What’s it like to go it alone in the online advice space?

Wealth Professional sat down with the founder and CEO of a recently launched online advisory firm

What’s it like to go it alone in the online advice space?
Born and raised in India, Pramod Udiaver arrived in Canada in 2001 after successful stints in banking in both his home country and the Middle East. It didn’t take long for Udiaver to find his feet in Canada either: he quickly accepted a role at TD Asset Management and within five years was appointed Vice President and Director of Investment Management. Udiaver has also achieved MBA and CFA designations.
In 2015, with 20 years of experience in the investment industry behind him, Udiaver decided to start his own online advisory firm, named Invisor. “Working with clients is something that I’ve always enjoyed doing,” says Udiaver, who acts as Invisor’s CEO. “Working in an advisory role has been a different experience, but being able to help individual clients meet their financial goals really motivated me to get into this space.”
Udiaver’s interest in the advisory space was piqued in 2011 when he started to examine how the mass market was being served in Canada. Coming from the institutional side, he was fully aware of the cost disparity for consumers when compared to institutions. “Out of 25 countries, Canada is the most expensive place to invest in mutual funds,” he says. “There is so much disparity in the landscape and getting a 6 or 7% return is often very challenging. That’s what drove me to get involved.”
As well noticing a reluctance amongst advisory firms to embrace technology, Udiaver also saw a disconnect between what clients want from an advisor and what they end up getting. “Clients want access to good professional advice, but the service they often receive is a sales-based approach,” he says. “Institutions are trying to push products while consumers just want advice and help setting goals. There’s also not a lot of transparency: if you don’t ask the right question you don’t get the right answers. These are challenges that most Canadians face.”
18 months after launching Invisor, Udiaver has no regrets about going it alone. He describes launching his own firm as an ‘incredible journey’ and says he has enjoyed establishing new relationships and having the freedom to trying different things.
For Udiaver and Invisor, 2016 has been all about growing and establishing the business. As anyone in online advice knows, creating visibility and building credibility in the space is the first and most important challenge. Much of Udiaver’s time has been spent educating clients about the nature of online advice. "People are used to talking to an advisor face to face so when it comes to online portfolio management, a whole lot of education is needed,” he says. “People also need to understand why they have to pay fees and the significance of the costs they incur on their long term-goals.”  
Udiaver has noticed an influx of firms launching in the online advice space over the past 12 months. “Competition is beginning which is great because it helps to educate consumers and create awareness,” he says. “The market is big and there are opportunities for a number of players.”