From the first budget apps to apps helping users build solid investment portfolio, fintech startups have done a lot to make financial planning and investing accessible to a wider audience that may not necessarily have the means to engage professionals to handle their money. However, many of these services, like traditional financial planners, link advice to associated financial products, taking a commission.
Map My Plan is a new service that does away with the linked products, simply aiming to help users achieve their financial goals by, as the name suggests, mapping out the journey. It works by having a user pick financial goals they would like advice on. From there, they see their dashboard, which shows how each goal relates to and impacts the others. The user then goes into detail on each individual goal, and as they provide more information and commit to a course of action they are able to see their progress.
The platform provides users with step by step guides on how they can implement the recommended actions, with articles and other resources providing additional information.
Founder Paul Feeney, who spent decades working in financial planning, an industry where advice is centered around the adviser’s need to sell various products, said it’s all about improving financial literacy and showing that getting one’s finances in order doesn’t have to be rocket science.
“We believe that the status quo where written financial advice is used as a means to justify selling a product needs to be challenged. Map My Plan’s service only focuses on advice; we guarantee to not sell financial products to our clients,” Feeney said.
“My background in financial planning made me realise that there was a better way to provide financial advice to Australians, many of whom believe the industry is all about selling of products and managing money rather than giving advice and providing coaching. I was frustrated at the focus on selling of products.”
And so Feeney began to look at how he could make financial planning easier. He believes that the more complicated strategies that need the nuance of a one-on-one relationship are limited to, at most, 10 percent of the Australian population. For everyone else, it doesn’t actually have to be that difficult.
“It is all based on logic. The whole process revolves around ‘if and then’ statements. This is something that logically can be programmed. Providing financial advice is not rocket science. The hard thing is to make it look simple and logical, hiding the complexity which not many people actually really care about. Most people just want to know how to improve their situation,” he said.
To make the whole process as simple as possible, the platform has users answer just five or six questions about their situation before it begins giving users advice and therefore allowing these users to see the benefits of providing that, and more, information. Feeney said the platform has also “banned” the use of industry jargon.
The startup is working in a crowded space. From Acorns to MoneyBrilliant, Stockspot to ProAdivser, roboadvice or automated investment platforms are all the rage as more millennials look to get on top of their finances, but Feeney is adamant that Map My Plan stands apart.
“I would not classify Map My Plan as a ‘robo-adviser’ as most companies classified as robo-advisers really are automated investment services. Almost every company in this crowded space provides clients with a product they should buy as a means of reaching their financial goals. Map My Plan is different in that we do not sell any financial products. We just focus on advice, which we believe is what people find most valuable,” he said.
“We have made what people see as a complicated and often confronting process a much easier journey that they can navigate themselves. This puts the client back in the drivers seat. The use of dashboards and ongoing rewards as you complete the plan helps to engage our clients in the process and increase their level of comfort. We have taken away the jargon and present the information in plain language. After all, financial planning is not rocket science.”
The startup is approaching the market in a few different ways. As well as targeting the 7 million households that do not have access to professional financial advice, Map My Plan will be looking to engage employers. The startup conducted independent research last year that found financial stress has a significant impact on productivity in the workplace, with employees spending 9.5 percent of their working week worrying about or dealing with personal financial issues.
As such, Map My Plan has developed a program, Workplace Financial Fitness, for companies. The program will allow companies to implement employee financial wellbeing as part of their wider employee benefits, helping employees to develop a financial plan and decrease their financial stress.
The startup will also provide financial advisers and insurance and mortgage brokers with a white label service that can be offered as a value add to their clients; rather than replacing advisers, Feeney sees Map My Plan as a platform that expands the pool of people who can access advice, and lets the forward-thinking advisers engage even more people.
Engaging these clients will allow Map My Plan to keep the platform free for individual users. These users can choose to upgrade their service by paying $9.90/month or $99/year for email support, or $29/month or $299/year for phone support.
Feeney said the platform has amassed over 1000 users since its beta launch three months ago, with the majority urban professionals aged between 30-mid 40s. The next few months will see the startup add more functionality to the platform and look to expand its user base by building strategic partnerships with firms boasting complementary services and looking to new markets outside Australia.
Image: Paul Feeney. Source: Supplied.