Crossbridge CONNECT Builds One Of Singapore’s First Robo-Advisors on AWS
Private Banking for the Rest of Us
For people with ample disposable income, there are generally two main investment options: private banks and wealth management firms, which typically require minimum investments of $5 million, or premier retail banks, which primarily target mass affluent account holders such as business owners. Crossbridge Capital, a global investment company with an office in Singapore, created its CONNECT digital wealth management platform in 2016 to serve a niche market.
CONNECT—with its tagline “Private Banking for the Rest of Us”—is one of Singapore’s first robo-advisory service. It assesses clients’ appetite for risk and investment tenure via an interactive online user experience. Clients are assigned a matched portfolio and have access to a personal in-house advisor as well as timely market research. The platform targets accredited investors and requires a minimum investment of $1,000, while the minimum investment for CONNECT Prime starts at $350,000. The company also offers CONNECT Enterprise, which serves external asset managers, financial advisors, and other financial service firms.
The global reach of AWS makes our planning easier. We don’t need to search for a new suitable partner in each jurisdiction. AWS is already where we’re planning to be.”
Partner and Head of Digital Strategy and Distribution, Crossbridge Capital
Coaching and Consulting to Ensure Compliance
Although Crossbridge was not an existing customer of Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company decided to launch CONNECT on AWS because of the cloud provider’s experience working with large banks and regulatory agencies such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
MAS regularly updates its Guidelines on Outsourcing documentation, which financial service providers such as Crossbridge must adhere to in order to conduct business with clients, banks, hedge funds, and other institutional partners. These guidelines include specific procedures for providers operating in the cloud. “This is an incredibly thorough element of compliance that we had to establish in order to operate within the regulations, and support from the AWS Financial Services team was essential,” says Charlie O’Flaherty, partner and head of digital strategy and distribution at Crossbridge.
An AWS representative introduced an experienced consultant who met with O’Flaherty and the management team to assess all of Crossbridge’s submissions before they were presented to regulators. “On the regulatory side, AWS was a big help in coaching our compliance team on how to prepare the outsourcing register and technology risk assessment for MAS,” O’Flaherty adds.
Protecting Data at Rest and in Transit
Singapore has mature and very well established Data Privacy and Regulatory frameworks governing the use of Public Cloud by Financial Services companies. The ability to run CONNECT out of multiple AWS Availability Zones in the AWS Asia Pacific (Singapore) Region was vital to ensure data redundancy. Crossbridge uses Amazon Aurora as its primary database, which is deployed in a multi-cluster environment across three availability zones, and it relies on Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to automatically provision and scale the database.
Implementing thorough security measures for data at rest and in transit was key to ensuring that CONNECT adhered to MAS operating guidelines. For example, Crossbridge introduced two-factor authentication and now uses Amazon GuardDuty for cost-effective, intelligent threat detection. It also uses Amazon Cognito for user authentication and authorization for logging in to CONNECT. “Regulators can be sure that we’re treating our client data in a highly secure and confidential way, and our clients appreciate that we’re taking utmost care with their data on AWS,” O’Flaherty says.
Saving Time with Container Deployment
In early 2020, Crossbridge hired a new head of development, Andy Tanoko, who is a certified AWS Solutions Architect. Since coming on board, Tanoko has made several recommendations to boost efficiency for the architecture supporting CONNECT. After consulting with the AWS team, his first project was setting up Kubernetes containers that are fully managed with Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS).
“We save time by building everything from infrastructure as a code on Amazon EKS,” Tanoko says. Before, developers were building and deploying manually through Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), waiting up to 30 minutes for jobs to run. “With Amazon EKS, deploying containers is automatic, requiring less than 1 minute.” Tanoko also plans to implement the AWS Fargate serverless compute engine for container deployment, a service that works with Amazon EKS.
Because Tanoko is familiar with the range of services that are available on AWS, he was able to easily onboard his team with online documentation and self-guided training. He says, “Implementation is straightforward on the AWS Cloud, and AWS makes it simple for developers of any background to integrate its services or tools in a short period of time.”
Improving CONNECT for Expansion Abroad
Since migrating to containerized architecture, the cost of running CONNECT has dropped 15–20 percent. The teams behind CONNECT have reallocated the time and money saved into developing new features, such as a mobile app. These enhancements, which improve the customer experience and allow for the easy replication of containerized architecture, are vital as the company looks to introduce CONNECT into new markets.
Crossbridge plans to expand throughout Southeast Asia and is currently launching a customized version of CONNECT in Thailand. “The global reach of AWS makes our planning easier,” says O’Flaherty. “We don’t need to search for a new suitable partner in each jurisdiction. AWS is already where we’re planning to be.”
Branding a Business Based on Trust
Before CONNECT, Crossbridge had been building its wealth management client base largely through word of mouth, without intentionally branding the company or product portfolio. The launch of CONNECT marked the first time the company began above-the-line marketing efforts. “When Crossbridge came to market with this sort of public-facing product, we wanted to make sure that we were associated with brands that people trusted,” says O’Flaherty. “Amazon Web Services has a reputation for quality and best-in-class services.”
To learn more, visit Containers on AWS.
About Crossbridge Capital
Crossbridge Capital was launched in 2008 in London with a vision to create an independent, investment advisory firm. It offers a fully integrated financial services platform to entrepreneurs and families in emerging markets worldwide.
Benefits of AWS
- Receives compliance support to meet regulatory requirements
- Protects data at rest and in transit
- Ensures data redundancy across 3 availability zones
- Reduces deployment time from 30 minutes to 1 minute
- Cuts infrastructure costs by 15–20%
- Facilitates international expansion with a trusted brand name
AWS Services Used
Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service
Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) is a fully managed Kubernetes service. Customers such as Intel, Snap, Intuit, GoDaddy, and Autodesk trust EKS to run their most sensitive and mission critical applications because of its security, reliability, and scalability.
Amazon Cognito lets you add user sign-up, sign-in, and access control to your web and mobile apps quickly and easily. Amazon Cognito scales to millions of users and supports sign-in with social identity providers, such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and enterprise identity providers via SAML 2.0.
Amazon GuardDuty is a threat detection service that continuously monitors for malicious activity and unauthorized behavior to protect your AWS accounts and workloads.
Amazon Aurora is a MySQL and PostgreSQL-compatible relational database built for the cloud, that combines the performance and availability of traditional enterprise databases with the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of open source databases.
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