AssetMark has attracted a top-notch technology executive to its ranks about a year after the wealth management technology firm announced it would be acquired by Chinese securities group Huatai Securities, which paid $768 million for the business in a deal completed in November.
Mukesh Mehta, who was most recently chief information officer of Cetera Financial Group and before that CIO of TD Ameritrade Institutional, started this week as CIO of Concord, Calif.-based AssetMark, where he's responsible for the technology platform and architecture.
AssetMark provides analytical, portfolio and custodial services to financial advisers, brokers and investors, and its customers advise on $32 billion in assets. Technology has become increasingly important to advisers who depend on it to make their businesses more efficient, as well as to enhance the experience for clients who are demanding more and quicker access to financial help.
Mr. Mehta spoke to InvestmentNews on Wednesday about how advisers should be using fintech and said he's excited about technology plans in the works at AssetMark that will be announced in the coming months.
InvestmentNews: How should financial advisers be thinking about robo technologies?
Mukesh Mehta: There's been a lot of conversations in the marketplace over the years since the robo-advisers started that they would disintermediate the adviser, and we don't see that at all. What we see is an opportunity for advisers to scale their practices, and more than anything, robo-technologies refocusing the industry. That is a refocus on a great client experience, great interaction models, straight-through processing, all things that will benefit this industry. It's being driven by the technology innovation and that retail experience, which has driven the industry as far as technology goes. Now it will allow advisers to scale and allow the benefits of those technologies to come forward into the adviser's hands.
IN: You mentioned clients, how have their preferences changed the way advisers should be thinking about fintech in their businesses?
MM: That's an important aspect of any technology platform today. Clients are demanding more and more access to information, and that's in our everyday lives. The consumer wants that information and they want direct interaction with their advisers and they want new methods of interaction. It's no longer where clients all want to go to the adviser's office and meet with them in the traditional manner. More often they're going to want to do that with social media, they'll want to use chat, instant messaging, all kinds of new tools. That's where the platform must evolve to, where it's working towards the integration of that adviser/client experience and really enhances the whole discovery and communication process using the new technologies that are out there.
IN: Where should advisers focus their cybersecurity concerns?
MM: There are highly complex fraudsters out there who are really good at what they do. Firms like AssetMark are battling that everyday. Security is a big deal. We spend a lot of money and have a lot of focus on making sure that we secure our distribution every day. The reality is that most of that complexity is really out of the adviser's hand.
But advisers can really participate by making sure the basics happen — good practices like updating passwords, not sharing passwords, securing your space, securing your files, educating your teams on phishing attempts and other things that we know are out there and continue to be problematic. If advisers refocus themselves on the basics and make sure the basics are happening, that will go a long way and be a big step in security.
IN: How should advisers be leveraging big data to improve their businesses?
MM: If all goes well, advisers won't know what kind of data is being leveraged. The key is to allow them access. Big data is only valuable if it leads to big decisions, right? We try to bring lots of little data together, but it should be seamless to the adviser. So when advisers ask a question or when they need information, it should be available at their fingertips, and that's the beauty of where fintech's really gone. There's been incredible increased investment in the last five years in fintech, particularly in the financial services, big data and visualization analytics, which really allows providers like us to give those tools directly to the adviser. It allows them to have easy access, easy interfaces to access information, and it's for us to make sure the information exists underneath.
IN: Finally, what technologies are you keeping an eye on when it comes to fintech for advisers?
MM: There are two key areas that I think will really transform this industry and they're really driven by data, which is clearly the currency of the digital age. One is the technology that drives analytics and visualization, so we can provide information to advisers who can use it to manage their platform and have it at their fingertips. It will help them better understand their client base, for instance. Those types of visualization analytic technologies are clearly growing and the cost has changed dramatically. There's lots of fintech investment in that space, particularly here in California. We will really be able to provide a great deal of benefit to an adviser in how they think about and run their practices.
There's also a big wave in no-password access to information. There's lots of great technologies available now, whether it's biometric-based or newer technologies like bar codes that we scan from our mobile devices, that allows you to really take away the whole notion of passwords, which are one of the weak points in cybersecurity.