|Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) and their clients
|Advicefront is an adviser tech platform. It takes care of the boring and time-consuming admin financial planners hate – freeing them to help their clients achieve their financial goals.
|Jose Supico, CEO and Founder
Andre Costa, CTO and Founder
Advicefront is a London-based technology company that is developing a behind-the-scenes management platform built for both advisors and their clients so they can engage better in financial planning. It is split into three modules that can be used separately. Onboard is already available and helps with the first tasks advisers have when welcoming new clients, such as fact-finding, risk profiling, client agreements and digital signatures. A second product – due in autumn – will help advisers build financial plans for their clients, while a third is being launched shortly after to assist with execution.
I spoke to Jose Supico, CEO and co-founder of Advicefront, who started his career working in private banking. Later, Jose set up the first fee-based advisory firm in southern Europe with the support of Dimensional Fund Advisors. It was during this time that Jose found that the tools used by advisors were inappropriate.
“I had the idea of creating sort of a robo advisor. But then one of our investors, who was the head of Dimensional in London, opened my eyes and said that , when it comes to their money, people want a human involved.”
Thus, the idea for a B2B white-label platform for financial advisors was born. Jose says that since Advicefront is focused on the end-user, they consider themselves to be a B2B2C company.
Andre Costa, CTO and cofounder of the company, also provides product management. Jose describes him as follows:
“Our CTO and co-founder is a product guy. He started as a web designer and now he is a full-stack developer, but his passion is in product development, so I think we have a pretty good product-management system in place.”
Working within tough regulations in the UK
Jose believes that the UK market is much more heavily regulated than that in the US. There are more types of tax structure and tax record and these are more complex. However, Jose sees advantages in these tough regulations—they solve a number of problems and, because of this, other countries are following the UK’s lead.
“In our particular position as a company, I think [the tough regulations we navigate] could give us a certain advantage in terms of entering the US if there are those regulatory changes. We will be in a good position to give something to the advisors that they might need all of a sudden if there are big regulatory changes.”
On competition in the UK, Jose says many of Advicefront’s competitors are focused on pushing their products or on the dynamics of financial markets, rather than financial planning, client outcomes, and personalizing the client’s investments.
The Advicefront platform targets individual savings accounts (ISAs) and independent financial advisors that don’t have the scale and the technology to build in-house.
“We also work with networks that do have the scale to have systems in place, processes, etc. In the UK, these networks take on the regulatory risks for the partner. So it is a good way for networks that have a very scattered client base to have the systematic processes in place to help them monitor their base more accurately.”
The Advicefront platform is popular for its risk-management tool. However, the company’s clients may use it to give more value to end-users, streamline their processes, and make their advice more efficient and cheaper.
“In the UK, the regulated advice market allows advisers to give full advice, which involves a great deal of fact-finding and research into your client’s needs and goals. The adviser can then execute and manage the investments on their client’s behalf, or a client can decide to manage their own money. There is also the third way, which is execution-only, whereby a client can be directed to a robo-adviser and be offered a simple selection of products based on the client’s risk profile. Now the FCA [Financial Conduct Authority] is starting to explore this type of simplified advice and streamlined advice as legislation, but it is still undefined.”
What makes Advicefront different
To give advice, advisors have to collect a lot of information about their clients. To enable advisors in this regard, the Advicefront platform gives end-users tools to upload documents, fill out fact-finds and risk questionnaires, and set up payments, contracts, letters of authority, etc.
“It would usually take three months to open an account to get the client ready to invest; we radically decreased that lead time.”
The next step is to make this information intelligible. Now the company is launching a financial planning module where advisors can create a financial plan and prepare the suitability reports that are required by the FCA.
The recommended financial plan is then delivered to the advisor. Once the advisor accepts it, the platform connects to complete the execution, including online account opening and strict reprocessing of the orders, rebalancing, and then doing the (annual or biannual) review of the client’s situation.
“I would say what differentiates us is we are client-first. We give the tools to the end-user to do a lot of the work, so that makes the process highly scalable, because [traditionally] the bottom line was on the end-user side. We are an open-architecture platform, so we connect to all of the software that the advisors are used to working with.”
The company endeavors to make the user experience intuitive and seamless.
Among other features, the Advicefront platform has customer relationship management (CRM) that allows advisors to design a workflow for their clients and processes, invite clients and track everything they are doing, and communicate with them at different steps of the process.
“Our CRM is … still in an early stage, although in some sense it is more advanced than the storage that is in the market. And we have a lot of features in the roadmap for the CRM part of things.”
The platform offers a document-sharing feature; this means that every document that has been generated by the client, the platform or the advisor may be uploaded.
Integrations and data security
Advicefront integrates with a number of technology companies to enable financial advisors to offer their clients more tools without leaving the Advicefront platform.
Jose names the following companies with whom Advicefront have provided, or are in the process of providing, integrations:
- FNZ, a provider of technology platforms in the UK.
- Transact, one of the leading robo platforms in the UK.
- CashCalc, a financial-planning tool.
- Oxford Risk and Portfoliometrix, risk profile partners.
- Stripe, a payment-processing platform.
“We just closed a funding route with FNZ, the platform provider behind Barclays. We are in the process of integrating with the FNZ API, so that we [can] make all of the platforms at FNZ available to our potential partners.”
The company is aiming to integrate with challenger banks and SoftService. Jose states that Advicefront tries to connect what people use on a day-to-day basis and give them context to be their own advisor and to better manage their personal finances.
The Advicefront platform is General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant. According to Jose, they are also working on methods to make information that is collected from end-users compliant with the regulation.
“I think that the partnership with FNZ [will allow] us to follow the right standards and have access to specialists that have a lot of experience in the market. So it is very important for us, obviously.”
Software development and product management
Advicefront has eight people in its team, including CEO and two people in the marketing team, one of whom does digital marketing while the other does traditional marketing.
The development team includes three developers and two designers (one of whom is a UX designer). They run an Agile process with daily standup meetings and two-week sprints.
To identify the next steps, the company establishes effective communication with every client in order to obtain feedback and understand their needs. While building a new financial planning module, Advicefront is setting up a community of financial planners in which the company can show them new apps, receive their feedback, discuss, and come to solutions that are genuinely innovative and easy to understand for end-users.
“Usually, advisors want to sell a level of complexity, and we think the end-user needs clarity and reassurance, so it’s a trade-off that we have to have.”
Despite the fact that the company doesn’t currently have a mobile app, they know how important it is to have a responsive interface and be attractive no matter whether the client is using a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone. This is why Advicefront has designed the platform from a mobile-first perspective.
Flexibility for advisors and their clients
The Advicefront platform has been designed to appeal to financial advisors, their clients, and the children of their clients.
“Creating relationships with millennials, with the sons and daughters of clients, that’s crucial for advisors. All the data shows that if they [the children] don’t have a relationship with the advisor, they take the money once they inherit [it] and go to their buddy or move out.”
The platform is conceived to be a modern app that attracts millennials and helps to build a trustworthy relationship with advisors, to give a household approach to the management of wealth.
The platform provides flexibility in terms of multiple personal use per goal and multiple goals per portfolio. The platform allows several people to have the same account or the same goal. Users also have access to all of the tax records pertaining to the strategy the advisor creates.
“That is something we picked up really early on, that the advisors want that kind of flexibility, so we designed it.”
Today, the company is mostly focused on the financial advisory side but it provides some tools for end-users. However, the platform will continue to serve as a set of tools for financial advisors and won’t transform into a robo-advisor for end-users.
“We want to facilitate the relationships between clients and advisors in the best way we can with technology, supporting advisors with marketing, etc. But it is all about the advisor.”
Advicefront is a young and fast-growing technology company that helps financial advisors and improves the end-user experience. From the very beginning, the team refused the temptation to build a robo-advisor. But by creating a platform for advisors, they have kept end-users in mind and made the platform easy to use and efficient. The company provides a number of iterations to make as many tools as possible available to all platform users. The platform is thereby filling a gap between advisors and their clients, and automating time-consuming processes including client onboarding, collecting and analysing data, generating reports and recommendations and management of portfolios.