On Tuesday, May 5th, WealthForge CEO, Bill Robbins, spoke on a panel at Blue Vault’s Bowman Alts Week virtual conference entitled “Alts Electronic Business: A Discussion about Today’s Solutions.” He was joined by Sonny Cabral of DTCC, Michael Page of Riskalyze, Gordon Sommer of iCapital, and moderator Richard Thoeny of Docupace.
Blue Vault attendees can view a webcast of the panel here.
The panel began, topically, with how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the alternative investment industry and created an environment where digital processing is a necessity. While the change from paper processing to automation is, as Bill remarked, inevitable, the pandemic has accelerated the pace of that change. In a digital age, investor clients expect their financial resources to be available regardless of what is happening in the world around us. Trust is built on client service and responsiveness. Paper processes do not transition well to the world of remote work, so the industry has been forced to address roadblocks that have existed for years.
To do this, technology providers will have to think strategically to create solutions for processing alts that don’t just digitize existing processes—for example, using fillable PDFs and electronic signature—but rethink the entire alternative investing process in way that make it simple and intuitive for advisors and investors. A common comparison used in the session was that of calling an Uber instead of hailing a taxi. The resulting solutions, some of which are already available, should have the ability to make product more accessible, transparent, and time and cost efficient.
To achieve the full potential—true straight through processing—the entire industry will have to come together. This means creating incentives to drive adoption, such as custodians waiving fees for digital subscriptions and keeping alternatives above the line to be counted in firm AUM. With the industry working toward a common goal, alternatives could one day be as easy to own as a mutual fund.