Embracing innovation across technology, products, thinking, and inclusion are at the core of today’s conversation around Remi, Allspring’s custom SMA (separately managed accounts) platform. Kate Ullucci, senior relationship manager, speaks with Katie D’Angelo, head of Wealth & Investment Management Partnerships, and Melissa Cross, head of Managed Account Products, about this topic and their experiences with women leading innovation in this area.
Kate Ullucci: I’m Kate Ullucci, senior relationship manager at Allspring Global Investments, and you’re listening to On the Trading Desk®. Today, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with two of my favorite female colleagues: Katie D’Angelo, head of Wealth & Investment Management Partnerships, and Melissa Cross, head of Managed Account Products.
Not only are we discussing one of my favorite topics—separately managed accounts, or SMAs, and Allspring’s Customized SMA Platform Remi—but we’re also speaking with two successful women during March, Women’s History Month. This is truly the complete package. Katie, Melissa, welcome to the program.
Katie D’Angelo: Thanks, Kate. I agree. The topic, timing, and the women I am with here are perfect for today’s chat.
Melissa Cross: Hi Kate, happy Women’s History Month. I’m really excited to be here.
Kate: Me, too. OK, so let’s get started. Katie, we’ll start with you. Congratulations on the one-year anniversary of Remi, Allspring’s customized SMA platform. Given Remi’s tech-enabled ability to personalize, tax manage, and seamlessly transition client portfolios in a tax-efficient manner at scale, how has technology changed the services offered in our industry? Do you consider Remi to be a technology service?
Katie: Well, thanks, Kate. Like every industry, technology has been and will continue to shape how we operate our business and the way that we serve our clients. And that’s only going to continue to evolve as both technology and investor preferences change over time, and we want to ensure that we are embracing cutting-edge technology that supports our clients and their experience with us at every step of the way.
Technology, to your question, has vastly accelerated the rate of change in our business. The velocity of money movement, especially in terms of digital and online trading platforms and fully integrated UMA, or unified managed account, and sub-advisory model platforms, have all made it easier for clients, advisors, and model teams to make changes in real time with only a few clicks.
In terms of the topic at hand, SMAs and Remi, our tech-enabled platform, that to your point allows us to really tax optimize and personalize SMAs based on client preferences, it’s really about embracing technology first, to make that process easier, more intuitive, more personal, and more transparent for our clients and then, secondly, leveraging technology to do all of that that scale.
The industry has long wanted to create that experience of one for our clients, because, as we know, all of our clients are unique and have different goals and values and preferences. And technology is really leading the way for us to deliver that very personalized experience and do it at scale and, importantly, deliver that experience consistently.
And while we believe that embracing technology is critical, we also believe that the human element is just as powerful. Remi is really a tech-enabled platform, built by investors and for investors, and provides a service that ultimately allows financial advisors to deliver a personalized investment solution that best aligns with our clients’ goals and preferences.
Today, Remi is one of just two truly tech-enabled platforms that can customize and tax-optimize fixed income at scale. This month, on March 2, we actually seeded our first direct indexing strategies as we continue to execute on our road map to become really the most complete and flexible customized SMA platform in the industry.
And SMAs are certainly not new, but the technology, like Remi, that allows for the ability to maximize what the SMA as a vehicle is really capable of and address the long-term trends of customization and tax efficiency is quickly becoming table stakes, really expected versus niche. And we recognize that both asset managers and wealth platforms are looking to address the interest and demand and the opportunity in this space.
We believe at Allspring, that with Remi, we are very well positioned to support clients where a customized and tax-managed solution makes sense and importantly to also continue to create strategic partnerships to leverage and white label Remi’s platform technology, as well.
Kate: That’s all so interesting. And I’d like to ask Melissa here, from a product standpoint, how has the industry’s use of SMAs shifted in your career? And what is the most exciting part of that change for you?
Melissa: Yes, happy to help answer that one. So as we all might recall and as Katie mentioned, SMAs are not new. They have really been around since the early 90s, and clients have used them in their portfolios really to provide four primary benefits. Those benefits are professional management, investment transparency, portfolio customization, and tax efficiency.
The structure of the SMA enables clients to own the individual securities in their separately managed accounts. So the SMA’s benefits are feasible because clients are able to see exactly what stocks and bonds are in their portfolio. That gives them the investment transparency. Then they can intentionally exclude certain companies or names or industries and that provides them customization and personalization. And then they can also buy and sell certain positions for tax benefits, which provides a tax efficiency.
In the early years of the product, in order for clients to truly reap these benefits, the process involved and included a lot of paperwork and was very manual and labor-intensive. For example, clients would have to review and sign mounds of paperwork; their financial advisors would have to complete lots of forms and do all this on a frequent ongoing basis.
Shift forward a couple decades and advancements in technology and back-office functionality enable us and clients to more seamlessly enjoy these sought-after attributes, such as the customization and tax efficiency without some of the burdens of forms and paperwork and processes. And I think we can all appreciate on a personal level, as well, the benefits of a more digital and paperless environment.
Because of the shift in technology developments and speed and ease of use, which has been enabled by innovation, I see the industry and, specifically Allspring, bringing the SMA structure, along with Remi, to more and more clients who are seeking those primary benefits I mentioned earlier in a more digital and automated fashion, and I think that is truly exciting.
Kate: That is truly exciting and to consider Allspring and the innovation with Remi and what is to come. So I’d like to ask both of you a question now, starting with you, Katie. In your careers, how do you think about your role and the role of women more broadly in terms of leading innovation?
Katie: Thanks, Kate. Innovation, I think, is one of those words that comes with a lot and probably means different things to different people.
I think of innovation as anything that moves us forward. In the end, what you start out to do may evolve or not work, but if you are willing to raise your hand and take a risk, even if that idea or approach fails, I still think of that as innovation because now you can rule that out and you moved forward.
As a woman, I think the risk of failing or of not being heard at all at times can keep us from raising our hands or saying your idea out loud. Innovation doesn’t need to come with a big tech budget. Small innovations, new ideas—they’re just as critical and desperately needed in any organization.
It has been one of, honestly, the most rewarding and challenging efforts in my career to be a part of building and shaping Remi. And while Remi will no doubt evolve and continue to transform, I feel so proud that it’s pushed us forward and opened new conversations both within our organization and most importantly with our clients. A very diverse team of men and women helped to create the platform, and I have absolute conviction that what we built is far better because of the different voices that contributed.
Melissa: Yeah, Kate, to dive into a little bit more details on what Katie was mentioning here about the team that got together to build Remi, the project really got off the ground in late 2019 with a small group of colleagues from cross-functional departments. And really as the project got steam and moved forward, there were times where we had 30 to 40 people in a meeting at once—as you can imagine, all the excitement and effort that would go into creating something like Remi. And sometimes we’d have to make small decisions, like the frequency and cadence of project meetings, for example, and sometimes we’d have to make really big decisions, like is Remi the right name for our new platform? And as a group, we always tried to come to a decision together by encouraging innovation and making tough calls to move it forward. And it wasn’t easy, but as Katie alluded to, it’s a very, I think, proud moment for us here at Allspring.
As Katie mentioned, there was risk, particularly for the women in that group. A group of 30 to 40, we had a decent representation of women, but I truly believe that it was our diverse set of approaches and backgrounds that helped us make our collective group stronger. For this initiative, we were fortunate to have a diverse mix of supporters and drivers and have colleagues who were brave enough to speak up, share opinions, and make collective decisions. And in the end, we had a successful launch.
Kate: That’s really awesome. Proud to be part of this story, as well, just hearing what you guys have been talking about. And along that narrative, Melissa, in your opinion, what is going to change how we invest? Do you see products being used beyond their traditional intention?
Melissa: Yes, happy to answer this question because there’s certainly going to continue to be change in our industry.
Clients have always had unique portfolio needs and challenges, yet the industry has, at times, been slow to adopt and to bring certain investment capabilities to all client types, I think especially retail clients. At Allspring, we have a lot of deep investment expertise and deliver a wide range of solutions to clients and I see technology really enabling us to bring more of these capabilities to our retail investors, through the use of the SMA structure, and bringing them to market faster. Products that may have taken years to develop in the past will now be brought to market in a much faster timeline by having innovation across tech, product, and diversity to lead our transformation.
SMAs have many benefits, as I mentioned earlier, and I see the use of the product structure delivering more new and innovative investment solutions to clients through technology. While traditional stock and bond strategies have and will continue to be a ballast for clients’ SMA portfolios, at Allspring, we believe SMA clients deserve access to more of our capabilities and we see the future for Allspring that enables Remi to provide clients with a wide array of our investment capabilities.
As Katie mentioned earlier, we’re bringing more fixed income solutions and direct indexing capabilities to the SMA market through Remi, where historically some of these capabilities were available only for institutional clients and now we’re able to bring them and the capabilities to a more retail high-net-worth marketplace. Along with these, we’re in the process of bringing more alternative-type solutions to the SMA market, so truly exciting developments using technology to expand and change how we invest.
At Allspring, we want to bring a renewed approach by looking around the corner to unlock what’s possible and Remi and these capabilities are certainly examples of living up to this purpose.
Kate: Thank you both. This has been great. I think my key takeaway is really around embracing innovation across technology and products but also across innovative thinking and inclusion.
The idea that we built Remi with a diverse team to create a platform that was made even better because of the different voices that contributed. I appreciate that even at times our industry has been slow to adapt, our clients continue to have unique portfolio needs and that we’re meeting them with innovation. So again, thank you, Katie and Melissa, for being with us today and sharing your insights.
Katie: Thank you for having us, Kate.
Melissa: Thanks, Kate. It was a pleasure.
Kate: That wraps up this episode of On the Trading Desk. If you’d like to read more market insights and investment perspectives from Allspring Global Investments, you can find them on our firm’s website, allspringglobal.com.
To stay connected to On the Trading Desk and listen to past and future episodes of the program, you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Until next time, I’m Kate Ullucci and thanks for listening.
Disclosure: All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. There can be no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. Investments fluctuate with changes in market and economic conditions and in different environments due to numerous factors, some of which may be unpredictable. Each asset class has its own risk and return characteristics.