John Wise may have been one of WealthManagement.com’s “Ten to Watch” in 2016, but CEO of InvestCloud hasn’t slowed down one bit in 2017.
The company kicked off the year by spending $20 million for trading and accounting technology. Since then, there’s been a seemingly non-stop stream of news and announcements from the company – including a new tech incubator, a partnership with the city of Boston and a new product called “Emerald.”
The moves have kept Wise constantly on the go, but we finally had a chance to catch up with him for more details on all the announcements. The following are excerpts from correspondence with one of the busiest guys in fintech.
WealthManagement.com: It seems like InvestCloud had a very eventful March, and you’ve been a busy man. What do you attribute to the huge growth and how do you stay on top of everything?
John Wise: InvestCloud has had an aggressive but controllable growth curve over the last five years, but you’re right to point out that it’s increasing all the more precipitously now. We attribute this growth to three primary drivers: our digital app store approach, strong partnerships and effective marketing.
Staying on top of everything requires a driven, passionate team and we have that. At a fundamental level, it’s about consistency, discipline and a systematic approach to all aspects of the business — we hold these qualities in the highest regard. Having high standards is hard work but rewarding when our clients business expands.
WM: Let’s start with the partnership with the city of Boston, which is going to be running it’s Children’s Savings Account program on the InvestCloud digital platform. What exactly are you providing them, and how is it different than working with financial services firms?
JW: InvestCloud believes deeply in the value of Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) and the City of Boston is facilitating exactly that.
Boston Saves, the City of Boston’s Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program, allows families to create long-term, goals-based savings plans for college, post-secondary and training education for their children. The city sought to enhance this CSA and increase operational efficiency by securely coordinating data aggregation from a number of bank accounts, including automating data transfers and notifications for certain events. In addition, the city wanted to bring a first-class digital experience to bear for participating families. So at the highest level, InvestCloud provides secure, efficient data aggregation as well as a highly designed, interactive, personalized user experience. Through the digital platform, families track their progress, earn rewards and benefit from financial savings tips. Linking their savings and checking accounts directly to the platform makes it easy to transfer funds and gain a more holistic view of their investments.
We also have an existing history in this space. For example, we built a custom data entry, operational workflow and data aggregation platform for Family Independence Initiative (FII) to use with over 1,000 working poor families across the United States
WM: Why open the Innovation Center in Los Angeles? What does InvestCloud have to benefit by hosting an incubator?
JW: The Innovation Center is the realization of an approach to developing financial solutions. The approach is how InvestCloud has always built technology from day one. Back in the garage in 2010, a team of six designed, built and shipped our first product, PlayMyMillions, in just six months. And we still build and ship products in [teams] of no more than six. So this approach isn’t new for InvestCloud.
What’s new is that we’re opening this approach to our clients for the first time — from startups to large institutions.
Los Angeles is the world-leading location for traditional media (film and TV) and therefore has a very large community of professionals who are experts at communication. This is central to InvestCloud.
The primary reason for doing this is to meet client demand. InvestCloud clients believe in the unique approach to building financial apps through PWP (Programs Writing Programs) and realize that joint projects leveraging their internal teams with InvestCloud’s expertise will result in short time to the market of high-quality products.
WM: Do you have any companies already signed up to take advantage of Innovation Center? What can you tell us about what is being worked on?
JW: Yes, we do. Some of the projects underway include the next generation of personal goals-based planning; frictionless aggregation on a large scale; efficient tax solutions; independent valuation and analytical tools [for investors]; and portfolio news apps.
WM: You’re also relocating your European office to Soho, London following the acquisition of Babel. What is the new division you’re launching to go along with it?
JW: We’ve already made the move to a high quality location in the hub of media software Soho (Our neighbor is Snapchat on the floors below.) Soho is the heart of creativity in London, which marries with our Los Angeles headquarters in the Pacific Design Center.
Europe is a very important market to InvestCloud as Europe’s largest robo provider (Nutmeg) is our largest user of our Trading and Accounting Apps.
WM: And you’re also planning a future Innovation Center in London as well as New York, right?
JW: That’s absolutely right. Both will be open this year. InvestCloud's London office will be home for the London Innovation Center, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Sales and Delivery and the acquired Babel team. InvestCloud has clients in the U.K., Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), Switzerland and South Africa. InvestCloud also plans to open Innovation Centers in Australia and Hong Kong going forward.
WM: So, what exactly is this new Emerald product?
JW: InvestCloud Emerald is the set of financial apps that address full-stack robo requirements. Clients can use the front-end apps for digital advice, portfolio management and trading and leverage clients’ own existing capabilities for accounting. Clients can [also] use middle- and back-end apps for accounting and reconciliation and use the InvestCloud Emerald APIs to integrate, or use the full-stack solution front to back.
WM: Don’t robos already get the middle and back office support they need from custodians like Apex? Are you trying to compete with them or are these new services?
JW: No, InvestCloud is not a competitor as we would never be a custodian like Apex, or a broker/dealer. InvestCloud clients include asset services firms, which include b/ds, fund administrators and custodians. Although typically these firms have very large internal IT teams, they often have their plans full and are looking for opportunities to partner with pure software players like InvestCloud. InvestCloud has several deals in play, which include the leading robo in Singapore and a very substantial U.S. firm.
WM: Can we expect the rest of the year to be this busy at InvestCloud? Anything you can tell us about upcoming announcements or plans for the future?
JW: There is much more we can talk about, however, [we are] focused on remaining the leading client communication and client management company, whilst expanding further into money management solutions with our trading and accounting capabilities.
As for upcoming news, near-term stories will focus on recent successes we’ve had with international robos and new product announcements, particularly related to our Navy and Purple products, which are tailored for the institutional investor and outsourced CIO/FO spaces respectively.