Fintech Startup Gains Momentum with AI—and a Rebrand
- Nov 30, 2023
As the Head of Global Marketing of Masttro—a leading wealth tech company—Michael Melia brings a unique perspective to the conversation with EisnerAmper's TechTalk host Fritz Spencer. In this episode, Michael shares his journey to the fintech sector, how Masttro is leveraging AI to solve challenges in the wealth management space, and insights on how strong brands are built.
Hello and welcome to Tech Talk. I'm your host, Fritz Spencer, professional in EisnerAmper's technology and life sciences practice. And with me today is a very special guest, Michael Melia of Masttro, a leading wealth tech company. Conversations can help you navigate your entrepreneurial journey. Today, you'll get to hear firsthand from Michael about his unique perspective as the head of global marketing who recently took his company through a successful rebrand and can speak to the role of marketing that plays in scaling a company. What you hear today might give you a different perspective and influence your next business decision. It's great to have you on the Tech Talk podcast today. Thanks for joining me.
It's great to be here, Fritz. Thanks for having me.
Great. And why don't you give us a little bit of background on Masttro and what you guys are doing?
Sure. For those of you who are not familiar with Masttro, we are a wealth tech solution that helps provide a 100% view of all assets. And essentially what we do is provide a view of total net worth for ultra-high net worth individuals and families. And we use a suite of many different products and features to aggregate wealth data, visualize it in a myriad of ways and help advisors communicate it to the end wealth owners and slice and dice in any way that is helpful for them to tell the right story. And Masttro has been around since around 2010, and we are located in New York City as our headquarters, but also have offices in Monterey, in Mexico, Mexico City, Chile, and in Zurich.
Great. Thank you so much for that succinct explanation. So you have a fascinating story that includes formerly studying startups before joining a startup yourself, could you please tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and why the FinTech industry interests you?
Sure. Well, as a head of marketing, I think I have a little bit of an unusual entry into FinTech and into marketing. I actually studied social anthropology in my undergrad and I did a PhD in social anthropology at the University of Oxford. And while I was at the University of Oxford, my PhD focused in what I would call digital anthropology, which is the study of businesses and of sort of contemporary western society with specific regards to technology and how technology can be an agent for transformation of human relationships. So in my PhD thesis I worked for a company and I studied my colleagues and I essentially studied how they use technology to help them scale up their offering. They were a very lean pre-seed team of only around four people. And so I was very curious about how these four people aimed to acquire tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of users using technology.
And so that became my entry into the world of marketing and technology. And I learned very quickly that actually I really enjoyed working on the front lines with technology companies actually building things and actually scaling and using technology to improve and change human relationships. And so in my career, I've worked in cybersecurity, I've worked in basically business management and HR technology. And today I find myself in the FinTech space with Masttro and I really enjoyed all these industries and in particular, I am enjoying working in FinTech because there's so much transformation happening right now. We are right now Q3 2023, and the big thing on everybody's mind is AI and I think AI is at the very beginning of the transformation of the FinTech space in a very significant way for the industry, which I'm excited about.
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. The transformations are definitely coming and I like hearing about that history you shared with us. And I'd like to go back a little bit and touch on that. So as you said, Masttro was founded in 2010 and it's entering its teenage years with great momentum. I read that Masttro has tripled its business over the last three years and secured over $43 million in funding just earlier this year. What issue or challenge is your company really addressing and what's its continued growth trajectory?
Yeah, it's been an exciting couple of years and I'm very privileged to join at a moment of great expansion in all ways for Masttro in particular on the product side and the ways that we're able to serve our end clients. I think right now the challenge that we're addressing is it's one that we were actually founded to address, but we're really doubling down on today, is the challenge of managing alternatives and alternative assets, specifically using AI. I think there's so many advancements happening with technology and historically the wealth management space has been underserved by technology and by tech vendors.
I think that the space compared to others that I've worked in is a little bit behind the curve in terms of technology that's out there. And so at Masttro, we launched a new feature earlier this year called Document AI, which was an exciting feature that leverages AI for the first time to help process complex data and extract important data and basically automatically plot it in the platform, which is really exciting. So I think it's something that is being addressed in other industries, the same type of challenge, but we are really excited to be at the forefront of addressing that in the wealth management space, specifically for family offices and wealth advisors, using AI to really help with alternatives, which like I mentioned is one of the reasons that Masttro was founded in 2010.
Great. So as we mentioned before, you're the head of marketing and I'm an accountant, I'm all spreadsheets, but I've heard that every seven years a company needs to rebrand. Is that true? And with Masttro recently going through a rebrand, I'm curious as to how your executive team number one, arrived at that decision and how now that it made an impact.
Yeah, great question. To double click on marketing at Masttro, I love brands building. I've been a part personally of three major rebrands and I've led two of them. And it's really a fun project and it's also a very challenging project. I think first speaking to this idea... I've also heard this or variations of this every five years or even every three years, depending on the industry, you should change your brand. And I want to challenge it a little bit because I think there is no universal truth when it comes to branding. I think my perspective is most people think, oh, okay, we should update our logo. We need a new website, we should change our colors.
And in fact, I think that sort of mentality is potentially sets you up for disaster because you're kind of addressing the outputs rather than the input of what makes a great brand. And for me, whenever I do a brand project, I want to start with the mission and vision, with the company culture, with the core operating principles of the company in question because the thing is that changes every couple years. The culture changes, the mission changes, the market changes, the product changes. And the place to begin when doing a rebrand is to do an evaluation, a pulse check. It's to take stock of everything you are as a company and where you are and ask yourself, is this who we are?
Is this how we want to represent ourselves to the market? And is this the best way that we can be set up today for growth? And I think it's starting with these really hard conversations that are ultimately philosophical conversations where the output becomes the visuals, the output of those core ideas and tough questions is the visuals. And that's what I would encourage people to think about. I think that that's where the strongest brands in the world are built and the most lasting brands are built that way as opposed to just kind of, all right, time to refresh, time to do something new.
Change for the sake of change.
Right. I think that's a bit the mentality people have with brand is let's throw some money at it, let's get a new website and everything's going to be hunky-dory and in fact it's a lot more complicated than that.
Thank you for sharing that. I 100% agree and I would love to hear more about how you guys went through that process and maybe some of the challenges that you hit.
Sure. I think with Masttro, one of the reasons I love working here is because it's still founder led. The co-founders that built this company at the very beginning are still riding with the company today and really choosing and helping find the direction we need for the company. And so I love working with founders and executive teams to build a culture because you can get so much information and so much of the heart and soul of a company from founders. And so I guess for me, the challenge was to get in the door, understand the market, understand the positioning of Masttro and kind of where we were going with our technology and with our product, understanding the people and culture and then understanding the vision and the designs in the heads of the founders to understand how to bring that to the forefront with the brand, to tell a meaningful story.
And I think it's that translation, which is the hard part. But then the second component that's difficult is telling something meaningful. And so our logo is meaningful, the colors that we choose are meaningful. And it all comes out of what I was saying earlier in terms of you need to do that soul-searching internally about these philosophical questions and that's what was so great to do with the founders at Masttro.
It sounds like you have a great founding group and it sounds like those executive teams make those tough decisions a lot easier. Glad to hear.
Yeah, absolutely. And I just want to add that when a lot of people think about branding, the question often becomes, well, what is the output? What is the benefit? How do I measure it? How do I know if it's successful? And I think it's something that I've also, I've done in all the rebrands that I've done personally. And the analogy that I like to put out there for people if you're thinking about doing a rebrand, is that I think a rebrand is not a solution to a problem, which is often how a lot of people approach rebrands and maybe it's like our website's too old, we're not converting, people don't understand what we do.
The new product is not that comprehensible. So people tend to look at branding as a solution to the problem, whereas my suggestion is look at branding like a rising tide that raises all hopes. It's something that if you implement a brand successfully, it makes everything at your company a little bit better. It makes your sales conversations easier with new prospects, it increases your employee retention, it builds a stronger culture, it ties people better together, everyone understands more clearly the mission that you're working on. That's really the output for me is how you see it reflect in all aspects of the organization.
So I saw the four Cs on your website, the consolidate, control, communicate and connect, and it was just a clear, concise message of what you guys are doing and how well you're doing it. And we talked a little bit about the founders and the people you had and the employee retention and having those important advisors around you inside and outside of the organization. At a high level can you share with me some times or moments that advisors helped you guys achieve your visions?
Sure. I think a lot of people that I've met in FinTech and in my journey in tech more generally, they tend to draw some pretty heavy lines between, all right, full-time employees, building a culture, working with an agency or finding a freelancer or bringing on a consultant. A lot of people tend to look at these as very different exercises. And from my perspective, I like to see them all together because what matters for me is how can I build the right collection of people that I can trust, who understand me and the challenges that I'm going through with my business to build a sustainable medium to long-term relationship that actually addresses those problems.
I've built and hired a couple of different teams. I've worked with some very big agencies, some smaller agencies with some brilliant consultants and freelancers. I've been very privileged to have met a lot of very smart people so far in my time in tech. And I think the importance for me is just understanding how to build the right constellation of people around you to solve the challenges you need to address without over complicating it and thinking, okay, well full-time versus consultant versus this versus that and without over-indexing on the short term, which is I think another problem that people have in general with advisors is, okay, I've got this problem, I need to solve it tomorrow, so I'm going to hire someone for three days or two weeks or even two months. And I think this short-term view is often a detriment where if you focus on building the right capabilities with the right people around you for the medium to long-term, you're just in a much better situation working with people who really get you. So you don't have to restart the conversation every time there's a new problem.
Exactly. Thank you. Thanks so much for sharing those insights. Lastly here on Tech Talk, we have a staple question, and I'd like to ask you that now. Is there a particular conversation you've had that continues to influence you today?
Yeah, I love this question and it takes me back to actually my first job in marketing. So when I was out of college, I worked for four years actually for a luxury hotel brand in the UK and I remember as I was an intern in my first couple of weeks, I had a conversation with the founder of the hotels I was working at. And this guy is very enigmatic. He's a serial hotel entrepreneur. He's opened and sold big hotel in Monaco for the Grand Prix and several chains in the UK. And I was very impressed by him when I first met him because he has a big personality, but the thing that really stood out to me is I'm a musician, I love music. And so made a comment of how the music in the hotel was always so on point and it really felt like the vibe of the hotel.
And he told me actually that he personally chose every song and every order for every playlist, for every hotel. And I love this because this guy, he's dealing with investors, he's dealing with cash flows, he's dealing with big picture, opening new hotels, building his management team yet he's so focused on this detail of selecting every song. And throughout my time at the hotels, he would tell me, oh, this song, it's off this album. I put it on after the last song because of the transition and how good it makes you feel. This is the afternoon playlist, or this is the cocktail hour playlist. And I'm so inspired by that attention to detail and that passion for his business that something has really stuck with me and I think applies to any industry. No matter what you do, if you can maintain that level of passion and care for your business and not fall into the routine of the day-to-day of your business and your team and the challenges in the industry, I think it's that mindfulness which has just permanently inspired me to think about what I do.
That's an amazing story. I love hearing that that even though with all the big picture going on, the finest detail to him was still so important and it clearly showed out and showed to you so that's awesome. Well, Michael, I want to thank you for taking the time to have this conversation with me today, and I want to thank our listeners for tuning into Tech Talk.
Thank you, Fritz. It's great to be here. Thanks again.
Of course. I want to invite you to subscribe to EisnerAmper's podcast to listen to more Tech Talk episodes and join us for our next podcast episode or visit eisneramper.com for more tech news that you can use.
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Fritz Spencer is a Audit Senior with audit and accounting experience serving both public and private entities.
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