Marwa Zakharia knew what she wanted to do when she was just 6 years old.
“My dad would bring home file folders and I would take all of his documents and organize them and called myself a businessperson,” she said. She would don her father’s glasses and hold business meetings with her siblings, where she was always in charge. That’s how she learned early that she wanted to work with people.
While studying at Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, Del., Zakharia talked her way into a job with Wilmington Trust, even though she wasn’t qualified for the position, and ended up working as a liaison between private banking and the technology department.
“Don’t ask me how I convinced him that I would be the right fit because I had no experience whatsoever, but I knew that I could do this,” she said. “And I did. I thrived in that role.”
Today, she’s running her own fintech company, AssetBook, the portfolio management and reporting technology provider, and using that same talent for working with people as a liaison between the financial advisor community and the company’s technology developers.
She has served in various capacities with AssetBook for five years, first as a consultant, then heading up operations and the last two years as CEO. Her husband, Miguel Zakharia, has served as the firm’s chief technology officer for almost nine years. During her time at AssetBook, Pulse, the firm’s flagship portfolio management and reporting platform, has been rebuilt and migrated to a fully cloud-based system running on Microsoft Azure.
She spent nearly two years listening to advisors to learn where they were having issues, what features they would like to see and how they want to be able to use them.
“Advisors need technology to run their businesses, but they did not sign up to be tech experts,” she said.
AssetBook is currently solving for one of the biggest pain points in an advisor’s business—client communications. Many advisors complain that systems for pulling client communications into compliance are clunky and put constraints on their workflows.
Enter Valian, AssetBook’s new client-engagement application, launched this year. The app version includes a texting feature that automatically and seamlessly ensures compliance, and a desktop version is coming next.
She says they opted to roll out the app first because phones are generally more accessible than desktop computers and that accessibility, along with ease of use and attractiveness, is a primary focus as they continue to build out the new system.
Once the desktop version has launched, she said to expect “a ton” of additional and user-friendly features designed to improve the client-advisor engagement experience, with built-in electronic documentation for the “purposes of the compliance, perspective and efficiency.”
“A CRM is only as good as what you populate it with,” she said. “But what it boils down to is their engagement and conversation with their end client. Our focus is really on optimizing advisors’ time and their workflow. This is why we’re so focused on two-way connectivity.
“And of course,” she added, “compliance, compliance, compliance for everything. Because we can lose sight of that when we’re trying to build fancy, beautiful systems. And we forget that the SEC and FINRA are holding these advisors accountable.”