Andy Aziz of d1g1t on How Family Offices and HNW / UHNW-Focused RIAs Can Build a Flexible and Comprehensive Tech Stack
Serving high net worth (HNW) and ultra-high net worth (UHNW) investors has always been a demanding task. Such investors not only have needs and goals that far more are complex than the average investor, but they require a greater level of attention.
More than ever, therefore, having the best tech platforms and solutions is critical part of serving these types of clients. Indeed, anything less than that could result in losing a relationship – which within this segment can pose an existential threat to a business.
We talked to Andy Aziz, the executive vice president for business development at d1g1t, Inc. about the challenges firms – and, specifically, family offices – face in this area.
While the Canadian-based fintech company – which recently concluded a fundraising round led by RIA aggregator CI Financial – has partnerships with some of the top broker-dealers north of the border, it also has relationships with several prominent family offices throughout North America that support HNW and UHNW individuals and families.
Here’s a recap of our conversation.
Generally, what are some must-have tools that tech providers need to offer family offices and other firms to allow them to serve UHNW and HNW clients capably?
Aziz: There are a couple. For one, high-net-worth investors deserve the same sort of performance and risk analytics tools that hedge funds and institutional investors have long enjoyed. Not many of today’s platforms do this.
Aside from that, scenario analysis and what-if capabilities are also high on the list. For instance, what would happen to a portfolio if another 9/11 or dot-com crash occurred? Folks want insights into things like that.
But, overall, the real issue doesn’t surround any one tool or capability – it’s about integration. When platforms get cobbled together, it typically means specific capabilities are siloed off from one another, which prevents advisors from providing timely insights – meaning clients may not be able to get a full understanding of their wealth in real-time.
Naturally, not all family offices are the same. What are some ways they should be able to customize their tech to account for the specific needs of their clients?
Aziz: It’s key to aggregate an entire family’s net worth, including their traditional and alternative assets, as well as any “off book” holdings they may have, like an art collection, while also considering insurance policies and liabilities.
This is much easier said than done given the dynamics of some uber-wealthy families. Many have a patriarch or matriarch in addition to trusts and foundations and then multiple tiers below that, from sons and daughters down to grandchildren.
Platforms must be agile enough to allow firms to define a family however they wish, whether it’s a top-down look at the superfamily or just one tier.
Amazon is developing AI and machine learning tools that could soon make humans almost an incidental part of their fulfillment centers. Do you see something similar happening to the planning and wealth management process?
Aziz: Though many observers predict that tech will one day replace financial advisors entirely, we don’t think that will happen.
While automation is undoubtedly a fact of life, d1g1t passionately believes that financial advisors are irreplaceable when supporting client needs and goals, especially for high-net-worth and ultra-high net worth individuals and families.
In our mind, therefore, wealthtech’s role is to support the success of financial advisors and empower advisory firms to scale up the high-value human services that will set them apart in an increasingly automated and digital world. We’re not here to replace anyone.
RIA consolidation continues at a breakneck pace. Do you see something similar happening in fintech, where only a few very well-resourced platforms survive? Why or why not?
Aziz: Consolidation inevitably comes to any industry that grows explosively, and fintech is no different, so we’ll likely see a fair bit of M&A activity in the coming years.
The winners, if you want to put it that way, will be the companies that have developed future-proof platforms with a clear vision.
In other words, they will focus their energies on leveraging new technology, not on cobbling together a unified solution by attempting to combine multiple older and more antiquated systems.