Technology Update

A wealth of online tools

Feb 26, 2012 @ 12:01 am

By Davis D. Janowski

In addition to the tools offered by financial companies that market directly to investors — brokerage firms such as E*Trade Securities LLC and TD Ameritrade Inc., for example, and fund complexes including The Vanguard Group and T. Rowe Price Group Inc. — many online companies provide technological solutions for the do-it-yourself mass-affluent investor market.

One category of solution combines a free online application or wizard that gathers client information with extra-cost advice (often from a human adviser). Although they differ in some ways, My New Financial Advisor (mynewfinancialadvisor.com), Personal Capital Corp. (personalcapital.com) and Veritat Advisors (veritat.com) fall into this category.

Another approach is to offer automated money management at a fee lower than what is charged by a conventional asset manager or wirehouse. Offerings in this category include Betterment.com and Wealthfront.com (formerly KaChing).

Some offerings — such as HelloWallet.com and Mint.com — focus largely on budgeting and financial planning, but are likely to add DIY investment management as their customer bases grow.

Third-party providers, including Scivantage Inc. and Simplifi LLC (simplify.net), have created personal financial management and planning tools that they white-label to banks and brokerage firms.

“Consumer appetite for these products is only going to grow,” said Joe Stensland, managing director of wealth management solutions at Scivantage, adding that users like the convenience of having their financial services bundled in one place and not being forced to contact different departments in the same firm or separate firms.

He noted that the online DIY market is growing to include complex products, citing as an example his own recent online purchase of a living will and trust.

“If you can do that, you can certainly create something for researching asset managers and managed-account offerings, or for researching and purchasing a 529 plan,” Mr. Stensland said.

djanowski@investmentnews.com

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