A $25 fine remains emblematic of US short-comings in fintech for Sindhu Joseph.
Driving on a California toll road soon after arriving from Europe a few years ago, Joseph realized the US—home to the most innovative and forward-thinking companies—was far behind other countries when it came to something as simple as electronic payments.
“We already were used to just swiping a card in Europe and they were asking for $5 in cash at the toll booth; we had no cash,” said Joseph, now the CEO of CogniCor. The toll booth lacked cashless technology, which was already the norm in Europe where she and others were quite used to walking around or driving without paper currency. The fine arrived weeks later—in snail mail form.
Her company, which develops artificial intelligence-powered customer assistants and business automation technology for financial advisors, recently announced its integration with the Schwab platform via the latter’s Managed Account Marketplace.
Schwab-affiliated RIAs will have access to CogniCor's suite of AI-enabled digital assistants and learning platforms.
Sequoia Financial Group, a large Schwab-affiliated RIA with approximately $10 billion in AUM, is now testing CogniCor's Meeting Assistant, which is helping to automate pre- and post-meeting paperwork for the firm, create meeting agendas and track life events, among other tasks.
CogniCor launched its first three digital assistants, one each specific to forms, navigation and call routing, in April 2021. That was followed in December with the launch of an industry-specific knowledge graph—a conceptual map of topics, terminology and content to provide AI-enabled solutions with a knowledge base to interpret user intent and produce customized guidance.
“Without knowledge graphs, AI algorithms must learn from scratch, an often-inefficient process that may not lead to optimal responses,” said Joseph. “It's the brains behind the operation.”
The knowledge graph provides digital assistants the context and background information necessary to support RIAs and IBDs and expedite the learning process for a given advisory firm’s operations.
Venture-funded and female-founded in 2018, CogniCor was chosen to participate in Morgan Stanley’s Summer 2021 Multicultural Innovation Lab Cohort. Among its investors is Ramaswamy Nagappan, chief information officer for BNY Mellon Pershing.
“We have many new RIA use-cases on the road-map,” said Joseph, who believes future developments could help advisors with everything from issues related to household management to virtual CTO- type features that would help support breakaway brokers setting up their own shops.
Even so, Joseph said she remains fascinated at the incongruity of what technology can and cannot do.
While it has become the norm for many of us to order groceries online, get just about anything delivered to our door through Amazon or get a car through Uber from our mobile phones, most of us still spend far too much time filling out forms, navigating call trees and waiting on the phone when engaging with financial services firms, managing our investments or getting insurance.
For Joseph, these archaic interactions are a wide-open opportunity. “Wealth and health remain so ripe for disruption,” she said.