CAIS Hired an Education Whiz to Help Advisors ‘Master’ Alternative Investments

Andrew Smith Lewis is overseeing CAIS IQ, which is powered by a platform used by the U.S. Army, NYU, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other institutions.

(Illustration by RIA Intel)

(Illustration by RIA Intel)

CAIS, an alternative investment platform for wealth managers that has helped allocate over $8 billion, hired an education whiz to help it develop a new tool to help advisors “master” the asset class.

Most private wealth managers (55%) don’t allocate any client money to alternative investments. But an argument can be made that the asset class has a place in portfolios. Private investors now account for nearly half the addressable alternative investments market (48%), up from 37% in 2007, according to Cerulli Associates.

Consequently, alternative investments are drawing more attention from asset managers and others working to figure out how to make them more accessible. Last week, Charles Schwab debuted a new alternative investments platform for its RIAs, absent costs that typically come with the asset class.

But increasing accessibility is only part of the battle to grow adoption of alternative investments, and RIAs in particular need much more help, Matt Brown, founder and CEO of CAIS, told RIA Intel. Most RIAs are too small to take on the necessary due diligence and lack systems and platforms to make a historically cumbersome process smoother.

Brown claims his company has relieved those three pain points but fell short on advisor education, until now. The current diet of whitepapers and webinars isn’t cutting it and a more thoughtful learning process needed to be implemented to get advisors to use alternative investments, he asserts.

“Unless we’re prepared as a business and platform to truly tackle the [education], I don’t think we’ve ready accomplish our goals,” he said.

The new CAIS IQ learning system, which is free for any CAIS member to use, promises to help RIAs “learn faster, remember longer, and master alternative investments” and “reduces the alternative investments learning curve by combining expert content with predictive algorithms that adapt to how each individual learns best.”

CAIS began thinking about the education tool more than a year ago. It decided to use a popular adaptive learning engine called Cerego, which also supports programs for the U.S. Army, New York University, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other institutions, to measure how well information is absorbed and memory fades. It then actively directs users to different visual, written and audio content based on their performance.

To help bring the learning system focused on long-term retention to life, Brown hired Andrew Smith Lewis, Cerego’s cofounder and vice chair, to be chief innovation officer at CAIS. “No one is like Andrew,” Brown said about his new executive.

Before cofounding Cerego, Smith Lewis was the founder and CEO of The Princeton Review of Japan.

He currently leads a 10-person team focused on customizing CAIS IQ, which Brown said he envisions growing to as many as 20 to 30 people. The team, which has been developing and using the system internally for months, will continue to update and improve the platform indefinitely.

In August, Kaplan announced a new test prep program for the CFP exam that it also claims is intuitive and responsive to student performance. The program’s structure is analogous to the program for its program for the CFA exam.

Brown and Smith Lewis were not aware of any details of Kaplan’s new program and applauded anyone working to better educate advisors. But they say CAIS IQ is distinctly different. “What we’re doing at CAIS IQ is very different. We’re not preparing people for an exam. Our goal is to drive retention. I think that really is a different hurdle,” Smith Lewis said.

The key to achieving that is to have advisors participate in the education system in short bursts and often, Smith Lewis said. For example, an advisor could complete a brush-up course related to alternative investments on their mobile phone in as little as 15 minutes while walking to their office or between meetings.

The Investment and Wealth Institute (IWI) and the Certified Financial Planner Board will offer continuing education credit to advisors who use CAIS IQ.

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