Managing director, Thameside Financial Planning
We identified the need to offer something to service clients with more straightforward financial needs; those for whom we would not ordinarily add value through our red carpet treatment. For instance, if the client has a small amount to invest and just needs an ISA, they do not need or want advice, but they do need a little hand holding.
Taking a dip
It is about servicing that middle ground between DIY investors who might use a service such as Hargreaves Lansdown, and the wealthy clients who do need the full financial planning process.
Intelliflo approached us with its robo-offering, and we thought we would dip our toes in the water. We are a small firm and do not have the resources or web traffic to create a standalone online service, so this seemed a good compromise.
Intelliflo provided us with a suite of investment options that included 30 different funds, and we chose Vanguard due to both reputation and cost. The service provided template letters and flows, and handled the building and branding of the proposition to align with our website.
The programme was rolled out entirely by Intelliflo, and was in conjunction with Cofunds (which we already used) for a modest revenue share with Intelliflo.
A few people have used it so far. It is a good solution and is passing the test; serving a very different set of clients with a very different proposition.
Director, Santorini Financial Planning
The decision to launch a robo service came about because I wanted to tap into a market I did not think I could deliver face-to-face advice to, and still be potentially profitable. What I offer is intended to target the age 18 to 40 market.
We did a bit of digging around and landed on Parmenion Interact, which was popular with people we consulted. Parmenion gives you the back office; I told them what I wanted to call it, which funds we wanted and the charges. They helped set that up.
We got some web developers in to build a website. I went for a cheap option, which meant it took a while, but it now looks good and links to the Parmenion back office well. Now we have to figure out how to get people to use it.
We are about to launch a Facebook advertising campaign with the help of a digital marketing agency, which we have managed to hire at a reasonably low cost.
The best advice I could give is not to expect it to be an overnight success. If you are hanging your hat on it making a lot of money quickly, you are going to be disappointed.
Financial success with this sort of thing will not happen just yet, but it is an investment in the future, rather than a silver bullet. Attracting interest is the big challenge right now.
Director, FOL Wealth
Everyone is changing the way they interact on a daily basis, especially millennials, so it is prudent to respond. After thorough due diligence we opted to launch a robo service with Vanguard, not only because it is a market leader but also because the low cost allows clients’ money to remain invested rather than spent on charges. The benefit of that compounds over the investment period.
Access new investors
Vanguard offers automatic daily rebalancing, capital gains and diversification. The key though was accessibility. Usually, clients will need £100,000 to access these funds. However, through FOL Wealth, they can do so for as little as £1,000.
Cofunds offers the platform and Oxford Risk provides our risk-profiling tools, powered by Intelliflo back office. It is scalable and frees up time.
Keep it personal
There is not enough brand awareness out there. This is a medium- to long-term strategy and it will be a few years before we can assess effectiveness.
Firms that view robo as a way to generate income will likely lose out to those offering a personal touch. Clients are able to liaise with us at any point during the online application and we will maintain an ongoing relationship during their investment term.
It is important to stress that you are qualified and regulated advisers and that your online advice service affords clients the same level of protection they would receive when taking face-to-face financial advice from their adviser.
THREE TOP TIPS
Tom Kean: You can offer a service to previously inaccessible clients for a fairly low cost – why not try it out?
Matthew Walne: Do not expect it to be an overnight success.
Abi Ladele: Keep it personal and make prospective clients aware of your credentials.