Q&A: BILL WYMAN

How can wealthy families keep their most valuable information secure from hackers and thieves?

By Richard Bradley

What does Summitas do?

Summitas is a technology platform that allows wealthy families and individuals to communicate amongst themselves and share information in a secure, private manner. It provides a communications portal so that a person can share tax documents, account statements, wills and trusts, and get dialogues going that include members of the family, all within a closed space.

Are these measures really necessary?

At least once a week we read an article about gangs around the world trying to hack into technologies to get information. Families think it can’t happen to them. It can. Families of wealth are vulnerable.

What are some examples of the things that Summitas is designed to prevent?

Imagine something as innocuous as a family itinerary. You’re planning a safari in Africa, for example. You wouldn’t think twice about sending that itinerary on an unsecured email account, but you really should, because in this email you have when you’re going to be away, who you’re meeting, where you’re staying. So if that falls into the wrong hands, your family could be at risk.

Why wouldn’t Summitas represent the equivalent of a digital Fort Knox, attracting bad guys because there’s so much valuable information in one place?

That’s a consideration, and that’s why we spent so much time and energy on how we designed the offering. We have daily penetration tests. We’ve hired outside companies to see if they can hack into the system. We use the highest level of encryption available.

What do you do to make sure that your own employees are secure?

Security checks, background checks and fingerprint checks. And we do a periodic update of those.

Do attitudes towards electronic security among the high net worth differ from generation to generation?

Absolutely. I would say the generation that currently uses social networking, that uses their smartphones for everything but talking — that generation doesn’t think about security whatsoever. They post anything and everything on their social networking pages for everybody to share.

So does Summitas offer security counseling to change those attitudes?

I would say “education.” You’re not going to stop 18-year-olds from going on Facebook and sharing information. That’s just not going to happen. But you can educate them on what can be posted and what shouldn’t be. And if they want to share information, to use a secure portal such as Summitas.

What kinds of families should be using Summitas?

Anyone who has a net worth of $1 million and above should consider using a secure portal, whether it’s Summitas or not. What’s your background? I started with JPMorgan and spent four years in their Geneva office, where I got private banking experience. I came back to the U.S. and joined Bankers Trust within their private banking area. Then I went to Rockefeller — they have a very sophisticated data aggregation tool called Rockit. Then I went to BNY Mellon within their family office group. About two years ago I was approached to come to Summitas, another technology solution geared towards the family office and high net worth individual.

Who is Summitas, other than yourself?

Summitas is owned by [developer] Howard Milstein. He recognizes what the market is interested in, and he saw the need for Summitas.

Which is ultimately what?

Families really want to keep their information private. They don’t want people to know what their wealth is, they don’t want people to know who they are. You can go to almost any major city in the country and find several family offices, and they could represent families that are worth $500 million but you just didn’t know it. You just walked right by. So many families just want to be off the radar. And in order to do that, they need to be able to keep their information secure.

Bill Wyman can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 212.708.0250.

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