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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.
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.
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? Consumer Debt 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. Micro Savings 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.