During my initial encounter with Matt Brown in 2011, he shared with me his vision of developing an alternative investment platform that aimed to empower the underserved independent financial advisor channel. He emphasized the significance of providing access to alternative investments to this channel and seeking to level the playing field.
When I eventually came to CAIS the next year, the firm consisted of a staff of about eight or nine people—and as you might expect, we had to wear many hats. We were a small but mighty team, eager to take on the needs of the advisor community.
Building a two-sided marketplace
After spending nearly a decade in wealth management at Citi and alternative asset management at Highbridge, I had a deep understanding of what it meant to be on the wealth management side and the asset management side distributing into the wealth world. When I joined CAIS, it was clear to me that we had to develop the entire ecosystem and build a two-sided marketplace. When the business launched, there were several hurdles we had to overcome: one, trying to educate the independent wealth channel on alts ; secondly, we had to show them there was a more efficient way to access alts.
At the same time, many asset managers only had relationships with institutional investors and wirehouses, so if you were an asset manager and you wanted access to wealth management, you simply partnered with a wirehouse firm like Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, UBS and others. With the growth of the independent advisor channel at that time, it made sense for us to seek to level the playing field and deliver access to alternative investment products and solutions to the independent wealth management space. We truly wanted to empower RIAs and independent broker-dealers with a more automated and integrated access to alternative investments enabling them to compete, win new clients, and more wallet share.
Scaling and streamlining the alternative investment workflows
As we grew, more advisors turned to CAIS for the products available and our seasoned product specialists who could help advisors. This growth highlighted that we had a new challenge-- making the adoption of alts more scalable and efficient for advisors and their team, who otherwise would spend countless hours on sourcing, manager due diligence, completing subscription documents and manually reporting on investments post-trade.
To address this challenge, we embarked on digitizing the entire workflow of an alternative investment from pre-trade to post-trade, not just for advisors but also for their home offices where the operations and client service associates often felt this pain the most. This evolution of our technology enabled CAIS to bring together the entire asset manager and independent wealth management experience for the sake of efficiency.
What it means to be in a long-term financial relationship
Our goal is to build a trusted, long-term relationship with the advisor community and provide a technology-driven solution for alternative investing. We aim to help advisors who transition from the traditional 60/40 portfolio allocation to one that is more three-dimensional by providing education and access to institutional quality offerings, seeking to meet the needs of advisors and their clients from ultra-high net worth to mass affluent. This has been emphasized over the past few years through product innovation and more purpose-built offerings for wealth management, like interval funds, BDCs, REITs, and other registered funds. On the other side of the marketplace, we strive to help asset managers expand their reach into the independent advisor channel by providing tools to navigate and engage with advisors at scale. At the same time, we are providing asset managers with pre-trade, trade, and post-trade technology, making purchasing their offerings simpler for independent financial advisors.
A platform to rely on
Our platform seeks to take the heavy lifting off advisors' shoulders by providing access to products or strategies which may target outcomes they seek for their clients. Our team of product specialists, coupled with our client service teams seek to make learning, accessing, facilitating investments, and reporting on alternatives a seamless experience for advisors. By empowering asset managers to focus on telling their story, engaging with advisors, and seeking to simplify the operational workflows, CAIS frees them up to focus on developing product innovation. It is a win-win.