Based on the interview with Douglas Blake, Managing Director, Investment Solutions, Kingswood U.S.
Kingswood U.S. is an integrated wealth management business offering a comprehensive range of financial planning and investment services. This March, they announced the launch of its enhanced retail alternative investments platform. The new platform is part of the firm’s broader strategy for investing in cutting-edge resources that elevate the financial advisor service experience, while enabling its advisors to seamlessly deliver the widest possible array of institutional-quality investment solutions that align with their clients’ needs and goals. The fully digitized platform is powered by fintech leader WealthForge’s industry-leading alternative investments subscription solution, Altigo.
According to Douglas Blake, Kingswood U.S. Managing Director, who also leads Benchmark Investments Inc.’s Alternative Investments and Insurance Services arm, the strategic partnership with WealthForge adds significant value to Kingswood U.S. financial advisors in the form of a new, fully digitized retail alternative investments platform. We asked Douglas several questions to shed more light on the partnership and its influence.
How has Kingswood U.S. evolved, and what are the biggest achievements that you’ve already accomplished?
Douglas Blake: Through organic growth and targeted acquisitions, we take great pride in the seamless integration of technological tools and platforms we offer Kingswood U.S.’s advisors, which give them a competitive advantage as they strive to serve clients efficiently. Providing advisors access to resources they need to remain competitive and supporting them with our network of industry and technology experts helps them build their businesses, and it is what sets us apart and what drives our growth.
What features give your platform the greatest advantage over competitors? Why?
Douglas Blake: Together with our parent company Kingswood Holdings Limited, we combine the resources and capital of a large financial services firm with the personalized touch and feel of a boutique company. While there is no doubt our suite of technological solutions and product offerings rival any wealth management firm, our approach to empowering our advisors to build the businesses they want is our greatest advantage.
What partnerships and integrations does your company have?
Douglas Blake: As clients increasingly demand a greater range of differentiated products than ever before, it has become incredibly important that we identify the right partners that can put our advisors in a position to meet that demand.
This is why the Altigo integration is so important. The elimination of a laborious process in favor of simplified, streamlined digital workflows and internal documentation, with straightforward mapping of subscriptions for product sponsors, makes providing alternative investments a much easier decision for advisors and their clients. By automating this entire process, we give advisors more time to spend on their clients and drive new business.
What are the planned partnerships for the nearest future that you can already share in public?
Douglas Blake: We continuously review opportunities to drive value for our advisors, equipping them with the right technological advantages to win new business in any situation.
- CAIS – This fully automated, alternative investment platform complements our current offerings by providing direct and simplified access to private equity and hedge fund investments. CAIS opens an additional avenue of investment into alternatives that most advisors cannot achieve due to high cost of entry.
- Halo – This all-digital fixed income and structured products platform provides advisors access to products/services to support their business and help them grow.
Why did you decide to go with an all-digital alternative investment platform powered by WealthForge and Altigo?
Douglas Blake: We reviewed most of the third-party alternative investment platforms on the market, and while many of them got us to the five yard line, Altigo pushed us into the end zone. The Altigo offering gives Kingswood U.S. the ability to participate within one of the most dynamic areas of the market with a smaller, nimble team because of its embedded ability to address regulatory issues, streamline subscription workflows, promote sponsor and product engagement, and more. Altigo automates the entire process, giving incredible power to the advisors to offer this kind alternative investment strategies to a larger number of clients.
Who are the key personas for your product and how do they affect the business?
Douglas Blake: The executive and technology teams at Kingswood U.S. and our parent company work as a united front in the service of our advisors, and Mike Nessim, CEO and President, Kingswood U.S., sets the tone from the top. He trusts our internal leaders to build the firm in the way we see fit, providing the resources needed to scale and grow without any sort of pressure to conform to a particular pathway. Mike stands with us in the trenches, pushing us to reach our individual goals because he believes they will serve the interests of the collective team.
What other prospects of integrating alternative investments you see in the market? What challenges do they involve and how to combat them?
Douglas Blake: Competition in the wealth management space and an increasingly complicated regulatory environment can bury many firms trying to take part in alternatives space. Dynamic, engaged compliance teams can help a firm stay above the fray and drive real results for advisors and their clients. Speaking for our firm, our internal compliance team does not just check boxes to help us “color within the lines, ” but they bolster the firm infrastructure and enable our growth.
The close integration of a powerful compliance team with all the other core functions of a wealth management firm cannot be overstated. Working with our Chief Compliance Officer Mike Alsoraimi gives me incredible peace of mind to push our firm in new directions without being afraid to step outside the lines of our regulatory responsibilities.
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?
Douglas Blake: The goals of our advisors and their clients inform everything we do. From our product shelf and practice management services to the regulatory safeguards and technology infrastructure we have in place, the strategic direction of the business is designed to support the near- and long-term goals of our advisors’ business plans and their clients’ financial futures.
What are the challenges your company faces the most? What future steps you’re going to undertake to overcome them?
Douglas Blake: Kingswood U.S. is incredibly well positioned to address the most significant challenges in the market. We focus on empowering advisors to build their businesses to meet their goals, investing in the right suite of technologies to address shifting client demand, and providing advisors with the resources and capital of a very large financial services firm with the personalized touch and feel of a boutique company.
Are there any trends you can see in Fintech? Are there any trends in 2021 that nobody speaks about?
Douglas Blake: Ready access to a steady flow of market information has made investors more sophisticated and demanding than at any other time in history. Advisors need more services in their toolboxes and access to a greater range of investment products to meet the needs of today’s “new investors.” I expect this trend to continue and lead to more challenges for wealth management firms. It forces firms of all sizes to be on the cutting edge and stay there, implementing new products and services quickly.
In the past, the wealth management firms sector presented new products to the market and educated financial advisors and the investing public about the risks, values propositions and more. Now the script has flipped – advisors and their clients are coming back to their firms asking for the ability to offer a more varied range of investment strategies. We see this trend across sectors, perhaps most prominently in the crypto currency space and adjacent vehicles, such as NFT. What no one is talking about is how traditional financial advisors and their firms can address this demand without exposing their clients to hidden risks.