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  1. This week I am in New York for the opportunity to see the very latest wealth technology innovations and to hear from several of the industry leaders who are transforming the way Americans access financial advice. Now in its third year, the In|Vest conference provides a heady mix of powerful tech demonstrations and exceptional thought leadership. For me the big message on day one of the show was machine learning and artificial intelligence is now part of the emerging landscape. In what follows I will highlight some of the early leaders. The volume of these offerings on display makes me feel the US may again be pulling ahead of the UK in FinTech and especially WealthTech. After a brief opening where Salesforce highlighted that their forthcoming 2017 Connected Investor research will identify that 47% of investors would be happy for artificial intelligence to used by their wealth management firm the day began with a whirlwind of demos of disruptive technologies. The videos of these will be up on the In|Vest website at http://conference.financial-planning.com/conferences/invest/ in a few weeks but in the meantime here are my highlights. First up was Salesforce with their Financial Services Cloud providing great visualisation of relationships, interactions and delivering insight. It is clear from the number of integrations Financial Services has in the US that the American proposition is a long way ahead of their UK offering but this does give an indication of where Salesforce may be in the UK in a couple of years. That said while the system can offer some awesome integration of consumer data I wonder how much of this would be allowed in Europe post the introduction of GDPR next May. This makes me wonder if the European Union and Fintech are on a collision course. I am increasingly worried that the excesses of GDPR and the EU’s inability to produce timely regulation could seriously damage the EU Fintech industry. Robert Stanich of IBM Watson showed how machine learning can identify clients at risk of leaving and how using artificial intelligence can transform client segmentation all beyond recognition. The service can also predict real life events and related product opportunities before your clients realise they have these needs. Watson has the potential to transform lead management so your existing data becomes your primary source of new business opportunities. Oranj showed a great onboarding experience with held-away data and risk profiling but fell foul of the eight-minute rule so ran out of time to show their full services. Comarch showed a very cool voice-controlled interactive artificial intelligence chatbot called Devra. Advicent showed great life protection tools they have built which makes me wonder why the cool omnichannel protection service they built for Scottish Widows never saw the light of day. An opportunity missed. MX then arrived to show why they do aggregation, categorisation and user interfaces for Personal Financial Management better than anyone else in the world. It is a great shame they don’t want to come to the UK as they have so much business in the States. Circle Black, a company that is entirely new to me, showed a stunning client facing tool set with API integration into Redtail, MoneyGuidePro, Riskalyze and many more. Fidelity owned eMoneyAdvisor showed new marketing tools advisers can adopt to transform the way they use and manage social media and then onboard the resulting new clients. I continue to believe there would be huge benefits in Fidelity bringing their offerings to the UK. InvestCloud showed some of the over 200 Apps their adviser clients can use. I love the vast amount of data they are making easily available to their users and the virtually endless look, feel and design features advisers can adapt. They are featured in the next update of F&TRC’s Adviser Software Insights study and have just set up an innovation centre in London so I will probably be looking at them in far more detail soon. Riskalyze describe their role as protecting consumers against their worst decisions. I am a big fan of how they present risk to clients. To me it is so much better than stochastic pods. This is all about talking to clients in ways they understand. Their Autopilot approach with its One-Click Fiduciary makes a great case for the FCA reviewing the UK client money rules as it can offer better consumer outcomes at significantly lower cost. One of the biggest moments of the day for me was Hello Wallet founder Matt Fellowes, the man who transformed financial wellness presenting his United Income business which aims to transform retirement income. This makes it beautifully simple to understand how clients are doing then build and achieve financial life goals. It is great to see United Income building plans taking consumers to +100 years stretching savings to match increased longevity. I was also impressed by DataRobot who are delivering a quick way to benefit from artificial intelligence, something I believe advisers can make huge gains by embracing Onist were one of my favourites from Finovate Spring and it is great to see them at In|Vest with their Family Office for the masses. I would love to see some of the artificial intelligence tools shown here added to Onist. The afternoon session was opened by one of the most compelling speakers in the US advice market, United Capital ‘s Joe Duran. Outlining why advice firms need to be both extremely human and extremely digital, whilst insisting that the planning process can be fully digitized, he argued humans need to do to things machines cannot i.e. provide empathy, understand human behavior and provide expertise and judgment to help with complex decisions. Charles Schwab CTO Timothy Heier pointed out we are no longer in mobile first phase, now it must be artificial intelligence first. This shows the era of AI in financial advice is now upon us. Mark Goines from Personal Capital highlighted that 65% of people who ever linked an account are still connected to them because they give them constant updates of good insights. He was followed by Bill Crager of Envestnet, who own Yodlee, who believes that a key component of building advice relationships with clients in the future is about giving consumers an integrated financial plan updated every day. This will actually provide a very gamified experience and I can see how it would have a similar effect to social media, we all want our regular fix of information and can’t resist looking at it regularly. These will bring together consumers short term and long term financial lives with information they want to access regularly. Crager sees artificial intelligence delivering answers to financial questions based on the data the adviser will have aggregated via these services. These last two issues are very relevant to the challenges that will emerge as banks re-enter the financial advice market which I will be exploring in my Money Marketing column next week. Through an invigorating and exhausting day the consistent message was we now need to start complimenting traditional advice services with unparalleled data and artificial intelligence to deliver a superior customer experience. This has been a quick canter through my highlights of day one of In|Vest I will try and add more detail from my notes over the next week or so, so please revisit this page for an updated view. I will report on the second day of the event soon.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.