Legacy Company, Legacy Code? Not for City National Bank.

Understanding wealth management and planning isn’t easy. City National’s team wants to know — what if it were?

Written by Adrienne Teeley
Published on May. 24, 2022
Legacy Company, Legacy Code? Not for City National Bank.
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So, you want to grow your wealth through investing. Quick, answer this: By what percentage would you like to grow your portfolio each year — and how much risk are you comfortable with?

These aren’t uncommon questions to hear in meetings between wealth advisors and their clients. But understanding exactly what a certain percentage point can yield, or where it places someone on their journey toward their financial goals is difficult to understand. More fruitful discussions revolve around concrete goals, like saving for retirement, a new house or a child’s college fund. But once you start mapping out more than a single goal or two and adjust for risk tolerance, things can get fairly complicated. The tech team at City National Bank is cutting through those complexities.

With the launch of the company’s new Galaxy platform, a modern take on proposal management systems that shifts financial-planning conversations from the abstract to the tangible, City National signals a departure from the way the financial industry has run for decades. In using nearly instantaneous data visualization, real-time projections and goals-based discussion, Galaxy brings some much-needed intuitiveness to complex conversations.

And while City National knows the Galaxy platform has the potential to change how people view weighty conversations around finances, Senior Manager of Wealth Technology Dron Regmi said it’s just one of many products his team is launching to bring wealth management more fully into the digital era.

“We’re not just building a proposal management system, but a fully digital end-to-end experience,” Regmi said. “We want to meet the expectations of our end users, especially high-net-worth clients and millennials who are beginning to build their wealth and may be navigating the transition of wealth, for example through the inheritance of money.”

For the bank’s Wealth Management Tech team, launching products like Galaxy aren’t solely about keeping up with stiff competition in the wealth management industry. Instead, they are laser-focused on “leading the pack” in reimagining financial tools. To do so, they have embraced modern technology, like microservices, cloud infrastructure, lightning-fast data visualization and more.

To learn more about the team’s vision for the future of financial tech, Built In connected with Regmi, along with Director of Wealth Management Technology Carol Zhang and Full-Stack Engineer Nekaya Lovett. They shared City National’s ambitious modernization efforts, the new tools they’ve adopted, and how their company culture yields the kind of rich career growth that couldn’t possibly be quantified in mere percentages.

 

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Can you tell us a bit more about the Galaxy platform? What makes it so unique?

Zhang: The Galaxy platform is our next-generation proposal system, which is used to create a highly interactive proposal for wealth advisors’ prospective clients. This application integrates with Salesforce and uses data-capture to generate a proposal to review with the client. If the client has questions or wants to change the input data with the new system, the wealth advisor can quickly adjust the relevant parameters and generate a new analysis in real time, based on the client’s goals, contributions and preferences.

Regmi: Before our new Galaxy platform, if the client decided they could tolerate a little more risk and wanted to know what new investment approach would be recommended, it would take a couple weeks for wealth advisors to change their scenarios – which is a long time for the client to wait for answers about the potential outcome. In reducing the sales cycle and presenting a digital experience with real-time calculations and visualized outputs, we provide a fundamentally different approach to portfolio proposals.

 

Where does Galaxy fit into City National’s larger plans for modernization?

Regmi: We’ve really taken a platform approach to building this architecture, which means we’re not thinking of developing one specific application. We’re actually creating different blocks that can be used by multiple applications. We’ve built a digital core with APIs and are creating these different products, like the Galaxy platform, on top of that to add more functionality and new experiences that take place in the cloud.

We have a hybrid setup, where we do have some on-premise areas to integrate, but all of our new components are being built in the cloud. It’s not just about changing one application; if we don’t modernize the technology platform, everything would drag and we’d have to think through end-of-life considerations and do all sorts of upgrades and patches. What we’re building now is completely modernized. It’s a pretty exciting part of the bank’s technology equation, and allows colleagues to get real experience in developing non-trivial applications.

Zhang: At this point, we’re continuing to gather user feedback for Galaxy so we can allow for more customization and further improvement. Because the new system is highly integrated, we can customize the user interface on a very high level, with a lot of detail.

We also have other large projects coming up for our portfolio management system. Galaxy is just one of the projects we’re working on, and we’ll be adding more to the system down the line.

 

Banking in the cloud

Cloud infrastructure has grown in popularity in recent years, and it’s not hard to see why. Instead of managing on-premise servers and building every aspect of infrastructure from scratch, engineering teams can outsource the work to platform-as-a-service cloud vendors, which offer a bevy of tools and solutions that are ready to implement. Plus, scalability — both expanding and shrinking capacity — becomes far simpler without managing extra servers. “There’s a whole marketplace of services and capabilities in the cloud that we can leverage very quickly,” Regmi said. “Think minutes, rather than months.”

 

 

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What kinds of technology do you use? How does this help give you an edge over the competition?

Regmi: We’re leveraging new technologies, and we’re also using ideas that are ahead of our competition in terms of delivering products. We are using a lot of new tools, like cloud, microservice-based architecture, automated deployments, and integrated DevSecOps operations. But we’re not just using new technology for new technology’s sake. We’re trying to deliver a high value in the products and services we build that are ahead of the market.

We’re operating in an agile setup, and we’re getting more efficient in the adoption of SAFe framework. We’re also driving a lot of automation where we can release on demand, which requires carefully orchestrated engineering, design and supporting infrastructure. This allows us to turn around features and capabilities faster, and get them into the hands of the users.

 

How has the Galaxy project, and City National in general, helped fuel your career?

Lovett: When I started at the company a year ago as an intern, I had no industry experience, having only taken engineering courses during my educational career. There are not a lot of companies that will give someone with no real-world experience an opportunity like this, especially in banking, so it meant a lot to me to have a chance to gain experience while doing work that I am so passionate about.

When I started my internship, everyone was hands-on in helping me learn these frameworks and figure out what was going on with the projects that contributed to Galaxy. I quickly found my footing and realized that this was an absolutely amazing team. Initially, I didn’t work in user interface, I mostly concentrated in the back end. But after my internship ended, I found out that UI was a newfound love of mine. So, while I enjoy building APIs and working through the database, seeing my work on the front end has been a completely different feeling. It’s really fulfilling and I can see my impact.

Zhang: Nekaya is being modest — yes, she had minimal experience on the front end, but our leads look for potential in general, and we understand that it’s important to learn what every team member’s interest is so we can provide them the support they need. We definitely saw that she was producing good work in UI, as well as in building APIs. Recently, she was able to wrap up a feature almost entirely by herself.

 

There is a lot of new tech being introduced at the bank. What is the experience like for new people joining the team?

Lovett: When I joined the company, there were a number of engineering teammates learning new technology, like Angular. Having those peers — and mentors — helped me grasp the concept of new technologies more quickly and made the learning curve less steep.

You don’t always think about young people in banking, but I didn’t find that to be the case here. The structure around onboarding makes it easy to transition into the company. And the culture is truly amazing — there’s not one person here who isn’t willing to help you.

Zhang: City National encourages and fosters a very open and vibrant culture of learning. Through regular lunch and learn sessions, guild meetings, traditional trainings, online learning opportunities and frequent engagements with our partners, such as MTC Engagements with Microsoft, a milieu of learning and sharing has been created at the bank.

As the Technology and Innovation (T&I) group at the bank presses on with technology and business transformation, there is an exciting road ahead for new and existing colleagues to learn the cutting edge of technology as well as gain valuable experience on how technology powers business transformation. Equally important, the bank has an open approach to remote work.

Regmi: There is some context that is needed here. City National was acquired by Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in 2015 — two years before I joined the bank. RBC is one of the biggest banks in the world. Being part of RBC means hyper growth for City National, in all dimensions of the business and especially on the technology side. With that growth comes huge opportunity for colleagues to take on high-profile projects, stretch their skills and capabilities, make a big impact, and make leaps in their careers. This is true of the colleagues that have been here for decades and the colleagues that are just arriving.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity, Images via City National Bank and Shutterstock.

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