Asset management examples

The financial services sector is already more fragmented than it used to be in the days of large, vertically integrated organizations spanning banking, brokerage, and investments. Open architecture empowered independent managers long ago, and most firms operate within a constellation of service providers and vendors of various kinds. Within these networks there is no shortage of entities that simplify the investment process for institutions as well as individuals: Consultants, databases, advisors, and trading platforms. But investing—as central as it is—is only part of the overall picture. It’s more complicated than catching a ride or booking a room. As important as these intermediaries are, they’re not really carving out new space in the ecosystem along the lines of an Uber or Airbnb.

Investing—as central as it is—is only part of the overall picture.

The following firms are noteworthy demonstrations of the potential for Uberization in asset management. Some are still in their infancy, while others are more established. The list should be considered illustrative rather than exhaustive.

Investment research

Atomization of the asset management industry can only occur when the right tools and technologies are in place to support the intuitive and customizable interaction with data, analytics, and insights. This is an area of intense focus, with both startup and legacy firms scrambling to capture mindshare among professional and amateur analysts alike.

AnalystHub offers analysts the compliance infrastructure and support necessary to offer their services as a standalone service. It works as a gateway to all of the essential publishing, CRM, and compliance tools needed to run a business. Combined with the growing market for models, this could theoretically enable distributed research functions, permitting customized approaches without integrated in-house research.

Fundmap supplies business intelligence to the world of institutional investing, supporting business development efforts with data on investors and mandates. Further highlighting the fact that the institutional world is as ripe for disruption as retail investing, Procensus aims to bring transparency via extensive polling of industry insiders, resulting in a community sharing opinions on everything from IPOs to M&A deals.

Rather than offering market intelligence, some firms are opting to sell the tools needed for the job. Accern offers a “no-code development platform”13 for AI workflows, simplifying the analysis of social media and blog posts.

Sentifi is also focused on professional investors. Their analytics engine is supplied with social media feeds alongside other types of unstructured data as well as traditional financial information. Analytical outputs provide context for external events, facilitating idea generation, trades, and portfolio monitoring. The company sets itself apart with a ranked list of 14 million influencers.14

Estimize takes a different approach to a similar idea. Rather than relying on external social media platforms, it was created to serve as a virtual community for asset management professionals, focused on the sharing of financial estimates from analysts and investors. The company has carved out a unique niche for itself by banking on the wisdom of the crowd, and it is expanding its footprint by integrating with established industry data platforms such as Bloomberg.

Dataminr uses an AI that understands 80 languages to scour hundreds of millions of publicly available data points each hour to provide early detection of risk factors. Social media feeds comprise a critical input for this process, which informs the risk-management efforts of an assortment of blue-chip clients.

While it is not unusual for analytics firms to integrate social data into their offering, some independent firms are laser-focused on this area. Stocktwits now bills itself as the world’s largest community of investors and traders, with more than two million registered users.15

Trade Ideas positions itself as an AI-augmented market intelligence platform supplying active traders with unparalleled access to comprehensive, real-time market data along with myriad tools for planning and executing trading strategies.

Data platforms

BattleFin focuses on sourcing, organizing, evaluating, and vetting alternative data. Demyst has a similar value proposition, offering users in financial services a fast and safe way to discover, evaluate, and use data from what they claim is the world’s largest data marketplace, with access to hundreds of sources. Meta-markets are also emerging. It was announced in September 2019 that Demyst would be joining the Snowflake data exchange, an already substantial market maker for data across industries.16

PeerNova attempts to solve some of “the most prevalent challenges in the financial industry” by enabling financial firms to perpetually synchronize their data across multiple internal and external systems. Its Cuneiform Platform is said to simplify reconciliation, automate exception processing, and provide end-to-end operational visibility across workflows in real time.

Social investing

Closely tied to sentiment analysis is the business of social investing or mirror trading. Founded in 2006, Covestor was among the first to let investors follow and mimic the portfolios of others based on their investing styles and track records. The company has since been acquired by Interactive Brokers Group.

Other social investing platforms such as Open Folio, Tip’d Off, Stocktwits, and eToro compete for market share, relying in part on the concept’s appeal to millennials. ZuluTrade alone has 10,000 traders (aka signal providers) from 192 countries and offers access to a wide assortment of asset classes including stocks, commodities, forex, and cryptocurrencies. Ayondo and Tradeo are further examples of social trading platforms.

Based in Austria, Wikifolio serves traders who are confident that they have something others will want, empowering them to turn their portfolios into full-fledged financial products (“wikifolios”), listed on Europe’s leading exchange for structured products.

Exchanges

Palico is one of several firms attempting to bring transparency and liquidity to private markets, enabling the buying and selling of primary and secondary private equity interests.

Nasdaq’s acquisition spree underscores a deep understanding of the growing demand for markets and clearinghouses of all kinds. The company is positioning itself as a hub not only for private market transactions, but also for the buying and selling of many different types of data and information.

Zanbato is a crossing network for private securities that provides market data, counterparty verification, and order execution to broker/dealers and institutional investors. OurCrowd is a global crowd investing platform for accredited investors. Fundbase aims to make alternative investing more accessible and efficient, allowing investors to find, trade, and monitor high-conviction investments while communicating and collaborating with one another.

DeFi

Enzyme Finance (previously known as Melon) was founded in 2016 to leverage the unique characteristics of Ethereum in order to empower anybody to create their own fund. Its on-chain asset management tools promise to allow users “to build and scale investment strategies of your choice — from discretionary and robo to ETFs and market making.”17 dHedge offers users the opportunity to create decentralized hedge funds on Ethereum.

Furucombo takes a unique approach to constructing DeFi portfolios, simplifying asset allocation and transactions by using a drag-and-drop user interface. Aragon facilitates the creation of decentralized autonomous organizations (or DAOs) with a suite of applications centered on tokenization.

Advice

As machine learning advances rapidly, so do efforts to create personal financial assistants or coaches. Plum is one of several AI chatbots that automate saving in an interactive manner. Based in South Korea, QARA offers asset management tools to both individuals and institutions based on deep learning. Kasisto takes a different approach, offering a turnkey solution with KAI, a conversational AI platform that they claim is “fluent in finance.” More investment firms are experimenting with bots to service their clients, but what if consumers had their own fiduciary bots that were platform-agnostic?

Financial planning apps are proliferating and getting far more sophisticated than providing mere budgeting. Offering integration with accounts of all types and personalized advice on achieving short- and long-term goals, this new breed of AI-powered apps is aiming beyond the value proposition of the original robo-advisors. Pefin bills itself as the world’s “first AI financial advisor.”18 Rather than building a consumer-facing brand, it has chosen institutional sales, with financial firms white-labeling its technology and employers offering its services as a benefit to their workers.

Most AI advisors are still oriented toward mining the connections between individuals and their institutional suppliers of financial products, but it is not hard to imagine a more decentralized approach taking hold once the infrastructure has proven to be resilient.

Read Next Section
13 accern.com
14 sentifi.com
15 stocktwits.com
16 Business Wire, “DemystData to Securely Deliver Real-Time Access to Thousands of Premium Datasets on Snowflake Data Exchange,” September 24, 2019.
17 Enzyme.finance.
18 Pefin.com

Legal Note

The Investment Manager Services division is an internal business unit of SEI Investments Company. This information is provided for education purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or investment advice. SEI does not claim responsibility for the accuracy or reliability of the data provided. Information provided by SEI Global Services, Inc.