Based on an interview with Mac Bartine,
CEO of SmartRIA
|Value proposition:||Compliance, CRM, Business Valuation, Business Continuity|
|The executive team:||Mac Bartine, CEO
Adrian Carr, CTO
John Morris, Board of Advisors
Roger Kiger, Founder
SmartRIA is an all-in-one RIA management platform that combines back-office efficiencies with federal and state compliance. The company offers two platforms: one is for financial advisors to help them manage their compliance obligations, and the other is for compliance consultants. SmartRIA’s mission is simplifying compliance for financial advisors while constantly looking at the software to figure out how to make it easier to understand. For now, it manages about 1,200 firms, ranging in size from one-person shops to those with over 100 people, and it shows no sign of letting up.
Mac Bartine is a technology leader hired by SmartRIA founder Roger Kiger, a 20-year veteran of the wealth management industry, to manage and grow a technology company. It was roughly a year before they launched the product to the national market. Since that time, Mac has been a technology visionary within SmartRIA.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the product SmartRIA provides, its focus and benefits, integration strategy, the best software development and product management practices, and how the company solves the burning problems.
Focus and strategy of SmartRIA
Normally, users spend from 30–50% of their time on compliance, SmartRIA research says. Many large firms have dedicated compliance teams consisting of people who are only working on compliance. SmartRIA makes it possible to move their efforts into other areas of the business and be more productive there.
“For every technology company, there’s always a temptation to get into verticals within the same industry, expand its features, and become an all-in-one solution. That said, we have remained completely focused on compliance within the financial services industry.”
Mac believes that keeping the focus makes wealthtech companies a success. However, clients want to minimize tossing data from platform to platform and missing valuable opportunities. That’s why integrations are important for the overall SmartRIA strategy. It already has integrations with many custodians as well as CRMs such as Redtail and Wealthbox, and it is now starting to integrate other firms such as Black Diamond.
On top of this, it is considering adding such features as monitoring securities, email, and social media archiving to its platform. Mac believes this would make the solution truly all-in-one for compliance.
Attracting the best hires
SmartRIA is headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, and is very well connected in the local software development community, so it was able to hire a great team of developers without extraordinary loss of time and budget.
The company’s CTO, Adrian Carr, is well known in the local development community. His strong personal brand contributes to the loyalty of engineers and attracts the best hires to the company.
“It’s always difficult to find the best people, have the people who are talented, have the right skill set, and who are a good fit for your company and its culture. For us, it’s just a matter of talking to lots of people and finding the ones who are the right fit.”
Mac says the company tried to hire people who were already familiar with the industry, but, given its goals and focus, it’s sometimes difficult to get people with both the particular skill set and knowledge and understanding of the industry. So people usually come to understand the compliance industry as they get to know the company and its customers. But, on the customer-facing side, they have industry- and compliance-related trainings to go through.
Security on the compliance arena
Compliance with security protocols is very important for SmartRIA. Due to this, it has secure file storage, which is shuttered up to be controlled by the compliance team but available to the entire team. This allows access to the system for anyone who is storing documents for clients or storing internal documents for compliance purposes.
“It’s upload for anyone, read-only in some instances, and controlled by the compliance team so everything remains organized and secure.”
By pulling in custodial data feeds and making things as streamlined as possible for oversight of client accounts from a compliance perspective, SmartRIA makes it so clients are touching the data outside of their software safe zones as little as possible, which minimizes the amount of its potential misuse.
To optimize the product management process, it has integrated Intercom into its app. This software enables communication with prospective and existing customers within the app. Then they tag and categorize all the insights. Due to this, the company can discover what people are asking for, what they’re interested in, and what they’re using most often. It analyzes this information weekly to adjust the product roadmap, which is then exported into Pivotal Tracker, an agile project management tool for collaborative backlog prioritization.
The engineering team has module and major sprints. Thus, even though a major sprint can last two or three months, they’re able to push new features every week while they continue working on updates and improvements.
When it comes to personal productivity, Mac has a very limited amount of time and cannot afford wasting it on things of little importance.
“Like a lot of startup founders, I can work 24 hours a day and still not be done. So, there’s always a feeling that I could work more. But I force myself to take breaks and to rest, occasionally even take a vacation, which can be scary.”
Mac is a fan of Bullet Journal, a planner, journal, calendar, and all-around organizational system. It enables him to keep things structured and prioritized by writing down what’s going on in shorthand.
Along with that, he applies labels such as action, next action, waiting on, and so on in Gmail, which helps him get things done.
“I tag emails using that system so I can track those things more easily without having to pull them into a Bullet Journal-type environment. Those are the two [prioritization] things I use the most frequently.”
Challenges and plans for the future
Mac points out that the company is proud to be so young for its current size. However, it’s still trying to become better known and convince people to join even though it’s less well known than some competitors. Another pain point is deciding when the very best time for hiring is:
“A good hire is made not too soon but not too late. Hiring too soon means having people who don’t have anything to do. Hiring too late is hurting your customers.”
Meanwhile, SmartRIA is preparing for a launch in the UK and starting to work with a London-based company. In addition, it’s already talked with potential partners in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and other places to expand its international coverage.
“We are going to be expanding internationally and have already begun that process.”
SmartRIA’s motto is “stay focused, be scalable, hire the best.” Sticking to this philosophy enabled it to grow straightforwardly while contributing to the local software development community.