Views on the Digitised Future and on Asia from InvestCloud’s Leader for Wealth Management and Private Banking
Christine Ciriani is the CEO of the Private Banking and Wealth Division for InvestCloud, based in Geneva. InvestCloud is a global FinTech firm offering a global Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) wealth solutions platform and is a leader in the global wealth and asset management marketplace. InvestCloud now has in excess of USD6 trillion of assets on its platform and a truly global footprint. Christine joined our Hubbis wealth management leaders in Asia panel discussion on June 17 and offered delegates her latest insights into the role of digitisation as a catalyst for the evolution of the wealth industry in the region. We have summarised some of her fascinating and far-reaching views in this report.
InvestCloud today brings together four competencies as a firm: first, it is a digital design agency, designing software, and incorporating behavioural science into the experiences that the firm designs for customers. Second, it builds cutting-edge software; everything that they design is built using its library of apps and patented Programs Writing Programs (PWP) technology, which enables businesspeople and designers to do the work of armies of programmers, resulting in unique and differentiated experiences for its clients at a fraction of the cost and time. Third, as the name indicates, it is a cloud-based digital platform, hosting and running the technology and software they build, with the Digital Warehouse being the foundation, ensuring a single version of the integrated truth. And finally, InvestCloud provides access to a trove of digital financial content.
InvestCloud is headquartered in Los Angeles but has a truly global presence, with over 20 offices in locations such as New York, London, Geneva, Singapore, Sydney, Zurich and Hong Kong. InvestCloud has some 500 direct clients live in over 40 countries.
Broad-based wealth and asset management coverage
The firm focuses heavily on financial services and specialises in wealth and asset management coverage. With front- to middle- to back-end solutions, InvestCloud brings a vast array of capabilities covering the whole wealth management value chain, from retail through the mass affluent segment, the private banking market for HNWIs and UHNWIs, and also advisor platforms and asset managers.
“As an applied data warehousing company, we have both a digital platform and the digital marketplace,” Ciriani told delegates early in the June 17 panel discussion. “Our digital platform is available through both a wealth advisor platform and a private banking platform. And that ranges from digital collaboration and engagement to sales productivity, personalised advice and planning, product management, insights and decisioning. In our digital marketplace – what we call our Financial Supermarket – we actually use our technology to link manufacturers (asset managers) with distributors (wealth managers), and in the middle, we have a digital warehouse that we're rather proud of, to handle all the complex integrations and logistics between the wealth ecosystem - custodians, trading factories and banks.”
A global offering, with Asia a major priority
She reported that with rapid growth in recent years, and today with some USD6 trillion of assets now managed on the platform, the firm has over 20 million accounts deployed in 40 countries, including in Asia.
“Asia is a key market for us,” she explained, “And in the APAC region today, we have six offices including Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Australia, and almost 500 people in the region with over 32 live implementations. With this sort of scale and reach, we have great insights of the trends in the market, many of which have become more acute and are developing more rapidly in recent times.”
New money, huge wealth, new ways of investing
She noted that of the record 493 new billionaires Forbes media had tracked as have been ‘created’ in 2020, 40% of those had been created in China.
“This indicates simply massive wealth creation in the region, especially China,” Ciriani observed.
“If you look at the overall trends, not only do we see rapid wealth creation, but you are also seeing new entrepreneurs who are looking for different ways of investing their assets as well, with more direct investments and more direct participation. And at the same time, with all this new wealth being minted, there is a huge wealth transition taking place in the region to the next generations. And you also see this open ecosystem evolving as well, opening up possibilities for using digital in different ways to accelerate evolution across those areas.”
The Five InvestCloud pillars
Ciriani told delegates that alongside this significant shift in wealth, there would also be a significant shift in clients moving their money across wealth managers, perhaps to the tune of 30% of the AUM, she indicated. And she explained how the firm is well-positioned to capture the rising demand and the emerging trends through its five pillars of the digital private banking platform.
InvestCloud’s Five Core Pillars
Pillar 1 - Empower RMs with more efficient tools and front office operations
Pillar 2 - Provide a tailored and premium service with AI insights
Pillar 3 - Maximise brand entanglement with intuitive and simple design
Pillar 4 - Deploy trusted innovation
Pillar 5 – Leverage proven digital strategy with flexible business architecture (Open Banking)
She elaborated on the first of these pillars, which centres around RM empowerment and simply making it easier for RMs to service clients. “This also covers hunting for new AUM and the related insights needed to support that process to that RMs spend time on prospects they can onboard. It also includes cross-selling to existing clients, because winning new accounts since the pandemic hit has been particularly difficult.”
Tailored AI-driven insights
The second pillar is using AI-driven insights to provide really valuable insights in terms of what she calls ‘nudges’ to clients, and to provide differentiation from standard recommendations, and to do all that at greater scale. “Because of fee compression, we are seeing RMs needing to service more clients,” she explained. “Accordingly, the ability to do that with a mainly personal, direct touch is very difficult. So, AI can be leveraged to help provide more insights and to deliver to more clients more easily.”
Brand ‘entanglement’ and smart content
The third pillar, she elucidated, is around using digital channels for maximising what Ciriani called brand ‘entanglement’. “Banks and other firms spend a lot of time and effort projecting their brand and what the brand can offer through the use of digital tools delivered in different areas of communication and collaboration,” she explained.
“And they are aiming to do that with an engagement which shows empathy to the clients,” she continued. “We know there are certain clients who want to trade on their phone. There are others who want recommendations based on their stated preferences, so this is about delivering that intelligent content through a digital channel to extend the brand and to build that community. We see that more and more as well, particularly in Asia.”
Deploy Trusted Innovation
She then explained that the last two pillars centre on delivering an innovative platform and open banking. “What we see, particularly in Asia, is a thrust towards transparency on fees and the value offered,” she explained. “This is for clients who want to know what they are actually gaining with the products and advice, and digital platforms are finding innovative ways to bring clients back to the bank and demonstrate that value. This may be more than just adjusting the advisory fee; it may be offering access to a premium community, it might be offering access to research, webinars, and to investment professionals that clients wouldn't normally have access to.”
Flexible business architecture, Driving open banking
And then, there is the rollout of the open architecture and open banking concepts. Ciriani remarked that InvestCloud and VP Bank had entered a partnership announced in early June (Karen Tan, the Singapore-based Head of Private Banking for Asia at VP Bank, was also on the panel). The mission of the engagement is to design a new platform for VP Bank which will bundle its in-house as well as third-party offerings to create customised financial solutions and make those innovative products available not only to its own clients but also, for example, to wealthy individuals who have no direct relationship with VP Bank and instead are served by financial intermediaries within the ecosystem.
“VP Bank clearly wants to be a pioneer in open wealth, offering open wealth services through a single platform ,” Ciriani reported. “This is another example of that need and desire to use digital platforms to be present for both sides of the coin, to leverage a platform that can extend the service to both clients and intermediaries, while leveraging the ecosystem that a bank like VP Bank already has.”
Ciriani later also had the opportunity to offer delegates a greater insight into the trend towards delivering intelligent content, which she had earlier said was in greater demand in Asia these days.
“It is interesting that client engagement devices – client portals if you wish – have actually been around for some time, over 10 years, but now we are seeing this turbo-charged client portal version 2.0, that incorporates some of these drivers,” she reported. “This also offers clients the ability to self-serve, because of the drive to promote remote collaboration nowadays, which we see as a permanent change after the last year or more. Remote collaboration has of course been necessitated by the inability to meet and to travel, driving the need for clients to self-serve, offering ease of access to information and acting on the information.”
She elaborated on this, reporting that the InvestCloud solution takes these snippets of digital user information and layers them in smart insights. “In this way, the bank is using the channel of its portal to extend the relationship with the RM and extend their ability to deliver communication that is tailored to the client,” she enthused. “This is another key development we see, another interesting phenomenon that is increasingly valuable for all parties concerned.”
Ciriani also commented on how the ecosystem has evolved, noting that there had been a lot of innovation and technological evolution in the past five or so years.
“Banks historically have aimed to be a one-stop shop. Today we are talking about an open ecosystem, open API architecture, and the ability to aggregate – easily providing clients choice and flexibility,” she observed.
She explained that this approach really provides an advantage for looking at wealth holistically. “If you lack that ability to be hyper-modular and aggregate across advisory, discretionary, execution-only, third party funds, private equity investments, crypto investments as well, if you cannot offer that aggregation, and if you lack the capability to do all that in a modular manner, you become very limited in terms of how you share and how you really provide holistic advice.”
Understanding the client and leveraging CLM
Ciriani added that another vital element for differentiation and success is the ability to serve clients across their lifecycle. She explained that it is increasingly vital to both understand the client and to understand their activity so that the RMs and advisors can obtain the information, insights and alerts that help them deliver advice, products, and solutions to those clients at the life-stage they are at.
“Digital solutions offer the capability for holistic solutions and can aggregate for RMs in line with the client view, and this is a core reason why we are seeing a lot of clients turn to us, because of this ability to actually deliver both hyper-modular, point solutions, but also to extend those across the lifecycle, leveraging CRM and CLM as well. Not only is there a reduced cost of ownership but the focus on aggregating data across client, products, transactions and compliance means that the value of data aggregation and analytics to drive further efficiency is increased.”
Talent wars and the digital ‘magnet’
Her final comment at the discussion was that there is an incredibly active market in recruitment and a huge amount of movement of talent in Asia’s wealth markets. “We have seen an increased amount of movement of talent in recent times, and in fact, there is a talent war out there. And as that takes place, we are also seeing banks approach us asking for the digital tools used to be shown as part of their recruitment process because RMs know their value in helping them be more efficient, more collaborative with clients, and, of course, ultimately more productive.”
Christine Mar Ciriani – a snapshot
While from her business card, one might anticipate meeting with a dynamic executive of Swiss or Italian origin, Ciriani is actually Chinese-American, and as proud of her Chinese ethnicity as of her Californian birthplace. She reports that both her parents are Chinese, from Beijing and Shanghai, but she grew up in California.
Before joining Finantix in late 2019 after what was by then an already impressive 23-year career, Ciriani was a Senior Partner and Managing Director Switzerland at Capco, and additionally launched and lead the global wealth and investment management practice across 10 locations, including related partnerships and key accounts. She established the business in Switzerland from initiation with responsibility for P&L, strategy, business and people development and was instrumental in building out Capco’s presence in Asia.
Before that she was Partner and head of wealth management for a boutique financial markets consulting firm where she helped establish new offices in Amsterdam and Geneva prior to a company acquisition by Detica (now part of BAE Systems).
She had started her career at JPMorgan, where she worked for both the investment and private bank in New York, London and Geneva across client services, operations and global custody and was responsible for defining and implementing global operating models for the private bank.
Today, Christine is the CEO of the International Private Banking & Wealth division of InvestCloud. In addition, she is on the Board of Barclays Private Bank Switzerland and Institute Pasteur Switzerland.
Christine holds an M.B.A. from the Walter A. Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and an Economics and Accounting degree from Claremont McKenna College.
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