Nod

A range of Australian startups have emerged over the last few years aiming to solve problems for consumers in the financial services space, with one of the particularly hot niches being money management. From personal budgeting apps to robo-investment platforms, it seems there is almost a solution for every need.

Coming at money management from a different angle is Sydney startup Nod. Founded by Joel Robbie, Jesse Skelton, and New York-based Adam Parker, the startup looks to help people get financial advice on-demand; users can ask a question, pick an adviser, receive their advice, pay through the platform, and then be on their way.

Robbie identified the need for such a service after three years spent working with his family in their restaurant in Newtown.

“It was an emotional purchase which was meant to replace the income of my Dad, who had terminal cancer. The whole thing was just really hard from start to finish, especially for us as people who weren’t particularly savvy when it came to money,” he explained.

“There was no easy outlet to ask questions when we had them. We agonised over decisions for weeks and months and often the outcome wasn’t a great one.”

So Robbie came up with the idea for a place where people could go when they were stressed about money to find an expert to help them make a good decision quickly.

“Our mission is to ensure all people feel confident and in control when it comes to their financial decisions. We think the price of financial advice today means it is only available to rich people and people over 55,” Robbie said.

“That’s why only 20 percent of adults in Australia use a financial adviser, a ridiculously low number. Young people have as much to gain from great advice about money and we’re here to make sure they have access to it.”

As such, the startup’s target market are young people – generally those under 35 – who do not currently have a financial adviser but are making big money decisions around things like buying a car or house, getting married, starting a family, or launching a business.

“Our pitch to them is that we know they are stressed out about making financial decisions, but that the price to go and see a financial adviser is expensive, it’s inconvenient to go and see someone, and the process is confronting,” Robbie explained.

“People don’t necessarily want a comprehensive financial plan for their life, they just want an answer to a question about money that is stressing them out that day.”

A customer using Nod would ask a question, receive bids from advisers containing information around cost and their experience, pick an adviser, and then get their advice, wrapping it all up with a payment. If need be, customers can securely connect their bank account to Nod in order to give an adviser a better understanding of their financial situation.

Advisers signing on are vetted by Nod after providing information such as their ABN, license details, and their LinkedIn profile. Advisers currently set their own fees, with Robbie explaining that each bid they make it competitive as they understand it’s a marketplace model; the startup is working on building a ‘suggested fee’ function.

“Our customers are completely in control of the whole process; there is transparency for them the whole way along from seeing the bids and credentials of advisers right through to getting their advice. They also don’t pay for their advice until after they receive it,” Robbie said.

To further build out its offering for customers, Robbie said Nod is currently building an AI function that will be able to answer questions, as well as identify personalised opportunities for people to invest or save.

Though the concept of on-demand, one-off financial advice might be new, there is competition facing Nod in this space depending on what needs consumers have, from traditional financial advisers to the likes of online adviser aggregators such as AdviserRatings robo-investment platforms like Acorns or Stockspot, and personal finance management apps such as MoneyBrilliant.

Robbie believes traditional face-to-face advice is “slow, expensive, and not aligned to the on-demand culture developing in society”, while advice through Nod costs “less than the annual cost of a Netflix subscription”.

An example on the Nod homepage shows ‘Nick’ asking for the best way to consolidate his five super accounts, wondering which he should move them all into; for $35 ‘Jessica’ explained he should find the fund with the best returns historically for its members with low fees, provided a list of recommended funds, and asked if Nick would like her to organise the consolidation process on his behalf.

Working with a financial adviser on an ongoing basis costs significantly more than $35 – but of course, it depends on what you need.

After a year of bootstrapping, Nod has this year joined the H2 Accelerator, receiving funding from H2 Ventures. It also won the first local Startup Games, run by the UK Department of International Trade, in Sydney at the end of last month, with the gathered audience awarding the startup £110 million in virtual funding throughout the course of the day.

As part of its prize, the startup will have the chance to travel to the UK as part of a delegation, meeting with the fintech community in London.

Robbie said, “Our goals are to grow our business and help as many people as possible get great advice about money.”

Image: Joel Robbie and Jesse Skelton. Source: Supplied.