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wealthtech on deck podcast - Amy Young

Unlocking the Potential of Generative AI in Asset and Wealth Management with Amy Young

The future of wealth management technology is intertwined with the power of generative AI. Microsoft’s strategic partnerships with industry leaders and the development of Microsoft Teams as a platform for collaboration and data aggregation demonstrate the practical applications of this technology. With generative AI, firms can unlock valuable insights, streamline processes, and deliver personalized advice beyond managing investment portfolios.

In this episode, Jack talks with Amy Young, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Microsoft’s Financial Services business. Amy uses her capital markets, wealth management, and consulting background to ignite and structure innovative strategic partnership opportunities with Microsoft’s largest financial services customers worldwide. These partnerships focus on using generative AI to monetize data and enhance experiences.

Amy talks with Jack about generative AI and its impact on wealth management technology. She highlights the importance of product partnerships, co-innovation, and joint go-to-market strategies in building true partnerships. Amy also explores the potential of Microsoft Teams as a platform for aggregating data and streamlining communication between advisors and clients.

What Amy has to say

“The insights from data are going to unlock a whole new realm of financial advice. When we understand more about people’s lives and what matters to them, we can help them make better trade-offs. “

– Amy Young, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Microsoft’s Financial Services

Read the full transcript

Jack Sharry: Hello, everyone. Glad to have you join us on this week’s edition of WealthTech on Deck. Thanks for tuning in. Aren’t we all try to figure out this thing called generative AI? I know I am. And, of course, everything I read seems to tell me less and less. So I’m looking forward to our discussion today with our guest, Amy Young. Amy is director of strategic partnerships with Microsoft’s financial services business. In her role, she develops strategic partnership opportunities with Microsoft’s largest financial services customers around the world. So these partnerships are increasingly focused on monetizing data and generative AI. So, Amy, welcome to WealthTech on Deck.

Amy Young: Thanks so much for having me. Thrilled to be here.

Jack Sharry: Great. So, Amy, let’s start with you sharing with our audience, what you do, what’s your role at Microsoft? What do you do? What do you do it for? Fill us in on all that.

Amy Young: Sure. It’s a bit of an unusual role for Microsoft. So this role was created as part of what Microsoft called its pivot to industry. And that started about five years ago, you know, as tech has become more central to business strategy, executives outside of tech have played a bigger role in large technology decisions. So Microsoft realized that in order to effectively engage those types of executives, it needed people who could really speak their language. So there’s a group of about 40 of us around the world who work closely with Microsoft’s largest FSI customers. I specialize in wealth and asset management. So I have the privilege of working with two of the three largest asset managers in the world, and a few other firms that are leaders in their respective segments. And so the job really is to use my knowledge of capital markets trends to engage those executives and get them excited about partnering with Microsoft. And if I could, I want to comment a bit on partnership. So that word is used in a lot of different ways. So for us, the barometer of moving from a vendor customer relationship to a true partnership hinges on three things. It’s product partnerships, so are we embedding our products in theirs? Or are they embedding their products in ours? Two, it’s co-innovation. So are we you know, creating new things together? You know, being customer zero for those experiences, etc? And then finally, it’s joint go to market. So are we, are we jointly investing in bringing those joint solutions to market, you know, making the market aware of what those things are, combining our sales channels, those kinds of things.

Jack Sharry: So I’m sure we’ll get into maybe some examples of that in a moment. But I’m kind of curious, you mentioned capital markets. You and I have spoken a bit, I know you have a background in that regard. Why don’t you talk a little bit about your background, and what leads you to this part of the business world. You can talk good.

Amy Young: So it’s kind of a circuitous route. I graduated with a degree in English and history, which means I was qualified to do nothing. So the first job I got…: It’s really fascinating. One of the things we talk about on this podcast, I know you’re a listener, is the confluence of digital and human advice. You’re… I guess we’re looking at that right now with you in terms of bringing that together, given your experience on the security side, and given your experience on the consulting side. and given your, what you’re doing now with, with Microsoft, which I hear is a pretty good, big, firm and doing a lot of work around generative AI as I read the news. So why don’t you talk a little bit about what you’re excited about now, some of the work that Microsoft is doing, some of the stuff you’re pursuing, at least broadly, in terms of strategic partnerships. So, fill us in.

Amy Young: Sure. So, I mean, I joined Microsoft, really with the ambition of democratizing advice. So FinTech captured my imagination, the things that we could now do on a phone, and the idea that we could scale advice to everybody. So that’s what I came here to work on. And, you know, the potential for that has only exploded over the last five years. So starting about with generative AI, since that’s what you asked about, you know, there have been a couple of really important public stories that Microsoft has shared in recent months. First, Moody’s, we’ve worked with them to develop something called the Moody’s Research Assistant, which allows users to use natural language to get answers from all of the rich data that Moody’s has, whether it’s about industry trends, whether it’s about rating changes, so you don’t have to navigate through Moody’s database any more, you can just ask your question, and it’ll surface up what you need. BlackRock has done a similar thing within Aladdin, they’ve created what they call co-pilots to help users navigate Aladdin. So again, instead of having to know the features of Aladdin, and click through menus, and all of that, they’re about to launch something where it’s a natural language experience, where you can sort of chat with the Aladdin app to get things done, to extract certain data and insights and accomplish key tasks in that platform. So those are two public things that Microsoft has released in recent months, or helped these clients release in recent months.

Jack Sharry: Just an editorial comment, since Morgan Stanley is a client of ours, and we connect there with BlackRock’s Aladdin, I know that that’s a more complex capability, you hear that across the industry, very sophisticated, a real leader with regard to risk management. I know there’s a whole lot of people that must be pleased the fact… with the fact that you can now just speak to Aladdin, so to speak, and get your answer. Because it can do a lot of stuff, but it’s hard to get in there. So finally, I’m seeing an example of what can happen with generative AI where you can actually apply it and make it work. And it’s happening already. It’s not something that’s down the road, but it’s happening now. So is more of that… I’m assuming more of that is happening all over Microsoft, and certainly in the financial services space.

Amy Young: Indeed. I mean, it’s so most firms are, well, virtually everybody is sticking in the territory of use cases where we’re keeping a human in the loop. Obviously, we live in a highly, highly regulated environment. And so there are really very few examples where firms have chosen to put these experiences in the hands of consumers. Your regulatory risk is obviously substantially higher doing that. And so the two examples that I just gave, those are obviously investment professionals that would would use those tools. And so it’ll be interesting to see how that evolves to getting into the hands of consumers. But there’s a ton of activity around using generative AI to accelerate investment research. There’s, I think, the ability to extract insights from K’s and Q’s, earnings calls, news, and then the ability to aggregate insights across those things and identify patterns and relationships, right? Because it’s all about, the only way we can create alpha in this business is by identifying relationships between things that the rest of the market does not, right? So large language models combined with other technologies, like knowledge graphs are, are delivering some interesting enhancements in that area. So it’s, I think we’re, we’re not even in the second inning of where this is gonna go.

Jack Sharry: Yes.

Amy Young: It’s an interesting time for sure.

Jack Sharry: Yep. Yeah. What else are you working on these days that our audience would find intriguing? I’m always curious, what’s… and I know you can’t be too specific. But generally speaking, what are some of the things that Microsoft is working on and where you’re hoping to expand how you can serve the financial services industry?

Amy Young: So I mean, every everybody knows about Microsoft Teams. And what’s very public is that Microsoft is… Teams is becoming almost an app store for the workplace. There are many hundreds of apps now that plug into this Teams ecosystem. And that is essentially making Teams a distribution channel for all sorts of different things, whether that’s data or tools. And so I have been working with a workplace retirement provider, who is building a Teams experience to make it easier for employees to interact with their 401k plans. You know, imagine how much easier it would be to just be able to send an IM through Teams to increase your contributions, or to you know, ask a question of your financial plan. Those kinds of things. You know, we all know that retirement, financial wellness is connected to engagement. And so the more friction we can eliminate from people’s ability to engage with these resources, the better off everybody’s going to be. Also, there’s also some huge efficiency benefits to that as well, you reduce calls to your contact center, and good stuff like that. So that’s, that’s a really neat one. And then I think, where this really gets exciting, in my mind, is the ability for Teams to become a hub of the advisor desktop. You know, you’ve covered in, in many of your podcasts versions of the toggle tax, if you will, everybody calls it different things. But you know, the the friction that advisors need to grapple with to prepare for a client meeting, all the different apps that they need to engage with. I believe that Teams has a tremendous opportunity to be an aggregation point for a lot of that kind of activity, especially with generative AI, the ability to just, in a, in a Teams message, in that chat window, they aggregate the data I need to prepare for this client meeting. And it can go extract data from your portfolio management system, from your your risk system, from your financial plan, whatever, and aggregate that all in a single meeting prep kind of application. That’s something that, in fact, we’ve modeled with, through our partnership with LSEG, it’s more of an investment banking lens that’s been applied to it for an investment banker to prepare for a meeting. But that concept can be translated to a lot of different things. And I think it’s really going to transform our concept of the advisor desktop.

Jack Sharry: So, just to make sure I get, I get this, which I think is pretty clear. But so using Teams as really a place to aggregate information and data to prepare for client meeting across all the different elements, planning, risk, all that important, you know, models, portfolios, all that sort of stuff, that sort of pulls it together into a presentation, consistent with what the advisor would want to present. Is that my… am I getting that right?

Amy Young: So I don’t know if it’s quite at the presentation level yet. But it’s certainly, with co-pilot now in PowerPoint, like, we’re, it’s a short trip from where we’re at today.

Jack Sharry: Okay, gotcha. That’s what’s coming.

Amy Young: So far, what we’re focused on is just aggregating the data in one place. And then one key thing I neglected to mention is, Teams, of course, is the collaboration platform, much like the one we’re using here. And so I think we’re gonna see a lot of activity aggregated there, as it becomes the platform advisors use to communicate with their clients. Why would you spend your day living in CRM when you’re talking to your clients in a platform like Teams?: Gotcha.: Absolutely. So I think, I think we’ll, you know, there are a number of components there, the bit where you’re mining insights from calls, that’s already there, we’ve had that for months. And it’s rapidly evolving in terms of what it can do, and the nature of the assistance that it’s providing to advisors. So that’s going to continue to evolve quickly, bringing together different wealthtech apps into this Teams ecosystem, you know, we’re in conversations with a number of prospective partners to do that. So that’s sort of in the six to twelve month horizon, where you’ll see things like that come to fruition. Where I ultimately think this goes is, I wrote a blog a couple of years ago entitled, my vacuum knows more about me than my advisor. It was inspired by watching my Roomba vacuum learn my new house. And I was just thinking about the amount of data that this thing has about my life. Right? Like, just something as basic as when you’re completing a financial plan, you have to, you know, one of the big questions your advisor asks is, okay, well, what’s your house worth? Right? You shouldn’t have to ask that question. If you know where the house is, Zillow has that information. Zillow knows what your property taxes are, right? So if you think about how our lives, we have, we’re leaving these digital footprints everywhere in everything we do. Whether it’s your digital ID, your fitness app, your, whatever your hobbies are, if you’re a knitter, if you’re… your dating app, I mean, you know, the vacuum, your car, all of these things have data about us. We’re going to be able to aggregate so much richer of a picture of people’s lives than we get today from their financial statements. Right? And so I think that’s where this this all goes, I mean, open banking is unlocking the ability to aggregate this data. So as, you know, Amazon and Apple and the likes of those wade deeper and deeper into financial services, they’re gonna start connecting those dots. And it’s going to create some tremendous experiences for consumers and certainly democratize advice.

Jack Sharry: Wow. When you think about when the the likes of Apple and Microsoft, of course, and Amazon, which has become a behemoth in the FinTech world, it’s fascinating how it’s all connected. So the competition seems pretty fierce. I imagine it gets people at Microsoft up early in the morning and going real hard. There seems to be a lot of competition around this. And it sounds healthy. It sounds like a, to a productive end of am I, am I getting that right?

Amy Young: Well, Microsoft really prides itself on not competing in a lot of the spaces that those other players do. Right? So you can imagine how retail, large retailers feel about partnering with Amazon as a technology provider, right? They feel like Amazon’s competing with them as a retail. Telecom companies have challenges with Apple like they’re… You know, Microsoft, Microsoft has done a pretty masterful job. It’s getting tougher, but they’ve, they’ve done a masterful job of not competing with their key customers.

Jack Sharry: Gotcha.

Amy Young: And so that, that’s a strategy that makes a lot of large enterprises beat a path to our door. And we guard that pretty carefully.

Jack Sharry: So, Amy, this has been fascinating. This has really been a wonderful conversation. I keep trying to understand AI, and think I have actually a pretty good sense of it now, which I didn’t have before. I kind of had a general sense, but you made it much more specific as to our industry and what is likely to occur, particularly the whole notion of what’s going on with Teams as a platform, it just, I get it. It just makes so much sense. I really appreciate your helping us out there. As we look to close in a minute or two, what are three key takeaways you’d like to leave with our audience?

Amy Young: So, I was thinking about this, and I really only have one, but it’s got three sub bullets.

Jack Sharry: Okay.

Amy Young: We’ll see if that works for you.

Jack Sharry: Yeah.

Amy Young: So, the headline is follow the data. You know, as I said before, I think a lot about where new data sources are emerging, both for us as consumers, but even in the institutional asset management space, the whole alternative data space is, is full of that. And I think it’s important for anybody in this industry to be paying attention to that. And sort of the, there’s sort of three ways or reasons that I think we need to follow the data. I mean, first of all, the insights from that data are going to unlock a whole new realm of financial advice, because when we understand more about people’s lives and what matters to them, you can help them make better trade offs. Right? You know, if you want to have a certain lifestyle in retirement, and you have a clear picture of what that looks like, if you can find another place to achieve that with a lower cost of living, right, with a partnership with something like Zillow, just one tiny example. Secondly, having all this data, unquestionably is going to remove a ton of friction from the entire advice process. So making things way more efficient, whether that’s onboarding digital identity, for example, is going to streamline onboarding. Client reviews, you know, being able to aggregate all this data in one place easily. And compliance, I think, the compliance burden. If the industry invests in the technology that’s available, the compliance burden is going to go way down, which, you know, everybody, except perhaps lawyers will be excited about. And then finally, finally, under the heading of follow the data, I think the innovators of the future are going to be the ones that are able to assemble creative partnerships around this data. And that will redefine the business model of wealth management, because it’s going to change the economics of acquiring and serving customers.

Jack Sharry: Well this is, it’s terrific. I have to say, the thought that pops to mind is the age old, I don’t know what the right term is, but know your customer. This allows generative AI and all that you’ve described, allows us to know the customer beyond what was available today, even if we had very lengthy conversations, because all that data, when it gets aggregated up and coordinated and all the rest, you really have a picture. And that’s a starting point from which to then make decisions and chart a course and so forth. So very exciting stuff.

Amy Young: So, yes to all that. But it all has to start with a shift in perspective, right? You’ve got to be thinking more broadly about the customer.

Jack Sharry: Yes.

Amy Young: You know, instead of just share of wallet or share of assets, you’ve got to be thinking about share of life, right? We’re seeing lots of evidence of this trend, this trend has, has been started a decade ago, you know, as we went from just managing investment portfolios, just the whole concept of financial planning. But I think we need to dream big about where it can go.

Jack Sharry: Love it. This has really been useful. As I started the show and talked about how the topic of generative AI for me, it’s frankly, so far been a lot of words, you’ve really helped clarify my understanding and I’m certain our audience’s understanding of where this goes. We’re, surely, as you indicated, we’re still the first inning on all this, but it is going and I’m quite sure it’s going rapidly as so many big players are putting a lot of resources here and a lot of smarts and all the rest. So this has really been very, very useful. And I think we’re going to continue to have this conversation, Amy. So I really appreciate your being on today. So as we look to close out our conversation, of course, my favorite question with all of our guests, I know you’ve listened to a bunch of our podcasts. What is something you do outside of work that you’re excited or passionate about that people might find interesting or surprising?

Amy Young: So I do the typical exercising, reading kind of stuff, but I think the the only remotely cool thing that I do…

Jack Sharry: I guess that is what we’re talking about, right?

Amy Young: Is that I have started brewing craft beer.

Jack Sharry: Oh, wow, cool.

Amy Young: My… got me a home brew kit for a recent milestone birthday. And I’ve got a whole setup and it complements my related passion of entertaining. So when you have, when you have 10 gallons of beer in your basement at any given time, it’s a good thing to have other people come around and help you drink it.

Jack Sharry: Yes, a very good thing. A very good thing. That’s great. That’s terrific. So, Amy, thanks so much. This has been a really enlightening conversation. I look forward to our next. For 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. Once again, Amy, thanks so much. It’s been a real pleasure.

Amy Young: Thank you. It’s been a thrill.