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Arta Team Spotlight

Q&A with Kyle Christensen—Finance at Arta

Arta Team Spotlight

April 18, 2023

Meet Kyle

With a career spanning Goldman Sachs in New York City to Google in Silicon Valley, Kyle has worked with clients like Uber, Twitter, Square, and Snapchat, to name a few. He saw significant changes in the financial industry, and Kyle believes the future of finance rests on AI and other innovative technologies. Read on for fintech insights and upcoming trends from an industry leader.

What was your upbringing like? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Paris, but my family relocated to Palo Alto, California, when I was young. My parents attended graduate schools at Stanford, and my father caught the entrepreneurial bug early in his career. So, Palo Alto was a familiar and exciting place for them to raise a family. I didn’t know it then, but growing up in the Bay Area in the early days of Silicon Valley would help steer me toward a career focused on technology.

I studied economics and physics at Dartmouth College and was grateful to cross paths with Charles Dong, who would later become a co-founder of Arta. We've been great friends ever since.

What was your early career like?

After graduating, I set my sights on New York City. Through a meandering path of internships that proves it’s better to be lucky than smart, I landed a role at Goldman Sachs, covering my dream industries: technology, media, and telecommunications. I was fortunate to work with a wide range of clients, from Fortune 500 companies to private equity firms to fast-growing technology companies.

But it was the smaller financial technology companies and the ambitious teams leading them that grabbed my attention. I was fascinated by the innovative businesses shaped at the intersections of finance and technology, and this was before AI and Machine Learning were a thing!

Eventually, I decided to switch things up and join Credit Suisse, where I had the chance to work on the consumer and e-commerce team, helping to lead some industry-shaping deals, including the Beyond Meat IPO.

Overall, working in New York City was a phenomenal learning opportunity and forever changed my views of finance, technology, and how much people are willing to pay for a closet-sized apartment.

So, how did you transition from investment banking to working in the tech industry? How did you end up on the West Coast?

Working in finance in New York City was fast-paced and exhilarating. Yet, despite the extraordinary work environment, I missed the West Coast and the culture of entrepreneurship in the Bay Area. I also wanted to explore the world of fintech further - what better place to do so than in Silicon Valley?

I joined Google's Payments team as a finance and strategy lead on the Payments Platform. I had two incredible years at Google, and my move West felt all the more validated by the amazing people I was fortunate to work with on the Payments team. Serendipitously, while at Google, I discovered that my old college friend, Charles Dong, had also joined the Payments team and was working from the Singapore office.

I knew Charles was a bright and ambitious guy, and when he told me that he and a few other Googlers were leaving to start a fintech company with Caesar Sengupta, I jumped at the opportunity to join their team.

Now, at Arta, I’m able to combine years of investment banking experience in the technology and consumer sectors with my operational strategy work at Google Payments. I get to apply that expertise to build new ways of investing with AI-managed portfolios (AMPs) and give more people access to investment opportunities previously only available to the ultra-rich.

Now, at Arta, I’m able to combine years of investment banking experience in the technology and consumer sectors with my operational strategy work at Google Payments.

Throughout your career, how have you seen technology impact the finance sector?

For many years, institutional banks have relied on tried and tested practices and processes for managing money. As a result, the methods used to manage people’s money are deeply rooted in habit and tradition, and sometimes it can take a long time for new ideas and technologies to gain traction.

But a notable shift is happening in the financial industry today. People, especially those in the tech industry, increasingly expect high-tech tools to help manage their lives, and finance is no exception. Moreover, as AI and financial technology have hit an inflection point in the last few years, there are more opportunities to create tools that provide much more value, utility, and personalization.

In addition, the desire for access to the same kinds of tools and investment opportunities enjoyed by the ultra-wealthy is driving innovation in the finance sector. Companies like Arta are leveraging the latest in computer science and AI to create digital tools that enhance the financial experience for their members.

Can you tell us more about the desire for access? This topic often comes up from Arta's founding members. What is driving this?

One big reason why we see members join Arta is their desire to access private market investments - private equity, venture capital, private credit, real estate, and other alternative assets. It’s a financial strategy popular among “smart money” institutional investors and ultra-high net worth individuals, and we’re working to find ways to bring these opportunities to more people.

Alternative investments haven’t been entirely closed off to individual investors historically. Still, these types of investments have been largely limited to the ultra-wealthy due to a number of barriers such as regulation, access (“you gotta know someone to get in”), and affordability (investment minimums sometimes starting in the millions of dollars).

However, new regulations have broadened the scope of who can access certain types of private funds, and private equity and other fund managers are starting to see the individual “retail” investor as an important market alongside more traditional institutional investors. As a result, Arta and a growing number of financial institutions have been innovating to structure private market funds that are both compliant with regulations and open to larger segments of the retail investor market.

In this changing financial environment, Arta helps to solve issues of access and affordability. We’ve done the work to help provide our members with some of the most sought-after alternative investment opportunities at significantly lower entry minimums and costs to the individual investor. And we’ve put all of this into a sophisticated platform that leverages technology to streamline the entire investment process. In doing so, Arta is helping to match the desire of individuals for alternative investments with the growing demand by asset managers to access the vast, virtually untapped market of retail investors.

We’ve done the work to help provide our members with some of the most sought-after alternative investment opportunities at significantly lower entry minimums and costs to the individual investor.

What are you looking forward to as finance moves into a new, tech-forward era?

Having seen many other areas of finance go through their moments of innovation, it’s exciting to see the worlds of wealth management and consumer technology come together and reach a turning point.

With the latest AI tools and technology at their disposal, people can enjoy a more streamlined and user-friendly financial experience than ever before - and build their personal wealth in a modern way too. For me, it’s fantastic to be at the center of it all with Arta.

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