BetaNXT CEO Stephen Daffron Talks Moving To T+1 Settlement And More

BetaNXT CEO Stephen Daffron Discusses SIFMA, Moving To T+1 Securities Settlement And How Wealth Management Can Use Better Data To Make Better Investment Decisions

Chris Latham, Managing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report

Of the many wealthtech leaders in the industry, BetaNXT CEO Stephen Daffron has one of the more interesting backstories.

He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, accumulated three masters degrees and a doctorate from Yale University, worked in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, served as Global Head of Technology, Operations and Data at Morgan Stanley, then became CEO at Interactive Data and President at Dunn & Bradstreet – all before founding his current venture in 2022.

The wealth management infrastructure software provider BetaNXT is a portfolio company of Motive Partners, where Daffron also is Co-Founder and Industry Partner. The private equity firm’s other portfolio holdings include the wealthtech supermarket InvestCloud, the alternative investments marketplace CAIS and more than 30 other companies. BetaNXT also is a portfolio company of Clearlake Capital Group.

BetaNXT is a combination of platforms

BetaNXT is a combination of three platforms – Beta, which automates the securities trade, settlement and asset servicing life cycle, including custody operations; Maxit, which provides real-time cost basis and tax information reporting as well as tax optimization and reconciliation services; and Mediant, which streamlines investor and client communications for brokers, banks, corporate issuers and mutual funds.

WSR recently spoke with Daffron about how the wealth management space can use better data to make better investment decisions, why he participated in the May 15-18 SIFMA Operations Conference & Exhibition, and BetaNXT’s role in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s move to shorten the standard settlement cycle for most routine securities trades from two business days after the trade date to one business day after the trade date (“T+1”).

WSR: What does success look like for BetaNXT over the next three to five years, and how does it plan to achieve that goal?

Daffron: Growth innovation in the industry will make BetaNXT even more successful in the next three to five years. What’s happening is democratization of finance. A lot more people want to invest, and want to invest in more sophisticated products, as their disposable incomes rise along with their saving rates, as that wealth moves from one generation to the next.

Those people also want that investment to be personalized. When clients get a bigger set of products to invest in, they want the best advice possible to make those choices. That means there’s a greater demand for advisors.

The entire data sphere of what people need in order to invest properly therefore also becomes much greater in size, complexity and speed. Clients, advisors and broker-dealers expect to have that tsunami of data be fully digitized. Managing that tsunami is the opportunity for BetaNXT.

WSR: How does BetaNXT work with other firms in the Motive Partners portfolio?

Daffron: Motive Partners was founded on the idea of investing in things we know about. Ever since we began, we’ve been researching the wealth management space to understand where the seams are in the marketplace, where the marketplace works well and where it doesn’t.

Then we invest along those seams in ways that make the components of the space fit together. We invested in InvestCloud, at the top of the client portal; Tegra118, for the middle office; BetaNXT, for the back end and processing flows; and other firms involved in financial data flow.

It’s like the Japanese concept of keiretsu companies, which are not owned by each other but linked to each other. We build the data structures so that when it goes from InvestCloud to Tegra118 to BetaNXT to the other firms, it all works together and doesn’t glitch.

WSR: How is BetaNXT convincing non-Motive Partners firms along the data value chain to cooperate to maximize efficiency into an integrated platform or process?

Daffron: We do it by having the bully pulpit at firms like Vanguard, D.A. Davidson and Baird. The key to encouraging integration is by having the firms we want to integrate with also want us to wrangle all the pieces together and so they can get a complete scalable answer regarding the kinds of services they need.

Working together in a competitive environment

For example, Envision in Orange County, California, is great at handling the complexity of mutual fund subaccounting. Most broker-dealers can’t do their own mutual fund subaccounting. They want us to work with Envision across firm boundaries, because we already have the data that firms like LPL Financial, Wells Fargo, Stifel and AssetMark need to do mutual fund subaccounting.

We’re connected to the clients, and although we operate in a fiercely competitive environment, we also all recognize that we have to do these things together.

WSR: Given that the average financial advisor is not very technologically savvy, how is BetaNXT addressing the need for intuitive and user-friendly functionality?

Daffron: When you turn your car key, put the gear in drive and step on the pedal, you expect the car to start and move forward, because you know all those pieces have been engineered to work together. But you don’t know everything that goes on in the car.

Likewise, the investor, advisor and the broker-dealer all need to learn to expect what will happen when they use financial technology to access data and make investments. At BetaNXT, our job is to make that happen quickly, smoothly and reliably.

Just as when you step on the gas, you expect the car to go at that moment, likewise, when a corporate or market event occurs, investors are exposed to it instantly. So firms we serve need to be able to process the data on it instantly as well.

WSR: Why did BetaNXT attend the SIFMA Ops Conference, how does participating help the firm and what were the big takeaways from the event?

Daffron: I was invited to participate in a fireside chat at the conference. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Ops Conference also is full of influential people who are thinking about the problems that have happened in the past in ways that can help them solve problems in the future, and we wanted to make sure BetaNXT was part of that.

Stephen Daffron speaks at the SIFMA Ops Conference in May

We wanted to leverage our presence there to issue a call to action about the tsunami of data hitting the industry, and get these influential leaders to work together to strengthen the wealth management industry, so it is more worthwhile for firms we serve.

In addition, although Broadridge is one of our main competitors, the SIFMA Ops Conference is neutral ground so we were able to discuss what we all need to do to make T+1 happen properly.

WSR: How is BetaNXT helping its customers address the T+1 Securities Settlement requirements, and what big implementation milestones are coming up soon?

Daffron: BetaNXT is essential to making processing flow work for approximately 50 million American investors. So it’s crucial that we do it well, check everything and have a smooth processing flow to move from T+2 to T+1.

But it’s also crucial for broker-dealers and their advisors to know we’ve done it the right way, beginning when their clients initiate transactions. The entire industry must have confidence about this move, which is a major change in the processing flow. We’re diverting that massive tsunami of data from a much larger, broader and flatter stream of data into a much narrower, deeper and faster stream of data.

Not only does BetaNXT have to do it right, but so does the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC) and every other organization involved. And we are focused on meeting the May 28, 2024, deadline to do so.

Chris Latham, Managing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at clatham@wealthsolutionsreport.com.

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