What’s the future of wealth management? And what good can come out from 41 years of experience in financial services? Read or watch the next episode of our inspiring series of interviews, Ask Me AnyFin, where we talk to extraordinary insiders of the FinTech industry. This time we met with Akshaya Bhargava, the founder of Bridgeweave — a company on a mission to make investing more accessible.
Wealth management expert says, “Ask Me AnyFin,” and is not afraid to answer
Akshaya Bhargava is the founder of Bridgeweave, a FinTech firm that uses AI models to provide institutional-quality research signals and investment ideas to investors, advisors, and asset managers. Bridgeweave’s flagship product is InvestorAi, an app for end investors in equity markets.
Akshaya has 41 years of vast experience in financial services. As he says, throughout his career, he found the biggest joy in knowing that his work is bringing real added value to the world. That’s how the Bridgeweave idea was born.
Knowing that, we simply had to meet with Akshaya and use this chance to Ask Him AnyFin…
Watch the conversation with Akshaya or read the transcript below.
An innovative idea born out of 41 years of experience
Małgorzata Łabanowska: Hello. Our Ask Me AnyFin guest today is Akshaya Bhargava, who has vast experience in wealth management. He has just launched InvestorAi, a product that makes investing more accessible. Akshaya, can you tell us a bit more about your background and how it influenced your decision to set up Bridgeweave?
Akshaya Bhargava: I have 41 years of work experience. So I’m not your typical 27-year-old entrepreneur. If I look back at my career, I have two different types of experience. I spent many years in financial services. I spent 22 years with Citibank — that was my first job. I moved to London from India with Citibank, then to Prague also with Citibank, and then I moved back to London. I did many things in many countries.
Then I switched completely and joined Infosys, an Indian technology company, a huge company. I built a BPO business from them. We went from zero to 8 000 people in four years. It was very hard work, we never slept, but it was a hugely successful business. We were generating about 26% post-tax. We were growing 25%, quarter after quarter — very successful business.
Then I spent some years in alternative asset management, the hedge fund world. Not as a money manager, but creating platforms that provide services to institutional investors. I also set up my own business, and I sold it to State Street, the Boston Bank. Then I joined Barclays as Global Head of Wealth and Investment. And in 2018, I set up Bridgeweave. So if you look at it, it’s a series of things, and you sort of wonder what is the background here?
When I started to think about Bridgeweave, I was about 60 (I’m 64 now). So I was coming on to 60, and I said to myself, “I need to think about my life. In my 30+ years of working, what are the moments I have been the happiest? And what are the moments when I felt I was really adding value to the world?” And I thought that there were three or four moments — and in all of those moments, the common thread was I was building something, and I believed it would make a difference to the industry.
And I think for me, both these things come together in Bridgeweave. That’s why I started the idea of Bridgeweave. Our goal is very simple. We want to use advanced technology like AI to help every investor in the world make better investment decisions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a retail investor. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a wealth advisor, advising customers on investments. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a hedge fund money manager. You can still use some help from technology, and it will help you make better decisions. That’s what we are all about.
The Iron Man’s suit of wealth management
Lucas Korol: Actually, you answered the question we would like to ask you right now about your product, InvestorAi. But could you please elaborate a bit more about the idea behind InvestorAi and why you built this product? For which target users it’s made for and who will be using it?
Akshaya Bhargava: That’s an excellent question. Let me give you an analogy. You’ve seen the Iron Man movie, right?
Lucas Korol: Yeah.
Akshaya Bhargava: So he discovered this power source that he put in his chest, a particle accelerator. That’s the one that provides the power for everything. It powers his suit, his computer, his helmet vision, and all the rest. That’s the heart of it, and it’s an inexhaustible power supply.
Similarly, the heart of Bridgeweave is the ability to generate very high-quality investment ideas and signals using masses of market data. All our signals are predictive in nature. You know, we are very different.
We do 800 billion calculations, but those calculations are really meant to create data in which we look for patterns across the last ten years. And we convert these patterns into visual images. Then we convert our algorithms into visual images, and when there’s a match, that’s a signal. So what the computer is doing here is not lots of analysis, but it’s doing pattern recognition. It’s like facial recognition. The more you train [it], the more Occidental faces it sees, the better it gets at recognizing a Western face.
The more Indian faces it sees, the better it gets at recognizing Indian faces. That’s how we played that. That’s a very high-quality engine, a very different engine. In their raw form, these signals are very hard to understand for people like you and me. So we package them. The first package we have created is what we call InvestorAi. It is a mobile app. You don’t see the particle accelerator, that’s hidden inside. But you see its output. That output is meant for people who either know what they’re doing in terms of the stock market or people who want to learn — and there’s a large community of those.
There is also another package that we have just released, which we call FtM Portfolios. FtM stands for Follow the Machine. This one is meant for people who can’t be bothered to find the right type to buy, the right type to sell. So it creates a portfolio out of the best signals, and with one click, you buy the entire portfolio.
Once a week, you get a message from me, “Check your portfolio rebalance.” You click once, your portfolio will be balanced, that’s all. And we’re going to be coming up with newer and newer things over time. Think of us as the company that can generate high-quality signals. Our first and flagship product is InvestorAi which packages these signals for a retail investor. And by the way, all your viewers who are listening to this, please go to the Play Store or the App Store if you want to see how it works. It’s called InvestorAi. Download it, play with it, and let me know what you think.
The biggest challenge of product launch
Lucas Korol: I have a side question because you mentioned that it’s also a solution for retail investors. I guess there’s a very interesting challenge with this group of users that sometimes you have to educate them about the data they see. No matter how you package this signal or data you want to provide to them, there will probably always be some kind of a gap in knowledge or understanding of what comes from your engine. So do you agree that this is a challenge in this solution and if yes, how do you address this?
Akshaya Bhargava: I’m smiling because this is a real problem that we are facing. So, you know, in Bridgeweave I’m the founder, all my team consists of very, very experienced people. And one of the reasons our app is so different and unique from everything else is because the 20, 30, 50 years of experience shows in what we do. The flip side of that is that feedback that we started to get is that it’s not very easy to start. Once you start, then it is wonderful. But the first 15 days are not very easy.
And as you know, whether you launch anything in the market, if your first 15 days are difficult, then it is difficult. So somebody introduced me to a person. I was amazed. This is the most intelligent person I’ve met. And he said, “I don’t like this. I don’t like this. This has to change. That has to change. This is too complicated. This I don’t understand.” Anyway, long story short. He’s now helping us redesign some of our journeys. He is 22 years old. He’s working at it right now. But when he’s finished, I want to say that InvestorAi is an app founded by a 64-year-old, but it’s designed by a 22-year-old.
So it’s a hugely important question. And I think every startup faces that. We are lucky we have found a somewhat unique way to solve it. But the other thing is this problem is never solved.
Artificial Intelligence in wealth management
Lucas Korol: Let’s go back to the technology side of it. You mentioned that, in general, you process a huge amount of data and use Artificial Intelligence. Could you tell us a bit more about the technology side of this product? And it would be quite interesting to know how you try or plan to use Artificial Intelligence to help solve the problem.
Akshaya Bhargava: Think of it in three parts. The first part of our technology is the ability to take in data. So we subscribe to data. This is very expensive if anybody is a subscriber now. So we spend a lot of money on data. Then we take that data, and we get 900 pieces of information for every security that we cover every day. Then we have to compute something based on the data. So we do about 800 million calculations a day. Once we have the output of this, then it goes into our algorithms.
Our algorithms are looking for breakout patterns. For example, one of our algorithms is called Alpha 3:30. And as the name might indicate, it means it looks for stocks that have a high probability of delivering a 3% return in 30 days.
It generates 500 signals at any point in time, so it is very productive. There are a lot of stocks that can do that. So that algorithm has identified a visual pattern of how Alpha 3:30 breakout looks. And the ability to convert data into computer vision, as you know, is quite important. By the way, that’s how facial recognition works. Once the algorithm is created with those visual patterns, it then goes and looks for those visual patterns in all the data. And then it will say, boom, that’s a signal, that’s a signal, that’s a signal.
So we create signals through pattern recognition. That’s the second part. The first part is data prep. The second part is signal generation. The third part is we capture everything that the user does. So we know that Lucas looked at Tesla, then at Amazon, Facebook. Maybe there is a conclusion that he likes technology stocks, that he likes large-cap, growth stocks. So we start making a real-time profile for you and start increasing the wattage of this thing.
Then Małgosia comes along, and she says, “I like Walmart and Amazon.” So what she’s looking at is very different so her profile will be different.
That’s what Netflix does. That’s what Amazon does. Because you bought a pen, here are 40 pens you must look at. I don’t know why they think that once I bought a pen, I need to keep buying pens. Once I bought it, it’s over. Anyways, jokes apart. But that’s what it does. That is the total engine that we have.
InvestorAi’s market adoption strategy
Lucas Korol: Very interesting, thanks for this. So, you launched your product quite recently. You already mentioned the challenges of being a startup launching a new product and the general problem of the learning curve, which is always step one at the beginning of the market adoption. So we are quite curious whether you already have some feedback from some of your early adopters. Do you recognize any potential challenges in achieving the proper market adoption with your product?
Akshaya Bhargava: Market adoption is always a big challenge. I will never tell you that’s no problem. Oh, it happens, all you need is a good product. No, you need a good product, and you need good distribution. So our primary strategy is to work with partners. Our primary strategy, go-to-market, is B2B2C. The middle B is our partner; we are the first B, and C is our customer. But what we found is that to start the conversation, you have to have some customers. You can’t have zero.
I can’t come to you and say, “Lucas, you have a great platform; you have 50 000 customers. Please distribute my product.” And you say, “How many customers do you have?” And I say, “Oh, zero, we just started.” So you’ll say, “Go away and come back when you have customers.” So we started some small digital marketing efforts, spending very little money.
We have about 12 000 registered users at the moment, of which 6 400 are monthly active. So they come to us at least once a month. And they’ve been doing that for the past four-five months. Soft launch. When they come, they spend, on average, 6.9 minutes on my app. And if you’re familiar with the app for 6.9 minutes, it’s huge. I asked a friend from Barclays how much time his people spend on the mobile app — he said 1.3 minutes. So 6.9 is a huge engagement. People have fun, they like using it, playing around with it.
We also found exactly the problem you alluded to earlier — the first 15 days, 30 days. So we’ve started something called InvestorAi Academy. And we teach people about investments, how the app works, how you should think about good and bad stocks, etc. We do a webinar every Saturday, which I personally host. I’ve been doing it for the last four-five months. We have 20-30 webinars in the form of recordings on YouTube; you can look at them. And we openly talk to people when users ask questions, and it is so active.
We typically present for about 20-30 minutes, and then there are questions. We have to shut it down, say, “Guys, stop, no more questions.”
And you know, my experience is that many of these are very young people. They are so hungry to learn, so hungry for knowledge. And as an older generation, I feel it is my responsibility that whatever I’ve built educates and informs as much as it helps.
Because that is the only way we will create a generation of responsible and good investors. People like Robinhood have done wonderfully because they made it very easy to buy.
But what do you buy? Everybody will buy Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Tesla, and that kind of stuff. But nobody will buy BeyondSpring because you never heard of BeyondSpring. Look it up. It has gone up 137% in 20 days. And we identified it on day one. Nobody will identify Plug Power. Plug Power went up 230%. Because you don’t know, and that is why you need good quality information, which is what we give you.
Małgorzata Łabanowska: I would like to comment because it sounds inspiring, and I think it’s really clever how your app approaches investing. I’ve downloaded the app. It feels like a discovery tool. It’s got a welcoming design. So I totally agree. I like it, I really like it.
Akshaya Bhargava: Thank you. It is a discovery tool, but it’s a self-discovery tool — with some help. We have deliberately, as a strategy, decided we will not give advice. We are not a robo advisor. If you want advice, please go somewhere else.
And let me give you an example of the UK market. It has 17.6 million active investors, of which 4.2 million get advice. That means 12.4 million do not get advice. I think out of the 12 million, honestly, there are about 6 or 7 million who are very, very small. They should be in a savings product rather than trying to invest.
So even if you take that, there’s 5-6 million unadvised who don’t want advice, who want to do it themselves. That is our target market. It is bigger than the wealth management target market, which only focuses on the price. That’s what we are doing. If you’re interested in investments, Gosia, we want to make you Iron Man. You can fly. You’re the human. And InvestorAi is your suit.
The future of wealth management
Małgorzata Łabanowska: About the future of wealth management. How do you think it will change in the coming two decades? And how can technology assist in the transformation?
Akshaya Bhargava: That’s an extraordinarily good question. I think in the coming two decades, technology is the transition. Without technology, nothing can happen. In traditional wealth management, you give me the money, I manage it for you, and then you make some return. Or I give you advice, and you do what you want, and I charge you for advice. So in the old model of wealth management, you pay me for what I do for you. I think this is going to change completely.
I don’t think wealth management will disappear, but it will diminish in importance. The new model of tomorrow will be something I call wealth enablement where you pay me for tools that I give you, that allow you to do what you want. That is very different.
Wealth enablement will be based on self-service, organic discovery, on a digital platform only and a mobile, not even the web. It will be based on curated ideas coming from trusted sources.
And trusted sources will not be banks or institutions. They will be friends, colleagues, people you trust in your social life. It’s a very different world. And the digital consumer or wealth investor of today will drive this change because they won’t engage with the old model. They will want a new model. I think a whole new model has to emerge in the world. And I come from the wealth industry, so I am very passionate about this, as you can see. I really think the wealth industry, if it does not do anything today, will face a massive problem.
It will be an existential threat for them. And that is what we are trying to do; We are trying to create the wealth model of tomorrow.
A peek into Bridgeweave’s plans
Małgorzata Łabanowska: It sounds really, really exciting, and… Can you reveal any future plans for Bridgeweave and any additional products?
Akshaya Bhargava: We have the particle accelerator, which is our core engine that will always stay. We have our version for the retail investor and our version for somebody who doesn’t want to make daily decisions. We are coming up with a new version, a trading bot that will allow you to train the bot to your requirements, and the bot will go and buy and sell things for you. We want to look at a higher-end version of our algorithms for a money manager, like the hedge fund market.
For instance, in InvestorAi you will see no short recommendations. And that is on purpose because we don’t want to give short recommendations. If somebody else does it, that’s fine. But if you’re a hedge fund manager, I can easily give short recommendations to you because you have the knowledge and the experience. So there’ll be higher-end, I would say.
Another thing we are talking about is how we create expanded versions of our insights and micro usage. So there’s a whole world of things that we are working on, so watch this space. Lots of things to come.
Małgorzata Łabanowska: We will. Thank you. So this was our last question. Thank you for sharing your vision. It really is contagious. I wish you all the best with InvestorAi and all the developments.
Akshaya Bhargava: Thank you so much. And thank you so much for inviting me to speak to your audience.
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