Morgan Stanley execs join financial planning fintech

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In a bid to speed its expansion into the enterprise market, a young software firm recruited a clutch of former Morgan Stanley executives, including Chris Salvaggio, the wirehouse’s former executive overseeing development of financial planning tools.

Advizr CEO Hussain Zaidi chalked up the string of hires to the New York-based firm’s growth in the market. Having raised $7 million in Series A funding last June from a number of industry firms, Advizr now serves over 1,000 advisory firms with $25 billion in assets.

“We’ve onboarded about a third of our business in the last six months,” Zaidi says. “So we are starting to attract folks who wouldn’t come otherwise, but are now seeing the opportunity.”

Salvaggio, an 18-year veteran, was named Advizr’s new head of customer success. Additionally, Vibin Chowallur, who most recently managed Morgan Stanley’s financial planning support desk, was named the firm’s new program director for financial planning practice management; Janice Y. Chan-Mui, who led private banking product marketing programs at Morgan Stanley, was named director of marketing; and Brian Morgan, who was responsible for financial planning training and support for the New England, Midwest and Northwest Regions at the wirehouse, was named manager of new product development.

The new recruits will help Advizr reach smaller broker-dealers, Zaidi says, with the firm positioning itself as a turnkey financial planning program, offering product, coaching, analytics and marketing campaigns.

“The team we hired, this is their experience, this is what they were doing at Morgan Stanley,” Zaidi says.

“We’re focusing on the bigger part of market not doing planning,” he adds. “We’re squarely focused on the institutional side, to helping them to plan and make it as easy as possible.”

The hiring announcement is surprising given Advizr is still in an early stage, notes Joel Bruckenstein, founder of the Technology Tools for Today advisor conference.

"It seems a bit unusual to get four execs from a firm like Morgan Stanley at this stage of development," Bruckenstein says.

The move could be seen as a message to wirehouses trying to develop but control their technology, one recruiter notes.

“They see what’s going on outside the walls of Morgan Stanley,” says Frank LaRosa, founder of Elite Consulting Partners in Moorestown, New Jersey. “The larger firms are consistently behind the curve when it comes to technology, they want to be part of the curve.”

Morgan Stanley confirmed the four executives were no longer employed by the wirehouse.

Some of the executives left Morgan Stanley as far back as 2016, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The announcement follows the firm's recruitment last summer of Chad Blythe, former head of sales at MoneyGuidePro, and Rachel Sanborn, formerly head of user acceptance testing and subject matter expert at LearnVest.

Advizr has also partnered with Alight Solutions (formerly part of Aon Hewitt) to bring enterprise clients onto Advizr Workplace, its institutional platform. Zaidi says two Fortune 500 firms are already piloting and the goal is to have 10 Fortune 500 companies onboard by the end of the year.

The employee wellness space is a niche other planning software firms have not found a footing in, he notes. “It’s really a different market,” Zaidi says. “There are other players in that space, but financial planning is not baked into employee wellness, and wellness is very hot with every corporation.”

Notably, Advizr has shifted from its earlier scrappy stance in planning software. Zaidi says his firm’s focus on enterprise and institutional is partly designed to avoid a bruising battle in a competitive advisor tech market.

“We have no interest competing against eMoney or MoneyGuidePro,” Zaidi says. “We want to serve asset managers, insurance agents and advisors who want to do more financial planning and need help scaling better.”

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