The Business Year

Andrés Villaquirán

COLOMBIA - Finance

Andrés Villaquirán

CEO, Insights

Bio

Andres is a serial entrepreneur and is now in his fourth company. His focus has been in Fintech where he has successfully built businesses in the US, Latin America, Europe and the UK, and Asia. His professional career started in New York where he worked at JP Morgan and Credit Suisse for seven years. Academically he has pursued Bachelors’ degrees from MIT, Masters’ degrees from NYU and Stanford University, and a PhD from Stanford University.

TBY talks to Andrés Villaquirán, CEO of Insights, about the company’s value proposition, regulations, and the transformative role of digital technology.

For more information visit: https://www.insightswm.com/

 

What does Insights specialize in and what is the company’s value proposition to the market? What impact can be achieved in finance from combining technology and personal advisory?

Insights links Latin American investors to global capital markets and financial services. In Latin America, the best access to financial services is limited to high-net worth individuals, specifically in investments. As the emerging middle class and mass affluent population of Latin America continues to grow,  this group of people do  not have access to top financial services at typical and competitive costs. At Insights, we are addressing this need. Right now, our infrastructure allows people to download our app from the comfort of their homes, whether they are in Bogotá, Mexico City, or Santiago. In five minutes, they can have their own personal regulated account in the US that allows them to access investments and financial services globally. It is easier to open an account in the US with our service than it is to open a local account. Customers have access to better diversification, better products, and significantly lower costs. Advisory is not about telling people if the market is going up or down; it is about financial planning, transparency, and understanding the level of risk you should, or should not, be taking. It is extremely important to develop that understanding and financial education so as to become more knowledgeable and comfortable with your investments. Technology allows us to develop that with our clients in an efficient and scalable manner. 

Who can benefit from partnering with Insights, and how do the 100% regulated accounts that you offer work?

Anyone interested in investing is able to benefit from Insights. One of the advantages of having a fully digital product is that we can service at a very reasonable cost any type of account. We have clients that are wealthy but do not want to be charged the high cost of private banking, we have clients that are young professionals that are building their savings for their future and the future of their family, and we have clients that are starting to learn about investments. One of the key points of our product is that you can use Insights all on your own, or you can choose to have someone to talk to and guide you. We are fully regulated in the US under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). All of our accounts are regulated by the SEC  and are personal accounts. Each account is protected by SIPC insurance. In addition, from a regulatory point of view, we have adopted a strategy where we are involved with the local regulators to let them know what we do, what is happening, and where we see disruption taking place. Initially we are doing this in the four countries that are our main targets: Colombia, Mexico, Chile, and Peru.

۬What is the importance of using technology to improve how clients interact with the platform?

First, technology empowers us to open an account for someone in under five minutes with all the due processes still needed to open a financial account in the US. In addition to that, through efficient UI/UX we make it easy, simple, intuitive, for our users to set up investment portfolios, invest in real time, and understand their performance with full transparency. I have been in finance for over 25 years and one common issue is the lack of transparency from financial institutions with their investors on their performance, returns, the fees they are charged. Most people do not understand, or need help understanding, the statements they are sent by their financial institutions. This has started to change globally and we are part of a group of Fintech companies driving that change in Latam. Finally, there is the use of technology that we have built to dynamically monitor and evaluate our clients’ investments and make sure their portfolios are optimized. We fully automate this process for our users and take away the bias from portfolio managers, which many peer-reviewed research has shown do not provide value but they do increase the cost to investors.

How is digital technology transforming investments and strengthening the financial sector in Latin America?

Technology is transforming every market. A consumer today in Latin America has access to products from all over the world, instantly from their phone. It only makes sense that the same has to happen to investments and financial services in general. Investors no longer have to be limited to what is available locally, but have access to an unparalleled breadth of potential investments, different asset classes, industries, and geographies. All through a regulated and supervised market, with transparency, lower costs, and real-time. This increasingly benefits the end investor and strengthens the financial sector, and therefore my personal experience with regulators from Latin America, but also the US, UK, Europe, and Asia, is that they welcome this change, done under the right regulatory framework. 

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