Fintech applied to high-touch wealth management

Brad Ries

Sawtooth Solutions is a Minneapolis-based fintech firm that specializes in wealth and asset management. A recent post on its blog summarized a lot of what bankers face when it comes to tech:

“Today’s financial advisors stand before a wave of new technologies, overwhelmed with the prospect of having to be experts at each. The tech seems to be infinite, requiring infinite integrations and a thick notebook full of passwords. Redtail, Motif, LaserFiche, MorningStar – so many systems that do so many functions, even their names are hard to keep straight. At every stop along the way in the advisor-client relationship, there seems to be a half dozen products on offer, like competing vendor stands on the roadside.”

Brad Pries, company founder and CEO, talked about the niche Sawtooth serves.

 

Q: What functions of asset and wealth management can be streamlined by technology?

Brad Pries: Asset and wealth management can be streamlined in three areas: 

  1. In advisor productivity, by enabling advisors to serve more clients by delivering meaningful, comprehensive business functionalities, (e.g. marketing, prospecting, proposals, paperwork, tracking service requests, etc.).
  2. Through client experience, by delivering information to clients in ways they will best understand it and in ways they want to access it, (e.g. advanced performance reporting, data aggregation, client portals, mobile applications, etc.).
  3. And in trading and fulfillment, where we automate as much of trading, billing, and account servicing as possible so increased volumes are never a hindrance to growth.

Q: What is your approach to these areas?

B.P.: Sawtooth’s technology stack is built around SFDC (Salesforce.com) and integrates with other software systems at a high level. It is infinitely scalable, highly secure and customizable to fit each bank’s existing process and products. Sawtooth’s customers do not need to own SFDC; it is provided as part of our service.

Q: If a wealth management client isn’t interested in technological interfaces, how do you spur engagement?

B.P.: Technology should provide advantages to every user — bank employees, advisors and clients. Advanced client portals with data aggregation as well as paperless documents and electronically signed paperwork are good examples. Technology is flexible, which enables us to incorporate the traditional options like wet signatures and paper quarterly reports. It’s important to provide in-office options for advisors to share information on-screen with clients who don’t want to engage with technology.

Q: How can a bank maintain a high-touch relationship on the front end while enhancing back-end services?

B.P.: Sawtooth’s approach takes on the trading, billing, rebalancing, performance reporting, money manager contracting, paperwork, data aggregation, cash raising, and more. This eases the burden of the entire bank staff. By outsourcing these functions, the trust officers and advisors will have more time to meet with clients and service their needs, paving the way to creating legendary customer relationships.

Q: The branch-free, high-tech, smartphone-reliant youth of today will need wealth management services tomorrow. How do you see things evolving?

B.P.: Technology provides better, faster access to information. However, as today’s youth gain investable assets, through saving and/or inheritance, they will encounter the same issues as their predecessors; they will need humans to help them navigate difficult situations and provide solutions for specific needs. Technology can enhance the relationship with an advisor but is unlikely to completely replace it.

Q: How hard is it to build a fintech business in the Midwest? 

B.P.: Sawtooth has been headquartered in Minneapolis since its founding in 2009. Minneapolis provides access to highly-talented, highly-educated employees. With some very large financial services firms headquartered in Minneapolis, the employee pool tends to be much more sophisticated and experienced than in comparable cities. It also has a vibrant technology industry which provides access to talented and motivated developers, testers and project managers.