Interviews

Published on October 17th, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz

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YourCapital’s Saira Suleman On Finance 101, Long-Term Growth, Her Most Recent Concert & More

YourCapital carries the mission of empowering individuals to make smart financial decisions. The company is committed to offering advice that is “transparent, proven and customized.” In turn, YourCapital offers tailored advice to help its users achieve their financial goals, utlizing a first of its kind intelligent investment service for those who self-direct their investments.

CEO Saira Suleman is a financial whiz, a Mensa member and the gifted founder of YourCapital. Prior to founding YourCapital, Suleman was an investor advisor for high net worth clients at Morgan Stanley, where she created customized solutions for clients across a wide range of investment products. She had also worked as a software engineer at Verizon Communications. Suleman holds an MBA from the University Of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and prior to that she earned an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from University Of Texas At Dallas.

I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with Saira Suleman herself about YourCapital and more. For additional info on Suleman and YourCapital, click on over to www.yourcapital.net.

I understand that you grew up in Pakistan and had a challenging environment since you are a woman looking to work in finance…

Saira Suleman: Pakistan is an inhospitable place for females because of stigma of dowry that parents have to pay for their daughters to be accepted in marriage. My father wanted a son because he wanted an heir for the business. My grandfather and great-grandfather founded companies that my dad inherited and wanted a son to take them to the next level. He was deeply disappointed when I was born and didn’t expect much from me.

When I was two, my mother left my father and moved to a different city. Being a single mom without child support from my father was hard. I had no childhood, being the eldest child, and started supporting my family at fifteen by tutoring kids in mathematics. I paid for my high school education myself; it’s not free in Pakistan. I always had an interest in business – I feel it is in my blood. After high school, my visa application was accepted, and I was able to come to the U.S. to study. I had worked part-time in school and at summer internships and paid for my whole undergraduate education in the U.S. by myself.

When do you first get interested in finance?

Saira Suleman: I was interested in business from a very young age. Perhaps, I caught a bug from my father’s family who have generationally run businesses of their own. From the first time I have any memory of having memories, I wanted to create a business. I remember — as a little girl in Pakistan — thinking of crazy ideas like selling grass or selling wood sticks. My interest in finance developed when I went to the Wharton School for an MBA where I specialized in Finance. When I started working on Wall Street, my passion for financial markets and investing flourished because I was able to combine my academic knowledge with practical experience. Now, I have marshalled my passion for Finance with my technology background to found YourCapital.

What made it fun and interesting to you in the first place?

Saira Suleman: I love analyzing existing business models, but why Finance is exciting is because numbers tell a business story in a way that’s hard to refute. I feel exhilarated when I connect the myriad data points, create a hypothesis, be it about the future price of a stock or about the direction of interest rates, and am right. It’s even more fun for me when my hypothesis is against the prevailing narrative that exists in the financial markets. It’s because financial markets are comprised of highly driven, smart people who are maniacally analyzing different market data points to develop a hypothesis and be predictive. It’s an incredibly hard thing to get right. Therefore, when I am right, it’s a lot of fun because it conveys to me that I have the intellectual ability to outsmart other incredibly smart people. For some inexplicable reason, I love the feeling.

So what inspired you to launch your own financial services business?

Saira Suleman: After getting that MBA from Wharton, I worked at Morgan Stanley as an investment advisor to the super wealthy individuals. We determined what our client’s goals were and then we created investment portfolios that could help them achieve their goals. I also met a lot of regular people who self-directed their investments and realized that most people were starved for investment guidance and had no access to high quality guidance.

Today, when someone opens a self-directed brokerage account, say at a Schwab, they can browse a lot of investment products and can invest in them, but they are responsible for figuring out which products are best out of thousands of products and how to create a solution around the products to achieve their goals. Most people also have difficulty figuring out which products have high fees and so they end up investing in high fee funds. The issue is that it’s not the job of the brokerage to inform a retail investor like you that you are investing in a high fee product or that cheaper alternatives exist because in some cases brokerages get compensated by the product companies when retail investors put their money in a product.

According to a report by the Obama administration, Americans pay $17 billion annually in conflicted fees and there are 75 million families with a 401(k). When I realized this problem and the magnitude of it, I decided to create YourCapital. I imagined a service which was tailor-made for those who self-direct their investments. Imagine a service where guidance across products is free; where using best portfolio construction approaches, you instantly get a solution that achieves your goals and where using artificial intelligence, things are interconnected for you; You not only get superior quality guidance for free but you can buy products just like you can through a regular self-directed brokerage like a Schwab. That is the idea of YourCapital.

What sets YourCapital apart from other financial programs and services?

Saira Suleman: In YourCapital, you can currently connect your investment accounts, all in one place, to get a holistic view of your investments. You also get instant insights on your portfolio including cheaper alternatives for any high fee funds. Everything is incredibly transparent, we don’t get any fees from anyone for recommending low fee funds. There are a lot of bells and whistles that we have built and if you are interested, you can check it out at www.yourcapital.net.

YourCapital acts like a financial expert that’s in the background, connecting the dots for the DIY investors and empowering them to make smart investing decisions. It’s a free service, and we are proud to offer our cutting-edge financial tools to everyone, at no cost. At the most basic level, YourCapital provides the ability for DIY investors to easily and securely connect their existing investment accounts in one convenient place. The service then intelligently adapts to the type of investment portfolio a customer connects. For an all-cash portfolio, YourCapital shows a different set of guidance and transparency than a portfolio chock-full of high fee mutual funds.

Instead of exposing investors to mountains of numbers, YourCapital determines the key data investors need to instantly grasp their financial picture and make educated decisions. For instance, investors can see mutual fund fees at an aggregate, account and fund level to easily determine which funds, in which accounts, are costing the most in fees. YourCapital then automatically searches the universe of funds for cheaper alternatives using its proprietary recommendation engine, saving investors hours and ensuring high fee funds don’t drain investor wealth over time.

YourCapital also automatically performs portfolio risk analysis since DIY investors may not realize hidden portfolio risks and may discover them when markets decline. This risk analysis is performed on three significant dimensions: asset class, stock sector and stock level. Upon discovery, YourCapital, clearly and transparently shows the source of the concentration risk and concrete ways to mitigate it.

Can you explain the “intelligent” tools you offer?

Saira Suleman: Since secure retirement is a crucial life goal, when YourCapital detects a 401(k) or an IRA account, the service recommends retirement analysis as the next logical step. For a quick but accurate analysis, YourCapital has built-in intelligent defaults to certain questions and clearly lays out the analysis. All numbers and charts have intelligent tooltips that clearly ex-plain the math, giving investors’ confidence in the analytics shown. Since retirement shortfall can be addressed by pulling multiple levers, investors can perform a “what-if” analysis to tangibly envision how to achieve a dig-=nified retirement.

So what advice would you offer to anyone looking to break into a financial services career?

Saira Suleman: You need a lot of guidance and help and mentoring. Therefore, you should surround yourself with others who are doing the kind of things you want to do, meaning starting businesses. Visit Silicon Valley since this is the mecca for startups. Attend meetups that cater to startups, so you can learn from others. Volunteer at an incubator and attend pitch nights so you can learn how startups that were accepted to the incubator and are ready to pitch to angel investors, structure their pitch decks and what kind of questions investors ask. Also, if you can, work for a startup so you can see up close what it takes to build one

Finally, as a music-friendly website, I must also ask: What is the last concert you attended for fun?

Saira Suleman: The last concert I attended was about a week ago from an upcoming jazz artist, Rice Kings. They were performing at Yerba Buena Gardens, which is close to where I work. I have always loved jazz music and since it was convenient, I allowed myself the luxury to enjoy their great music.


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About the Author

Darren Paltrowitz is a New York resident (and Long Island native) with over 15 years of entertainment industry experience. He began working around the music business as a teenager, interning for the manager of his favorite band Superdrag. In the years following, he has worked with a wide array of artists including OK Go, They Might Be Giants, Mike Viola, Tracy Bonham, Loudness, Rachael Yamagata, and Amanda Palmer.Darren's writing has appeared in dozens of outlets including the New York Daily News, Inquisitr, The Daily Meal, The Hype Magazine, All Music Guide, Guitar World, TheStreet.com, Format Magazine, Businessweek, The Improper, the L.A. Times, and the Jewish Journal. He is a member of the SATW and the IFWTWA organizations as a food and travel writer.Darren is also the host the recently-launched "Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz" podcast, as co-produced with PureGrainAudio.


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