Name: David Benskin
Position: Founder, CEO of Wealth Access
Education: B.A., University of Tennessee
Account aggregation tools are plentiful for both individuals and advisors—think Mint.com or Personal Capital. So why does David Benskin think Wealth Access can stand out from the pack? It’s the only one, he says, that takes the complexities of high-net-worth, multigenerational families into account.
In fact, the three-year-old company has some $7 billion “under measurement,” and is seeing about $600 million a month coming onto the platform, half of which is not from traditional financial institutions, Benskin says. Rather, it’s from direct investments in private companies, limited partnerships in hedge funds, trusts, personal property, and so on. “The problem that Wealth Access is solving is fragmentation,” Benskin says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s student loans or dynasty trusts. We let you organize that information and share it with your advisor.”
Benskin spent about 15 years working with Merrill Lynch, and still recalls the “voids” that existed when trying to grapple with a high-net-worth client’s portfolio. He would literally build spreadsheets, spending hours deep into the night before family meetings inputting their data, pulling information from screenshots of emails and account statements. “Why am I doing this?” he asked himself.
He left Merrill and founded Wealth Access in March 2011, and had a functional prototype of the tool by January 2012. The firm recently raised $3 million in early-stage financing and employs 17 people. The platform is cloud-based, pulls in holdings from 20,000 financial institutions—substantially more than its competitors—and is easily viewed on tablets and mobile phones.
“Our clients are RIAs and family offices, as well as accounting firms blending into the wealth management space,” he says. Unlike other online platforms, Wealth Access white-labels the tool for advisors. All advisory firms and clients get an onboarding consultant and ongoing customer assistance.
Wealth Access won’t provide valuations for hard or illiquid assets. Clients and advisors make those judgment calls for themselves. Some advisors prefer to keep it at cost, he says, while others might take a different approach for wealth transfer purposes. The tool does take in Zillow valuations for real estate holdings, but Benskin says most of the time advisors or clients overwrite those anyway.
One benefit is the tool allows holdings to be shared with a family’s other advisors and confidants, if desired, while keeping the primary wealth manager at the center of the conversation. “Everyone is coming to their site, which enables them to be the quarterback and take part in conversations they were not always part of,” he says.