CAIS Hired a Strategic Advisor; Here’s His Vision

David Canter talks about his role and trends he’s seeing for advisors.


Illustrated by RIA Intel

CAIS, the alternatives investment platform that is used by more than 32,000 advisors representing $4 trillion in assets, last month brought on David Canter to serve as strategic advisor.

Canter has decades of experience in the industry. He is a former executive vice president and head of the RIA segment for Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions, former head legal counsel of Schwab Institutional, former chief legal and compliance officer at Post Advisory Group, and former president of Bluespring Wealth Partners. He has also served on CAIS’s Advisory Council for close to a decade.

“I’ve known the company for a very long time, and, you know, [chief executive officer] Matt [Brown] and I were talking, and we agreed that there’d be an opportunity for me to help the firm as it shaped its future and its division in the RIA business,” said Canter.

According to the company, Canter will play a large role in its solutions business, a new SaaS platform for advisors to centralize their alternative investment allocations in one place.

Canter sat down with RIA Intel to talk about his role and what he hopes to bring to the table.

Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

What is a strategic advisor and why was this something that CAIS needed?

I don’t know if CAIS needed it because I think CAIS is doing great in its strategy. But I think CAIS saw the opportunity to align with me. I have really worked closely to understand what advisors need in the growth of the business and how to be more efficient. CAIS is a practice management company at its heart. It’s a practice management company that happens to be in the alternative investments platform business. I think CAIS recognized that I could help sort of fill the space between uncovering and unlocking the needs that advisors have.

In terms of what a strategic advisor does, I think it identifies those target clients that CAIS should be focusing on, identifies those offerings where CAIS can really make a difference in the marketplace, and then helps to bridge the gap between the two. With my 20-plus years in the RIA ecosystem, I hope I can be an accelerant.

You mentioned that CAIS is really a practice management company at heart. Can you expand upon that?

Practice management really has three components. One, how do you help firms grow? And that growth has so many different components to it. Number two, how do you make firms more efficient? And then how do you create a structure to kind of protect everything that you’ve built in the business? And I think CAIS does that in a number of ways.

One, CAIS has tremendous insights about the alternatives business and how to activate alternatives within your practice. CAIS has done more than any company that I’m aware of to set out an educational platform for advisors. Number two is around practice management efficiency. That’s what CAIS’s new solutions business is all about. How do you sort of process, administer, and account for the post-trade process for these alts that had been purchased by advisors on behalf of their clients but not through the CAIS platform in one place? And so all of this helps advisory firms protect what they built. And so that’s why I called CAIS a practice management company that just happens to be in the alternatives business. I actually helped to build Fidelity’s practice management capability, and I think practice management is the special sauce around how you propel businesses in the RIA space forward.

This role is really tied to CAIS’s new solutions platform. What do you hope to accomplish with that team?

I think my role is to help connect CAIS, beyond what the team is doing today, to some of the best clients and prospects for the team to amplify the message in the marketplace. And to give advice on some of the trends, current issues, and opportunities within the ecosystem — other technology firms, other RIA providers, and custodians. Another element of it is just making sure that advisors understand the opportunity with alternative investments.

You work a lot with advisors. What types of trends are you seeing in this space?

There are probably five trends that are going on in the RIA space. One is alts: “How do I activate a strategy? How do I get the proper allocation to alts?” Two is growth: “How do I grow my business?” Most firms want to grow, and those two really go hand in hand. “How can you use alts to grow and attract clients?” Number three: You can’t ignore the fact that the business is concentrating, and by that, I mean, it’s not just consolidation. “Consolidation” implies that everybody’s going to be consolidated into just a few main players. I think there’s a concentration of firms into mergers, acquisitions, and business combinations. The fourth trend indirectly is something that CAIS plays into. We’re just in this massive retirement-to-wealth-bridge phenomenon right now. We’ve finally hit the bell of the curve with the baby boomers who are retiring and rolling out of the applicable retirement plan, and how do you sort of address this massive wealth transfer? That’s a huge trend that we’re all facing. And then, finally, how do you get after that new client? That next-gen client is today probably the Gen Y/millennial. Just around the corner is Gen Z.

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