Over the years, there have been many quants and poets who tried to define the term ‘robo advice’, and so why not add our small version too to the list. Our version goes like this…..Any automated investing or financial planning solution that takes into account client’s personal circumstances and delivers suitable and appropriate guidance to help them achieve their life’s financial goals….we would happily call them all roboadvisors. And we are not afraid to use the word “Robo Advisor” on our website, although we would prefer ‘Automated Investing and Planning’.
We believe delivering automated digital client centric solutions and not being too product focussed is the way to move forward, and we think this strategy will become the norm for all retail focussed financial services firms in the future. Assuming you are with us on that belief, let us try and give you our version of how to launch your own client centric robo-advisor. Firms can move forward in any of the following ways:
Building Solutions In-house
Firms such as BMO, Charles Schwab and Vanguard launched their own robo advisor platforms by building the solution in-house. However, most firms usually take longer time to build competitive digital products primarily due to the arduous internal processes. Efficient companies build solutions in-house preserving IP but companies are vulnerable to operational risks of failure and taking long time to get to market.
In our view, all Tier 1 firms start with this thought process, and quickly realise the various bottlenecks associated with such deliverables. Moreover, it is often found that company’s culture stifles innovation making it difficult to stay competitive and to stay in tune with customer trends. To keep up with the changing customer trends, companies should launch digital propositions at a faster pace. Firms usually have limited know-how to move forward at that pace and hence require the talent, technology, and capabilities of the FinTech firms, which they have recognised now.
Buying Innovative Start-ups
Larger Institutions have numerous products and offerings across digital channels. Acquiring another FinTech firm allows firms to innovate their digital journeys and definitely give a quick leg up against the competition. In the last few months, we have seen numerous acquisitions in the robo advisory space – Invesco acquired Jemstep, Blackrock acquired FutureAdvisor, Envestnet acquired Upside, enabling these institutions to deliver client centric advice in an innovative way. All these startups that were acquired had completely different business models to each other but the suitors found value in how to use them for their needs.
Acquisitions help large institutions enter new markets with new technologies but M&A deals are very capital intensive, and post-acquisition, it is challenging to maintain the innovative culture of the acquired firm within a large organisation. Disparate company cultures are a common cause for the acquisition to not realise its full value. Having said that, some companies have started to take a partnership approach in acquisition providing necessary independence. Such partnerships help companies align their goals and work collaboratively, keeping the innovative culture intact.
Collaborating with B2B Fintech Startups
We believe incumbents partnering with B2B FinTech startups who have an open, agile and innovative culture without any conflict of business interest, enables them to go to market faster and at a fraction of the cost without losing out to their competition in this digital race. Another level of competition, often ignored by the incumbents is coming from small and innovative B2C robo advisory firms who are slowly starting to gain the trust of the customers, and it is only a matter of time for these small ones to become part of the trusted establishment. Once these small start-ups reach that stage, it would be hard to stop them, and the ones who refuse to transform their strategy in this digital age would be on a downhill path.
Institutions large and small can and should leverage the capabilities and technologies of Fintech firms to gain competitive advantage, stay relevant, and to reaccelerate growth across segments. These days the API driven seamlessly integrating propositions enable institutions to quickly bring a superior proposition, and one that helps to serve and retain clients providing them with the best of the digital experience.
At WealthObjects, we think its best to collaborate with B2B Fintech firms, understand each ones role in the relationship, and respect each other’s strengths. Only partnerships where both firms create addition value and share together in the growth story are the ones that will be truly successful in the long term. What we are suggesting is not new; in fact all along firms have been collaborating in various forms such as a supplier, investor, or joint venture relationships.
So why stop now, especially when the need for collaboration is greater than ever, when the entire financial services sector’s unbundling and disintermediation process has started, and when all existing business models are on the verge of or are already being disrupted.
Let’s start to collaborate and create more value together!---
WealthObjects provides B2B Robo Advisory, Financial Planning and Engagement ready made platform or modular APIs for Consumer Banks, Fund Managers, Investment firms, and Insurance firms. We help firms launch a customised and automated digital wealth proposition faster and at a fraction of the cost.
Our aim is to be 'The Wealth Tech Specialist'. Our purpose is 'Taking Wealth Digital'.