

Michael Madden, Contributing Editor & Research Analyst, Wealth Solutions Report

WSR’s Hispanic Wealthtech Leader Of The Year Sees Technology’s Benefits In Addressing Inequities And Helping Firms Solve Challenges

All careers evolve over time, and some much faster than others. If you’re a cryptocurrency trader, for instance, last year’s technology is ancient history. If you’re a cybersecurity specialist, you must implement the latest technology and methods or fall victim to cyberthieves.

Wealthtech professionals also must keep pace with rapid evolution across two domains – the latest needs and developments in wealth management on one hand and technology innovation on the other, actively designing linkages and utilization techniques between these. 

The WSR Pathfinder Awards – Hispanic Wealthtech Leader Of The Year, Robert Cruz, stays at the cutting edge of technology and regulation, leading a team of experts in electronic discovery, data migration, regulatory compliance, data privacy and information governance. 

Robert Cruz, VP, Information Governance & Strategic Alliances, Smarsh

As the Vice President, Information Governance & Strategic Alliances of Smarsh, Cruz’s knowledge of enterprise archiving helped Smarsh transition from an earlier focus on small and medium-sized businesses to large, complex enterprises and solidify its position with industry analyst firm Gartner.

We sat down with Cruz, who discussed his interest in technology, the parts of wealthtech he enjoys most and the steps wealth management, and especially wealthtech, can take to address inequities.

WSR: How did you decide to enter technology as a career? How did you decide to move into wealthtech?

Cruz: I spent my entire career in Silicon Valley, where technology was a natural choice after graduating from nearby San Jose State University and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business

Coming from an agricultural community in California’s Central Valley as the first person in my extended family to graduate from college, technology has always interested me as a tool to reduce barriers to opportunity faced by disadvantaged segments of our nation and those without access to the educational quality available to the more affluent. 

Wealthtech moves quickly

I arrived at wealthtech by a journey through other areas of governance, risk and compliance, developing a broad expertise base over almost 20 years. It’s a familiar domain but moves quickly and always provides opportunity for new learning and helping companies understand, plan and execute strategies that align technology to their risk, compliance and governance objectives.

WSR: What are your favorite parts of working in wealthtech, especially in compliance and risk?

Not in textbooks yet

Cruz: My favorite part of working in wealthtech is helping organizational leaders apply best practices in emerging technology to drive their businesses by facilitating information exchange with their peers. 

Much of what I write or speak about can’t be found in textbooks because it changes so rapidly. I stay current with regulation and understanding of technologies available to address requirements in the areas of communication and collaboration. 

My work product helps compliance professionals understand the benefits and risks of different challenge-solving approaches that mitigate risks and can be harnessed to accelerate growth.

WSR: What steps can wealth management, and especially wealthtech, take to be more inclusive to persons of Hispanic origin?

Cruz: We still require significant work to address inequities, starting with access to quality education and improved awareness of opportunities in technology. In Silicon Valley, I find it very disconcerting that the composition of companies in the technology industry does not resemble its community – both at senior executive level and in overall workforce composition. 

Partnerships with universities

There are a variety of means to address this challenge, including mentorships, programs to reach underrepresented communities and partnerships with universities to create meaningful internship programs targeting fintech and financial services. 

One positive development is the democratization of technology and improved access to financial services markets via the evolution of digital assets and social media tools that inform and educate new market participants about opportunities in the wealth management arena. The issue of inclusivity is not just about access, but awareness – in particular if you don’t have mentors, family or friends that had previously chosen this career path.


Michael Madden, Contributing Editor & Research Analyst at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at mmadden@wealthsolutionsreport.com

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