Client feedback fuelled TD’s new interactive financial planning tool, GoalAssist – despite the company initially setting out to build a full-scale robo advisor.
Tony Ierullo, vice president of wealth at TD Direct Investing, told WP that its robo will happen but that it was clear its clients first wanted to use the underlying technology for a tool the average self-directed investor could benefit from.
Ierullo said the TD Direct Investing GoalAssist platform was borne out of one simple insight; that while many of us have financial goals and aspirations, very few of us actually have plans in place that articulate where we are today, where we want to be and how we are going to get there.
He said: “We really started to hear that more and more from our clients. We offer a tremendous amount of trading tools but it was apparent that the gap out there was accessibility to planning tools.”
GoalAssist is designed to take the investor through the process and chart the course they need to be on to get to their target. Ierullo said it begged that question of how can TD get clients comfortable and confident in building their own plan?
He said three clear messages can back from clients: it needs to be simple; they are interested in being educated along the way; and they wanted access to this tool to be free.
“There are a lot of financial planning calculators out there. We have actually integrated this into their accounts and investments. Making this a real experience was critical and integral.
“We will help the user go through the process of building out their plan and, on the back end, we monitor the progress of the account and how that is growing over time. We also provide feedback along the way as to whether their status of achieving their goals is either good or whether it needs attention.”
While the tool is for self-direct investors, Ierullo said advisors can benefit from the technology and ultimately provide more value for advisors.
He admitted that when the firm started this process, the focus was on building a digital robo advisor.
“[But] what was interesting here was the underlying technology and how it can be deployed across the continuum of wealth management offerings. So we used this technology in direct investing to help create GoalAssist.
“We can also use it with advisors and allow them to use components of it – whether that’s building or balancing portfolios - with greater efficiency and capacity within their practice so they can focus on what I would call the other wealth considerations such as estate planning and succession planning. This is where the advisor can demonstrate the value to their customers and less time constructing portfolios.”
He added: “I don’t want to sound like I’m dismissing robo advisors. We will do it but the underlying technology is all the same. We can deploy this across various offerings and drive out certain incremental value propositions, including eventually the actual robo.”