I’m joined by Bob Miller, CEO of PCR. Bob is a fintech veteran, with experience leading multiple financial technology firms under his belt. Over the past 20 years he has built companies that have delivered leading web technologies to global banks, hedge funds, hedge fund administrators and advisors. In 2017 he joined PCR as CEO to transform the firm into a leading private client wealth aggregator.
Tell us a little about your company and how you partner with Addepar...
PCR is focused on a simple idea – deliver a safe, easy-to-implement global data aggregation utility for the hardest to aggregate investment data. It’s an undertaking that required a complete reinvention of how aggregation is done globally. We were fortunate to have had the talent, experience and backing to take on the challenge. Our partnership with Addepar brings this technology-enabled service to Addepar clients to automate the aggregation and reconciliation of alternative investments.
What are the biggest challenges for advisors in reporting on alternative investments?
Not surprisingly – spreadsheets. This is an asset class plagued by manual processes with most reporting still done in PDFs delivered by email and to portals. In the private client segment, it is also a dominant and growing asset class. Many firms have thousands of positions and rely on people to gather the valuation statements, capital calls and distribution notices and manually transcribe them into a spreadsheet to check the math and then again into their target system. Some firms outsource these manual processes.
How has aggregation changed since starting your journey 4 years ago?
Demand for alternatives aggregation has increased as more firms have seen the number of positions they manage increase past the tipping point that a part time person could handle (more than a couple hundred positions). Many have seen quality suffer, key person risk introduced and concerns about scale grow. Like any new category, which I think ‘straight-through-processed-alts’ is, there are many approaches and a lot of room for innovation. We have stayed true to our vision of a technology-forward managed service which balances a 90% automation level with the reality that smart people have to be in the mix. There is plenty of room to innovate and automate and still commit to 100% of assets reported.
Given the quickly shifting market landscape and evolution to how we live and work over the last year, what are your observations and reactions to what that means for your company?
For those of us that primarily serve the world's wealthiest families, this year was transformative in many ways. The reliance on technology to manage our lives became crystal clear. We saw many companies and families acknowledge the cracks in their approach to technology and many of those react by seeking out a better approach. Clearly creating demand for better systems, better processes and more scalable solutions.
What are some top industry trends that you’re seeing right now?
Digitalization is a real thing and technology will continue to drive the wealth management space forward. The more technology enabled solutions there are, the more demand there will be for a reliable stream of great data. Today, thousands of financial institutions, wealth tech providers and family offices continue to build their own integrations, normalizations, and reconciliation processes – spending their precious resources on something that already exists in the form of data utilities like PCR and Addepar. So, I do think a key evolution in the space will be “cable companies” like us – easy to adopt, ubiquitous, safe, scalable, and reliable. The ready availability of great data will drive innovation as more firms focus on the next innovative idea rather than requiring their clients to manually enter data.