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This week I am in New York for the opportunity to see the very latest wealth technology innovations and to hear from several of the industry leaders who are transforming the way Americans access financial advice. Now in its third year, the In|Vest conference provides a heady mix of powerful tech demonstrations and exceptional thought leadership.
For me the big message on day one of the show was machine learning and artificial intelligence is now part of the emerging landscape. In what follows I will highlight some of the early leaders. The volume of these offerings on display makes me feel the US may again be pulling ahead of the UK in FinTech and especially WealthTech.
After a brief opening where Salesforce highlighted that their forthcoming 2017 Connected Investor research will identify that 47% of investors would be happy for artificial intelligence to used by their wealth management firm the day began with a whirlwind of demos of disruptive technologies. The videos of these will be up on the In|Vest website at http://conference.financial-planning.com/conferences/invest/ in a few weeks but in the meantime here are my highlights.
First up was Salesforce with their Financial Services Cloud providing great visualisation of relationships, interactions and delivering insight. It is clear from the number of integrations Financial Services has in the US that the American proposition is a long way ahead of their UK offering but this does give an indication of where Salesforce may be in the UK in a couple of years.
That said while the system can offer some awesome integration of consumer data I wonder how much of this would be allowed in Europe post the introduction of GDPR next May. This makes me wonder if the European Union and Fintech are on a collision course. I am increasingly worried that the excesses of GDPR and the EU’s inability to produce timely regulation could seriously damage the EU Fintech industry.
Robert Stanich of IBM Watson showed how machine learning can identify clients at risk of leaving and how using artificial intelligence can transform client segmentation all beyond recognition. The service can also predict real life events and related product opportunities before your clients realise they have these needs. Watson has the potential to transform lead management so your existing data becomes your primary source of new business opportunities.
Oranj showed a great onboarding experience with held-away data and risk profiling but fell foul of the eight-minute rule so ran out of time to show their full services.
Comarch showed a very cool voice-controlled interactive artificial intelligence chatbot called Devra.
Advicent showed great life protection tools they have built which makes me wonder why the cool omnichannel protection service they built for Scottish Widows never saw the light of day. An opportunity missed.
MX then arrived to show why they do aggregation, categorisation and user interfaces for Personal Financial Management better than anyone else in the world. It is a great shame they don’t want to come to the UK as they have so much business in the States.
Circle Black, a company that is entirely new to me, showed a stunning client facing tool set with API integration into Redtail, MoneyGuidePro, Riskalyze and many more.
Fidelity owned eMoneyAdvisor showed new marketing tools advisers can adopt to transform the way they use and manage social media and then onboard the resulting new clients. I continue to believe there would be huge benefits in Fidelity bringing their offerings to the UK.
InvestCloud showed some of the over 200 Apps their adviser clients can use. I love the vast amount of data they are making easily available to their users and the virtually endless look, feel and design features advisers can adapt.
They are featured in the next update of F&TRC’s Adviser Software Insights study and have just set up an innovation centre in London so I will probably be looking at them in far more detail soon.
Riskalyze describe their role as protecting consumers against their worst decisions. I am a big fan of how they present risk to clients. To me it is so much better than stochastic pods. This is all about talking to clients in ways they understand. Their Autopilot approach with its One-Click Fiduciary makes a great case for the FCA reviewing the UK client money rules as it can offer better consumer outcomes at significantly lower cost.
One of the biggest moments of the day for me was Hello Wallet founder Matt Fellowes, the man who transformed financial wellness presenting his United Income business which aims to transform retirement income. This makes it beautifully simple to understand how clients are doing then build and achieve financial life goals. It is great to see United Income building plans taking consumers to +100 years stretching savings to match increased longevity.
I was also impressed by DataRobot who are delivering a quick way to benefit from artificial intelligence, something I believe advisers can make huge gains by embracing
Onist were one of my favourites from Finovate Spring and it is great to see them at In|Vest with their Family Office for the masses. I would love to see some of the artificial intelligence tools shown here added to Onist.
The afternoon session was opened by one of the most compelling speakers in the US advice market, United Capital ‘s Joe Duran. Outlining why advice firms need to be both extremely human and extremely digital, whilst insisting that the planning process can be fully digitized, he argued humans need to do to things machines cannot i.e. provide empathy, understand human behavior and provide expertise and judgment to help with complex decisions.
Charles Schwab CTO Timothy Heier pointed out we are no longer in mobile first phase, now it must be artificial intelligence first. This shows the era of AI in financial advice is now upon us.
Mark Goines from Personal Capital highlighted that 65% of people who ever linked an account are still connected to them because they give them constant updates of good insights. He was followed by Bill Crager of Envestnet, who own Yodlee, who believes that a key component of building advice relationships with clients in the future is about giving consumers an integrated financial plan updated every day. This will actually provide a very gamified experience and I can see how it would have a similar effect to social media, we all want our regular fix of information and can’t resist looking at it regularly.
These will bring together consumers short term and long term financial lives with information they want to access regularly. Crager sees artificial intelligence delivering answers to financial questions based on the data the adviser will have aggregated via these services.
These last two issues are very relevant to the challenges that will emerge as banks re-enter the financial advice market which I will be exploring in my Money Marketing column next week.
Through an invigorating and exhausting day the consistent message was we now need to start complimenting traditional advice services with unparalleled data and artificial intelligence to deliver a superior customer experience.
This has been a quick canter through my highlights of day one of In|Vest I will try and add more detail from my notes over the next week or so, so please revisit this page for an updated view. I will report on the second day of the event soon.
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Honest. Constructive. Objective. No Bull.
We all have a comfort zone at work. Topics which we could talk about until the cows come home.
WealthTech propositions are my bread and butter, they sit very comfortably in my ‘safe place’.
A number of new tools, ‘artificial intelligence’, ‘machine learning’, and ‘deep learning’, have rapidly crept into the WealthTech space.
These self-teaching systems are busy revolutionising many industries. WealthTech is no exception.
You need to ask yourself whether you want to jump on the train and work them into your ‘safe place’, or rather wait for the next train to pull in.
My fear with the latter is that you'll be late!
It’s true that artificial intelligence has been around for decades, but for the majority, it’s something we have typically reserved for the latest James Bond movie.
These tools crop up regularly in our research. I talk in length to various proposition owners about how these technologies are being implemented.
More often than not, they are on their ‘to do list’ and still to be added to their roadmap.
“I’ll get back to you on that Kerry”
“We can’t disclose anything at the moment, but we’re working on it”
There is a lot of chatter about these innovative technologies. A few firms are already rolling out such services in the real world. It's these that I want to take a look at today.
To the majority of us, it’s something new. You need a certain level of skill to understand how it works. Your brain needs to tick a certain way.
It’s not always important to understand the inner workings of these technologies and algorithms.
It is important however, to understand how they are going to change the way we design and deliver financial services.
Every now and then I speak to an organisation which turns everything on its head. This is exactly what happened when we met Hedgeable.
They are primarily a technology company. Having successfully developed and deployed its own digital wealth platform in the US in 2009, the company decided to open up its architecture and partner with organisations across the globe.
The technology consists of four key open application programming interfaces (APIs).
Partner organisations will use these open APIs to form the infrastructure / back end of their digital wealth proposition. The API’s are available on a modular basis so you can pick and choose which ones best suit your business.
Hedgeable’s co-founder, Mike Kane, described the process as ‘plugging in’ their API’s into your existing framework.
Once you have the back end in place, you can add on a number of optional customer facing modules.
One of these, being a truly fascinating artificial intelligence module.
The following video from the recent Finovate Spring conference gives a great feel for the system.
Digital Wealth Insights analysts are producing a more extensive analysis of Hedgeable’s functionality which will be available from this site shortly.
We recently reviewed Abaka’s intelligent savings proposition targeted at employers looking to improve the financial wellbeing of their employees. (see their full review here)
What makes Abaka different from other workplace propositions is that its powered by artificial intelligence and delivered via both a mobile App and a chatbot called AVA.
This technology collates and translates the employee’s data to provide insight and nudges into their personal financial life. It also provides comparisons of their financial life against that of their peers or others with similar circumstances as themselves.
Crucially, Hedgeable and Abaka are both LIVE physical propositions available to use in the UK today.
We are in an era where technology can take our data, read it, understand it, and provide us with proactive insights to make changes before reaching a particular unhealthy situation.
Over the course of the next few months I’ll be looking at ways in which artificial intelligence is changing the way we develop and deliver financial services.
I highly recommend getting on the artificial intelligence train sooner rather than later. Step out of your comfort zone.
It’s incredibly exciting!
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Our income, expenditure and debt define how we live our lives today, tomorrow and ultimately into future. Is it not crucial therefore to ensure that every person gets the management of these fundamental processes right before approaching any actual investment, protection or retirement advice?
The Office for Budget Responsibility identified that credit card debt in May 2016 was £2,397 per household. Based on an average interest rate and minimum payment this would take 25 years and 6 months to repay. It also suggested that consumer borrowing trends will result in most UK households spending more than they earn for the rest of the decade.
The savings landscape is changing. There is no longer any reason for savings to be regular or centered on a single long-term goal now that there are micro saving tools to encourage consumers to save little and save often, as and when funds become available.
Of all the propositions I analyse on a daily basis there are very few with which I actively engage. Moneybox (www.moneyboxapp.com) is an exception. It is a great example of using micro savings to contribute towards an ISA or Investment account. I was able to save £94 in six weeks simply by rounding up my daily spending transactions to the nearest £1.
Cleo is another example of a Chatbot (www.meetcleo.com) budgeting tool which I use regularly. Instead of logging into my on-line banking or trying to make sense of a pie chart, I am able to send a simple text to Cleo to get the information I need instantly.
Whilst these two tools don’t have all the optimal functionality, they actively help me save and move towards a better financial life.
To provide a truly effective automated proposition it is crucial that we focus on helping the consumer build their financial life from the ground up.
We would encourage those organisations building automated financial service propositions to think of the end consumer and the journey they need to take in order to get in a position to actively engage in long term savings.
Further access to our analysis can be found at www.digitalwealthinsights.com (currently in beta). We aim to provide our audience with objective comparisons alongside our own informed analysis of automated financial service propositions, market trends and clarity around topics which typically create confusion.
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