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Using FOMO to Your Advantage with Rod Sayegh

Technology is an agent of innovation and a driver of the digital world, where everything is smarter, searchable, and instantaneous. Gone are the days when you had to sift through hundreds of papers in a briefcase, send off important documents in the mail, or find contact information using a Rolodex. We typically think of digital natives as the main adopters of tech, but tech enthusiasts can be found in any age group.

Rod Sayegh, Head of Digital Strategy at Fiduciary Trust International, has seen this technological adoption first-hand with some of his ultra-high-net-worth individual (UHNWI) clients, who average 66 years old. In the past, clients received their financial data annually or quarterly, but they now have the power to view their information in real time whenever they log into their client portal. Rod recognizes that financial services err on the side of caution when it comes to change. Still, he remains passionate about improving client experiences and always strives to challenge the norms.

In this episode, Rod talks with Jack about making the user experience attractive to all ages, bringing tactile experiences to clients’ finances, and embracing change by “reveling in the crazy.”

What Rod has to say

“Clients come to us for advice, not the amount of paper we hand them during quarterly meeting. They come to us to help solve problems, and I believe that digital technology has made some of the complex issues that clients deal with in their finances a lot more tactile.”

– Rod Sayegh, Head of Digital Strategy, Fiduciary Trust International

Read the full transcript

Jack Sharry: Everyone, thanks for joining us on this week’s edition of well tech on deck, we like to look at the confluence of digital and human advice from a variety of angles. Today we’re going to look at it from the perspective of a boutique wealth management firm. Much of wealth management seeks to combine the attractive attributes of a big firms size scale take advantages, with the kind of client connection a boutique firm can provide. Fiduciary Trust international operates like a small firm, but it’s owned by Franklin Templeton, so it has significant resources backing it up. Our guest today is Rod Sayegh. Rod is the head of Digital Strategy at Fiduciary Trust International. Rod Welcome to WealthTech on Deck.

Rod Sayegh: Hey, Jack, thank you very much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Jack Sharry: Our pleasure. So I’m looking forward to our conversation. So, Rod before we talk about what you do at Fiduciary Trust and where you see the world going. Let’s start by filling our audience in on Fiduciary Trust International. What is who is Fiduciary Trust? What do you do? Who do you do it for? And what is your relationship with Franklin Templeton? So fill us in.

Rod Sayegh: Sure. Fiduciary Trust is a wealth management firm that was founded in 1931 by families for families. You know, our singular focus is on growing and protecting our clients wealth through generations. We work closely with individuals, families, foundations, endowments, to build and manage personal investment portfolios, and to develop estate plans to extend wealth to future generations. We’re really in the business of families, and making sure that Financial Planning and Investment Management is really a family priority. Not just one person in the family, not just the patriarch and matriarch as an example. But the entire family. Since we see that wealth passes from generation to generation, we want to make sure we preserve a lot of that, from a Franklin Templeton side. We are supported by Franklin Templeton, which is one of the best mixes of the boutique firm backed by a really large fund company. So that provides us with adequate funding support certainly provides me with adequate funding and support as far as our technology initiatives are concerned. But Franklin Templeton has a lot of different products that we can offer our clients. So there really isn’t anything that our client can find elsewhere that they can’t find a Fiduciary Trust, whether it’s hedge funds, alternatives, you know, mix of different values in a portfolio, ESG, etc. We have that all under one roof. And we have the proper leadership of Franklin as well as thought leadership within Fiduciary Trust to combine that for our clients.

Jack Sharry: We’ve covered it in other podcasts with colleagues from around the Franklin Templeton universe. I’ve interviewed Jenny Johnson, who I just think is one of the sharpest executives in our industry. And what she has put together in the team at Franklin Templeton is from a product standpoint, technology standpoint, investment in the future standpoint. She’s brilliant. So I’m a huge fan. So you’re, you’re in good hands there. So, Rod, tell us about your background, and how did you find your way to Fiduciary Trust? Please start if you would with how you got started in the business a little bit on your career journey. Do you wind up as head of digital Fiduciary Trust?

Rod Sayegh: Very odd if I can say that I started as a teller at Wells Fargo when I was 17 years old. I didn’t have a sixth period of high school. And I decided I wanted to get a job and make some money. I was working for my dad on the side for a business that he had. And he wasn’t paying me anything. And I had, I guess to put in the car and things like that. So I found myself at Wells Fargo and I applied for teller job. And at that time, they were paying $8.25 an hour. That was pretty darn good, especially for someone in high school. And I would work there a little bit, you know, after school and on Saturdays, and I didn’t have to work Sundays, where all my friends were working restaurant jobs, I kind of had, you know, nights off and most of the weekend off. So it was a really great role. Shortly a year into that my father passed away and I was basically ended up homeless and so I really needed to put a roof over my head and I ended up working at Wells Fargo full time as much as I could. And what I found there and working with clients was that I really enjoyed kind of the interaction between client and service team or advisor. And I worked my way through the branch system and the branch was rolling out a brand-new tool for bankers to open accounts and manage clients accounts. And for some reason, I got really vocal around what they liked. What I didn’t like in that product. They’re back. This was 1998 1999. So the internet was relatively new ish, you know? didn’t have all the things that we had today system design was really new. People didn’t understand the term UX or UI, those types of things that much like they are. Now API’s were a thing of the past or not really in the future here. Someone recognized that the company that I had some good ideas, and they also recognize that they had no one on the project team or the product team that had ever worked inside the branch. So the company recruited me to move to San Francisco, I’d lived in San Fran San Diego at that time, and I started becoming a business analyst designing and working out requirements for the banker system. Shortly after a few years of their wealth management group High Net Worth group within Wells Fargo asked me to go do the same thing because they wanted to build a new platform. And that kind of launched the direction of my career, where I was solely focused on high net worth ultra-high net worth clients and got really exposed to that. And I always kind of had a knack for technology. I don’t really think I ever knew it. I was the kid who would often open up the rotary phone on the bottom of it and take it apart. My mom would tell me because she was always waiting. Taking apart the bottom of the rotation, because I just was I was curious and how it worked. I know when you see this can little Dialpad, but the phone and this cord. And you know, you’re talking to people all across the world on this thing. And it just never made sense to me. So I had to open it up. And that really followed me through a lot of my journey in product management is, you know, opening up whatever the technology is, or getting someone you know someone in the front office to really open up about what they’re doing on a daily basis, or how they’re doing what they’re doing. And thus launched that career path. And I had been at Wells Fargo for 22 years, I was recruited by Fiduciary Trust. And I said, Well, let’s give it a go. And I have a couple of requirements when looking at a firm. And that is does the executive management believe in digital strategy and that it’s appropriate for high net worth and ultra-high net worth clients. And I think if you look at the industry, we love to give technology to reach our clients mass market. But when it comes to higher wealth, there’s this aura that those clients don’t want digital technology and don’t want ease of use. In fact, they want it more than anyone else does. Because they have a higher propensity to buy the iPad or the iPhone every year that every child has one of those because they have the means to do so. Factor probably grandchildren are asking their grandparents for money through mobile devices to the same thing, so I looked at that, and I work with John dad, who’s the CEO of Fiduciary Trust at Wells, we both knew each other from Wells Fargo just in different capacity. And I always knew that he was a really digital first mind. I had also done some research on Jenny Johnson, who you talked about earlier and understood that she had run Technology Operations for a very long time and was part of the founding family of Franklin Templeton so I thought I had a really good in and I was a place where I could come and really put my own spin on what I think the high net worth and ultra-high net worth client does in a boutique firm where you can really affect change was really a great backing for Franklin Templeton. So it really is executive buy in and really the power of Franklin Templeton.

Jack Sharry: Two things to underscore I’m sure you’ve heard of this. But they’ve taken rotary phones and push button funds of your that you described earlier. They’ve put it in front of kids today. And they don’t have to deal with it. They don’t know what it is. That’s right. And to I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but Jenny Johnson’s kids are in their 20s and our big tick talkers. And she wants to take Franklin Templeton on to tic tac she may already have done I think she has actually. I’m not sure if you’ve heard that through the grapevine.

Rod Sayegh: But yes, yes. I spent way too many hours on tick tock.

Jack Sharry: So we’ve all been there. At least some of us have. So when he talked a little bit, it’s past always fascinated by how you get where you you’re going and it sounds like you’ve got a wonderful story around the career emergence journey, what a call what you will, what are you doing now? What are you excited about? You sounds like you were in an ideal kind of situation with a boutique firm that’s digital first that has a CEO that gets it that has a seat his boss or whoever, however it’s structured. She gets it. So what are you excited about? What are you working on? What are you doing?

Rod Sayegh: You know, one of the things I always talk about is I’m not here to replace the advisor or the service team. What I want digital beings the table that they need on. People come to us clients come to us for advice, not the amount of paper we hand them during quarterly meeting. They come to us to help solve problems. And I really believe that digital technology or in technology in general, has made some of the complex issues that families deal with or that heightened words for ultra-high net worth clients deal with in their finances a lot more tactile. And I talk about tactile illness a lot. I also talked about a word I came up with, which is adaption. And it’s the combination of adoption and adaptability, right? It was really, when clients come to us or they think like, Oh, I’m gonna automatically myself go see if I can log on and move money or, you know, add a CPA or attorney to my account, are they thinking in those mindset and as the advisor thinking in that, and I want always clients to have full transparency on everything that’s going on, on their relationship with Fiduciary Trust, and be sure that that experience is tactile, can I verbally like touch it, feel it, move it around, and really understand it? And that comes from maybe my learning path, I had a very hard time growing up reading books, and understanding what was in that book. And I was always a much more visual learner. And in fact, I can learn more watching a YouTube video that I can read a manual or read a book, and even more so by doing do I get it even more and really understand that goes back to opening up that phone, I needed to touch I needed things to be tactile. So I’m really trying to bring that and that’s what I’m really excited about is how do we flip kind of this age old institution, very old institution as far as any institution that’s in high net worth ultra-high net worth, but especially our company that was founded in 1931? And how do I bring that tactile experience to our clients, and the next generation after that?

Jack Sharry: I’m fascinated by I love how you’re characterizing this, because I think it’s so true. It’s, we all live in the digital world. I remember the old days in my briefcase, which I don’t have a briefcase anymore, largely because I’m traveling as I wants to. But I used to have papers that I had, at the end of the night, you know, leaving the office, I stuffed my briefcase that I read on the train or wherever I was what I was doing, and I don’t have any papers, I recently I no longer work from my office, because I work from my home. Like a lot of folks Oh, another experience when I emptied my office out because I don’t use it. But I just threw everything away, it was all these files that just didn’t matter. And I didn’t bring any paper home didn’t. So the world has changed. But part of my question is not only what are you doing about it, but then how do you do it? Where I’m sure you probably have a few advisors and service providers in your organization that are not as they don’t embrace it quite the way you would hope. So there’s that issue? How do you get them involved? I’m assuming that you will have clients that don’t want it. So how do you bridge that gap? How do you get people in the game? How do you make that user experience so attractive?

Rod Sayegh: So they, they want to do so I was like options, I like options for myself, right. And I think we have to give options to everyone. And I’m not expecting 100% adoption in any way, shape, or form from advisors or clients. What I tried to do is I tried to challenge and give credible challenge to anyone who kind of pushes back. One of the biggest things I’ve always faced my entire career and others in my role faces as well. Now High Net Worth ultra-high net worth client tends to skew older, our average client is about 66 years old. And immediately people think that generation or older people don’t want to use technology. But the funny thing is, if I look at the statistics, our relationships that are over 20,000,085% of those relationships are online, delete client, and that relationship is online, compared to relationships that are under 5 million is only 68%. And you would think that that would be higher. So if you look at those statistics on our clients, log in an average of about two and a half days a week. So every two to three times a week, are they logging in and seeing more up to date information. And maybe their advisor is doing an annual quarterly review that stuff that happened, you know, a month and a half ago or a few months ago. And so the data speaks for itself. So I just put it out there. And so, you know, for the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve gotten a lot of pushback on what we’re trying to do. And so I know the data points that I can just put back in front, I’ve also hired design firms, specifically designed firms, not the big five consulting firms. I feel like you you get a lot of just churn of regular information. I look at firms who specialize in high net worth and ultra-high net worth clients and families. Can I bring them in to do some blind interviews with our clients and get the real deal what they think is going on in the experience? Can we videotape those clients and just like a zoom call, so that we have that evidence and we can look at their facial reactions and look at what they’re doing and my previous role. We had to wait years set up in a meeting room where clients would come in, and I would sit behind a two-way mirror, and I would observe what was going on, and kind of replay that back. And oftentimes, it’s just putting that in front of the adviser and saying, Here are the questions, we asked your clients, what’s most important to them? When you meet with them quarterly, what do they want to talk about? And I put that right in front of them, and then we batch it up with what they think the value is that they’re providing. And there’s a Venn diagram. But there’s a lot of side of that that’s not happening. And I think it’s stuff that you can’t argue with. And the other thing is, how can I make the client’s life easier? And how can I make the advisors life easier, one of the projects I’m working on right now, is revamping the entire quarterly meeting process and really moving away from this idea that we need to give the client a 90 to 120 page, PDF or book that’s down and we go through page by page by page and say like, that’s great. And yes, clients hand us that back, mostly, because they don’t want their information hanging around. They don’t know what to do with this thing. And it’s collecting dust at their house nor, and they’re getting rid of the paper to check just like you did. So they’re wondering, and they have access to some of this real time information. And a way that I can provide that information to the advisor to say like, Hey, if the client in that quarterly meeting throws a curveball to you, why don’t you want to have the ability to make a few clicks and have the answer on the fly. So I really just try to play to their things that they don’t have today. And then last but not least, if I’ve recognized anything, and I’m a very competitive person is that advisors love competition. So if I get you just using a doubt against it, but visors love calculation. So I know my early adopters, I think we have a lot of people that are late adopters, they want to adopt, so everything is perfect, right. But I have a lot of people who are early adopters and identify those people. And I make them tell their story. Yes, this thing that I use that everyone else is pushing that helped me here. And that’ll get the next tranche of people just start using that, because they’re seeing that the other advisors are having much more meaningful conversations with their clients, much more meaningful conversations with prospects and winning new business, but they don’t want to be left out, right, we are creatures of adoption, and the quicker we adopt, the better our survival is. So I use that towards my advantage.

Jack Sharry: So another way, the current way it’s referred to I’m sure it’s the same, but if you’d comment FOMO fear of missing out. That’s right, that would seem to be a Trump Carter’s, tell me more about FOMO.

Rod Sayegh: You know, you have to get some friends in the front office, right? Because you were hired to change the farm in a good way. Right, you’re brought in to look at everything and say, Hey, that doesn’t make sense. Let’s make this easier. And so I recruit them to tell their story. And there’s real powerful ingredients in storytelling, you can’t deny a story, you can you can’t deny a story from one of your colleagues, and have them speak about it over and over again. So I just implore that as much as I can. And I tell stories about what I’ve observed, or what we’ve seen happen as well. You know, people love to say people love stats, like I saved the company, this much money, I save the advisor this many hours. But it’s always skewed when it comes from my mouth, right? Because they’re saying to two shows. He’s trying to prove his paycheck. But when it comes from another wealth director or wealth advisor, or you know, a portfolio manager on how their day is running easier, or I got a client testimony that I pass back, and that’s undeniable.

Jack Sharry: You know, it’s interesting, I grew up in this business as a financial wholesaler, I was selling products and talking to advisers. And it’s a while back, but that’s what I did. I still do it today, except I call it executives instead of advisors. Same concept. FOMO. FOMO is at the heart of it. Believe me, and what I hear you say, a couple things. You’ve said, summarizing, I’d love to have you comment. You’re responsible for the user experience. And that user can be their client or advisor or executive, for that matter. It’s your that’s your ad that, that you wish you’re really doing with FOMO and other means, but it’s also I was looking at everything as FOMO if you really want to do something, where it’s not about what you think it’s what their colleagues think, or their competitor thinks, or they’re the one that’s ahead of them on the leaderboard, what they’re doing and why they’re succeeding. Do I have this, right?

Rod Sayegh: That’s right. It’s always gonna be skewed coming from me. Right? I’m credible in what I’ve done in my my career and my ability to execute, but the credibility gets lost when I’m trying to get people to change that don’t necessarily want to change.

Jack Sharry: So I used to say you’re responsible for change behavior and that It’s hard to change, I should say.

Rod Sayegh: Yeah, as it relates to how we move forward. You know, I think that, especially in this industry in this kind of niche industry, where you’re serving families and high net worth and ultra high net worth clients, now, the industry tends to think that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And especially advisor things, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I rod, don’t come here and try to tell me how to change the way I’m doing work. I have been an advisor for as many gray hairs as I have on my head. And I’m not really trying to do that so much. What I’m trying to say is, there’s a different way, so much better, but a different way to connect with your client to connect with your team, to have you spend more time with your client on the things that you like, which is relationship management, solving issues, solving problems, which is why clients pay us fees on their accounts to manage versus pushing paper from one person to another or a lot of manual work. And that’s the hardest thing, because it’s like, I’ve always done this for the client. And that’s what they want. Well, have you asked them? No, I just know. So then we come through and ask and it’s like, no, not so much, not 100% of the time.

Jack Sharry: I think it sounds great. So one of the things I noticed I was doing a little homework on you read and Fiduciary Trust, I noticed that you’re a founding member of punks and pinstripes do tell what is punks and pinstripes? What do y’all do?

Rod Sayegh: You know, people like me need another outlet to basically cry, I cry shoulder to cry. And if you look, because we’re all struggling with this in every industry, it’s not just financial services. It’s almost every industry. Sure. And what it’s really meant to be it’s an invite only group. It’s managed by a gentleman named Greg. And the purpose of the group is to obviously solve problems or help each other solve problems, whether whatever that happens to be, but it’s really how do you circumvent obstructionists within your organization?

Jack Sharry: I love that. I’ve never heard them called out so bluntly and accurately.

Rod Sayegh: That’s the thing with the group is it’s very open and honest. And what is everyone dealing with? How can other members of the group help you through a challenge that you’re working through? And it’s, you know, the most interesting thing is I can bring up an issue, that’s obstruction airy in nature. And other people under other industries have very similar ties. And so we’re all thinking about what’s another outlet. Or another way to get through to this. And if I look at, and I think it’s great, you know, there’s a number of groups like that, that are out there. This one’s really for executives. And again, it’s invite only and it’s got some special parameters around it. But if you look at advisors have their affinity groups trust officers have their affinity groups, right CEOs have their affinity groups. It’s not until recently that you know, heads of digital strategies, or Chief Digital Officers or CTOs had theirs as well. But when you’re in a change agent type of role, like most of us, that has a digital Chief Digital Officers are, there isn’t really anything. So it’s nice to see this emergence of I always call it shoulder to cry on but it’s really nice to go and understand that like, that’s what the grass is greener anywhere else that other people are dealing with the similar issues. You’re not alone. Maybe it’s a support group. But I think it’s a really wonderful organization. Greg does a wonderful job about bringing the right people together and allowing us to kind of have a forum to each help each other work through problems.

Jack Sharry: Okay. So right this has been a lot of fun. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation, share many of the same challenges opportunities that you described in terms of changing the world I was fun to change the world to be a little lord. So I’m really appreciate the conversation. What are three key takeaways you’d like to share with our audience?

Rod Sayegh: Never settle. If you are client asked for what you want. Don’t be afraid to ask your advisor for what you want, and what experience you want. And last but not least, if you’re a change agent, you will always look like the crazy person in the room. And once you get a few more followers, you’ll start to look less crazy. But revel in the crazy. Yeah,

Jack Sharry: I’m with you all the way. Our other favorite question as we look to close out is it off topic from maybe we’ll see what you how you answer, but what is it that you do outside of work that you’re particularly passionate or excited about that people might find interesting or exciting?

Rod Sayegh: I’m not like everyone else. I love traveling and meeting new people. My other passion is storytelling and talking about experiences from my own personal life and sharing those getting audiences to laugh maybe a little bit in that sense. And last but not least, I am looking for are to writing a book on coaching. And one of the things I really take pride in is coaching my team to excellence and they’re wonderful team. They’re really talking about those principles in a book and what I’ve learned and just kind of sharing it out things that I wish I would have known of coming into this.

Jack Sharry: Good for you. That’s great. That’s great. I love it. So Rod, thanks so much. It’s been a great conversation really have enjoyed getting to know you and what you do and how you do it. I see that you’re rather effective at the whole, the whole package so well done. For our audience. If you’ve enjoyed our podcasts, please rate review, subscribe, and or share what we’re doing here at WealthTech on Deck. We’re available wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you again, RoD. It’s been a real pleasure.

Rod Sayegh: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.