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Today’s purchase by Aviva of a majority stake in Wealthify has significant implications for the whole UK robo advice community and wider personal savings market. This move by the world's 12th largest insurer and a major asset manager is far more significant than the previous investment by LV= in Wealth Wizards and other UK robo deals. Aviva have a far greater degree of scale and partnerships that can be leveraged to the advantage of both businesses. Aviva have been a real leader in the digital revolution with the London digital garage having set the trend now being followed by many of their peers. While the deal keeps Wealthify as an independent business located in Wales it provides Aviva with an opportunity to open many doors for the company and harness a slick platform designed to appeal to a constituency that thinks and behaves in very different ways to previous generations. From the Wealthify perspective they no longer have the constant worry about access to capital to grow, no small benefit. Aviva already have a Direct to Consumer platform, built on FNZ technology for investors who are looking to go the DIY route to invest in a diverse range of funds. What they did not have up until now was a simple solution for those customers who do not want to spend large amounts of time managing their finances, but are seeking an easy way to invest for their future. It would be natural to expect Wealthify to move into pensions and Aviva’s knowledge in this area should be a major benefit. Whilst they would be wise to let Wealthify develop their own pension product, using Wealthify technology to support their substantial workplace pension and auto enrolment proposition would also be a smart move. As I have identified elsewhere this week (a link to the column will appear here on Monday) there is a compelling argument for focusing the Pensions Dashboard project around millennial auto enrolment customers in the short term. Adding the sort of execution capability Wealthify have to an Aviva Dashboard could deliver a powerful and compelling proposition to young savers. I am not at all surprised by this move; the US market typically runs two to three years ahead of the UK in the digital wealth arena. With this deal Aviva are emulating BlackRock’s 2015 move for Future Advisor and Invesco’s 2016 Jemstep buy by acquiring robo firms early rather than build their own in order that they could quickly partner with other financial institutions and distribution businesses. We have recently seen Blackrock make a substantial investment in Scalable Capital, the Anglo German robo firm, so Aviva are right to secure one of the more attractive firms available. There has been much debate of late around the cost of customer acquisition for start-ups with perhaps too much focus on the amount of money burned by Nutmeg who really had to break entirely new ground as the very first player of its type in the UK. If you happen to have 9,000,000 consumers, as there are on My Aviva, you do not actually have to hit too high a conversion rate to start achieving some very worthwhile numbers This move will cause Aviva’s peers to question if they are now at a commercial disadvantage particularly when trying to build partnerships with building societies and other savings institutions. It could also have a substantial impact on the asset management community. Do Aviva Investors have a significant advantage over their peers with an innovative new route to market? In my view the UK asset management community is for the most part failing to recognise the opportunity to leverage simple robo solutions which whilst a tiny percentage of the market today will have obvious appeal to the next generation of savers. There are unlikely to be enough robo advisers to supply demand from all the institutions who will wish to acquire one so they can maintain their competitive position. Primary players in this market will not want to be reliant on robos owned by competitors or others who may not always priorities their development agendas when it matters most. Unambiguous ownership will always settle such issues. Personally I can still see room for some Robo 3.0 start-ups emerging over the next year. Buyers will however need to have a clear understanding of what represents the good, the bad and the ugly in this sector if they are to spend their cash wisely. There are some that are very attractive targets and a few I would not want to go anywhere near. This deal may also provide significant opportunities for Aviva to deliver other products such as life and personal lines insurance to the attractive Generation X and Millennial demographics targeted by Wealthify. While the deal opens many opportunities the hard work is yet to be done and it will be at least 2 to 3 years before we can see the benefits reflected in Aviva results.
Honest. Constructive. Objective. No Bull. "I've got this" - my final thought before I walked out my front door and faced the day we launched http://www.digitalwealthinsights.com/ At F&TRC usually they come to us. They pay us. They ask us to help them 'fix it', 'build it' or 'measure it'. Not this time! With our new service we went to them. We told them. We are going to 'review it', 'compare it' and 'rate it'! I must give credit where it is due. 90% of organisations opened their doors and welcomed us in. They were proud of what they had created. Analysing a single proposition from the ground up, including the size of their underwear, teaches you a hell of a lot about it. Analysing multiple propositions, teaches you about the industry. It identifies trends, and offers up valuable perspectives from numerous angles. Yes, it's our intention to share these with you! The brief for Digital Wealth Insights is to be thorough. The objective is to provide unbiased, constructive and honest analysis of each proposition we select. Above all else, it had to be accurate! Each review was sent back to it's 'owner' to welcome challenges, debate reasoning, and check against accuracy. Many an hour I sat with bated breath waiting for the phone to ring, or my inbox to beep with messages from irate founders, cheesed off developers, and maniacal MDs. If you want to run with the 'Big Dogs' you've got to learn to take a pee in the long grass! Right? Right! 'Difficult' conversations are now par for the course, a daily hazard of my day to day job. Or so I thought. Instead what I found was intelligent debate, gratitude for the transparency, and acceptance of our measures. It is safe to say that there is no ‘one size fits all in FinTech!’ I’ve met with; Individual entrepreneurs who have put their heart, soul and life savings into their passion to help other people. Industry giants with years at the helm looking to modernise their offerings. Groups of friends / colleagues who have pooled their crazy high IQ’s and mind boggling skill sets, into providing a service for the ‘people’ Technology gurus who have been building bridges and plugging holes all over the industry. So much so, that they now have a full suite of functionality to offer their own standalone product. As an analyst of UK WealthTech propositions, I’ve picked up a few overarching pearls of wisdom these past few months: Showing excellence doesn't necessarily mean having all the bells and whistles. It's also an attitude, a drive, and a commitment to achieving something that actually makes a difference. Most WealthTech players are heading in the same direction. If you want to stand out from the crowd, think of delivering the ordinary in an extraordinary way. Options, always give the end user options. We are not all cut from the same cloth. Customisation is a USP. The ability and depth of customisation is crucial for customer longevity. Simple, keep it simple. (Do offer the complicated option, but keep it simple first). Education breeds security. Security breeds contentment. Contentment breeds longevity. Longevity breeds a well-funded bottom line. It all starts with education! The foundations are well and truly down! Where is the innovation? Don't get comfortable. I get it. You want to make sure you perfect your current proposition. But don't lose sight, keep up, innovate from within. (Before someone innovates for you) The opportunity is there. It's everywhere. Digital Wealth Insights was launched with an initial set of 20 propositions: Each week we will be adding more proposition reviews to the service. The next week we plan to look at Abaka and Intelliflo’s automated advice process. As more trends, facts and figures emerge we intend to share these with you through our various ‘Digital Wealth Insights’ social media accounts. To see a summary of our analysis identifying the areas of strengths and where we believe there is scope for improvement visit http://www.digitalwealthinsights.com/ (This does require you to register to the service to gain access to our free summary of each proposition). Further detailed analysis of the various propositions can also be accessed via this link. However, please note there is a subscription fee for the additional level of information.
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.