Three days — that’s the average amount of time an employee has for the bereavement process.
But ask anyone who has recently wrestled with the paperwork involved in end-of-life matters — from medical records to financial documents to legal filings — and they will tell you that three days is nowhere near enough time to sort through everything.
Martha Underwood, CEO and founder of PRISMM, understands this firsthand. When a family emergency required all-hands on deck and the collecting of important password-protected documents, Underwood devised a better solution to streamline an already overly stressful process.
Her solution is PRISMM — a secure digital vault designed to ensure seamless access to vital information and assets. In short, this is document management and estate planning in the digital age, where 100% of assets and relevant documentation are securely stored until needed.
“73 million baby boomers hold $140 trillion in wealth, with $84 trillion projected to be transferred to millennial and Gen X heirs through 2045, $16 trillion of that in just the next 10 years,” says Underwood. “This is slated to be the greatest wealth transfer event in modern history. Proper planning and oversight will ensure nothing is lost and administrative time is reduced significantly.”
“In 2017, my parents were living in Miami when Hurricane Irma made landfall,” Underwood says. “While their home did not sustain much damage, their neighbor’s home had a huge tree fall on it. My dad grabbed his chainsaw and climbed up on their roof to help. Well, he slipped and fell and was unconscious.” Her family was suddenly in unfamiliar territory.
“My mom called me (here, in Birmingham), just frantic. My dad always oversaw everything from mortgage payments to life insurance, health insurance, and all the other legal stuff — she did not even know where to begin. She was distraught.”
No one knew where to find passwords to patient portals or on-line banking records. Not having access to specific information or permission to discuss timely information with those in charge, sparked an idea.
With more than 20 years’ experience in the technology corridor — in high-performance positions within IBM, Callidus (now SAP) and BBVA — Underwood had the industry knowledge and connections to create a prototype of the digital vault she envisioned. “I’ve worked in so many different business verticals, seeing their intersectionality and how they come together, especially as it relates to wealth transfer.”
Friends and family were the first to use the product and provided valuable feedback; enhancements and upgrades were immediately developed.
BUT IS IT SECURE?
While most everyone could see the need for a product like PRISMM, she says, the first question people ask is: “How secure is it?”
Her own experience with cyber-security and banking regulations provided a solid foundation for the endeavor, but she chose to add the dynamic skillsets of her co-founder, Christopher Winslett, to take the project to the next level. “Chris is a tech savant who truly understands the security piece — the very foundation of the product we offer.”
About his bona fides, Winslett adds, “I’ve worked with startups and database and cloud services for about 15 years. I was part of a Birmingham company that sold to IBM in 2015 and helped build the technology at GradesFirst that sold to EAB as well. In 2019, I built and launched Cloverly with Alabama Power, and that company spun out and recently raised a $19 million round. I’ve been with YCombinator startups and mentored Techstars companies. I consider myself a programmer who can build nice products.”
End-of-Life Applications and More
While the impetus for creating PRISMM was her father’s medical emergency (he experienced a full recovery after healing from a few cracked ribs), Underwood has continued to discover and explore other applications.
“There are countless scenarios where it makes sense to digitally secure all of your pertinent financial and legal information.” It is an ideal vehicle for young professionals who are just starting to acquire assets, adding to their PRISMM account as they grow. As Underwood says: “I hate to hear people say ‘later’ — if I have learned anything, it is that ‘later’ does not belong to us. We have to act now.”
Underwood has also seen PRISMM be effectively used in divorce proceedings. “I have several clients who wanted to ensure all of their assets were accounted for and protected, should their marriages dissolve. No one wants to plan for divorce, but by digitally securing and protecting your entire financial, medical and legal documentation, the process can have more equity and a speedier resolution.”
Wealth management and other financial institutions are now offering PRISMM as an enhancement to their services. PRISMM allows these advisors the opportunity to strengthen client connections while providing a seamless method for wealth transfer and inheritance planning.
Employers can see the benefits as well, offering PRISMM to their key team members, alongside 401(k) contributions and enhanced medical insurance programs. “Demands on our time outside of work — caregiving for children and parents — can take away from workplace productivity. When an employee is distracted by having to track down medical or insurance information for an incapacitated loved one, their eye is off the ball at work. Employers who offer PRISMM as a benefit to their employees are just making smart business decisions that engender connection and loyalty.”
Why choose Birmingham for the company headquarters?
“Access,” says Underwood. “It is all about access here. Access to decision-makers and access to capital — pure and simple. I know I can make one or two calls and get a meeting with someone or be connected with a person I need to know. That wouldn’t happen in New York or Silicon Valley or Chicago. It just wouldn’t. We also know how to collaborate here.”
Catching up with Underwood immediately after her Rising Star Award win with Circle of Influence, her vision for the future of PRISMM is unshakeable. “This is hard work, sometimes it feels like invisible work, but it is so important. Knowing the impact PRISMM will have on this generation and the next and the next is what drives me.”
Christiana Roussel and Cary Norton are Birmingham-based freelance contributors to Business Alabama.
This article appears in the October 2023 issue of Business Alabama.