Ritik Malhotra has been busy since the summer of 2021. During that time, the co-founder and CEO of Savvy Wealth has hired six advisors, grown the firm’s team from two to 27, raised $18 million in venture capital, and pushed Savvy Wealth’s ever-growing AUM beyond $100 million. Oh, and the New York-based firm has also built out proprietary technology that advisors can use to offer bespoke advice and services to clients.
Malhotra, who has no plans to hit the brakes on rapid growth, started Savvy because “financial advisors globally are still dealing with incredibly slow account migrations, compliance checks, and traditional paperwork across multiple, disparate systems every single day,” he says. “Not only does this hamper their ability to grow, but it also makes for inconsistent, poorly designed client experiences with huge room for improvement.”
His goal, Malhotra says, is to make modern technology pervasive across the advisor landscape. For example, Savvy advisors can digitally onboard clients in fifteen minutes and tap into high-quality leads tailored to their specific client niche. The net result is that Savvy’s technology dramatically reduces the operational burden for advisors, allowing them to spend more time with clients and land new ones.
Savvy’s trajectory has been fueled by two primary drivers. Malhotra and his co-founder, Muller Zhang, devoted their first year to “hiring the best people we knew, setting up infrastructure for the platform, and figuring out how to bring on advisors for whom our proprietary technology would have the greatest resonance,” says Malhotra.
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The biggest initial challenge, he explained, was learning how to identify advisors who could best leverage their software. “No one is publishing that — you can’t find it on LinkedIn,” Malhotra says.
The second building block for Savvy is conveying to prospective advisors a compelling story that explains how Savvy can help them be successful. “We’re not asking someone to hit the ‘buy’ button on a piece of software,” Malhotra says. “We’re asking them to move their careers.”
The effort is paying off. Savvy recently onboarded Brad Weber from Bank of the West as its sixth advisor and founding principal wealth manager. That Weber would join the Savvy family at all tells a story about the quality and utility of the proprietary technology. “I’m one of the least tech savvy people you’ll ever meet,” he says.
“We understand how to build technology and operations support,” Malhotra says. “The thing we are not the expert in is delivering financial advice. We want to partner with the experienced advisors who have a track record of success in a niche they deeply understand — specializing in managing a physician’s money, for example. Those types of advisors are the best fits for our platform.”
Prying talent from the likes of Merrill Lynch and BNY Mellon as a startup is an obstacle to overcome, but along with the killer tech, everyone on the Savvy team is offered equity in the firm as part of their total compensation package. But because everyone has their own risk tolerance, equity isn’t forced on anyone. “We’re flexible around total compensation when it comes to cash versus equity,” Malhotra says.
While equity can be an impetus to join the burgeoning team at Savvy, it doesn’t have an impact on who is invited to the decision-making table. “We don’t operate based on the amount of equity each person has,” Malhotra says. “There are different decision makers for different decisions. We had someone who started last year who was responsible for building our direct indexing from scratch. That person was the decision maker during that process.”
All six advisors are decision makers, too. They meet with the tech team every other week to go over the changes that they’d like to see in Savvy’s technology, and according to in-house surveys, it’s an iterative process that has been embraced by the advisors. As a result of these regular meetings, Savvy is continually refining its direct-to-consumer acquisition model by consolidating a number of marketing channels that advisors would otherwise have to set up on their own. The marketing team at Savvy manages it, the tech team automates it, and individual advisors receive a marketing approach tailored according to their niche.
Malhotra’s plans to continue Savvy’s growth include a long list of incremental improvements that continue to ensure that every experience for his advisors is “as smooth as butter and available from end-to-end — all in one place.”