The founders of Personal Capital had a vision to offer an intelligent, unified, personal wealth management application that empowers people to take control of their financial lives. Using a financial dashboard combined with mobile apps, customers can link all their financial accounts in one place. Personal Capital sought to transform the wealth management industry through transparency, ease of use, and powerful analytics made available to everyday investors.
Personal Capital faced three key challenges. The first was finding a way to securely aggregate up-to-date personal financial account information. Personal Capital also needed market data to provide accurate investment information. It discovered that working directly with exchanges to obtain financial content required costly subscriptions, dedicated network connections, and long-term contracts—which were significant barriers to entry for a lean startup. It needed to find a provider capable of delivering more affordable and easily integrated source of market data. Finally, Personal Capital had to identify infrastructure that would deliver scalable, real-time performance and advanced analytics capabilities without the overhead of traditional, capital-intensive data center deployments.
Personal Capital determined that by building its solution entirely on Amazon Web Services (AWS), starting with a foundation of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for computing and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for storage, it could achieve the agility and elasticity needed for rapid growth while keeping costs low.
The company partnered with Yodlee for the software that supports account aggregation services. For financial data needed to power the platform, Xignite was the ideal fit because it offered more than 40 financial feeds providing real-time, historical, and reference data across all asset classes, without the complex and costly requirements of direct market feeds. Personal Capital knew it could rely on Xignite, an AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Technology Partner with AWS Financial Services Competency status, as well as a long track record of offering APIs to power mobile financial applications, websites, and front-, middle-, and back-office functions for more than 1,000 clients globally.
“Because Xignite is hosted on AWS, we have unlimited scalability for companies such as Personal Capital,” says Kerry Langstaff, chief marketing officer at Xignite. “We handle more than two-hundred billion client API calls per month, and that number continues to grow.”
“Xignite provides the rich market data, reliability, and scale we need to provide fluid user experiences and in-depth insights,” says Fritz Robbins, chief technology officer at Personal Capital.
As AWS offerings continue to expand, Personal Capital has been able to test and adopt them quickly, thus accelerating time to market and enabling the development of innovative user-experiences. By using Amazon Redshift as a data warehouse, Personal Capital gained a scalable foundation for advanced analytics. Amazon Athena offers serverless interactive queries and Amazon Redshift Spectrum runs SQL queries against a petabyte of data that Personal Capital has in Amazon Redshift. “Using AWS elevates our customer experience and helps us focus on adding value rather than plumbing,” says Robbins. “It has been a dramatic evolution in our ability to innovate.”
By combining AWS infrastructure with APN partner solutions to power its platform, Personal Capital has become one of the fastest growing wealth management services, with more than 1.6 million users, $500 billion in tracked assets, and $6.5 billion under management by the company’s financial professionals.
“We’re a growth company,” Robbins asserts. “Accelerating time-to-market and increasing the number of accounts we service are our two major goals, and AWS helps us achieve both. It helps us speed innovation, deliver updates and new features to customers quickly, and constantly improve our product and customer satisfaction.” Personal Capital releases application updates on a weekly basis, which Robbins notes would be impossible if the company also had to manage the underlying infrastructure and platform.
Speed of innovation was achieved during a recent migration from self-managed MySQL databases running on Amazon EC2 to Amazon Aurora, fully managed on Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS). This migration provided commercial database performance at dramatically lower cost than competing solutions. “Adopting Amazon Aurora is a game-changer because we offload management, security, and backup to AWS,” reports Robbins. “When we managed our own databases, it could take days or even weeks to spin up a new instance, replicate data, load test, patch, and so on. With Amazon Aurora, it takes a few clicks or a few lines of script and a new instance is running in minutes. If you multiply those productivity gains across the organization, it’s huge.”
Personal Capital is also using AWS as the foundation of its data science efforts. “Advanced analytics allow us to differentiate our offerings,” says Robbins. “For example, fees are difficult to understand if they are hidden in mutual fund expense ratios or other obscure places. Analyzing the rich data provided by Xignite in the Amazon Redshift data warehouse demonstrates to customers the true cost of their investments. Having elastic compute power at our fingertips is transformative for serious number crunching.”
Xignite, an AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Technology Partner and AWS Financial Services Compentency Program member, is the provider of the Xignite Market Data Cloud platform, which allows companies to simplify infrastructure, scale quickly, and innovate faster. Xignite’s cloud-based solutions free clients from the constraints of hardware and software so they can create financial services products that touch millions of users and devices.
Learn more about Financial Services Cloud Solutions.