Several reports and studies have suggested the growing need and demand for digital first financial and banking services, in this interview, Schuyler Weiss, CEO at Alpian breaks down this sentiment while also sharing his thoughts and predictions on the global fintech segment.
Can you tell us a little about yourself Schuyler? Could you also tell us a little about Alpian, it being a new fintech startup, what are some of the challenges you face as CEO of a growing company in this segment, especially during the time of Covid-19?
Throughout my career, I have led numerous digital transformation initiatives at financial institutions, and I am fascinated by the way digital platforms can transform the way we bank.
In my previous role as Chief Digital Officer at the Swiss private bank REYL & Cie, I worked with Pasha Bakhtiar, Partner at Reyl and now Chairman of Alpian, to look at how we could target the “blue ocean space” created by an underserved mass affluent population in Switzerland.
We designed Alpian to target this market with a mobile-first digital bank that truly elevates the value delivered to the client, rather than duplicating what already exists in the market. Our aim is to create a completely new segment of banking that is specifically designed and tailored to address the needs of the population.
One of the main challenges we have as a digital private banking company is earning the trust of customers. That is why we have applied for a full banking license in Switzerland. FINMA (the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority) has one of the most rigorous processes for organisations to secure a full banking licence and, for the moment, no other digital private bank has secured one. Our application for a Swiss banking licence demonstrates our commitment to choosing the right path to building trust with our future clients, even if it isn’t the easiest.
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How have you seen the fintech / finance segment evolve over the years?
In Switzerland, the fintech space has developed differently than in other markets due to the rigorous process of obtaining a banking license. We have seen a push for digital innovation from the established players, and fintech companies are just now starting to compete within Switzerland.
Alpian is uniquely positioned in the market due to its incubation at REYL and its subsequent establishment as a separate company. This has allowed Alpian to leverage both the advantages of traditional private banks and those of disruptive players to deliver on trust, efficacy and efficiency, while ensuring sustainable and ethical practices to ensure that we are making a positive impact for generations to come.
How, according to you, will the demand for personal fintech apps/financial payment/investment platforms for personal investors change with time?
We have conducted extensive market research in this area and it’s clear that the appetite for digital-only banks is growing, reinforced by the tech-first imperatives of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research indicates that 70% of the mass affluent market in Switzerland would be open to using a bank with no branches, which works solely via a smartphone app. Digital-only interfaces are becoming the new normal.
What are your thoughts on how new innovations in fintech will evolve with the influence of AI? What are some of the top features tomorrow’s business to business investment and online wealth platforms will have more of as a result of innovative AI-powered introductions?
AI will play an important part in ensuring that financial services are scaled and personalized for the underserved and/or overpriced wealth segments. With Alpian, we are leveraging AI to scale and improve each and every future interaction our clients will have with our human advisors. With this technology, we can elevate the value our clients receive while maintaining a fair price point.
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When it comes to fintech needs – personal payment apps, contactless payments will now grow in demand; what are your thoughts in terms of how this segment will further evolve as a result of the current world crisis.
Financial services will naturally be driven toward digital platforms due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this is part of a much longer trend. The last decade has seen countless neobanks established to offer digital-first retail banking services, and our research demonstrates that the appetite for digital banking services is only growing.
Private Banking is a sector that has long relied on intimacy and face to face meeting with clients, and the sector will be tested by an increased need for digital services. However, our proprietary technology is built on the principles of simplicity, ease and transparency so we are well poised to cater to an increased digital demand.
How do you see online/everyday banking services evolve via modern day apps with time- say ten years from now – will individual users still need a brick and mortar establishment to consult and go-to?
Over the past decade, demand for digital financial services has increased rapidly in tune with clients’ lifestyles. The mass affluent market that we are targeting already show that they are open to banking with a company that has no physical branches, and this will only increase in the next decade. However, it will remain essential that a digital first offering is underpinned with personalized service from experienced financial advisers.
Alpian is an innovative Swiss financial services company incubated by the private bank REYL & Cie. It is pioneering a digital experience that combines everyday banking services, a personal wealth management offering, and tailored investment products – all within an easy-to-access app.
Schuyler is the CEO at Alpian