Start-up founder explains how advisors can benefit from product that syncs users’ accounts
The founder of a start-up targeting self-directed investors believes advisors can benefit from the ambitious, crowd-funded app.
Hardbacon is a B2C mobile product that syncs customers’ investment accounts, analyses their portfolios and aims to help Canadians pick robo-advisors and brokerages through comparators. It also educates users with an online magazine and encyclopaedia.
Julien Brault, who is based in Montreal, said the app can also include advisor-managed accounts and be used as a “framework” for client’s questions. He said the app, while not providing direct advice, can help customers understand what their money is doing, sparing the advisor time-consuming calls.
He said: “Clients who are financially illiterate are more likely to withdraw in a crisis. The idea is that we are providing a way for advisors to have their customers more educated and more aware of what we are doing so they spend less time doing that, especially for lower-asset customers.”
The team behind the app is also working on a financial planning option and is close to announcing a major deal with a Canadian online brokerage, where clients will receive Hardbacon as part of its service.
With angel investors waiting for a major backer to come on board, Brault took matters into his own hands and forged ahead with crowdfunding, mainly through existing customers. He raised the maximum of $250,000 from Quebec, primarily, as well as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and British Columbia.
The app now has 632 subscribers and is charging $2 a month to cover data costs, with a premium service in the pipeline.
Brault believes that its ability to understand a person’s portfolio puts it above competitors who simply display account values. Hardbacon assesses this across a number of factors, including foreign currency, beta, geographic expansion and fees.
He said: “For us, that is the very start. We know exactly what type of security you have, what the asset allocation is in your portfolio and so on. We can really analyse your global portfolio across a lot of factors so people actually understand their global financial situation.
“It can also be that people have access to an advisor; it can be very useful and a conversation starter, and a way to frame what questions to ask.”
The data the app collects is also a vital part of the business model, said Brault, who is in talks with a number of financial institutions who like the idea of this being turned over to a human advisor.
He said: “The data collection would be done by the app and we could even build some model, but I’m not saying we are doing what the financial planner would do in 40 hours!
“Maybe one day, but we are pretty far from that. One of the things we are discussing is using the app to help investment advisors and financial planners manage the relationship with customers.”
A former business journalist, Brault was inspired to start the business after getting burnt by foreign currency risk and realizing how poor the relevant platforms were. After investing in US stocks, at a time when the Canadian dollar was getting stronger, he lost money despite solid stock picks.
He said: “That was so stupid! I was not stupid but I was not an investment professional so I was thinking, why is the platform done this way? It was easy to grasp that these platforms are poorly done.”