Wealthtech Vestrata launched with a $4m funding round backed by industry insiders. Its initial team is compromised of senior executives from some of the biggest banks in the world. Is this going to be a breath of fresh air or more of the same? Patrick Brusnahan writes

The new wealthtech boasts more than 200 years of combined experience in its leadership team. It is led by Mark Le Lievre, co-founder and CEO, previously of JPMorgan Private Bank and UBS Wealth Management, and:

  • Doug Wurth, chairman, formerly led the international Private Bank and Alternatives businesses at JPMorgan;
  • Kim Lennen, CTO and co-founder, former CTO of JPMorgan Private Bank (Europe);
  • Lea Blinoff, head of solutions, former managing director at JPMorgan;
  • Arun Sinha, CMO, former CMO of JPMorgan Wealth Management;
  • Eric Laget, chief legal officer, former in-house counsel at JPMorgan Asset Management;
  • Tim Riseborough, CFO/COO, former COO at HSBC Commercial Bank, and
  • Sarah Newman, CCO, former head of investment products at Barclays Wealth Management.

How is Vestrata different then? With a team from a number of incumbent banks, is it easy to fall back into tradition?

Speaking to PBI, Le Lievre says: “I was very privileged for 20 years to work at JP Morgan, and it is an amazing organisation as a product manufacturing machine in the private bank. In 2016, I joined UBS. It was very effective in delivering world class digital content to clients; the way it used technology to distribute investment ideas to clients in a very targeted and structured way.

“My realisation of being in those two wonderful firms was if you took the product manufacturing capabilities and the product skills of JPMorgan, and married them with the digital content and technology skills of UBS, you had a very compelling and differentiated solution.

“Vestrata came around in thinking about how do you marry world class investment solutions and integrate them within a technology solution, as opposed to every other wealth management firm that’s out there right now, which is either a technology provider or a content solutions provider. That is the whole concept.”

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Something that Le Lievre wants to focus on is the ESG proposition at the firm.

He says: “When you look at the team infrastructure, there’s a very strong ESG heritage. “We really are going to focus on ESG as one of our cornerstone offerings, along with alternatives and advisory. We’re looking at doing some very differentiated solutions, both on the investment side and the technology side. On the investment side, we’re looking at designing some thematic ESG solutions that are going to be very differentiated from what you see in the marketplace today.

“On the technology side, we’re in the process of, as we build and enhance the platform, incorporating ESG preferences as required by the new European guidelines.”

This is an exemplary way of “emotionally engaging with clients” and providing solutions that “resonate and pull at the heartstrings, whilst also making them look really smart at cocktail parties”.

Who is Vestrata aiming to entice with its proposition?

“Our target markets to start with are Europe and Asia. To be frank with you, we originally thought that we would start with targeting the UK and Switzerland, but actually, we’ve seen so much interest in the proposition,” Le Lievre explains.

“We’ve been far more opportunistic than that. The target market is now Europe and Asia, but focused on the medium tier segments of private banks and wealth managers, and by medium tier, that could be anywhere from $5bn of assets up to $120bn of assets.”

He claims that the medium tier in private banks suffer from three things:

  • Struggling to scale and automate their regulatory and compliance infrastructure;
  • Struggling with fundamentally high cost income ratios, and
  • Mediocre infrastructure which leads to struggles with client engagement.

Le Lievre concludes: “Our medium-term target is to attract approximately six clients per annum. We’re seeking quality over quantity. We’re about to launch our first client in January. And that’s a very high-quality boutique, ultra high net worth UK wealth manager that would be well known to you.

“Basically, the target is to onboard a high-quality handful of clients each year. And, as I said before, deliver world class investment solutions within a world class technology platform.”