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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. Hedgeable 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. Hedgeable AI Lab Digital Wealth Insights analysts are producing a more extensive analysis of Hedgeable’s functionality which will be available from this site shortly. Abaka 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!
Honest. Constructive. Objective. No Bull. Never has a term rung so true. Many loud, rambunctious and confident announcements have been made in the press and via social media the past six months about the launch of innovative, industry changing, kitchen sink inclusive, WealthTech propositions. In the hope that a new proposition will be well received and communicated to our audience, we are approached by these organisations, with much gusto, and told of the wonders of their tools. That’s not how we roll. When it comes time to lift the actual bonnet and start our review, the process is promptly placed ‘on hold until further notice’. Why? Is there nothing to show for all the chatter? A particular favorite of mine, are the three savings or budgeting applications that I downloaded onto my mobile last year which claim to automatically assist you find various savings. Still pending! Large traditional institutions have called in with incredible enthusiasm, announcing the imminent launch of their very own robo adviser. When it comes down to the details, suddenly everything goes dark. Readers with roots in Africa, will relate when I liken these propositions to the feathered phenomenon, the Hadeda bird (Football fans may identify more closely with the flying vuvuzela!) "haa-haa-haa-de-dah" 'Marketed but not yet launched’ is the official standpoint. ‘Jumping the gun’ or ‘all talk and little action’ may be a couple of ways to explain it, but my gut tells me that neither of these is typically true. Understandably, it’s important to create interest, establish positioning, grow your beta community, engage the industry and entice investors. Equally, we are talking about a regulated environment here, so crucially you would have to get your compliance on point. I wonder however, whether this premature marketing launch instead harms a proposition’s first impression and opportunity to capture their target audience. From my perspective, I can't help but feel disappointed and slightly skeptical. Importantly, I'm not talking about the odd hadeda here and there! I'm talking about a full on flock of these big flappers. Vaporware assumes that the organisations making these announcements have no intention of actually releasing the tech / functionality any time soon. Again, my gut tells me that this is not the intention, but rather a cautionary trend within the UK industry. We simply seek perfection before taking that first step. Please, don’t miss the boat! Waiting for the perfect product could take months or even years. Each month that goes by, another few propositions are launched, taking a chunk out of your target audience. Get the fundamentals right first. Absolutely. But then go for it! Introducing new and improved functionality as and when you have it has many advantages: · An agile development process can be exciting for users. · It shows them you are continuously adapting and evolving. · You can change your priorities according to demand and not a deadline. · It will force you to innovate from within more regularly. Be honest with your audience. Tell them what is coming. Tell them how you are building things to benefit them. Ask them for help and then tell them you listened. Reward them for their loyalty. People like honesty. Approach your users with your cards on the table. You will be giving them a reason to stay. That better day may never come. Your competitors are already leaving the harbor. Stand up. Be present. Be brave. Own it. Launching a half-baked proposition today without all of the ‘bells and whistles’, may put you in a better position than if you waited for that perfect bake.
Honest. Constructive. Objective. No Bull. It was time! To take on the PFM’s (Personal Financial Managers) Personally, I've been most excited to get stuck into analysing these as they are best placed in helping me manage my family’s ‘financial baggage’. (By baggage I’m really referring to the husband’s constant care and attention for his bicycle) Wikipedia defines Personal Financial Management as: “Software that helps users manage their money. PFM often lets users categorize transactions and add accounts from multiple institutions into a single view. PFM also typically includes data visualizations such as spending trends, budgets and net worth.” Many PFM’s in the UK can hold their hand up high in chanting “Yes we can!” “Yes we do!” But is this really enough? This week I signed up and aggregated all of my banking / credit accounts with four of the UK’s direct to consumer PFM’s. www.moneyhub.com www.moneydashboard.com www.moneymojo.co.uk www.pariti.com (Totally missed the ‘name yourself money’ memo) A full review of each proposition can be accessed shortly via www.digitalwealthinsights.com. I’ve been biding my time waiting for the perfect moment to introduce the husband to an objective 3rd party which would inadvertently point out his obscene spending on all things bicycle related. Other positives I’ll be seeking include; · What’s yours is yours, what’s mine is mine, what’s ours is (mi..) ours. · No longer would amazon purchases be unaccountable to a specific individual (“It wasn’t me”). · A centralised platform would mean a reduction in arguments about whether my hair cut constitutes as ‘personal spending’ (i.e out of my own personal account) or ‘joint spending’ (i.e out of our household spending account). · A mechanism to encourage us to eat at home more often (health, weight and budgeting benefits to be gained here). · Something, anything to help us (him) stop wasting money on unnecessary items. · Redirect budget reductions towards short term savings goals we can enjoy as a family. (age-defying botox for mid-30s mom of a toddler) You get where I’m going… Simplicity! Cohesiveness! Clarity! Answers! PFM’s have the power to significantly help the end user make positive changes to their ultimate ‘bottom line’ today, and better prepare them for longer term savings. My experience in analysing these propositions in the UK is that the majority are not honing in on that power (yet). PFM’ing is not relaxing. No matter the level of automation or real-time updates, all four PFM’s required a significant amount of manual interaction from myself. (I assume this will continue for an initial phase whilst the PFM learns more about your spending categories and establishes trends) Whilst aggregation and automated categorisation accounts for a majority of the data, it is important that it is personalised and checked for it’s accuracy by the user. Worryingly, no two PFM’s of the four I analysed produced the same output (in any respect). One thing they did agree on, was that the ‘financial baggage’ in our family could be closer to home than I thought. (oops – sorry husband) A well delivered PFM provides you with an overview of where you are now, how you got there, and what to expect going forward based on historical trends. Some offer the ability to use these insights to set goals and change trends. Our ‘Digital Wealth Insights report’ provides our full analysis and identifies who of the four PFM’s is the clear front runner. This PFM provided access to real-time budget management, high levels of accuracy of it’s automatic categorisation, the ability to create personalised forecasts, and the creation and tracking of spending goals. In addition it offers simple personalisation and great visuals of your income, expenditure and forecasting. Will I continue to use either of the four PFM’s analysed this week? Honestly, I’m not sure. The question I ask myself is, do they help me solve any of my personal ‘financial baggage’? In part, yes. But it’s not enough to make a difference. (Besides, I need to spend a bit of time reducing my spending at certain retailers first, before introducing the husband to the objective 3rd party!). Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll be turning to the Business to Business market and the likes of Intelliflo, moneyinfo and AON’s Big Blue in search of a PFM that can make a difference. Adding value through tools such as micro savings, debt managers (not just consolidators) and smart spending to actively engage their end users in physically making changes is how you put the power into PFM. Watch this space. See http://www.digitalwealthinsights.com/ to follow our more detailed insights and analysis of automated financial services in the UK.
Honest. Constructive. Objective. No Bull Born in the early 1980s, I’ve been comfortably sitting on the fence between Gen X and Gen Me (Millennial), falling whichever way I need, depending on whom I’m speaking to. I’m having to learn to speak to people of all ages, less or more (or much more) intelligent than myself and with differing levels of corporate experience. This week has taught me a lot about the ‘true millennial’. Fast thinking and fast to commit. They literally have no bureaucratic red tape to cross whatsoever (which is refreshing). They suck you dry of information, providing very little in return (which is clever). They are brave (which makes them a threat). They began their journey with a perfectly clean sheet, devoid of any legacy systems (which means they have no preconceived baggage) Instead of perpetuating established businesses' preconceived customer journeys they are truly innovating new ways to engage with financial services (which they believe will give them customer longevity). They don’t call you back! Each day I focus on a single automated proposition and analyse everything about it. Wherever possible, I physically try it out for myself. I measure it against a set of core components and functionality. I speak at length to the developers and founders about how it came about, their route to market and what their plans are for the future. Here is who stood out for me this week: Mulalo The founders of http://mulalo.co.uk/ really made me stop, look up and listen. Mulalo is a FinTech start-up soon to be releasing the beta version of their savings app. The Founders, Matt Pritchard and Julian Bourne are straight out of University, buzzing with excellent ideas, hungry to learn, and driven to provide a financial experience to their users based on their own need to find a better way to save. Not only did these true millennials call me back, but their passion to build a service which would actively help users save money on a daily basis is why I would put Mulalo on my list of ‘who to watch’ in 2017. Simples Switching over to Insurance, www.my.simples.uk.com has an exciting proposition currently in beta where they have incorporated ‘machine learning’ algorithms and a chatbot to provide their users with a platform that aggregates their general insurance policies. It presents the key information back to the user in a format which is easy to understand. The idea behind this is to increase the user’s understanding of what they are covered for, and ultimately ensure that they have appropriate / sufficient cover in place. As the user interacts more and more with the service, it is expected that their customer experience will improve as the machine learns more about them. To assist engagement, Simples has implemented a ‘chatbot feature’ which enables users to text Simples on-the-go to request instant up to date policy information as and when the need it. Whilst the service is still in it’s infancy it is making great waves into the insurance market by helping the end consumer better understand and manage their insurance portfolio. Simples is looking to expand their services to the wider industry including energy suppliers, health insurers and mortgage providers. I can't help thinking how this could potentially benefit the Protection industry by providing some much needed clarity and simplification on complex issues such as policy conditions. Some of the people I'm catching up with next week include Moneybox, Planplus, My Future Now and Wealthify. (No millennial start-ups in the diary as yet, as they still haven't called back) Keep an eye out for the list of who floated my FinTech boat. See http://www.digitalwealthinsights.com/ to follow our more detailed insights and analysis of automated financial services in the UK.