|Clients:||Financial institutions, RIAs, institutional investors|
|Value proposition:||Customizable wealth management platform with a comprehensive TAMP solution|
|The executive team:||Colin Falls, President
Jack Hannah, Chief Operating Officer
Christopher Daly, Chief Digital Officer
Colin Ruthven, Chief Technology Officer
Dimitar Hristov, Innovation
GeoWealth is a Chicago-based financial technology and investment advisory firm that aims to create an all-in-one platform for RIAs. Late last year, GeoWealth received a strategic investment from J.P. Morgan Asset Management.
|Chris Daly, Chief Digital Officer at GeoWealth|
With Christopher Daly, Chief Digital Officer, we discussed the phases of the firm’s evolution and what challenges they face regarding investors’ expectations of rapid growth.
An all-in-one solution
From the very start, the team wanted to create a TAMP solution with a full set of overlay services. This is why GeoWealth passed a long R&D phase by acquiring a Midwest-based RIA which allowed GeoWealth to gain live feedback from a growing advisor base. The company didn’t monetize its product until 2015 when it began to take on new clients. According to Chris, GeoWealth has had tremendous growth since then.
Chris explains what makes their approach different from other all-in-one solutions:
“We approach the all-in-one solution with a much deeper distribution angle, where firms can make an account-by-account decision as to whether or not they want to be entirely managing a client account or if they want to hand it over to a co-advisory scenario with us and then we run it.”
However, Chris admits that the market offers a number of well-developed financial software options, such as CRM or financial planning.
“If you are an all-in-one and you want to be everything to everyone, you need to be able to integrate with these best-in-class providers or it’s a solid reason for the initial conversations to come to an end. ‘You don’t integrate with this particular financial services product? Then we can’t work with you.’”
To enable their clients to use the services that are useful or even critical to their success, GeoWealth partners with other market players. For example, they recently launched an integration with Redtail.
“That’s a full-fledged CRM system. GeoWealth’s platform has a CRM system onboard as well, but it can be used as a great sort of an adjacent CRM to what your main piece is.”
GeoWealth has also integrated with Laser App for online account opening and the e-document approach across custodians. They also integrated with the following custodians: Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, and Fidelity. By the end of 2019, GeoWealth plans to integrate with several leading Financial Planning providers as well.
An off-shore team and working process
GeoWealth has a distributed software development team. Part of the team is based in Chicago, whereas another part is in Sofia, Bulgaria. The product team and the top of the development team work in the United States.
“The value of having product as part of the Chicago team is that they’re sitting right next to our operations team and our business team. They’re living and breathing the life of what it’s like to use this software.”
The engineering team, however, is in Eastern Europe. GeoWealth has had the same core development team in place for nearly its entire existence. During this time, the software engineers there have acquired solid domain knowledge. They know all the ins and outs of the system, which allows them to work faster.
Chris says that tight daily communication with both teams is critical for efficient work. The teams use Slack for communication and monday.com for road mapping and prioritization. From there, tasks move to Jira, which is used as a tracking tool. The product management team has weekly or sometimes biweekly prioritization sessions, where short-term tasks are defined. This helps them make sure that resources are allocated properly.
Chris says that the development team doesn’t use pure waterfall or pure agile methodology.
“We’re not dogmatic to a particular process. We know what works for us, and that is focusing on collaboration. We interchange between our product and development teams, they morph, they change, and they tweak along the way.”
Chris is proud of the team. He says that each of them is an expert in their space, whether it’s financial services, user interface design, or front-end development.
“Nobody on our team wants to dictate. They all have a voice, and that’s what is critical in making sure our product is as solid as it is.”
Last year, GeoWealth obtained strategic investment from J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Today, the capital is mainly used to expand the distribution of GeoWealth’s solution. In addition to proper brand positioning, this requires significant client research and software development.
Chris adds that, over the last few years, he has seen significant changes in B2B software. He calls this the “consumerization” of this technology. Although, earlier, the primary demand for B2B software was its correct functionality rather than the clarity of UI, today WealthTech companies understand that advisors who use the software are also humans.
“The level of expectation from an end-client consumer, even from an advisor-level consumer, the level of expectation for their digital software products is so high right now; it’s higher than it’s ever been, and it’s only going to get higher, that it really raises the stakes, and it raises the importance of not just user research, but also a consumer-oriented mentality to drive the UI and to drive what these experiences are.”
This is why GeoWealth allocates considerable resources to understanding clients’ pain points and expectations from the software they use or plan to use. Chris says that they are renovating and redeveloping the UI of GeoWealth’s platform.
There’s another challenge. The company has gotten so many opportunities to grow now that it’s important to stay focused on what they are able to release.
“There’s a famous American saying that says ‘your eyes are bigger than your stomach.’ Sometimes when you go to a restaurant and there’s so much great food you want to eat it all, but you know you can’t. We need to make sure that we’re not biting off more than we can chew from not just a software development standpoint, but from the services standpoint.”
According to Chris, GeoWealth has so far managed to make the right decisions.
The bottom line
GeoWealth is a company that knows commercialization and market share for their solution comes from aiming to be best-in-class, and not the other way around. Today, they are well-positioned in terms of the market that the company addresses and the services they offer. They have managed to provide efficient software development through the collaboration of their off-shore development with their team in the U.S. I wish GeoWealth success in their further development and winning the market.