Leveraging AWS, how WealthDesk is building a B2B2C SaaS platform to capture the entire investment, asset management and advisory value chain on broking
Right after getting his degree in engineering in 2009, Ujjwal Jain joined D E Shaw in Hyderabad where he worked on scaling the treasury function of the hedge fund. He helped build a highly complex treasury platform to optimise global capital cost in margin funding. Shifting to Mumbai for a strategic India focused stint for D E Shaw saw Ujjwal realising the massive India FinTech opportunity in asset management, fund management,advisory and broking. “With it, I also realised that while I had demonstrated capabilities in the technology-driven active hedge fund industry, I needed to deep dive into how the Index/ETF-based passive industry works,” shares Ujjwal.
He took on a role with the MSCI Mumbai office and worked closely with the MSCI Geneva office which drives the Index business globally. In less than two years, Ujjwal worked with the research and products team globally to launch multiple Smart Beta Indices. “Now, having built a strong institutional and in-depth understanding of both active and passive funds, I felt ready to explore the FinTech opportunity in India,” he says.
Ujjwal met several brokers and asset managers in Mumbai to understand their challenges and that of the sector at large. “That’s when I clearly saw how technology could address many of the challenges they are facing and began working towards it.”
A product-first strategy
After quitting his job in March 2016, Ujjwal intensified his focus on building a tech platform that could capture the entire value chain of investment productization, creation, and distribution through a broking platform, which we know as WealthDesk today.
“We were clear that we wanted to build the platform first. We were sure that once we built a platform that addressed the needs of the industry, we would get customers. So we began building a B2B2C platform ecosystem for advisors, research houses getting into advisory, brokers and investors on AWS. With its strong startup network, constant innovation on cloud, a strong presence in India with a vibrant developer community made AWS our default choice from day 1,” explains Ujjwal, Founder and CEO.
It took three years for the team to work and build the platform. In 2018, WealthDesk went live. The team then spent the next year getting brokers and advisors on the platform.
A new market offering
Today, WealthDesk is India’s pioneering SaaS-based Neo AMC platform that powers advisory, broking, wealth management and portfolio management to retail investors at scale. The platform captures the entire investment, asset management, and advisory value chain. WealthDesk offers a single SaaS business platform offering called wealthdesk.in/business and multiple WealthDesk Consumer SaaS Deployments (B2C) for brokers and advisors.
“WealthDesk Business, along with the WealthDesk Consumer platform ecosystem enables brokers, SEBI-registered investment advisors, portfolio managers to launch and distribute their Stock/ETFs research as an investable portfolio called WealthBasket. It also allows seamless distribution to retail investors through an ever-expanding WealthDesk Consumer integrated with ever-expanding Broking ecosystem,” explains Ujjwal.
For retail investors, investing in WealthBaskets makes wealth creation extremely easy for any investor. WealthBaskets are direct equity and ETF based portfolios and are created and managed by top advisors getting into advisory focusing on all investor needs, and risk-return objectives. The onus of rebalancing these direct WealthBaskets lies with the financial advisor partners on WealthDesk so all an investor needs to do is to approve the rebalancing on their existing broking account with a single click.
Currently, the WealthDesk consumer platform has over 50,000 users and is growing rapidly, while 20+ Brokers, Investment Advisors and partners leverage WealthDesk’s business offering to realign their research and advisory offerings. This includes renowned full-service brokers such as Motilal, JM Financial, Anand Rathi, BP Wealth, Sushil Finance, among others. WealthDesk is also integrated with discount brokers such as Zerodha and Upstox as well. Some of the niche investment advisors such as OpenQ/Quantech Capital on Smart Beta are building digital AMCs and Infinity Alternatives/Aver are scaling up their advisory through ETF based WealthBaskets. “Several top brokers and other new age discount brokers in India are in the pipeline to build their Value Added Broking stack on WealthDesk using WealthBaskets,” shares Ujjwal. WealthDesk is also seamlessly integrated with 63 moon's trading platform; this platform powers 800+ brokers customers. This partnership brings advisory based value added broking to all such brokers at scale.
Powered by AWS
Having achieved the initial breakthrough, Ujjwal believes that AWS has been a key enabler in their success story.
“Even without offering financial services, AWS has played an instrumental role in reshaping India’s financial landscape. AWS is the technological backbone of many FinTech companies, including WealthDesk, where product innovation through engineering is the integral component of value creation.”
He adds, “We are trying to democratise and scale investment advisory and value-added broking in capital markets which has largely been traditional in nature. Our focus is building a technology platform in a manner to achieve scale which has not been done in this traditionally run industry.”
AWS has been at the forefront in building WealthDesk’s modern platform which is a highly distributed, event-based platform. The entire platform is loosely coupled through microservices based architecture and is mostly asynchronous in nature. The startup has leveraged a number of AWS services heavily such as Amazon Cognito, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon Kinesis Data Streams, Amazon CloudWatch, AWS Lambda, Amazon Aurora, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS), Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Amazon Simple Email Service (SES), Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS), Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) to build the platform.
“In order to achieve scale automatically, we rely heavily on serverless technologies combining API gateways with AWS Lambda on top of Amazon Aurora and Amazon DynamoDB for many of our web-based API calls for serving consumer platforms. This has helped us to scale rapidly for serving customers across brokers at scale. We also use cloud formation templates to provision and manage our entire AWS infrastructure at scale,” explains Ujjwal.
He says that they are also containerising their core application services which connect with the broker trading systems so that our compute costs can be shifted to on demand instances and our fixed costs can also be reduced further.
The other key advantage of being hosted on AWS is compliance. “Given that our B2B2C platform is deployed in a regulated setup under SEBI guidelines, our brokers need to secure their customers data and access to their broking gateway. With AWS adding its third Availability Zone (AZ) to the AWS Asia Pacific (Mumbai) Region , it has enabled us to fulfill the data security needs.”
The cost advantage
Additionally, WealthDesk’s unique modern cloud-based platform architecture, including the use of innovative serverless technologies, ensures that the unit economics cost of the platform is low. Ujjwal says, “We have pioneered an architecture of our platform on the cloud where we try to keep the baseline fixed cost nominal and link the variable cost to customer traffic. The idea is as we scale from 100 to 1 lakh to 10 lakh customers, the AWS cost increases only with transacting customers.” Ujjwal explains that WealthDesk relies heavily on modern serverless computing technologies and services of AWS to achieve pay-as-you-go architecture where they are constantly innovating to reduce compute,i/O and storage costs using Amazon Kinesis Data Streams, Amazon CloudWatch and AWS Lambda. “Today, we are also able to gradually reduce the variable cost. In fact, in the second quarter of FY20-21, our AWS costs reduced even when the traffic from our broker customer segment saw a spike.”
Ujjwal says that the business and the platform’s success metrics are aligned with customer margins and that the team continuously invests effort in R&D and engineering improvements to reduce the AWS cost. “By keeping the platform cost low, we want to pass on that advantage to our B2B customers so that they are able to build highly cost competitive top quality investment products on our platform with strong unit economics.”
A thrust for growth
Since its inception in 2016, WealthDesk has been bootstrapped and has witnessed a capital infusion of more than $1 million in funding from the founders. Onboarding AWS on Day 1 lowered the barriers to get started and build a highly scalable, secured modern cloud-based platform, says Ujjwal. “This has not only helped us grow really fast but also attain a non-linear scale with a small team.”
With a strong product market fit across categories - from the full service brokers, discount brokers, investment advisors, the founder believes that WealthDesk is now positioned to scale fast. The startup is also looking to expand further and capture retail investors at scale across this B2B2C ecosystem. “The scale-up plan also coincides with our first external pre-Series A funding which we are on the verge of closing now,” reveals Ujjwal signing off.