Meet Sunil Gangwani, at X-Tech 2019: Financial Services and Technology (Get 15% discount on the Convention using presenter code: XTECH33)
Sunil, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and what your current professional focus is?
I am a Co-Founder of Plootus, a FinTech startup in the retirement space, specifically focused on 401k. Our vision is to democratize financial planning for everyone. The Plootus AI creates a personalized financial planner that estimates how much a user needs for retirement and how they should invest to achieve that goal. We provide unbiased advice and charge a flat fee irrespective of the asset size. Before Plootus, I had the privilege of working with GE Capital, PwC and ING. I started my career with PwC consulting and spent a significant amount of time reviewing underwriting processes, identifying potential risks in the consumer and commercial businesses for one of the largest financial institutions in India.
I spent 13 years with GE and had an opportunity to learn from the best in the industry. I was responsible for setting up the Risk Appetite framework for GE Capital. I worked as Finance Leader with GE Asset Management’s Private Equity team at the height of the financial crisis. I believe the best time to really learn is during a crisis if we are able to keep our jobs.
I left GE Capital and worked at ING for a short while to assist them in creating liquidity stress testing and risk appetite frameworks.
What, for you, are the benefits of attending a conference like the ‘X-Tech 2019 Convention’? What can attendees expect to learn from your session?
X-Tech has a good blend of FinTech Entrepreneurs like me and financial industry veterans who currently hold key roles in some of the world’s largest financial institutions and banks. These financial institutions are seeing firsthand how technology has altered the financial industry landscape. Gone are the days where you need a bank branch at the corner of every street; everything is going mobile. It is well known that FinTech will change how age-old financial institutions do business and how consumers access information and transact in today’s time. Information aggregators have made it possible for users to access their complete financial profile in one place. Artificial Intelligence based apps like Plootus have further enhanced the experience as they analyze the individual user’s behavior and personalize the experience.
Do you believe that robo-advisors and chatbots are having a positive or negative affects on customer satisfaction? Do you foresee robotics replacing humans in retail branches?
Any technology changes take time to mature. Email and instant messaging technology were introduced not too long ago. Today, they are the most important means of communication – both professionally and personally. Similarly, I believe the Robo Advisors are here to stay. Outside of the top 5% of income earners, most of us do not have a financial planner to help us plan our retirement, children’s education and other financial needs. Bigger financial institutions lack the focus and incentive to cater to smaller accounts. Robo- Advisors have filled that void and are providing services to people who don’t have millions of dollars in assets and are perhaps in most need of help to plan for the future. The framework has evolved and now most Robo-Advisors supplement their tools with humans to further enhance the user experience. Chatbots are evolving too. It’s like Google – the more you search, the more personalized and intelligent it becomes. It will take some time for Chatbots to become mainstream but they are a step in the right direction as they improve the overall productivity of the organization and you need relatively fewer resources to manage chat-based queries from users.
Robotics are already used by Amazon, Alibaba and other big players in the ecommerce industry to perform repetitive tasks. The footfall in bank branches has reduced significantly over time. I believe the real question is how many people will actually visit the bank branch in the future and is it worth investing in Robotics in this field.
Why should banks and other financial institutions consider investing or collaborating with FinTech companies? What benefits can be achieved?
Technology is finding new uses every day in the financial services industry. It is not only being used for asset management but also in areas of legal and compliance. FinTechs are able to meet the needs of diverse sets of people even with smaller fortunes and able to execute millions of transactions at a faster pace with minimal errors.
Financial stress is one of the biggest problems facing our society today. Individuals spend more than 150 hours in worrying about their finances. We as an industry have to find a solution to this problem. If we go the way of hiring more people to meet everyone’s needs, the costs are too high to justify the investment. Therefore in my view financial institutions don’t have a choice but to invest in or collaborate with FinTechs.
Looking ahead, how do you see the technology and innovation space evolving?
I won’t say since sliced bread but definitely since the invention of the ATM, FinTechs are the most important change to have happened in the financial services business from the perspective of the average person. With the combination of human and Robo-Advisors, we are able to cater to a wider audience. Technological innovation has made data aggregation across financial institutions easier and data quality is improving every day. I believe the next paradigm shift will be to get behind the numbers and understand the user’s psyche and behavior and create a comprehensive financial plan accordingly. Banks and financial institutions will become more nimble and efficient and will automate most of the redundant tasks involved.
We also asked Sunil Gangwani some informal questions
What three items would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island?
GPS, water and my best friend my wife, Meghna
If you had not taken the career route to become a financial risk professional, what would you be doing right now?
There is nothing else I’d rather do.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Having the opportunity to create Plootus has been the most exciting thing to happen to me. I am the boss, no office politics, excitement every single day, every actions count, I win and lose every day, and I love what I do. There are no weekends! The goal or dream keeps me going.