How Citigroup is Trying to Leverage Social Networking

This post is a summary of a session from the FRA’s 8th Annual Managed Accounts Summit. The speaker was Chandresh Iyer, Managing Director and Head of Global Custody & Investment Services, Citigroup.

Chandresh began by stating that Citigroup is looking at social networking as a means of delivering advice, since you’re more likely to do something if you see that your peers are doing it as well. A few months ago, Citi spun off a company called Bundle.com, which allows users to compare how people in various demographics are spending their money.  Bundle.com is also back by Microsoft and Morningstar.  Earlier reports put the investment by Microsoft and Citigroup at $5 million. 

Chandresh also recommended checking out a website called Wealthfront.com (formerly Kaching.com), which provides money manager screening and recommendations and facilitates direct investing by retail customers. Wealthfront provides transparency into your account(s), offers lower manager minimums, detailed manager data and drift alerts.

Could Wealthfront gather enough market share to make it a serious distribution channel? Since its inception one year ago it has attracted more than $100 million to its investing platform. They have a way to go before they even register on the distribution scale, but it’s definitely something to keep your eye on.  If they get traction, they could become the E*Trade of managed accounts.  Providing individual investors to cut out the middleman and invest directly with the managers of their choice.  I’ll be reviewing Wealthfront.com in greater depth very soon.

From a product perspective, according to Chandresh, Citi is also looking beyond traditional assets to alternative investments including private equity and commodities, Chandresh explained.  Citi Private Bank launched a new product platform called the Tailored Managed Investments Group within their Tailored Portfolio.  “Why do people in the HNW segment choose these platforms?”, Chandresh asked.  Say a $200 mm HNW client is looking for access to hedge funds.  They could go directly to a hedge fund and invest, but what they don’t want to do is be the ones to have to make the withdrawal request when the markets turn against the fund.  They don’t want to appear to be the bad guy.  They don’t want to damage the relationship that they’ve built up with the hedge fund manager.   What these platforms do is enable anonymity, he said.

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