Crystal Capital Expands Team In Advance Of Portal Redesign, Advisor Group Launches Digital Securities-Based Lending, AlphaTrAI Expands Its Senior Leadership Team And Board, Smarsh Enhances Communications Oversight Dashboards And More
In this edition of the Wealthtech Roundup, we speak with our newest Wealthtech Leader of the Month, Steven Brod, Chief Executive Officer of Crystal Capital Partners.
Other entries this month include Advisor Group launching a digital securities-based lending solution, AlphaTrAI expanding its senior leadership team and Board of Directors, Smarsh enhancing its communications oversight dashboards, FMG leveraging ChatGPT for automatic social media content creation, Absolute Engagement launching an engine to boost advisors’ prospect and client experiences, and Riskalyze and Orion improving their joint integrations for accounts and models.
1. Crystal Capital Expands Tech Team In Advance Of Portal Redesign
Crystal Capital Partners, a wealthtech provider and turnkey alternative investment platform for financial advisors, has continually built out its integrated technology solutions team since 2020 and has grown it to represent half of the company’s staff. It is accelerating investments in user interface and experience (UI/UX) and aims to launch an extensively redesigned portal this year.
The firm achieved 20% growth in assets under management (AUM) during the previous two calendar years, and connects more than 200 wealth management firms to approximately 60 third-party institutional funds which manage over $1.5 trillion in assets.
Crystal Capital’s software allows advisors to create diversified, institutional portfolios to complement clients’ other investments and replicate the Ivy League endowment model. It strives for a conflict-free manager selection process, receiving no compensation from the managers on its platform or placement fees for distribution. In December, Crystal Capital won a WSR Wealth Exemplar Award for Alternative Investments Platform of the Year.
And now for our in-depth Q&A with Wealthtech Leader of the Month Steven Brod, CEO of Crystal Capital Partners.
WSR: Why has Crystal Capital focused on growing its staff and how does that buildup help with the upcoming launch of the new alt investments portal?
Brod: Since 2009, Crystal has enabled hundreds of independent FA firms to build diversified alternative investment portfolios for their qualified purchaser (QP) clients. As the alts industry has evolved with the adaptation of technology, so have we. The world of alternative investments is complex and requires access, technology and consolidation to create and manage diversified portfolios through time.
We’ve witnessed an industry shift from legacy paper processes to digitization, requiring substantial investment in our internal resources. The growth of our tech team and the launch of our modernized portal are designed to better address the demands of this new era of alts, which we are proud to pioneer.
WSR: How will Crystal Capital’s new alts investments portal help financial advisors and their clients, and when is it expected to launch?
Brod: The new portal is expected to launch in Q4 2023. It has the qualities we strive to represent in the alts space: experience, vitality, invention, connectivity and service. The output of our new client portal addresses the requests we have received over the years from our advisory network to better help their alternative investment journey with clients.
From quantitative and qualitative due diligence and analysis on funds to further retooling of our portfolio-building process, and lastly, managing alternative investment exposures, we’ve put the plans together in a cohesive and digestible manner for advisors and clients alike.
WSR: What should financial advisors and their firms look for in alternative investments technology platforms, in general?
Brod: Education, tools, manager selection and seamlessness. Given the general opaqueness of the asset class, the platform must educate advisors about alts and the benefits they can bring to traditional portfolios. Advisors need tools to help quantify the appropriate mix of alternative investments within an existing client portfolio, based on different client investment profiles.
A platform should have a conflict-free approach to manager selection and showcase how the managers selected compare to peers in the industry. And investment experience must mimic the seamlessness of traditional investing platforms. Since alts don’t have daily liquidity like traditional investments, they require ongoing support, which extends beyond point of sale.
To learn more, view the press release here.
2. AlphaTrAI Expands Senior Leadership Team And Board Of Directors
AlphaTrAI, an artificial intelligence-supported asset management platform, expanded its leadership team and Board of Directors. The company named Dr. Anjun Zhou as Chief Investment Officer, José Pierre as Chief Solutions Officer and Richard Goldman as a new board member. AlphaTrAI also announced the completion of its latest fundraising round.
Dr. Zhou is a 23-year financial services veteran with a Ph.D. in finance who previously was Global Head of Multi-Asset & Factor Research at Mellon Capital and Portfolio Manager and Head of Research at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. Pierre has four decades of leadership experience and was the Founder and CEO of Marketware International, a technology consulting firm and provider of wealth management online brokerage applications. Goldman was CEO of Rydex Investments and Chief Operating Officer at Guggenheim Investments.
“Appointing these highly respected industry leaders to head our Asset Management and Solutions Services business lines is an important part of our growth strategy of building out our leadership team and capabilities in order to deliver AI-driven financial products and business solutions,” AlphaTrAI CEO and Chairman Bill Dwyer said in the press release.
To learn more, view the press release here.
3. Advisor Group Launches Digital Securities-Based Lending Solution
Advisor Group launched its new Personal Credit Line securities-based lending solution, for financial professionals to help clients solve their liquidity needs. It enables clients to borrow against their investments without lowering the value of their portfolios. A paperless experience and custom online portal also lets clients monitor their accounts and withdraw or repay funds.
Part of the potential value-add for advisors is maintaining the course on clients’ long-term financial plans, throughout unanticipated life changes, instead of liquidating their assets to address a cash crunch. Advisor Group’s new digital offering comes at a time of escalating impact for financial markets, the economy and households due to rampant inflation and Federal Reserve interest rate hikes.
“With Personal Credit Line, my clients can unlock the power of their assets at a competitive rate and with flexible repayment terms,” Amanda Dunlap, President and CEO of Absolute Financial Planning, said in the press release. “This is a terrific addition to Advisor Group’s wealth management offerings and it further supports our ability to scale our services through the tech-enabled and personalized experiences for our clients.”
Smarsh, a digital communications compliance and intelligence provider for organizations including financial services firms, launched a series of enhancements to its Professional Archive dashboards that are intended to make compliance oversight easier, faster and more intuitive for RIAs and broker-dealers.
The first set of enhancements, in Smarsh’s Archive and Reviewer Activity Dashboards, are available now. The next set of enhancements, in its Policy and Queue Dashboards, are scheduled to roll out in the spring. Smarsh serves more than 6,500 customers worldwide, including global financial institutions and multinational investment banks, by providing tools that monitor everything from emails and smartphone texts to social media posts and business application messages.
“Recent developments such as the Marketing Rule reinforce the requirement of wealth management compliance professionals to demonstrate supervision activity to regulators,” Sheldon Cummings, General Manager of the Corporate Business Unit at Smarsh, said in the press release. “The new Professional Archive dashboards will help solve these challenges by making compliance easier for everyone at no additional cost, thanks to a unique suite of tools that do not exist anywhere else.”
FMG, a SaaS wealthtech provider of marketing software and services, launched an AI-powered personalization engine that helps financial advisors automatically generate original social media captions about shareable content in FMG’s library. The new “one-click” personalization engine, which leverages technology from FMG’s own Vestorly platform as well as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, is on the Curator product of FMG’s mobile app available via Apple and Android smartphones.
Curator allows a financial advisor to create a feed of third-party content from around the web that fits both their personal brand and their business brand. An essential feature of the one-click personalization engine is its ability to succinctly summarize content, written in the style of the advisor who posts it, along with a link to the complete longer-form piece. It combines proprietary GPT prompts with artificial intelligence compliance screening and human quality assurance.
“In the future, we will have a digital voice print of each advisor,” Susan Theder, Chief Marketing & Experience Officer at FMG, told WSR. “This means our library of thousands and thousands of pieces will never look the same for any of our users. It will sound exactly like them, and it will get better over time as they edit, and we remember their edits.”
Absolute Engagement, which conducts ongoing investor and advisor research, launched the Absolute Engagement Engine technology platform to help advisors improve their prospect and client experiences by treating feelings, needs and priorities as data points in order to provide advisors with insight ahead of relationship-building conversations.
CEO Julie Littlechild founded Absolute Engagement in 2014. The platform’s features include digital dashboard metrics that measure the confidence and concerns of clients and prospects over time, as well as compare those metrics among different individuals. For example, concerns entail how individuals feel about caring for elderly parents or family members and ensuring children make good financial decisions.
“We have worked with the team at Absolute Engagement for many years to capture insights that inform our client experience,” Joe Martin, Chief Client Experience Officer at Summitry, an RIA with over $2 billion in AUM, said in the press release. “The Engagement Engine allows our advisors to prepare for reviews more efficiently, supports strategic decision-making at the leadership level, and drives deeper engagement and referrals.”
Riskalyze and Orion, two of the industry’s leading wealthtech providers, launched an enhanced platform integration for wealth management firms. As a result, firms can bring accounts and models directly into their proposal process in Riskalyze, and Orion’s Portfolio Groups are reflected as Account Groups in Riskalyze.
Later this year, Orion and Riskalyze plan an additional integration bringing Orion’s aggregated account feeds into Riskalyze’s compliance analytics. Previous integrations between the wealthtech providers that are still available for firms include risk analytics in Orion’s Client Portal and a dedicated sub-report in Orion’s Report Builder.
“Thousands of joint clients leverage Orion to manage their asset platform and CRM, and a deeper integration into the Riskalyze growth platform makes it that much easier for them to grow their businesses,“ Riskalyze CEO Aaron Klein said in the press release. “Today’s enhancements greatly improve the integration process and make Orion accounts feel native inside of Riskalyze.”