RBC Wealth Management U.S. has made its new digital alternative investments platform available to all high-net-worth clients.
Developed in partnership with fintech provider Artivest, RBC released a beta version of the platform to a small test group earlier this year. The platform launch is a culmination of leadership changes with RBC Wealth U.S. and a subsequent strategy change, said Bryan Mullin, head of the unit’s alternative investments.
With the appointments of Michael Armstrong to CEO and Tom Sagissor to president, combined with the bank’s “narrower advisor channel” in comparison to its peers, Mullin said the time was ripe to enhance RBC’s offerings.
When Mullin was brought on a little more than 18 months ago, he said he was able to focus on bringing new technology to the alternative investments space, as well as a broader set of offerings and advisor-focused educational content around the products.
Prior to the build out and launch of the platform, RBC and Artivest noted the bank was handling its alternative investment system in a disjointed, paper-heavy and laborious manner, especially with the firm’s inorganic growth through acquisitions of firms like City National. “It is certainly not unique to RBC that they were doing things in a non-systemized, paper-based way when they came to us,” Artivest CEO James Waldinger said, adding that it is “table stakes” for institutions like RBC to have alternative investment offerings, and his company was able to streamline everything from marketing and sales to reporting.
The new platform, which offers investments in private equity, hedge funds and real estate assets, has already shown success in its trial period, with the division “process[ing] four times the number of investments compared to before the platform’s launch, with no increases in [our] operations staff or expenses,” according to a bank statement.
Mullin declined to go into specifics about the exact number of investments before and after the platform’s creation. He noted, however, that the platform allowed for the availability of more offerings than were previously available. “We had always been present in the space,” Mullen noted, “but it was not as broad as it could be.”
Waldinger credits the successful rollout to RBC’s platform to its “intrapreneurial vision” and quick action, relative to its size. The bank was running a proposal process for building out its alternatives technology not long after hiring its alternatives staff, said Waldinger, who called the platform creation process a “green fields project”—a chance to build the system’s components from the ground up. Artivest was able to complete the entire system in about three months, which Waldinger partially attributed to the scale afforded by the tech company’s commercial relationship with Altegris, an alternative investment research and management firm. (Artivest and Altegris recently announced plans to merge.)
“Technology is running rampant throughout wealth management,” Mullin added. “Do we want to be a technology firm or an advisory firm? We’d rather be an advisory-based business versus trying to build our own technology. This is a consistent strategy for RBC Wealth U.S. to partner with best-in-breed technology providers.”