Asheesh Chanda| Founder of Kristal.AI
Success leaves clues.
Finance Strategists sat down with Asheesh Chanda, founder of Kristal.AI. He shared his thoughts on the past, present, and future of the company, as well as the insight he gained from running the business.
Who is Asheesh Chanda?
Q: Who are you and what’s your background?
I am Asheesh Chanda, a postgraduate from IIM Bangalore Batch of 2002 and a Computer Science Engineer from IIT Delhi Batch of 2000. I have over 15 years of experience in the financial industry, and I am a licensed Responsible Officer and CEO of Kristal.AI, a Digital-First Private Wealth platform for both private wealth and retail investors.
Prior to founding Kristal.AI, I headed fixed income and currency solutions for JP Morgan in South and Southeast Asia for 8 years and served as the Vice President for institutional sales and structuring at BNP Paribas for 3 years.
From 2014 – 2016, I started my own hedge fund startup called Kris Capital, a Singapore based global macro hedge fund. At Kris Capital, I managed investments across multiple asset classes and programmed trading strategies that are systematic and algorithmic in nature, optimizing Sharpe ratios and minimizing drawdowns.
While I spend a substantial part of my time in understanding and trading financial markets, I am also a python programmer and a quasi techie at heart, having held several accomplishments during my studies including All India Rank 51 in IIT Entrance 1996 and is also an Indian National Math Olympiad scholar as well as Indian Physics Olympiad scholar.
Q: Who has been your biggest influence, and why did they have such a significant effect on you?
I would say the thing which influenced me the most is not a particular person, but rather the “Democratization of Technology” concept.
Times are changing, and technology is not just available to big corporations, developers, and wealthy people nowadays. While it is hard to predict exactly what will happen five or ten years down the road, one thing that’s pretty certain is such democratized access to powerful technology will create a virtuous circle of innovation that will no doubt improve the living standard of people.
The democratization of technology has the power to change people’s lives globally, as it opens a host of new opportunities and possibilities. Digital-native companies such as Uber, Amazon, and Airbnb have changed our expectations of every business. They survived the challenge by building data-driven culture and giving people new ways to make money through development and.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have told yourself when you were in your twenties?
When I started, it was just me and 4 interns. Today we are 4 years old with 150 Million USD in AUM, and over 60 employees in Singapore, Hong Kong, and India. When you see that kind of growth it is hard not to get enthused. Entrepreneurship is like chasing cars: what you need to be sure of is that the car you are chasing is a Rolls Royce and not something else. For me, having been both an investor and an advisor, it was easy to see how the traditional banking system fails to live up to its promises and the inherent class system that is built into it. Traditional banking and finance have relied heavily on algorithms for automation and analysis. However, these were exclusive only to large and established institutions. Once I decided that I wanted to break it, it was easy to stay motivated and help people. The trust that our investors bestow in us, is enough to keep us going.
Q: What is Kristal.AI?
Headquartered in Singapore, Kristal.AI is a Digital-First Private Wealth platform that offers both retail and accredited investors access to global investment with customized portfolio strategy. We are a leading and award-winning wealth management platform with over 150 Million USD in AUM from both high-net-worth individuals and retail clients across more than 20 countries/regions. The company’s proprietary algorithm helps investors choose the best investment strategies which are overseen and vetted by our investment committees so that they can meet their long-term financial goals effortlessly. Clients can invest in a well-diversified multi-asset portfolio from an array of curated ETFs, thematic baskets, alternative investments, etc. or customized solutions based on their risk profile and market views.
Q: What makes your company different from its competitors?
The new-gen investor needs strategies personalized for their individual risk profile, lifestyle, and expectations. Some people may compare us to traditional robo-advisors. However, we are not just a robo-advisor as we actively manage our clients’ portfolios, thereby combining the power of human emotion and personalization of financial needs with the efficiency of artificial intelligence.
Traditional banks offer such hyper-personalization only to high-profile clients, but we are a hybrid. With the wide swathe of wealthy people underserved by top-end concierge-type providers, those too rich for banks’ premier retail services and not rich enough to be worth the cost of onboarding and servicing by private banks will come to Kristal.AI. Thanks to our AI-based model with a human touch, our cost is driven down, and our relationship managers can handle 3X clients compared with normal banks with our middle office app. We provide better products and services for both the mass market and high-net-worth clients at ultra-low fees.
Q: What led you to start Kristal.AI?
Having over 15 years of experience in the financial industry with stints at J.P. Morgan & Chase (Head, South and Southeast Asia), BNP Paribas (Vice President), and Citibank (FX and Fixed Income Structuring), I had seen first-hand how people’s reaction changed towards advisors and service providers post 2008 economic slowdown. People had lost trust in the system and were holding their advisors accountable like never. Investors were looking for a platform, which gave them the freedom to make informed decisions.
The need for personalization, transparency, and trust among investors was the driving factor for my decision to create Kristal.AI in 2016. I was later joined by my classmate from IIT Delhi, Vineeth Narasimhan, a product expert with nearly two decades of experience building Cloud and mobile solutions. He is also the Co-founder & CTO of Kristal.AI.
Q: What has the experience of building the business taught you?
Creativity is what fuels big ideas, challenges employees’ mindset, and opens doors to new business opportunities. I believe that the creative sources behind the company are its mission and people. If the team is stuck on a roadblock or a failure, I will inspire them not to give up and further push them to find new routes to move ahead. As a competent leader, I also think that the startup culture is intrinsically averse to anything that is not creative. “Being fast-paced and adaptive means you have to be quick on your feet and those who aren’t, do not survive the process. It is an organic culling; an inherent, silent ritual in the startup world.”
Q: Where do you see things headed for you in the next 5 years?
Kristal.AI aims to make sophisticated investment advice cost-effective, personalized and accessible to both retail and accredited investors, via the adoption of automated investment algorithms and the intelligence of financial experts. We have strategized a roadmap that involves better growth and future expansion plans. The company is planning to expand via channel partners into the Middle East and South-East Asia as one of our key milestones in the short-term roadmap.
In the next 5 years, we expect to be one of the largest digital wealth management platforms, whatever clients are trying to achieve with their investment goals we will be able to structure a plan that will suit their needs. We also aim to expand in more locations including the U.S. and European countries with a prime focus on providing Western investors access to Asian markets.
Kristal.AI is a global, digital-first private wealth platform for comprehensive, no-frills wealth management solutions for sophisticated high net worth and first time investors. Powered by an unparalleled combination of advanced algorithms and investment professionals, we focus on providing personalized products and unbiased advice. Learn more at https://kristal.ai/.