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#Algovisor Revisited

In 2012 I organized a panel at SXSW Interactive called “My Financial Advisor is an Algorithm”. The first so-called “robo-advisor” startups like Betterment (now at 70,000+ customers) and Wealthfront (now with $2+ billion in assets under management) were already disrupting financial advisory.

#Algovisor

But I wanted things to be easier still. It wasn’t enough for me to have the portfolio built and balanced by an algorithm. I also wanted to automate the questions about my risk adversity and the decision about how much to invest and when. If my Algovisor had access to all kinds of data, it would know more about me than any financial advisor would ever consider.

My Algovisor would be implicit and intuitive

It would know how old my house is, the heater, the washer, and how much I should set aside for any upcoming repairs or replacements. The same information would be available about my car. It would know I have a dog and a cat and how much I usually spend at the vet each year. My Algovisor would know what my job is, how much I make annually, and how that salary should develop over the years. Of course it would also know my spending and saving habits, without me having to say a thing about that.

About Me

I also had (and still have) the opinion that the best interface is no interface, and that the primary communication method should be via text messages. And that I should be able to choose how involved I want to be in the process.

phonecommunication_diswasher

What has happened to robo-advisors in the last 3 years?

It’s been three years since I presented these thoughts at SXSW. Many more so un-charmingly called “robo-advisors” have entered the market – Schwab Intelligent Portfolios being the latest. None go as far as I had predicted/wished for. But there are two enterprises with a slightly different focus, that I find most intriguing: Acorns, which launched last August and Digit, which entered the market in February. Both are focused on getting people to start saving as easily as possible. Acorns rounds up your everyday purchases and transfers the spare change into an investment account. Digit’s algorithm searches your checking account movements for possible amounts to save and automatically moves those into a savings account. While both apps (both are mobile only at this point) are not about building wealth or planning for retirement, they are closer to my vision of an Algovisor as any of the other robo-advisors: They are implicit. They make decisions (or suggestions) based on their users’ behavior. And – completely in line with my initial thinking – Digit communicates with you through text messaging.

So where is the Algovisor?

In my head, for now. I think that it is the next logical step into a future without financial advisors (or one where they turn into live coaches to stay relevant). What do you think? Would you be willing to completely hand over control, share all of your data? Is this the time? Do you want to build it with us?

Make Your Website As Smart As Your Wholesalers

Smart Wholesalers

How A Stronger Online Presence Can Help Actively Managed Funds Reduce Selling Cost

Facing increasing pressure on pricing and performance, actively managed mutual funds are focused on ways to enhance the effectiveness of their wholesalers while reducing the overall cost of their sales infrastructure. Many are taking a closer look at ways their websites can help bridge some of the gaps their wholesalers must overcome in a more restrictive, competitive and decentralized selling environment.

According to Morningstar, 35% of US based equity mutual fund and ETF assets were invested in index funds at the end of 2013, up from 17% in 2003. This trend will likely continue as investors are increasingly drawn to the appeal of long-term market performance at significantly lower expense.

In this environment, it is more important than ever for actively managed funds to tell their story to the advisors who sell their products. Yet, just delivering the story has become a lot more difficult as wirehouses have severely restricted wholesaler access to their financial advisors and tens of thousands of advisors have abandoned the wirehouses for small, independent offices scattered across the country.

Creating a Charismatic and Effective Online Presence

One way of increasing the effectiveness of a wholesaling operation, while managing its cost, is building a website that delivers more than just brochureware and stale performance numbers. Here are some things to consider:

Does Your Website Tell Your Story as Well as Your Wholesalers Do?
The quick way to answer this question is to ask your wholesalers if they like the site. Do they send a link to advisors ahead of a meeting and close with it as something for them to follow up on? It is vital to present the “secret sauce” of your active management when advisors visit your website. The website should deliver the exact same talking points your wholesalers use in their presentations, and all the information on the site needs to be current and accurate. Performance numbers should be updated nightly and current holdings should reflect the latest filings.

Does Your Website Work as Hard as Your Internals?
An advisor should be able to book an appointment, download fact sheets, prospectuses and marketing materials instantly on your website. They should also be able to learn about and contact the wholesaler covering their area every time they visit the site.

When mediaman, the German digital marketing agency, relaunched the Mirae Asset USA site in 2014, we made sure to place the ability to contact the wholesale team front and center. Through IP addresses, the site recognizes the location of users and automatically updates all contact information to their regional wholesaler’s photo and information.

Does Your Website Drip?
Your wholesalers know how long it takes and how many “touches” are required to convert a prospect. Does your site help this process along by delivering timely, relevant information and content based on expressed interest of advisors? Does your website or company have a secure area where relevant FINRA approved information can be used as a way to stay connected with prospects?

Creating a log in protected area for advisors creates a resource for sharing relevant information and also allows you to see who is using your site. This allows your team to follow up and to track what information clients are most interested in.

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Actively managed funds and the financial advisors who sell them share a common goal of clearly explaining to investors the value of their services. As indexing continues to put pressure on management and advisory fees, these partners must leverage technology of their own to streamline the sales process.