Based at The Working Capitol on Robinson, WEALTH is an online wealth services marketplace for investors in Asia. To date, it brings over sixty wealth institutions from around the world together into one market, covering the spectrum of its customers’ wealth management needs, from lawyers to alternative investment ideas.

Early in 2017, they announced their successful fundraise of SGD1 million and the company’s plans to use it to develop its intelligent profiling and recommendation engine, as well as to power its geographical expansion into Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Shortly after, Sara M. Watson sat down with Dominic Gamble, founder and CEO of WEALTH, for a chat about using data for customer retention, taking on the Asian market, and never losing sight of the bigger picture.

 

Sara M. Watson: Can you share a bit about the evolution of your product from a private banking comparison site (findawealthmanager.com) to a personalized wealth services recommendation site?

Dominic Gamble: I built findawealthmanager.com when I left private banking in 2011. It was a UK domestic business, and we decided to test whether that would work out here in Asia.

We realised that the Asian audience is a lot more dynamic with their needs online; they might think a lot faster than your average tech user. So just bringing them onto the platform and then saying goodbye wasn’t really a great business model for us here. We knew that we weren’t going to do a one-vertical business where you just come on and find a wealth manager and leave.

 

SMW: So how do you keep them coming back?

DG: Wealth management is one of those areas where the number of active customers shrinks dramatically after the first visit, so the plan is to proactively say things like, “That property that you have in London in your profile – that’s down 20% today according to this report. Here’s what you should do.” With your profile, we can share things with you like a tax advisor would, about selling that property or moving it to Australia, and cover all the steps involved in making an investment move like that.

You don’t have to look for all this boring stuff any more; it’s all in one place. Once you engage with us, from then on – should you wish – we’ll actively help you be aware of wealth services and opportunities that are out there that match your profile.

 

SMW: What is the technical engine behind WEALTH?

DG: What we have currently is an algorithm-based matching system. It’s evolved over five years and is similar to online dating in the sense that we profile the consumer. It also profiles all the company service providers and as a consumer comes through and answers questions, it matches that person with services that are right for them.

SMW: So is it mostly survey-based?

DG: Yes, it is survey-based, and other data points. It’s not anything psychometric or trend-based yet; that’s coming with our new build out. We don’t adopt technology for technology’s sake. So long as tech evolution is good for our business goals, then we will adopt.

What we’re developing now in Asia will be a lot more dynamic in terms of capturing all sorts of hard and soft data on the user. It could be social media data, or wealth management topics they’re reading about on our site, or hard data points from the user profiling exercise. So we are using all that that to match them to services.

But then there’s a second step that uses this information to proactively suggest to them what they should be thinking about next—which is really the game changer.

 

“We don’t adopt technology for technology’s sake.”

 

SMW: What brought you to Asia?

DG: The age-old phrase that entrepreneurs focus on is ‘market size’. The market size here looks good for us, but market size is a bit of a bugbear of mine because I think it’s a massively overestimated reason to move to Asia. Asia is actually one of the hardest markets to unlock, depending on what you do and how you do it. That’s true across a lot of different sectors, not just finance.

SMW: Do you have a sense of why that is?

DG: There are deep, ingrained cultural trust issues. But we think there is a huge cultural change happening between first, second-generation and third, fourth-generation wealth. There’s a growing size of the population also growing in tech savvy-ness that our concept flies into.

As a salesperson the golden rule is never have to educate your audience; always sell to people who are already in the market. We’re trying to take heed of that. We try not to have to educate people as to how this is something totally new and dynamic, so we try to show how this is something familiar, like another evolution of using a search engine, if you like.

 

“We try not to have to educate people as to how this is something totally new and dynamic, so we try to show how this is something familiar, like another evolution of using a search engine.”

 

SMW: And what brought you to The Working Capitol?

DG: You know, people often say, “You can get a bigger space for a lot cheaper and work in your own office.” For us at least, there is a premium to pay on having a community around you. Just because we don’t have our own office with our own front door, doesn’t mean that we can’t get stuff done. In fact, we get more done in the atmosphere around us. We had an office before, and we were suicidal. It was quiet in there, there’s no one to talk to, and there’s no action.

The face-to-face community is important, and I think The Working Capitol really helps facilitate that. The ability to just put your hand up and say, “Is there a designer around?” [and have there be a designer] is really powerful.

We’re big fans. We love the TWC team, and we love the space.

 

SMW: What challenges do you face as a startup?

DG: I look back, actually, and think, “God it was easy being in a big job in finance.” Running your own business is seriously full on. I mean, you’ve got to have a screw loose to enjoy this kind of thing. There’s a lot of talk about FinTech and entrepreneurialism, and a lot of younger people are drawn into this because it’s got this Silicon Valley, HBO-type feel of—

SMW: “Sexiness.”

Dominic: Yeah, and, “Let’s make shit happen.” But my god is it stressful. One of the main reasons it’s stressful is because of money. You just don’t earn the daily bread that you’re used to. It doesn’t matter what walk of life you’re from, it’s not coming in as regularly or as highly as you would like in the early stages. You have to take a very long view. I’m not sure how much hair I’ll have by the end of it…

 

SMW: What’s your strategy for keeping track of the big picture?

DG: We have fortnightly, monthly, quarterly kind of strategy spreadsheets where all of our tracking of numbers go in. I’m also out of the office one day a quarter, when I sit by a pool somewhere and don’t have my phone on. That’s when I do my thinking about the bigger picture, because it’s almost impossible to do that on a daily basis.

 

Sara M. Watson is a technology critic and calls The Working Capitol her writing home. She tweets @smwat.