RETAIL BANKING | Roxanne Uy, Singapore

Alexis Calla talks about Standard Chartered's Personalised Investment Ideas

The new tool lets relationship managers provide clients with personalised investment advice instantly.

Alexis Calla is global head, investment advisory and strategy, having joined Standard Chartered Bank in November 2010. Based in Singapore, he is responsible for defining and delivering the bank’s wealth management advisory proposition. Calla recently spearheaded the development of the Personalised Investment Ideas tool, Standard Chartered Bank’s first-in-Asia digital investment advisory tool for its Priority Banking clients. Find out more about it in his exclusive interview with Asian Banking and Finance.

Please tell us more about the Personalised Investment Ideas tool. What is it and what does it aim to achieve?
Our Personalised Investment Ideas tool is part of Standard Chartered’s vision to be “digital with a human touch.” What we have essentially done is combine cutting-edge technology and design thinking with our market expertise to give our affluent, Priority Banking clients an enhanced investing experience.

Relationship Managers (RMs) use the tool via our tablet-based Retail Workbench to provide clients with personalised investment advice instantly, enabling them to make informed investment decisions and respond quickly to changes in market conditions. It uses automated, algorithm-based methods to generate investment ideas for each client, based on a range of considerations such as their risk profile and the Bank’s market views. It provides the rationale behind each idea.

At the end of an investment conversation, clients receive an automated email summarising our suggestions for buy/sell/hold. They can choose an idea and their RMs will help them access the relevant solutions. We are progressively rolling it out across our branches in Singapore, and will continue to develop the tool based on feedback from clients and our frontline and have a roadmap to build in more functionalities.

What were the challenges you encountered in the process of developing this tool?
It was a significant undertaking, given the timelines and system integration involved. Within just one year, we needed to digitise the wide range of content developed by our Global Investment Council, the team of experts that comes up with our house views, and harness the various streams of data we have on our clients and wealth management solutions.

We had to develop proprietary advanced analytics and ranking algorithms to make it possible to instantly generate investment ideas for each client. Aggregating large data sets from multiple systems and sources was not easy but our partners in the technology team met the challenge very effectively.

Successful adoption amongst our frontline teams involved a shift in mindsets and working styles and they had to get their clients comfortable with the new tool.

Now that Personalised Investment Ideas is progressively going live in our branches across Singapore, both our RMs and clients see its value in facilitating deeper investment conversations. Clients are telling us that it helps simplify the way we advise them and they appreciate the increased speed of delivery and the easy-to-understand portfolio performance views.

What are the common problems clients face nowadays in terms of wealth management and investment strategy?
Investors these days face three main challenges: market uncertainty, information overload and lack of time. Markets continue to be volatile with rising geopolitical uncertainty, slowed growth in China and fluctuating commodity prices. They also need to change the way they make their investment decisions, as the rules they are used to applying are based on experiences in very different economic and geopolitical environments and may no longer be relevant.

Our Global Market Commentary follows an “open architecture” model designed to filter through the noise: our insights are derived from multiple sources and put through a rigorous process to remove decision bias and provided to clients across our footprint. Additionally, our Markets Views on-the-go capability provides short, digestible, mobile-friendly versions of our insights in 12 countries, helping our time-starved clients stay up to date with the markets.

Having worked in the US and Europe, what are some of the best practices you’ve seen in the area of wealth management that you think will also work in Asia?
After 25 years working with investors around the world, I am of the view that we must consider not just the financial goals and risk tolerance of our clients, but also their culture, their experience, and some aspects of their personality – all of these play a key role in the way they make decisions.

As I mentioned earlier, a key challenge is that the rules investors are used to applying when making decisions – scientists called them heuristics – are based on experiences in a very different economic and geopolitical environment. When I was in the US, much of the personal finance literature at the time was about planning, about a few rules and key steps to follow for investing and most people were very comfortable with them, because it reflected the long term trend of the local financial market and economy.

This “one size fits all” approach to investment guidance does not resonate with the local experiences in the markets in Asia. I have a long list of such differences in investment trends and habits across markets, collected over the years. International best practices are often useful but they should not be “copied and pasted,” they should be woven into a locally relevant framework.

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