Seamlessly Integrating Two Different Galaxies — Insurance and Wealth Management
Based on the interview with Rich Romano, CTO of Fiduciary Exchange LLC — FIDx
Fiduciary Exchange LLC ( FIDx) empowers advisors to deploy a comprehensive range of annuity offerings as core components of their clients’ managed portfolios — integrated within the same wealth management platforms they use every day. FIDx has partnered with major WealthTech companies, such as the Envestnet Insurance Exchange, and top-tier insurance carriers, in an effort to seamlessly integrate the brokerage, insurance, and advisory ecosystems.
Rich Romano has been helping to spearhead the development of the annuity exchange project at FIDx over the last two years. In an effort to move the industry forward and fill the gigantic gap between insurance and investment firms, Rich has had to alter his perception of the intersection of insurance and wealth-management that he gained through years of work.
In this article, we’ll discuss what it’s like to be building the company that serves as the connective tissue between two industries and the benefits of working with huge carriers, having fully standardized APIs, and employing useful data validation techniques. We’ll also define “technical debt” and discuss how to manage it.
The biggest challenge for platforms
Most advisors see the value of being able to manage their entire book in one fell swoop, eliminating the need to juggle different platforms and different systems. Due to that, the challenge is putting together a seamless lifecycle, finding and finalizing the client’s needs, and connecting those dots with technology.
“To understand what we do, you can think of two galaxies — the investment ecosystem and the insurance ecosystem — coming together and not colliding and exploding but creating a harmonic convergence. We’re in the middle there trying to make sure that there are no violent collisions.”
The value of FIDx is their ability to connect carriers and wealth management platforms so that advisors are better able to effectively offer insurance products that suit their clients’ needs. Romano compares FIDx’s offering to eliminating the existing swivel chair environment. In this type of organization, it’s crucial for the CTO to be a hands-on leader:
“Everything about what I do is just a great opportunity to help move the industry and satisfy that gigantic gap. That’s the fun part, but it’s also the most challenging part because we have to change perception. To me, technology is the easy stuff. It’s a behavioral change that’s always the challenge.”
Following a singular API strategy
The depth of the knowledge from the employees of FIDx allows Romano to build out an architecture based on industry standards, which leads to a singular API strategy. The beauty of the insurance industry is that it has strong foundations and widely adopted standards. Because WealthTech platforms usually don’t have critical relationships with a lot of the partners that FIDx has, they end up having to build varying tools.
However, data validation is still a challenge. To cope with it, Romano introduced data adapters and processing rules based on industry knowledge, incorporating a lot of standard variance rules. Because they’re getting daily data, it’s a lot easier for them to reconcile those data points and look for variances.
“When you work on policy conversions, you know all the things that get swept under the carpet or shoved into the closet, and then say, ‘We’ll worry about it later.’ We always wonder, ‘Is the data suited to their intended purpose?’ So, that’s the mentality of not just waiting to get what you get, but proactively planning for what we should get.”
Romano built an engine around his experiences, which is a testament to the industry experience of his team.
When building, make a conscious effort
FIDx is solving problems that nobody has perfected before, so it’s inevitable that they would encounter technology debt.
“You know what you know, you know what you don’t know, and you don’t know what you don’t know. No matter how much time you spend researching, you are going to solve a problem in a manner that six months from now, you’re going to look back and scratch your head and say, ‘My God, what were we thinking?’”
Another reason to keep systems free from technology debt is to be able to introduce artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance data-reporting capabilities. To deal with technical debt, Romano and his team ask themselves, “What’s the impact of not solving this?” and “What’s the impact on the various areas?” Then, they consciously implement corrective efforts that might require a ramp-up.