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  1. Honest. Constructive. Objective. No Bull Nothing quite wakes you up like the dark mirrored recesses of Soho's Groucho club (inclusive of lewd phallic images on the walls) first thing on a Monday morning. Although Shawn Brayman (President & CEO of globalcash flow planning software supplier PlanPlus and the new miPlan+ robo advice engine) came close with his opening statements during the Algos4Robos seminar hosted by Finametrica. "A new Robo-advisor is launched every three days in the US" Say what!!! My initial instinct was 'panic'. That’s a lot of robos! It's my day job to analyse and identify the merits, fouls and trends of robots and similar services around the world providing financial advice and guidance. Actually it's great news. Great for the consumer, great for innovation, great for competition, great for me (I should have a day job for quite a while longer), and great for the UK. We tend to follow US trends quite closely, identifying what does and doesn’t work (my job), and learning from their mistakes. What really stood out from their demonstration at first glance, was their approach to ensuring that the automated advice process was actually suitable for each individual client. They recognise that there can be a scientific approach to automated investing but that automation also needs to be able to recognise when scientific academics don’t suit. They prefer to nudge the user to communicate with a person with professional judgment instead. Paul Resnik, Director and Cofounder of FinaMetrica, is no stranger to building software across the World. His experience has taught him that common US FinTech mentality is to deliver as much as they can, as long as they deliver it today. The UK’s approach is rather to sit on it, wait until everything is in place, double check, and then deliver. If I had a pound for every time I heard “can we postpone your analysis of us until said date”, I’d only be needing a half-day job. This week highlighted two British organisations who have put in the man hours and clearly spent a lot of time developing a robust set of functionality, with the end-consumer at the heart of the proposition. It was great being British this week! I put Moneybox (www.moneyboxapp.com) and Wealthify (www.wealthify.com), who are both offering non-advised investment propositions in the UK, through our full analysis process this week. Look out for our benchmarking summary soon Moneybox has been a big in-house favourite amongst the DigitalWealthInsights team since its launch in August this year. It’s been one of the very few propositions to incorporate micro savings into it’s proposition. I myself saved £94 over six weeks into my ISA simply by rounding up all my spending to the nearest £1. Wealthify has a very effective, streamlined and engaging customer journey. It also incorporates a unique socialisation technique through the use of it’s member ‘circles’. I believe Wealthify is in the front row of organisations leading the way to lasting customer longevity. I’d have no problem recommending either of the above to my friends and family. I found myself schmoozing, shoulder to shoulder, with suited and booted fund managers at the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Novia hosted an event on the merits of investing in ETFs and at the same time introduced Copia, a subsidiary of theirs offering an investment range using 100% of ETFs. I'm pretty confident that I’d smash a pub quiz now on the difference between a tracker fund and an ETF. Some interesting data (and numbers almost as big as pie came from the event). For my purposes it was encouraging to see how automated advice propositions were ahead of the platforms in leading the way to offering lower cost ETFs to their clients. The week ended with my first rodeo at a chatbot bootcamp hosted by Personetics. The bot landscape is already substantial. Did you know there are already 35 000 chatbots integrated with Facebook. I’d seen all the adverts about Amazon Alexa, well she is a bot as well! The UK doesn’t rate it very much at the moment but let’s give her a break, she is the first of her kind. It’s possible that Google will have a similar bot out just in time for Christmas. 2017 is going to be the year of the Bot. Is the bot going to start becoming another member of our family? In fact, after seeing all the 'bot action' on Friday, it's pretty conceivable that a proactive cheeky little bot will be shouting at you from the fireplace in your lounge, telling you that you shouldn’t have had that extra drink at the pub quiz last night, but rather put it towards your ISA! It’s the potential of the bot that I can’t get off of my mind this week. See http://www.digitalwealthinsights.com/ to follow our more detailed insights and analysis of automated financial services in the UK.
  2. 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.