InterviewFintech Interview with CEO, Alpian – Schuyler Weiss

FTB News Desk FTB News DeskSeptember 30, 202016 min

Schuyler Weiss from Alpian describes how technology is transforming banking in alliance with other financial services
Schuyler Weiss CEO at Alpian

Schuyler has more than a decade of experience in leading digital banking transformation, as the Chief Digital Officer at REYL, as a Vice President at Morgan Stanley, and as a Senior Consultant at IBM. He holds an MBA from IMD and a BA in Economics- Mathematics from Colby College. Schuyler is a Tesla fan.

1. Tell us about your role at Alpian?
I am the Chief Executive Officer at Alpian. I previously held the role of Chief Digital Officer at the Swiss private bank REYL & Cie, which is where Alpian was incubated. My background is in digital transformation at financial institutions including Morgan Stanley. I have always been interested in utilising digital platforms to change the way banking works for the customer, which is ultimately what led me on the path to creating Alpian. I now lead a highly skilled and diverse team of individuals who are committed to the goal of creating a new segment in banking and improving the client experience.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
At REYL, Pasha Bakhtiar, Partner at REYL and now Chairman of Alpian, and I realised there was a blue ocean space created by the existence of a “mass affluent” population in Switzerland. We incubated Alpian at REYL to serve as a standalone, mobile-first offering that meets the needs of an underserved market and elevates the value delivered to the client.

Building trust is vital in the private banking sector, which is why we’ve applied for a banking license with Swiss regulator FINMA. This is a challenging process as FINMA is incredibly rigorous when it comes to granting a banking license. We will always choose the path that allows us to build trust and strong relationships with our clients, and we see securing this license as a key marker of quality that will stand us apart from competitors.

3. How do you think technology is enhancing the banking sector?

Technology is having a huge impact in driving the banking sector forward to provide a better service to more users.

Private banking specifically is going through a transformative period during which we are seeing a growing interest in digital services across an industry that has traditionally relied on face-to-face client contact. Incumbents are responding to the challenge by upgrading their services, and new players are driving technological innovation.

Digital interaction is the future of financial services, and private banking is no exception. Banks and other financial services companies must adapt to the needs of the modern client, and that means maintaining excellent service while being truly digital. Technology also means providing better services that are tailored to specific groups of people. This is what we are doing at Alpian in targeting the “mass affluent” segment with an easy-to-use digital interface that allows users to access a tailored suite of investment products and financial advice. Importantly, we will also continue to offer clients the opportunity to speak directly with advisors via the platform, should they have any queries.

4. Can you explain how combining everyday banking services with personal wealth management offerings in an app can help people?
At Alpian we are aiming to appeal to a group of people that has not traditionally been targeted by the existing banking sector. This “mass affluent” group is defined as those who have between 100,000 and 1 million Swiss francs in investible assets, representing a wide range of professions. Our research has shown that, while these people have been successful and built a good level of wealth, they can find themselves priced out of the services provided by private banks, often having to settle for watered-down “retail plus” offerings from retail banks.

Alpian will offer this group a service that is tailored to their needs at a fair and transparent cost. This means that clients will have access to an enhance service that includes boutique investment products and digital “face-to-face” access to experienced financial advisors who understand their specific needs.

5. What are your predictions about the future of digital banking?
The future of banking is digital. We completed extensive market research that made it clear that there is a massive appetite in the Swiss market for digital-only banks. Our research indicates that 70% of the “mass affluent” market in Switzerland would be open to using a bank with no physical branches that works solely via a smartphone app.

6. What advice would you like to give to the technology Start Ups?

First, Start Ups must understand who their customer is and what their needs are. Then everything they do should be geared toward delivering an excellent service tailored to those needs. Building a strong team is also key.

At Alpian, we are lucky to have a diverse team of dedicated individuals who are all committed to reaching our goals.

Ultimately, when you are a new company, it is all about building trust, and this is especially true in banking. When it comes to protecting and enhancing wealth, people are looking for banks that they can trust, and earning this trust should be the focus for any new player entering the market.

7. How do you prepare for an AI-Centric world?
AI is key to delivering personalised financial services that are scalable and accessible at a fair cost for underserved wealth segments At Alpian, we are utilising AI to ensure we can scale and improve the interactions our clients have with the human advisers. This allows us to elevate the service and maintain a fair cost, which is at the heart of everything we do.

8. What are the major developments you are planning, in recent time?
At the moment we are completely focused on bringing Alpian to market in Switzerland. We are hoping to launch in early 2021, depending on whether we are granted a banking license by FINMA. We are committed to becoming the first fully regulated mobile-first bank that offers full banking and private banking services.

9. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
The team at Alpian is our strongest asset and what makes me confident that we will achieve our goals. We have brought together a team that combines experienced professionals with wealth management expertise with tech innovators, and the resulting working environment is inspiring. We made some new hires recently who have added significant experience and expertise, and there are more to come.

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