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IC Speaks5 Mins Read

Love In The Time Of Cholera, And Hiring In The Time Of Coronavirus

I have unabashedly borrowed the title of a masterpiece by Gabriel Marcia Marquez. I say that because the book was a powerful narrative of love and passion in the backdrop of social struggles, and this article is a mundane affair of hiring during the Covid-19 pandemic. But I took the liberty because the underlying theme connecting both is ‘life in times of crisis’. And the current medical and economic situation is no less than a life-changing crisis.

We are dwarfed by Amazon’s hiring plans for 75,000 workers. But we are lucky to see a significant jump in client signups on the back of significant volatility in the financial markets; jolting investors into taking a harder look at their financial wellbeing. Between counting my blessings and wishing well for the frontline staff, I have personally discovered how some things in life change in the most unexpected manner. Example, the hiring process.

Why does this change matter?

One of the biggest hurdles in embracing technology in wealth management has been the perception hardwired in most of us – that there is no substitute for the human or relationship factor. And that when it comes to helping clients invest, relationships and human factors are critical, and any use of technology should be avoided at all costs as it puts these factors at risk. This has been applied in all aspects of the business: client engagement, monitoring, communication, and even hiring.

I knew that meeting a candidate face to face, the handshake, body language, are all factors that were deemed an absolute must-have. And yet, the last few months have changed that for even the die-hard tech skeptics.

So when we wanted to hire analysts for our team, I reached out to my network at Singapore Management University. Over the last 6 years, I have had the good fortune of mentoring students during projects at SMU and getting energized by some very talented young professionals. We were able to quickly shortlist a few candidates and the entire hiring journey was digital. Starting from Zoom interviews to electronically accepting the job offer and straight with a work-from-home start in the company. We are delighted to have Ashton on board and he was introduced to the team across Singapore, Hong Kong, and India on the virtual Office Zoom and Whatsapp groups.

Ashton Leo Jia Wei with Asheesh Chanda (CEO)

Tech, COVID, and the wealth-management industry

Ashton probably is not as impressed by this experience as I am. At his age, everything is tech-enabled anyway. But I feel this is really a turning point in the wealth management industry at large. One of the insights that Charles Duhigg brought out in his book The Power of Habit was that a lot of habits are formed without consent. The lockdown, circuit breaker or self-isolation is creating many such digital habits. Even after this ends, many of these new habits will stay with us. Due to disruption in deliveries, people are switching from print to digital, and that will create a new future for the publishing industry. Similarly, investment decisions are now taken over a video call and investors and advisors alike are not waiting for that ubiquitous coffee meeting to move ahead with a deal.

In the coming days, the ‘tech’ in ‘fintech’ will play a huge role in moving our industry forward. At Kristal.AI, we have adopted a digital and tech-first approach to investing from day one. We use our algorithm as a sounding board for all our portfolio decisions and rebalances, and our Machine Learning team forms a crucial part of the asset allocation and advisory process.

We have also ensured that our Relationship Managers are enabled by technology and capable of enhancing the entire wealth management experience for clients through the use of technology. By using algorithm-based investing, they are able to provide clients with personalized access to products and services in an easy manner. At the same time, we have made sure not to make it hard for our clients to use the technology if they want to. DIY investment strategies based on algo-based recommendations have always been a part of Kristal’s offerings and we have continued to make more strides on that front.

So, I guess what I am saying is…

… that technology in investments is here to stay. The last time we had such a huge shakeup in the fintech industry, it was 2008 and the housing sector bubble was in collapse mode. We changed quite a few of our wealth-management habits back then, too; choosing to rely more on data-backed strategies. Our risk management policies and systems changed. Auditing, accounting, and reporting standards required more transparency. And crisis management became a familiar term for all.

While much of this may not seem like a huge thing for the ‘millennial’ generation, it is indeed exciting for someone who has been in the industry for ages and survived the last two recessions. With each breaking down comes the hope for a new rebirth, and I am excited to see the future of technology in our part of the world as I am with being able to hire a teammate without a single face-to-face meeting.

As for Ashton, here is what he has to say about the whole sitch:

“Graduation at long last! And into a truly testing market that brings with it a multitude of opportunities, as well as challenges. Joining Kristal.AI has been a learning journey in itself, and was just the beginning of a revolutionary journey ahead. From the case study to the video interviews, I have learned from Asheesh Chanda, Thomas Meichl, and Swapnil, on how Kristal.AI was reshaping and disrupting the investment landscape. Through the hiring process, I also discovered just how Kristal was really bringing value across to both retail and accredited investors, by breaking down the traditional barriers of investment, and providing them with access to investment vehicles and tailored advice focused on maximizing the value of their capital. Stoked to be starting with Kristal and I look forward to working with the team!”


The materials and data contained herein are for information only and shall in no event be construed as an offer to purchase or sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase or sell any securities in any jurisdiction. Kristal Advisors does not make any representation, undertaking, warranty or guarantee as to the update, completeness, correctness, reliability or accuracy of the materials and data herein. All opinions, forecasts or estimation expressed herein are subject to change without prior notice. Kristal Advisors and its affiliates accept no liability or responsibility whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss and/or damages arising out of or in relation to any use of opinions, forecasts, materials and data contained herein or otherwise arising in connection therewith.

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