11 May Welcome to ROBO 3.0
Cassia Research launches COPILOT, a powerful quant-based risk assessment and onboarding platform for Registered Investment Advisors. Jeff Walker, CEO, Founder of Content Carnivores spoke to Henry Bee, CEO, Co-Founder of Cassia Research.
Jeff: How did you get involved? How long have you been at it to get to this point?
Henry: I was in engineering school. I got a job, had some savings and was looking to invest in the stock market. That’s when everything kind of started. Very quickly I learned about options. My very first trade I turned $2,000 into $50,000. That showed me the power of the markets from that 1 trade. After that I realized, It’s a lot of luck, actually. I went on to also lose money.
That’s when I discovered risk management. From there I started working with David Varadi (of the CSS Analytics fame), on some hedge fund algorithms. We actually had 2 hedge fund clients that we worked with. It was really cool, but consulting can only go so far. It’s not a sustainable business model.
I went on to work at a software company working with investment advisors and saw an opportunity to come out and do this on my own. My co-founder is a really talented programmer, working on electronic games. He worked at E.A. developing the most popular title in the entire world, FIFA. Two of us kind of have a good skill complement, me with finance and he with the programming ability. Last October he went full time and this January we just hired a full time third person as a software engineer. Now all three of us are developing this exciting, new, Cassia platform for investment advisors.
Jeff: What are you doing that nobody else is doing?
Henry: In the more than 10 years that I’ve been looking at this space, what I noticed was there is a real pain point with the advisors. They need an easy way for them to build a portfolio and assign multiple accounts or clients to that model portfolio that they create. Right now there is no easy, streamlined way of doing it and there is nothing to guide them in terms of lowering risks on multiple assets and asset classes.
We have a module here that we developed four years ago. We thought why not add some web elements to it. Make it super easy for advisors to use. That’s how COPILOT was created. It’s really the goal to align the advisor with each of their client’s tolerance and to find an optimal portfolio to fit that risk tolerance. Every advisor’s expectation is always met and therefore the advisor doesn’t have to worry about the 2008 scenario where they lose 10% of their client base or if their clients stay, they can’t reach their financial goals. That’s what the COPILOT platform hopes to achieve.
Jeff: Who is your ideal, perfect, advisor client?
Henry: The ideal client would be an advisor who is managing between $50,000,000 to $100,000,000 and these would be R.I.A’s. They would be independents. They’ve decided to make the leap from working for a big bank, working for a big investment firm to come out on their own; have their own clients and manage their own books. Because they are also entrepreneurs, they have to take care of all aspects of business. They spend a lot of time on compliance, logistics, administrative work, and portfolio management. It’s too much work.
A lot of the advisors that we talk to who really appreciate our technology, are the advisors that target high net worth clients. They look at the tool and they just get it right away.
Jeff: So advisors go to Cassia-research.com, open an account and start benefiting that day?
Henry: Exactly. Once they log in … once we have the data and positions of their clients’ accounts, our forecast engine will run in the background and crunch the numbers. 15 minutes later they would be able to see a report and see exactly where the risks in the portfolios are. It doesn’t really matter how many accounts they have. It’s all done really efficiently.
They can securely connect with their existing brokerage accounts–which is key. Through a very powerful vendor, we are able to have the COPILOT platform connect to over 19,000 financial institutions in North America. It doesn’t really matter who their clients bank with. They can instantly log in as their advisor and see all of their accounts under that advisor account. From there they can analyze the account’s position, the account’s risk real time, using the data we have in the database.
Jeff: How’s your security?
Henry: We have a partnership with Microsoft Azure. We are very fortunate to be part of their Bizspark program. And the security and uptime assurances that come with it. That’s something that a technology company only like Microsoft can offer. We also integrate with Quovo for the financial account data. This integration means that instead of trying to make sense of scattered statements from 10 brokerages with different formats and definitions of return, COPILOT unifies the information from 19,000 financial institutions including custodial accounts, held-away client accounts, self-directed brokerage, 529 plans, annuities, and insurance.
Jeff: Basically you guys are launching May 1. The site is up. You have the product that you’ve been working on ready. Is this launch about making it scaleable or automating what you have been doing algorithmically for a few years?
Henry: This algorithm has been tried, tested and true on advisors’ client accounts. We are simply adapting that technology and democratizing that technology through the web with a very intuitive user interface.
Any advisor can log in and start building their ideal portfolio. In the past, they had to hand that money to a hedge fund and be charged 2 and 20 for it. Now we are just democratizing a lot of that technology and let the advisors directly use it.
Jeff: How do you guys get paid?
Henry: Advisors can take the allocations from the system and they can essentially feed it into their rebalancing program. Trades will be generated from their rebalancing programs. There are tons out there that the advisors are already using. We are not a trading platform but we can go as far as giving them that allocation, recommendation based on the algorithm. How we charge is like any other SaaS platform. It’s a very fair fee. It’s a straight up monthly fee of between $500 to $2,000 a month depending on the size of the advisor.
Jeff: Tell us about your team.
Henry: If we start at the top we have Jean-Marc Bougie, who is CEO of Abacus and the Hillcore Group, a large private equity firm. He is a former head of RBC- Royal Bank of Canada in charge of the capital markets division. He is our Executive Director and offers the adult supervision. And Peter Smyrniotis is our commercialization specialist who’s also from Hillcore.
Then it’s myself, and Jesse who is a veteran who has 13 years of programming experience previously at Electronic Arts. He also helped develop some military applications for the US military and the department of defense. He’s a very talented guy. We have Dave Lee, who is also a 10-year veteran at Electronic Arts on the FIFA team as well. He was in charge of the online tech stack. A lot of his skills led himself to COPILOT because it’s an online platform.
So that’s our team so far.
Jeff: So what are you doing to launch COPILOT? Are you having balloons and streamers?
Henry: We are not positioned as a car dealership. We are not putting up balloons but in our office we have a very stylish brick walls that we use for our photo shoots! We plan to probably have a launch party next week to celebrate.
Jeff: So no inflatable gorillas on top of the building?
Henry: You know what, Jeff? That’s a good idea. Maybe I should put that in our to-do list.
Jeff: You never know what’s going to get people to sign up right?
Henry: It could be a growth hack!