Earlier this year Wealth Professional covered the entrance of a new firm, Wealthsimple, into the so-called robo-advisor space. Since then several other firms have popped up in what is now crowded field. But in a recent interview with WP, the CEO of Wealthsimple, Michael Katchen, suggests his firm has grabbed an early lead in what is turning out to be fascinating, but tight, race.
Over just a couple months more than half-a-dozen new advisor firms have emerged in the robo-advisor space. Along with Wealthsimple there is Wealthbar, Invisor and Nestwealth, among others. But it was Wealthsimple that made one of the bigger splashes.
The company’s CEO transferred an entire team to Toronto from Silicon Valley to take up the mission of providing online advisor service to young Canadians. The firm got an early start, has attracted some serious names including Roger Martin and Joe Canavan. This past week the company announced it has been cleared to do business in the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec, expanding its current operations outside of Ontario and British Columbia.
To mark the milestone WP caught up with Katchen to see how business is going. Apparently, everything is going well. “We had a waiting list of people across the country hoping to sign up. Alberta was the biggest. So it’s good we’re there. Hopefully we’ll be national early in the New Year,” says Katchen. “It’s been really exciting. We’re growing really fast. Our business is expanding 30% a week right now. The biggest channel for us has been through referrals.”
The new online advisor firms are often considered an investing model for younger clients. But Katchen says those signing up vary widely in terms of age. “It’s interesting…the people signing up are all ages. Our youngest is 19. The oldest is 88.
Many in the industry have speculated that the coming shift in regulations that will see mutual fund trailer fees disclosed to investors could benefit the online advisor platforms. The coming CRM2 regulations weren’t something Katchen had built into the business plan. But he doesn’t deny the shifts could be good for the firm. “The fact CRM2 is coming in wasn’t part of the decision, but will help the business. This space of online advice is growing fast all over the country,” he says. “We think the growth curve will be faster in Canada. And we think that will accelerate in the years ahead. Business has been better than we thought. We have a lot of cool stuff we’re working on, and hopefully we’ll have some more announcements in the next couple months.”