By Vasyl Soloshchuk/ Insart
Albridge provides a platform that helps clients make sense of their data, work more efficiently, and protect the integrity and quality their data.
|Key dates||In July 2010, Albridge was acquired by BNY Mellon from PNC Financial Services Group and became an affiliate of Pershing|
|Clients||Broker-dealers, financial advisors, RIAs|
|Value proposition||Consolidated reporting (Albridge Wealth Reporting™, performance reporting, and replicated data); compliance and operations (business process solutions and sales practice monitoring); and data management (data aggregation, data quality benchmarking, and data warehousing)|
|Senior management||Charles Granito, Jr., CEO, Managing Director
Marc Butler, COO, Managing Director
Peter Antonucci, Technology, Managing Director
For 19 years, BNY Mellon’s Albridge has been the industry leader in aggregating multi-custodial, insurance, and direct-to-fund data from hundreds of sources to provide a consolidated view of assets. The firm’s relentless focus on data quality means that clients can rely on timely, accurate, and complete information.
I met up with Albridge’s COO, Marc Butler, and Peter Antonucci, a managing director in the technology group, at Albridge’s office located in a picturesque borough of New Jersey.
Marc took me on a tour of their impressive office space and afterwards we sat down to discuss what makes Albridge different from its competitors.
Marc Butler has been involved with FinTech since before people even really called it FinTech. Since joining the firm, Marc has been primarily focused on the FinTech space—whether for broker-dealers, registered investment advisors (RIAs), or financial advisors—as well as investor solutions.
Peter Antonucci is a managing director for BNY Mellon’s Pershing, with management responsibility for Pershing’s technology, inclusive of the NetX360®, managed account, and business intelligence platforms. He also manages the technology platforms for Albridge. Prior to assuming this role, Peter was the Business Technology Officer for Pershing’s managed accounts business, and was responsible for application development and for the oversight of program management, project management, and quality assurance.
Business and tech trends
The shift of financial advisors becoming RIAs is very real. A lot of the financial advisors that Marc works with want to become RIAs. This increasing movement towards the advisory area is huge, meaning more managed money.
From a technology standpoint, Albridge has performed studies with broker-dealers that show where and when a financial advisor or RIA is using their technology. This means they can confidently say that if clients make investments in this technology, they will get a return from it.
“We also see a big shift in the focus on investors, meaning that firms of all sizes whether it’s robo-advisors, more regional broker-dealers, or even big RIAs trying to serve investors. The focus for years was around financial advisors. How do we do things better for financial advisors [and] how do we get advisors to increasingly use technology? We see focus in our investors and tools making it easy for them.”—Marc
The use of technology amongst younger advisors is significantly higher than that of advisors that have been in the business for longer. Although this may seem obvious, the conclusion is that going forward, technology will drive a lot more in terms of efficiency, communication with investors, and simply getting things done.
Another big thing that Albridge is working on is predictive analytics. There seems to be a lot of talk surrounding this subject, but very little in terms of solutions. Albridge is working on bringing real solutions to the marketplace.
Albridge’s business model
Albridge is not a one-trick pony. Whilst wealth reporting is what they are most well-known for, Albridge has the advantage of being in multiple businesses. Their business model is focused around how they can serve a number of areas within financial services, whether the client is a financial advisor, a robo-advisor, or a broker-dealer.
A lot of it starts with the data. Albridge has over 50 million accounts on their platform and half of the investing households in the US have an account somewhere on their system. In the document management space, Albridge has a storage solution that is in compliance with SEC Rule 17a-4, which helps broker-dealers drive efficiency with their workflow capabilities. Albridge also has a market leading compliance surveillance solution which helps to automate a broker-dealer’s compliance responsibilities and a data warehouse solution which helps a broker-dealer to use data-driven insights to drive decisions.
Advantageous integrations and APIs
The point of integrating a system is to provide access to data and to bring that data into other solutions. Albridge was one of the first to develop and deliver on an integration network, referred to as Applink®. Albridge also has integration partners in financial planning tools, risk assessment tools, and compliance evaluation.
“Our approach is really simple.…We want to make it easy for whoever is using our solution, whether it’s a financial advisor or a broker-dealer, to be able to use other solutions within this network. We’re pretty open in that respect. We typically get a lot of solutions that come to us saying, ‘Hey, can we become an integration partner?’ It’s relatively easy to do. We have a toolkit and a sandbox we make available to partners to enable them get started. ”—Marc
Albridge offers a number of different APIs for their partners, from basic things like holdings and balances to rate-of-return performance calculations. Marc explains that their API set is not only used for integrations with other FinTechs, but those same APIs are also used for the integrations that RIAs or broker-dealers want to achieve. For instance, if a firm does not want to use Albridge’s front-end, they can use those APIs to connect to Albridge’s data or, in some cases, connect to those performance returns.
Data analytic tools and vision
Marc says Albridge’s goal, or vision, is for financial advisors to use the platform without thinking about the technology. Albridge Wealth Reporting is a reporting platform that provides both performance and wealth reports. The next step is the creation of dashboards so that instead of having a conversation based on a report, clients can sit down and look at a dashboard to see insights, whether on performance or the distribution of assets.
“There may be information out in the market space which will allow financial advisors to get smarter about their investors. We want financial advisors to be able to turn on our solution and have it deliver insights directly to them. We don’t want them to have to run a report and have to derive the insights on their own. What we’re really getting to is what we call the next best conversation. How do we enable financial advisors to have the next best conversation with their investors?”—Marc
After dashboards comes predictive analysis. With accurate predictions, another aspect comes into play—attrition analysis. In other words, which activities on an investor’s account indicate that he or she are at risk for leaving a financial advisor? Next is segmentation analysis. Segmentation analysis provides the flexibility for financial advisors to think differently about how they segment their clients. Obviously, to do this properly, financial advisors need data on generational differences and on the total value of a family. Another piece of the predictive puzzle is being able to take the information that is available in the public space and use it to a financial advisor’s advantage. Marc notes that this approach is still under development.
Each of the different solutions mentioned earlier have a general manager who is in charge. Albridge’s philosophy is that the product management team is really the CEO of the product. They are empowered to define what the product should be based on field study visits, trends in the industry, and innovation.
“Nobody asked us to do predictive analytics, yet our product-management team said, ‘This is really where we need to go with all of this data that we have.’ At the same time, product managers need to be concerned with, or we’re asking them to be concerned with, if we build something, how do we operationalize it? How do we make sure that we can have a steady state?”—Marc
The support behind the product is of the utmost importance. If the client needs something, like training, they should be able to call up the company and make arrangements. Albridge takes this a step further. Sometimes clients come to Albridge with a great idea that motivates Albridge to build the solution for not only the client requesting the solution but for the benefit of all of its clients.
Getting feedback from clients and sharing knowledge is another area where Albridge remains focused. Their relationship-management team visits clients and learns what clients like, what they don’t like, and examines the way the clients are using, or not using the platform. The end result is the creation of smarter technology professionals that will be more successful with every new project.
Apart from the positions and departments mentioned above, Albridge also has a client-services group that is responsible for communicating with financial advisors. This involves not only taking calls from financial advisors, but also broker-dealers. Departments like business development, relationship management, and account management are tasked with making sure that the strategic objectives of the client are met. This is because most clients that come to Albridge are interested in doing special projects.
On average, Albridge receives almost 8.2 TB of data each month and a big part of Albridge’s team revolves around data. The data department measures data quality and handles data anomalies to ensure data quality and integrity.
“Because we’re also data intensive, there’s a group of folks that’s really focused on ‘did we get the data in that we were expecting last night?’ That same group works in two different shifts, providing 24-hours a day coverage and they’re watching [the] files that are coming in. ‘Did we receive the files we expected and are they complete? Is it exactly what we were expecting?’ That same group is also monitoring files that go out.”—Marc
New tech strategy
Peter stresses that the tech strategy is about changing both the process architecture and the physical architecture. Albridge is moving away from waterfall and implementing agile for continuous development.
“Our strategy has been to put an agile team together that works cohesively to deliver products that create elegant experiences. Our cloud native technology, along with a continuous and rapid development cycle addresses the needs of every demanding client that we serve – it has worked really well and it’s a lot of fun.”—Peter
WealthTech Club takeaways
Albridge is on the cutting edge of FinTech because their approach is smart, effective, and progressive. Through their deeply rooted integration with other platforms and solutions Albridge is the epitome of data excellence, elegant technology, and consultative solutions and driving an exceptional advisor experience.
Interviewed by Vasyl Soloshchuk, CEO and co-owner at INSART, FinTech & Java engineering company. Vasyl is also the author of WealthTech Club, which conducts research into Fortune and Startup Robo-advisor and Wealth Management companies in terms of the technology ecosystem.