How this ex-hedge fund executive founded investment management startup WealthDesk
While working in the fund management segment at DE Shaw in the US, Ujjwal Jain got an opportunity to shift to Mumbai for a strategic India focused stint. The move made him realise the massive opportunity in asset management, fund management, advisory, and broking in the country.
Thus, in 2016, after a decade of working in the fintech space, Ujjwal started his own venture - WealthDesk, an investment technology platform that captures the entire asset management and advisory value chain from portfolio creation to transforming these into investment products called WealthBaskets.
WealthDesk also enables large scale distribution through broking partners with strong network effects. It aims to democratise wealth management through broking for millions of users by offering premium WealthBasket portfolios at a low cost by using cutting edge technology.
Funding and next steps
The startup has now closed the final tranche of its pre-Series A funding of $3.2 million led by Mathew Cyriac, Former Blackstone Partner and Co-head of India PE, and now founder of Florintree Advisors.
Earlier this year, they had raised the first tranche of their pre-Series A funding from individual investors including senior leaders from global banks, market participants and other top technology business corporates.
“We plan to use this funding to hire great talent, invest in R&D and further build out the technology to expand business, i.e., platformisation of Asset and Wealth Management on top of Broking, as this will be the future of the Investment Management Industry,” says Ujjwal in a conversation with YourStory.
He adds they are also keen to continue to work on the Optimiser tool which will help vertical integration and ARPU expansion significantly. On the B2C front, the team will focus on offering premium WealthBasket portfolios at a low cost by leveraging our technology and distribution strengths.
Commenting on this association, Mathew Cyriac said,
“Fintech is at a very interesting stage in India. I am very excited about WealthDesk because the company’s growth is being powered by the trifecta of strong vision, unparalleled domain knowledge and industry-leading tech capabilities, and they are building a strong ecosystem. Ujjwal’s expertise on the subject combined with his passion and energy reflects in the commitment and vision he has for the company and the ecosystem. I am keen to partner this young team in its efforts to redefine the dynamics of asset and wealth management in India bundled with Broking.”
How it helps
WealthDesk is a B2B2C Platform ecosystem with one single SaaS offering of business platform and multiple WealthDesk Consumer SaaS Deployment(B2C) for brokers and advisors.
It solves the problem of retail investors as it helps them understand where and how to invest smartly and avoid mis-selling and wrong choices.
“Given it is still a push-based product, the journey to get first time investors into markets or making someone build a habit of moving savings into investments following a process - that too with discipline, is difficult. Lot of effort needs to be made in that direction as an ecosystem,” says Ujjwal
WealthDesk business along with the WealthDesk consumer platform ecosystem enables brokers, SEBI registered investment advisors, portfolio managers, and research analysts to manufacture and distribute their stock/ETFs research. They do this as ‘Investable Portfolios’ called WealthBaskets, and distribute to retail investors through an ever expanding WealthDesk Consumer multi-broker ecosystem with seamless execution.
Preempting a market shift
Since 2013, regulators like SEBI had started focusing on bringing transparency in advisory based distribution, and streamlining the role of brokers as distributors. The recent draft of the SEBI circular (October 2020) is one of the steps in this direction to bring in more transparency and alignment.
“WealthDesk is pre-empting the eventuality of the industry by offering a platform powered investment instrument called WealthBaskets to drive research and advisory based portfolios distribution to retail investors on top of broking. This innovation is the USP of WealthDesk Business,” says Ujjwal.
Building the product
“I had realised that while they 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. I then took on a role with the MSCI Mumbai office and worked closely with the MSCI Geneva office which drives the Index business globally,” says Ujjwal.
In over two years, Ujjwal was able to work with the research and products team globally to launch multiple Smart Beta Indices. He also worked on setting up the technology platform for launching ESG based Indices that hold a lot of prominence now.
Growth and future
The startup competes with the likes of Smallcase, S-Anchial, and UpsideAI. In six months, WealthDesk has already doubled the number of advisors and research partners, and brokers on its platform to 20 and 30 respectively.
It continues to onboard three to five partners every month. WealthDesk has also launched a deep integration with 63 moons technologies for its product, ODIN Connector.
This partnership with ODIN allows new brokers from metros, Tier II cities and beyond to onboard themselves onto the WealthDesk platform within a week, and gain access to WealthBasket portfolios.
WealthDesk has also launched a comprehensive and detailed Portfolio Analytics and Optimisation tool called Optimiser in partnership with OpenQ by Quantech Capital. The tool will help investors optimise the portfolio in a disciplined and process-oriented manner.
WealthDesk and its partners will continue to focus on bringing out more wealth management offerings such as the Optimiser (in partnership with Quantech Capital) which will help vertical integration and ARPU expansion significantly.
“We will be massively increasing our scale by helping our partners onboard and activate their clients on WealthDesk,” says Ujjwal.