ForwardLane: Innovators and Investors Have an Acute Interest in Technologies

ForwardLane is a fast-growing, award-winning applied AI fintech startup that dramatically enhances productivity with AI-powered insights for financial advisors and fund distributors. Their patent-pending insight platform featuring NLP built for financial services, synthesizes data to find signals for personalized client engagement.

The platform delivers insights integrated into financial advisor and fund distributors workflows in CRM, with Salesforce being a key partner. The platform acts as a powerful “virtual analyst” reviewing all the data across all clients everyday, ranking and scoring it and then surfacing signals for growth opportunities, wallet share increase, retention conversations and awareness across the book as to who to reach out to, and what to talk about. Together this fuels organic, scalable growth through frequent, proactive personalized engagement.

Nathan Stevenson is CEO and Founder of ForwardLane supercharging financial services professionals with personalized insights for their clients. Nathan is a speaker on AI in wealth and asset management at Yale, MIT, InVest NYC, Euromoney Global Private Banking conference, CFA Institute – AI in Wealth Management, Institutional Investor roundtable, featured by FORBES, World Economic Forum, American Banker and more. In this interview, Stevenson shares his outlook on the current state of wealth management as well as what plans ForwardLane is going to accomplish in the future.

What was the history of ForwardLane’s creation? Why did the company decide to focus on wealth management?

Nathan Stevenson: ForwardLane started in New York in the Credit Suisse Private Bank in New York in 2015. Advisors were being flooded with research in their inboxes, there was a queue outside the door of the portfolio construction teams. Overall it was challenging for relationship managers to reach beyond the top 20% of their book because of the information overload.  Having worked in quantitative research at CQS, the Belgravia, London-based alternative asset manager, we were able to see the financial crisis before it happened. Millions did not and lost a lot of their savings. 

It was this crystalizing moment, realizing that if we are able to get the right insights delivered to people at the right time we could make a real difference to millions. And that’s what we’ve done – we’ve built an Insight Automation platform that uses AI to read and process data to provide precise, personalized insights at scale. It’s a powerful enabler for wealth managers empowering them to offer a superior personalized client experience to many more clients.

How has your company evolved and what are the biggest achievements that you’ve already accomplished?

Nathan Stevenson: ForwardLane initially started out offering an AI-powered insight platform with APIs that enable large financial services firms to prioritize clients dynamically and provide personalized insights and content. 

We are able to aggregate and synthesize both structured and unstructured data from CRM, Custody Platforms, News, Research, Marketing platforms and more. One of our unique capabilities is around mining CRM data and then linking that to existing data to find new opportunities for engaging, and most importantly what might have been missed. This helps with client retention and new business. We have 5 patents pending around our NLP and Insight Platform.

We’ve been recognized in the WealthTech 100 awards as one of the world’s most innovative technology providers for wealth and asset management and by KPMG/ H2 as a top 100 fintech globally.

This year we have launched P3 – our cloud-based offering for RIAs. It’s revolutionary because it has all the power of the platform used by large financial institutions, without the cost and setup issues.  Infact, we’re able to get RIAs setup in weeks with automation of data analysis that saves them time, helps prep for meetings faster and makes it easier to provide personalized service to their clients.

What features give your platform the greatest advantage over competitors? Why?

Nathan Stevenson: We’re the only AI Fintech firm that can automatically analyze CRM data and find patterns in the relationship and then cross-check this against your “hard data” sitting in custody and planning software for you. We then automatically surface the results and provide Next Best Actions for client engagement. 

Next Best Actions learns from the best practices of people in your organization, and makes it easy to see what has worked best and is “most popular” with other clients. Morgan Stanley has a Next Best Action engine which helps drive new business for their advisors. If you’re not Morgan Stanley, then ForwardLane is your best choice as we are only focused on wealth and asset management as a vertical fintech solution and have spent years with leading researchers and industry partners to create a platform that meets the industry’s unique needs.

We’re also the only offering on the market which enables our clients to easily setup and configure the master algorithm to their own firm’s needs and views. Your firm remains differentiated, and your Insight engine is unique and then learns from the daily usage and behavior of people in your firm. It has your own signature on it and is specially configured for you.

Integration of a FinTech Platform with Salesforce


What partnerships and integrations does your company have? What are the planned partnerships for the nearest future that you can already share in public?

Nathan Stevenson: We have a number of technology and data partnerships. 

One of our biggest partners is Salesforce who we are strategic partners with as the only Insights Automation platform partner in wealth and asset management. We have Financial Services Cloud, Lightning and Classic native integrations. 

On the cloud capabilities side, we are partners with Microsoft, and recently have been selected as one of just 30 top fintechs globally to participate in their Pegasus program. This means we’re working with Microsoft to bring ForwardLane’s Insights-as-a-Service to new parts and firms that leverage the Azure ecosystem in Financial Services.

On the data aggregation, we are partners with Bridge Financial Technology, a data infrastructure and Portfolio management platform that works with the top 8 custodians as well as MoneyGuide Pro and Plaid/Quovo. With direct API connectors, we are able to automate data ingest, aggregation and processing to speed onboarding for our clients.

From a content standpoint, we count Refinitiv, MT Newswires, Trendspottr, FlyOnTheWall, Dow Jones, Naviga and financial education content from CentSai as partners, all connected into the ForwardLane platform. 

Upcoming partnerships: 

We have always wanted ForwardLane to meet you in your existing workflow, and broaden access to ForwardLane in the market. To that end, we are excited to announce that we have new Wealthbox integrations setup for any advisor that uses Wealthbox for our Web-based version.

Second, we have Redtail integration coming in the near future. This was borne out of inbound organic demand from firms that use Redtail. Our investors and strategic partners, SEI Ventures and SEI Corp also have a large base of RIAs that use Redtail, so we want to be able to offer them ForwardLane technology in their preferred environment.

Beyond that we continue to work towards ForwardLane being offered as a service with many more integrations to wealth management software providers to come. We have exciting progress behind the scenes with a fast-growing leader in the industry and will be sharing more soon. 

What is your team? Who are the key personas for your product and how do they affect the business?

Nathan Stevenson: Our team is a diverse, multidisciplinary group of industry specialists that come from wealth and asset management at blue chip institutions like Credit Suisse, Barclays, BNP Paribas, CQS and IHS Markit. 

Our leaders include Scott Mixer (Head of Strategy and Key Accounts), Shay Krauss (CTO) and Dylan Distasio (Senior Solutions Architect).

The key personas for our product is financial advisors/relationship managers in wealth management, consultants/wholesalers in asset management. There are other similar roles in research sales and other segments of financial services. 

Together we have a user-centric, design-thinking approach to product development where we involve users in the very beginning, listen to them and deliver what they ask for in an interactive process. We’re all about user-centricity.  Fortunately we have built an intelligent system that can also learn and adapt to users needs over time. This being said, we are big advocates of first understanding the business needs from a human standpoint and then baking this into the solution they receive.

What is your engineering team? What technologies do they use and how do they accomplish their daily activities? What’s your software development process?

Nathan Stevenson: Our engineering team is led by Shay Krauss, CTO who was previously a Director of Engineering at IHS Markit and AMdocs. Shay has been a driving force at Forwardlane building a robust and flexible platform that meets the rigorous enterprise standards of the world’s largest financial institutions. Dylan Distasio is our solution architecture maestro solving the most complex enterprise challenges for our clients. The team uses a number of cloud technologies on Microsoft Azure and AWS to build our Insight Automation platform along with a fairly typical tech stack. We have amazing Technical Advisory and R&D partnership with David Mordecai Phd and Samantha Kappagodda of Numerati Partners and NYU’s RiskEcon Lab at the Courant School of Data Science where we have conducted research with their guidance in applying cutting edge deep-learning based AI models (such as MARS) to use cases in wealth and asset management.

Do you exchange knowledge and experiences within your team? Is it necessary for engineers to understand finance to build a successful product?

Nathan Stevenson: Yes we do frequently. There is a lot of interchange and dialog across the team. It’s not necessary for all engineers to understand finance because we have subject matter specialists on the team that can explain where needed, and the design is done by financial industry IT experts with decades of experience.

In what way do insights you gain from your clients help you enhance the service? What features did you implement after clients’ requests, if any?

Nathan Stevenson: We have a deep commitment to the user by designing products, services and experiences that meet their needs. We listen to and learn for our users, and provide a tight feedback loop in enhancing the product and their experience. 

Additionally, our AI-powered Insight Automation platform learns from direct and indirect user feedback and user behaviors in a similar way to Netflix, ensuring that each organisation receives insights that are adapted to their practices. 

What are the challenges ForwardLane faces the most? What future steps you’re going to undertake to overcome them?

Nathan Stevenson: One of the challenges we face is the perception that AI is expensive, unwieldy and time-consuming to implement. We are shattering this notion with a robust AI insight platform that offers next best actions off the shelf, with many data connectors and automated data aggregation and onboarding. All of this is offered at an affordable price and can be delivered to an entire firm in a few weeks, not months or years. 

We are seeing adoption and a lot of interest from the leading names in the wealth management industry, many of the faster growing and tech-proficient players are leading the charge and see that AI automation is a new category just like portfolio management systems, and now is the time to get the jump on the competition to provide a superior, personalized experience for clients.

Are there any trends you can see in Fintech? Are there any trends in 2021 that nobody speaks about?

Nathan Stevenson: We are seeing a lot more attention being paid to ‘WealthTech’ within the Fintech universe since the onset of COVID-19.  Rightly so, it appears that innovators and investors have an acute interest in technologies that affect end-client experiences.  

Many of these trends focus on scaling wealth services and offerings directly to wealth clients (through self-service portals).  In 2021+, we think augmenting the advisor with the insights and information they need to better engage their clients is even more important.

ForwardLane Chart

This is all about automating activities and data analysis so that advisors can prepare for meetings much, much faster. They can service client accounts more efficiently and proactively. And they can directly filter for clients that may be at risk or find new opportunities. Together having signals and insights ranked and scored by processing CRM, custodial and planning data across all clients everyday provides a big lift to client engagement.

Why spend 23 days a quarter analyzing and reviewing client data manually, on an adhoc basis across the book of business if AI-enabled firms can do this in just 2 days? Advisors are quickly realizing that they’d rather spend more time directly engaging clients, prospecting and creating new relationships or living a more balanced lifestyle.  With AI-powered automation this is not only possible, it’s available today.

We’re excited by this macro trend of personalization, and are big believers in enabling advisors with the very best information at their fingertips, to share with clients in a light-touch, highly personalized manner. Clients appreciate the attention to detail, they appreciate on-demand engagement when there is something interesting and useful to be apprised of. The only scalable way to do this is with insight automation – combining data from multiple systems to create a dynamic client profile, and then providing insights and content automatically for the client – delivered to the advisor for review and directly to clients through digital experiences. 

We look forward to enabling many firms in 2021 with AI-powered experiences that level-up advisors and enable them to provide their clients with meaningful, personalized client experiences.

Integration of a FinTech Platform with Salesforce


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