Several financial technology startups are providing extended free trials or discounts on their products to help financial advisors handle the challenges of managing their businesses and client relationships while working from home during the COVID-19 crisis.
Although advisors were already starting to embrace such fintech tools to help them remove friction from their everyday activities, the current crisis has only accelerated the trend – and these deals make it more enticing for advisors to take the plunge.
“We were heading in this direction anyway,” says David Atwood, financial advisor and owner of Talisman Financial Planning in London, Ont. “COVID-19 has made everybody more accepting of these advances.”
Toronto-based Pascal Financial is making its Prevail suite of client-engagement tools that was launched in March available to advisors at no cost until Sept. 1. The bundle includes a behavioural finance assessment tool called InvestorDNA that helps advisors get a better understanding of their clients’ attitudes toward investments and risk and a platform that lets advisors share advice and updates in template-based e-mails with clients.
When it’s time for an in-depth meeting, Prevail includes a meeting scheduler and browser-based videoconferencing system. Advisors can share their screens with clients and show them how their portfolios would have performed against historical scenarios such as the global financial crisis of 2008, offering some historical context on the current crisis.
“Advisors don’t have tools to help their clients. And [with Prevail], here’s an opportunity for them to connect by sharing their screens, showing clients what their portfolios have done and talking about how to minimize losses,” says Fotios Saratsiotis, the company’s president.
On Sept. 1, Pascal will begin charging $150 monthly for Prevail. It can be used on its own or as a subset of a larger, more expensive set of back-office tools that the fintech firm has been preparing with a more complex pricing mechanism to replace the technology offered by advisors’ existing dealers.
That service would integrate the front-office tools in Prevail with client on-boarding, portfolio management and account administration services. Pascal signed a partnership deal with Fidelity Clearing Canada to serve as its settlement and clearing services provider for this service in early June.
Mr. Atwood has been using Prevail since March as COVID-19 persuaded him to give the product a try. The InvestorDNA tool has helped him uncover more about his clients’ personalities and risk profiles.
“You can see what they’re really like and what their hidden biases are,” he says.
Toronto-based Fortuna AI Labs Inc. is another fintech startup offering financial incentives for advisors looking to use its services during the pandemic.
The firm’s online sales automation service helps advisors find and contact potential clients, says Omer Jamal, the firm’s co-founder and chief executive officer.
Specifically, Fortuna’s service uses LinkedIn to find appropriate prospects matching the advisor’s niche client segment and then sends automated e-mails to solicit meetings. Its separate video communications tool lets advisors record video messages that they can post on social media websites or e-mail to existing clients.
The company is offering the video tool, normally priced at $50 a month, for a lifetime fee of $300 to the first 250 advisors who apply. Mr. Jamal and his team extended this offer from an initial 100 advisors after filling those slots in three weeks.
The rest of the platform, normally priced at $1,200 a month, has been available for $800 a month to advisors since mid-March. That deal ends on July 31. Mr. Jamal has seen the number of advisors signing up for the tool double to around a dozen a month during the crisis.
David Winnell, investment advisor at Foster & Associates Financial Services Inc. in Toronto, is one of those advisors and says the tool “allows us to be a lot more efficient in terms of time.”
In May, as his target clientele of small business owners in the Greater Toronto Area was reeling from the COVID-19 crisis, he used Fortuna to find and contact 880 potential clients. Of those, 10 are in the discussion phase and three have signed on as clients.
Another Toronto-based fintech provider, PureFacts Financial Solutions, is taking a different approach. It’s extending the free trial on its Cascades tool, which helps advisors plan clients’ retirement income in a tax-efficient manner, to 45 days from 15 days.
PureFacts took an ownership stake in Cascades Financial Solutions Inc. in May. It will offer the tool to its advisor clients and to large banks. Advisors normally pay $125 a month to serve up to 300 clients with Cascades.
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard from our clients and other prospects that the initial price is a barrier to entry,” says Robert Madej, PureFacts’ founder and CEO. “So, rather than waiting until ... people felt better [about the economic situation], we thought [we’d] extend this offer.”