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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Landscape of UK Automated Financial Services propositions F&TRC’s DigitalWealthInsights.com team are actively monitoring over 130 organisations within the UK that are currently in various stages of developing their digital financial service propositions for consumers. Like most things in life we start at the beginning and continue our journey, progressing one step at a time, until we reach the end goal. So too should this be applied to our Financial Life. My Financial Life Step 1: My Financial overview. How am I doing? Get an overview of your current financial situation i.e. income, outgoings, assets and liabilities. Identify the problem. Step 2: Reduce debt & start micro savings. Take action. Engage in real-time budget planners, debt management and micro savings tools to improve the way you manage our daily income, expenditure and debt. Step 3: Emergency cash reserve. Build up a cash saving’s pot for those unforeseen emergencies, typically a cash ISA / savings account. Step 4: Protect myself and my family. Consider which protection policies need to implemented to protect yourself / family against loss of income, illness, death etc. Step 5: Buy a home. Look to invest in an asset to build independence and security for your family. Step 6: Start investing for medium to long term savings goals. Consider contributing towards pension savings, ISA and investment accounts. Step 7: How do I want to retire. Determine your income, expenditure, debt, level of savings and ill health options in retirement. The graph below illustrates which step of the consumer’s financial life the various propositions we are analysing cater for. 68% of automated financial service propositions provide an on-line investment service. Of these propositions approximately 80% do not address the consumer’s income, expenditure and debt (steps 1 -3), but instead jump right in at assisting the customer towards investing for the medium to long term (step 6.) The government’s motivation for driving the automation of financial services is to engage the mass market in saving for their future. To be able to save for the future, it is critical that we understand how to save for today first. Research conducted by PWC in 2015 identified that 63% of the employees they surveyed were not saving for retirement because they had too many other expenses and 46% said they had debt to pay off first. Consumers need assistance in getting the relationship between the three key elements, income, expenditure and debt working well and to a level where they physically have sufficient surplus income available to allocate towards long term savings. Is it fair then to say that 80% of automated investment propositions currently in the UK are not optimised to help the mass market with their long term savings? My question then is, how much longevity and customer loyalty will these propositions have when the debt managers and micro savings tools start to gain momentum by actively helping customers improve their financial life?