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wealthtech on deck podcast - Cindy Galiano

Empowering Investor Success with Cindy Galiano

Morningstar is committed to creating a comprehensive wealth management platform. The company is on an accelerated path to modernizing its U.S. wealth platform tailored to create an exceptional investor experience.

In this episode, Jack talks with Cindy Galiano, Managing Director of the U.S. Wealth Platform at Morningstar Wealth. In her role, Cindy is responsible for product development, sales, marketing, and operations efforts supporting financial advisor-oriented products. That includes Morningstar’s Turnkey Asset Management Platform (TAMP) and Morningstar office, which is the portfolio management and accounting system that’s mainly geared towards independent RIAs and RIA aggregators. Cindy is also responsible for Morningstar’s managed portfolio and investment strategies, which include mutual fund and direct indexing solutions.

With a focus on becoming a leading wealth platform provider, Cindy talks with Jack about how Morningstar creates a comprehensive wealth management platform for wealth and financial advisors. They are also working on developing an exceptional individual investor experience and delivering compelling investment portfolios. The goal is to empower investor success and provide a seamless and personalized experience for advisors and their clients.

What Cindy has to say

“We empower investor success, and that really underpins everything we do at Morningstar. It’s guided by our unique heritage of data and research and helps deliver that investor-first approach in whatever we do.”

– Cindy Galiano, Managing Director, U.S. Wealth Platform, Morningstar Wealth

Read the full transcript

Jack Sharry: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us on this week’s WealthTech on Deck podcast. As our listeners know, there are so many interesting stories happening in our business. Something we talk about all the time is the confluence of digital and human advice. Another trend we’ve covered extensively is the convergence of workplace and wealth. And probably the topic we talk about most is how leading firms are building and coordinating all the elements of a comprehensive wealth management platform. Today we’re going to talk with Cindy Galiano. Cindy is the managing director of the US Wealth Platform within the Morningstar Wealth Division. She is responsible for product development, sales, marketing and operations, and supportive, financial advisor oriented products such as Morningstar Office and Morningstar turnkey asset management platform. I’ll let Cindy fill you in on the depth and breadth of the work that she and her team are doing in a moment. But first, Cindy, welcome to WealthTech on Deck.

Cindy Galiano: Thanks for inviting me, Jack. Excited to be here.

Jack Sharry: Good to have you on board. So let’s start with you providing some more detail on your role. It sounds pretty expansive. And I think from our earlier conversations, an evolution from where you were at one point, so maybe fill us in on that. But it sounds like Morningstar has made some changes as you are looking to create a comprehensive platform, including and providing more and more services. So why don’t you fill us in?

Cindy Galiano: Yeah. So as the managing director of the US Wealth Platform within the Morningstar Wealth Group, I’m responsible for overseeing the financial advisor oriented business lines. So that includes, as you mentioned, Morningstar Office, which is that portfolio management and accounting system that’s mainly geared towards independent RIAs and RIA aggregators. But also, as you mentioned, Morningstar’s turnkey asset management platform, or our TAMP, that we’ve offered for over 20 years now. And then finally, I oversee our business of offering Morningstar built and managed portfolios and suite of investment strategies, which also include Morningstar mutual funds and our direct indexing solution. So this all keeps me quite busy.

Jack Sharry: Yes, yes. So tell us where you are in your journey. I know this has been coming for a bit, but not all that long in terms of putting it all together.

Cindy Galiano: Yeah.

Jack Sharry: And it’s also part of a larger trend that we see in terms of building a platform. So how’s it going? And what are you especially excited about in terms of the current work?

Cindy Galiano: Yeah, so just to take a step back, you’re right back in 2022, we formed a new business group called Morningstar Wealth. And really, there are four key areas of evolution for us that we’re focused on today. So one is we’re really striving to become a leading wealth platform provider out there. So that’s what I mentioned in terms of really transforming our TAMP and Morningstar Office suite of capabilities into that preeminent wealth management platform. And really to broaden the users of our system, so providing a wide spectrum of capabilities for a wider spectrum of advisors. And we’re also doing this internationally with our international wealth platform business. Number two, really trying to create that exceptional individual investor experience. So many people know us for our flagship website, But we’re really trying to build that individual wealth platform and really become that independent advocate that really essentially helps investors navigate their financial journey. So we bring together the data, the research, content, tools for individual investors to make better informed decisions. Third, is the offering that we have in terms of those portfolios that I’ve mentioned. And so really delivering compelling differentiated portfolios, built on Morningstar data and research, and leveraging all that we have in house in terms of our investment management personnel, our analytics, etc, to really manage and then distribute what we believe are best in class managed portfolios, model portfolios, and funds. So really, this all helps us align to our mission to really empower investor success. And then finally, the fourth area of Morningstar Wealth has to do with becoming a high-quality data aggregation service in the US. So that’s through, by all accounts, our account data aggregation services that we acquired a few years ago, and so we really want to position Morningstar as that de facto aggregation platform for enterprises, advisors, and investors alike.

Jack Sharry: Great. So where are you in the process? Is this all built and ready to go? Is it in motion, which I think it is?

Cindy Galiano: Yeah, yeah.

Jack Sharry: So tell us… fill us in a little bit about where you are and what’s been done, what’s coming soon?

Cindy Galiano: Yeah. So as you mentioned, we’re deep in our knees in terms of focused on our execution plan to really grow Morningstar’s footprint and helping advisors be more efficient, more scalable, make better decisions, provide better advice to their clients. And so we really are on that accelerated path to modernizing our US wealth platform. And so that means that we launched an end to end direct indexing solution back in 2022. And this really brings together powerful technology with our investment capabilities and tools to really have the advisor be able to personalize accounts, particularly deliver tax smart, separately managed accounts using a streamlined and elegant workflow. So really powerful capabilities that truly deliver what direct indexing promises. And the other milestone in our journey that we’ve had is we’ve launched third party managers earlier this year. And so what that means is that alongside our Morningstar proprietary model portfolio and SMA offerings, we’ve also opened up our platform and really served to augment Morningstar offerings, and give them up… give advisors a broad array of, of curated investments. And so the first wave really focused on launching model portfolios from leading asset managers such as BlackRock, Clark Capital, T. Rowe Price, Fidelity, and add them on the platform. But over the course of the next upcoming quarters, and years, we’ll continue to add more investment offerings, more investment types, which ultimately offers financial advisors just a greater amount of flexibility and choice, but not choice overload. And so bringing together these capabilities and workflows is really the focus for us in terms of that execution journey. And knowing that advisors aren’t one dimensional, so they’re not one dimensional in terms of they only do it, do it yourselfers to full outsourcers. It’s a spectrum, as we know. And so really bringing together those workflows and capabilities, where an advisor wants to be more hands on with a certain part of the book of business or a particular workflows they’ll be able to, but then also enable some outsourcing capabilities across that spectrum. So we’re right in the thick of things right now.

Jack Sharry: So maybe just to clarify a bit, sounds like you’re starting with product like direct indexing and expanding to outside managers with the TAMP. And I know you have, Morningstar, of course, builds so much of its reputation on all the different tools and research and data, how does that get integrated? Or is that in process? Or is that coming? Talk a little bit more about what the full system will look over time? How does that start to play out?

Cindy Galiano: Yeah, so I think we have a lot of the capabilities that really represent a broader spectrum of workflows and use cases for advisors, and how. So it really is bringing that together into a cohesive, streamlined experience. And so we’re well, on our way from that standpoint. The direct indexing workflow and solution was really important for us to nail down first, because we consider that to be a big building block for a more sophisticated tax management capability across not only separately managed accounts or single strategies, but across a unified managed account comprised of underlying model portfolios, mutual funds, ETFs, including separately managed accounts. And so really building that as a stepping stone to then offer a real streamlined, tax aware, tax smart way to manage holistically a set of accounts, or a holistic portfolio for the investor, really being able to do that at scale for the advisors is really what we’re focused on. That means we’ve also utilized other providers out there to help bring capabilities to our platform. So that’s really exciting, too. Whereas I think in the past, it’s been very much an in house built system.

Jack Sharry: Is that what you’re referring to, or just mentioned, is that SMArtX? Is that what you’re referring to there?

Cindy Galiano: Yes. So that’s one of them. That’s one of the providers that we use, and I think SMArtX is a unique provider out there in terms of really what we deem as best in class UMA technology and, and really building out their own platform, really doing it in a smart way. I think some other heritage in terms of working more on the private and alternative space has really lent them to simplify not only more complex investment instruments and having those on the platform, but also be able to apply that to more of the traditional asset classes and investment offerings out there. So they’ve been a great partner with us.

Jack Sharry: So I’m stating the obvious at least, our listeners hear me talk about this all the time. And I know we’re birds of a feather in this regard, and that is that the future does seem to be platform, it seems to be solution, it seems to be how you connect the dots, so to speak, how you coordinate all the various functions. But as you well know, I know for sure, it’s hard. It’s not easy. So talk a little bit about that process, because it’s one thing to say, it’s another thing to do it and how’s that coming along? In other words, how is that that dot connecting going? And I don’t want to ask if you’re ahead or behind schedule, but I know it’s hard. So I’ll leave it at that. So how’s it coming along?

Cindy Galiano: Yes, absolutely. And I think you’re right, I don’t think anybody’s truly cracked the nut yet, in terms of completely friction free experience, and especially when there are a lot of different tools that advisors use and have their own ways of doing things. So that’s certainly a challenge. However, I do think there is the opportunity now in this day and age, given where technology is today, to really leapfrog some of the incumbents out there who are busy trying to integrate legacy or outdated tech stacks, etc. From our vantage point, it has always started with the investor, it’s always started with the user. We’re extremely client centric, in terms of how we build now, whereas I think probably in the past, there were limitations in terms of what we could do from a technology standpoint. So I think for us, really starting with the advisor and their client and their needs has been extremely helpful, where we have sat with advisors, we have interviewed with them, they’ve shown us how they swivel chair, so to speak, etc. But really understand that a lot of this is part of their value proposition too. So how do we help behind the scenes, but at the same time, know that they have a trusted advisor behind them, helping support them, whether it’s fact sheets, or data and research, or regulatory reports that are, or if it’s compliance, whether it’s performance reports for their clients, or commentary on the models that they’re utilizing, or portfolio construction tools that help them make better decisions, you know, really marrying technology with that human touch, I think is really important. And I think we appreciate that. And know that it’ll never just be technology. And it’ll never just be the human touch that would really help advisors in the long run. So there really needs to be a marriage and utilization of both.

Jack Sharry: That would presume that you’re also building interfaces with the advisor. And I’m not sure if you’re going out as far as what they might show the client. But that’s really, it’s not just the product, or it’s not just the particular capabilities, whether it’s planning or data aggregation or CRM or whatever, I’m assuming you help them integrate it in the way they want to integrate it, is that how that works?

Cindy Galiano: That’s definitely part of our roadmap, that’s definitely part of the journey. At the end of the day, the workflows need to be tightly integrated. And so obviously, the easiest way to do that is to build it all together, or work with providers that either have an API-centric approach to offering their systems where we can control the experience, etc. It really depends on the workflow that we’re talking about, the experience, is it part of our core competencies or not? And then with respect to what we’re building. Some of this has been workflows that we’ve offered for 20 years now, whether that’s proposal generation, risk tolerance, a variety of risk tolerance questionnaires, client reporting, investment selection tools, fact sheets, etc. Whatever you name it, I think we have it at Morningstar. However, some of those capabilities feel like they’ve been, they’re still in the… from 20 years ago. And so there is part working on enhancing what we have today and in revamping it, and part building from scratch. And I think as I mentioned, the ability to use the latest technology, make it cloud based, make it very comprehensive in terms of the security of the systems that we have, and then tie that with client portals, I think it’s going to be really important. So we do offer an end to end solution, which means from prospecting, to client management, ongoing client management, is built within that platform. Which I think is really important for us. We know we won’t be all things to all advisors, but gosh, we really want to make sure what we offer is streamlined and easy to use for those advisors.

Jack Sharry: That’s great. So looking out to the future another 2, 3, 5 years, the world changes awfully quickly around our business. What’s your magic wand? If… what’s your crystal ball? Where you’re building? What does that look like going out a ways? Describe that, if you will, you can make this up. This is all part of a crystal ball, right?

Cindy Galiano: Yes, exactly. Well, we are living in interesting times for sure. And I do think there is so much more out there that we can’t even possibly imagine right now, that’s yet to be invented. And that’s why I think particularly with where we are with artificial intelligence, and other forms of technology, I think really making sure we understand how that not only can impact the advisor’s experience and their investor’s experience but also our own. So for us to become more efficient and more predictive, or more analytical, and just more savvy of how we support the advisor. I think that could happen across the way we support our advisors. So not only are we talking about how we approach and prospect advisors that we think are fully… not only does this mean that we can utilize technology in a smarter way, internally, across either our sales force, across our operations and trading teams, but also just in terms of how we prompt or nudge advisors to connect with their investor clients as well. So I do think there is so much more that I think you’ll hear from us. And as you know, in other areas of Morningstar, you’ve already started hearing about our usage and our capabilities that we’ve offered that incorporates artificial intelligence, such as, as well as Advisor Workstation capabilities. So more to come on that.

Jack Sharry: Gotcha. And what are you hearing so far in terms of what you’ve built and how the reception is going? And I’m sure you’re learning as you go, because that’s the way the world these days. And what’s been the response?

Cindy Galiano: Yeah, for sure. You know, I think at the end of the day, the advisors that work with us want us to succeed, which is great. They’re really supportive of what we do. They understand that’s a journey, and they understand that nothing’s going to be perfect. But at the end of the day, they should have high expectations for what we’re capable of doing. Similar to what we as consumers out there, have access to on our phones, how we shop, how we make other types of decisions in our lives, including health information out there, I think there’s just a lot that we could apply to our industry, to really make sure what we’re doing reduces the friction that advisors have, knowing that we’re in a heavily regulated environment. And knowing that not everybody is on the same page, as a result… relates to the technology journey that people are on. But really working with a lot of the different, I would say connectors out there, such as banks, custodians, etc. And really bringing them on this journey as well has been quite rewarding, I think for us, because if we do something that benefits the advisor and their investors, I think everybody along the chain also benefits.

Jack Sharry: One of the terms, which is not my favorite, but it’s directionally where I think we’re all trying to get and that’s hyper personalization. So really, the challenge is how do you hyper personalize at the advisor level, so they can hyper personalize at the client level? And I’m assuming that’s all part of what you’re doing, is that fair to say?

Cindy Galiano: It is, it is. And once again, still early in the journey, but definitely on our roadmap. And you’re absolutely right, there’s no one way to do something. And so really making sure that we provide a sufficient amount of flexibility in terms of how advisors come to utilize our tools, our data and research is incredibly important. So that is definitely on our roadmap. That said, hyper personalization can be overkill at some point, too. And so really providing or relying on data and how the advisors utilize our technology is going to be really important to track such that we’re not necessarily over engineering the personalization touch.

Jack Sharry: Yeah. Of course, Morningstar has been so good at this for so many decades at this point, about making the arcane nature of what we do and the language we use understandable. So it’s always that balance. And frankly, if there’s anything our industry tends to over engineer, overexplain, overcomplicate. So I’m assuming that, consistent with the Morningstar brand and history, that you’re very much trying to make this very accessible, understandable, so people can make good choices and good, take a good direction.

Cindy Galiano: One hundred percent. And I think that’s why we work so well together and the journey that we’re on has been so energizing is because we are bringing together different people that are experts in their different fields, whether it’s behavioral finance, research analysts, whether it’s designers, and user experience experts from other industries, you know, really making sure at the end of the day, the day we ask that question, “Can my mother understand this, what we’re doing here?” Or, “Can my brother understand this?” So really making sure we stay true to Morningstar’s mission to empower investor success in a really easy to understand manner is really important for us. So it’s a constant challenge. It’s a constant tug and pull, because you do eventually get ingrained, sometimes in terms of well, this is the way things are… have always been done. But really challenging that has been quite fun to do, actually.

Jack Sharry: Great. Before we look to wrap up, one question I meant to ask earlier, do it now. And that is, how’d you wind up doing what you’re doing? What’s your backstory? How’d you wind up as managing director of the wealth platform that Morningstar is building?

Cindy Galiano: Well, how much time do we have? It certainly wasn’t a straight career path. And keep in mind, I have 25 plus years of experience now in the industry. But that said, I really feel like every winding road that I took brought me to an even better place, and definitely built up my perspective, and empathy. But it certainly wasn’t necessarily smooth sailing from that standpoint. But I actually graduated as a biology major, Jack, from University of Chicago, if you can believe that. And so, you know, decided not to pursue medicine or something in the biological science industry. But what I decided to do was learn more about financial services and investing, for personal reasons. In terms of growing up of a family of eight, with parents that immigrated here, from Ecuador, and really knowing how challenging it is, but always getting great opportunities because of how hard my my father and mother worked. Really understanding how finances and investments work was really a personal mission for me. And so that’s where I was able to and fortunate enough to get opportunities utilizing my background in the sciences as a risk analyst at a small hedge fund consulting firm and then spent about eight years at Northern Trust. And really, that’s where I received a great foundation in terms of understanding asset allocation, understanding diversification, understanding performance, sources of return, and performance attribution, risk measurement, etc. And the wild ride that pursued… that happened after that, where I was fortunate enough to get into a management development program there and go into the investments track. And so really, from there, developed and built my skills as it related to strategy. So working with, directly with our global chief investment officer at the time there. Working on business and investments, strategic decisions, whether it’s our investment policy committee, framework, capital market assumptions, etc, developing investment products off of that, including model portfolios, early efforts of target date portfolio. Really just a lot that I was exposed to and got a chance to participate in. And I think that’s what piqued my interest in terms of helping other firms go and help other firms in terms of the efforts that they have with making their investment offerings better. And so that’s what led me to Morningstar. And I don’t know if you remember, Jack, Ibbotson Associates?

Jack Sharry: Sure, sure, sure.

Cindy Galiano: Yeah. So I came on board after Ibbotson Associates was acquired by Morningstar back in 2006. And I thought that was a really compelling value proposition and really what I was interested at heart and so coming over, becoming an investment consultant and portfolio manager, some of the earliest target date portfolios and fund to funds out there, really led me to understand more in terms of what we need to offer for investment offerings through institutions. But then it also helped me understand more in terms of our organization as a business. And I think that’s where I got the opportunity to then jump career tracks in terms of the investment track and moved over to the product track and really became essentially the first investment product manager at Morningstar. So it’s been a wild ride. And you know, I just continued to take on more responsibility after that.

Jack Sharry: Thank you for sharing that story. I love the backstory. It’s very revealing. And…

Cindy Galiano: Everybody’s got a unique one, right?

Jack Sharry: Yeah, yeah. Well, yours a little, little more unique than some. I love that your family’s from Ecuador, which, we will have to talk about that sometime. I find that fascinating. So. Well, this has been great. I really appreciate your taking the time and filling us in on the work, good work you’re doing at Morningstar. What we do at this point, we have two more questions to go. One is, what are the three key takeaways? Then we’ll talk about what you do for fun. But why don’t we start with the three key takeaways of what you’ve covered today?

Cindy Galiano: Sure. I think the first one is our overall mission and vision here at Morningstar. We empower investor success. And that really underpins everything we do at Morningstar. I think it’s guided by our unique heritage of data and research, and really helps deliver that investor first approach in whatever we do. The second, I think, key point is about Morningstar Wealth. So as I talked about, Morningstar Wealth is a relatively new group that brought together a lot of great capabilities across Morningstar, including managed portfolios, developed by our great investment management group, to Morningstar Office, to ByAllAccounts and data aggregation there, to the individual investor experience as well. And so we’re really working hard to bring these capabilities together to essentially free up advisors’ time making the workflow seamless, as I talked about, bringing freedom of choice in terms of investment selections, and ultimately offer time back to the advisors to do what they do best, which is serve their clients and a whole host of ways. And then finally, I do believe that the best is yet to come. We find new and exciting ways to embed more of Morningstar’s newer insights into our value proposition and we’ll also continue at the same time to collaborate with technology and service innovators out there in the space to help our advisors in their quest to give their clients peace of mind with their investing future. So really excited about what’s to come.

Jack Sharry: Terrific. Wonderful. Appreciate you offering that perspective on what you’re excited about. That’s great stuff. Now for my, my favorite question of these gatherings or these get togethers. What do you do outside of work that you’re excited or passionate about that people might find interesting or surprising?

Cindy Galiano: Yeah, I think passion is the, the key word there. Passionate about a lot. But really, at this point in time, in terms of my stage of my life, I’m really loving spending time with my family. My husband and I have two beautiful daughters who are growing up so fast. And so we’re just trying to soak up this time before college years come about or we become empty nesters. So traveling with them, going to see concerts with them. You know, just really spending time, I think in these pivotal years has been a joy for me. With that said, I love photography, actually. So you know, having a camera and a variety of lenses. I love taking portraits, particularly portraits like a natural light. And so I’m certainly a newbie, certainly a novice, but I love learning about the nuance of it, the art and science, how to edit the pictures too, it can get quite complex and quite frustrating at times, but certainly enjoy seeing where this hobby takes me.

Jack Sharry: That’s great. Good for you. That’s wonderful. So for our audience, if you’ve enjoyed our podcast, please rate, review, subscribe, and share what we’re doing here at WealthTech on Deck. We’re available wherever you get your podcasts. Cindy, this has been a lot of fun, real pleasure to get to know you better. And thanks for sharing what’s going on at Morningstar. Thanks so much.

Cindy Galiano: Thanks so much, Jack.