As the song goes, mo money, mo problems. As we make money, we need to consider how much of it we can spend now, how much we need to put away, and where it is exactly we should be putting it in order to make sure we have enough for retirement. In turn, the wealth management industry spun out around these questions is huge, which a Sydney startup believes has left a lot to be desired in terms of customer experience.
PractiFI is a SaaS platform focused on customer relationship management for the wealth management sector. Cofounders Glenn Elliott and Adrian Johnstone came up with the idea after a decade working as consultants in the space, which Elliott described “a bit of a mess in terms of technology.”
The core problem lies in the fact that the wealth management sector encompasses a number of services, from superannuation to life insurance, retirement planning, accounting and tax services, investment management, and the realm of financial advice.
“What was historically the case was that those sectors of the industry talked poorly to one another, and particularly when you got into firms that manage whole aspects of that financial management spectrum, the sectors within those firms talked poorly to each other. You’ve got whole silos of information in companies and things that didn’t work well together,” Elliott said.
In turn, customers suffer through poor experiences with these companies, shuffled from one professional for one service to the next for another, with neither knowing the details of what the other was doing.
So, Elliott said, though its users are the industry professionals, PractiFI was in fact created in order to make customers the focal point by allowing the professionals to better manage their client relationships and, in turn, have better relationships with their clients.
PractiFI, which helps users with functions including registry, policy administration, and telephony, was built on the Salesforce1 platform after Elliott and Johnstone saw that professionals in the sector were already keen on Salesforce.
“We had been working for a long time with clients in the wealth sector who’d been using it but they wanted so much more. It really comes as a toolkit; a client of ours recently used the analogy of Lego, saying, ‘I could buy Salesforce but it’s like buying a kit of Lego without knowing what I’m going to do with all those different pieces.’ With PractiFI we’ve taken all those pieces and used them for something that makes sense for this industry,” Elliott explained.
“They can turn it on, do a little bit of configuration, and they can get stuck in and roll it out very quickly. That’s a much more sensible approach for us, it’s much more resonant with the market to do that than for us to hire a bunch of developers and sit them in a windowless room for months on end and then say we’ve created something from scratch. That’s not what people want; they love this platform, they just wanted it to be much more targeted to their business.”
The startup was aided throughout the development process by a panel of industry thought leaders who acted as a sounding board and helped keep PractiFI on track.
“All the way through we had this kind of quality control step where we presented to them on a regular basis, and it really refined the focus of everything we did so that by the time we got something to market, yes it was still an MVP-type approach getting to market early, but we’d already had that panel the whole way through so we knew we had a good product by the time we got to market,” Elliott said.
This development was funded by a two-part seed funding round totalling $1.3 million, helping grow PractiFI from two cofounders to a team of 12 and take the product to market.
With core subscriptions priced at $1800 per user, per year, the startup has brought a couple of hundred clients on board so far across Australia and New Zealand, the first of them previous clients of Elliott and Johnstone’s from their consulting work. PractiFI also signed a deal with the Australian division of multinational company Mercer in September, a significant institutional deal that has helped spread word of the platform further in the industry.
The coming months will involve executing a broad product roadmap which Elliott said is full of ideas from clients, prospects, and others in the industry on new features and integrations. International expansion beyond Australia and New Zealand is also on the cards this year, with the startup having opened an office in London.