Christopher Volpe is Director of Wealth Management Solutions at Informa Financial Intelligence. He manages the strategic direction, client services and product development of Informa’s financial services technology solution, Zephyr.
Russ Alan Prince: Tell us about the Zephyr platform and the role of fintech in financial services.
Christophe Volpe: For over 30 years, Zephyr has provided wealth and asset managers with research, investment analysis, optimization, tracking, performance reporting and client engagement tools. Our asset allocation capabilities enable advisors, allocators and managers to efficiently construct, evaluate and optimize portfolios. They can also determine the likelihood of easily achieving future wealth goals.
Beyond asset allocation, finance professionals can assess portfolio composition, including equity, fixed income and alternative investment characteristics, as well as sector and regional weightings, ten top holdings and country exposure. These advanced data analytics provide investment professionals with filtering capabilities combined with statistical tools that can track and compare investment products across more than 200 key investment statistics and perform style analysis based on yields. These statistics go beyond a simple “risk score” to provide advanced insight into a client’s investments.
Additionally, private wealth advisors can track the performance of their clients’ investments broken down at each asset class level to ensure they are getting the best return for the risks they are taking with each type of investment. . The ability to deliver customized reports based on client needs is a key aspect for investment professionals to demonstrate the value they bring today and in the future. Fintech enables advisors to have meaningful and valuable engagement with their clients to better help them achieve their investment goals and needs.
Prince: It is difficult to find quality data and analysis on alternatives. How does Zephyr fill this gap for advisors looking to add alternative allocations to client portfolios?
volpe: Through the Zephyr platform, finance professionals can include data on non-traditional assets including hedge funds, CTAs and other sophisticated investment vehicles to meet the more sophisticated needs of ultra-high net worth investors. These assets tend to be less liquid and are therefore more difficult to value and value. By using various data sources, we facilitate and complement the production of in-depth analysis, research and reporting on alternative assets. The platform also supports embedding custom assets for vehicles not typically found in publicly available or proprietary third-party databases, such as real estate, classic cars, art, etc.
In addition to rich data on alternatives, Zephyr provides proprietary investment analytics to help advisors fully understand the benefits and role alternatives play in ultra-high net worth investment portfolios. With our custom reporting capabilities, advisors can better illustrate to clients the impact an alternative allocation can have on their portfolio.
Prince: ESG is a popular investment trend, how is Zephyr helping to accommodate this?
volpe: The environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects of investing have grown significantly in popularity over the past few years and will continue to grow. It is important for advisors to understand not only a client’s monetary goals, but also less tangible goals when creating and evaluating a portfolio. There is a lot of information about ESG and this amount of information naturally leads to some confusion.
A major concern of investors and advisors that we believe is essential to address is the issue of the divergence of ESG ratings. There are many different parties that provide ESG ratings and analysis, but they don’t always agree or provide the transparency needed to fully assess investments.
We have conducted in-house research that shows that there is a very wide divergence in ESG ratings among mutual funds that classify as an ESG investment. In fact, broad equity indices have better ESG ratings than some of the ESG-rated mutual funds. Looking beyond fund name and investment objective is key to locating investment strategies that perform well across all ESG ratings and align with a client’s unique values.
Another important consideration for us is providing advisors with the ability to analyze the ESG performance of investment vehicles at a more granular level so they can better help their clients create portfolios that truly reflect their values. More than just offering ratings, we provide information on what constitutes these ratings known as Key Performance Indicators – KPIs – and enable these KPIs to be used in the selection, creation and portfolio valuation. This allows the advisor or manager to focus on what is important to the client rather than what was important to the rating agency. For example, an investment may have a high ESG score from KPIs in all ESG areas, but lower KPIs in those that focus, for example, on climate change.
To achieve these goals, we have partnered with OWL Analytics. OWL’s scoring and ranking methodology is consensus-based, which overcomes the challenge of subjectivity, and we can offer our clients analyzes across twelve categories in E, S, and G such as pollution prevention , human rights and management ethics. This gives them the opportunity to invest in a “theme” such as climate change, rather than an overall ESG score.
The Zephyr platform allows advisors to use OWL data to analyze clients’ current holdings of stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, and even SMAs using our PSN database. They can then select more appropriate assets and create better portfolios based on their clients’ values.
Russ Alan Prince is the executive director of Private heritage magazine and one of the leading authorities on the private wealth management industry. He consults family offices, quick-and-rich entrepreneurs and selected professionals. Connect with him on LinkedIn.com.
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