Online Trading and Wealth Mangement

The wealth management industry and online trading is likely entering a period of significant disruption, with robo-advice at the very heart of disruption. 

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Armed with venture capital dollars, scalable technology, and lofty rhetoric, and free of fancy lobbies and other legacy costs, members of the fintech movement are competing on price as well as the ease of use.

Some, like Robinhood, are playing Silicon Valley’s “freemium” game–give away a basic service and then charging for premium features or expanded service. Some of the sharpest (and noisiest) competition is among the robo-advisors, who use computer programs to allocate investors’ portfolios into index ETFs based on their investment time frame and risk tolerance.

Your cash belongs to you, not your bank. Fintech startups are challenging the big banks—and are saving people thousands. “It’s no longer about having the largest building, with the best decorated lobby in your financial institution,” says Vladimir Tenev from Robinhood. “Trust for us is doing exactly what we’ve said we are going to do. That means executing customers’ trade reliably and not charging them trading fees.”

Another intriguing option: hybrid services combining robo asset allocation with human financial advisors who offer advice on saving for retirement, financing college, insurance, estate and tax planning and so on. In yet another freemium twist, Personal Capital has signed up to 900,000 people for a free dashboard that tracks all your investing, credit and bank account; sends daily reports of your transactions and account changes; analyzes your asset allocation and the cost of your mutual funds; and helps you gauge your retirement prospects. It then uses that data to prospect for clients for it hybrid financial advisory service it sells for 0.89% of assets a year. (Fees decline for accounts over $1 million.)

While Personal Capital is cheaper than traditional human advisors charging an average of 1%-plus of assets per year, in May the Vanguard Group rolled out its own robo-human hybrid, Personal Advisor Services, for just 0.30% of assets a year. Personal Advisor, which was in beta for two years, already has $26 billion under management, although $10 billion of that was transferred from the higher priced Vanguard advice product it replaced.

Note, however, that Personal Capital, unlike Vanguard, maximizes loss harvesting the way Wealthfront does—by buying individual stocks for taxable accounts for over $100,000.

Fintech promises to make it cheaper and easier to manage your money. But for now, at least, it’s made a choice of where to put your money a lot more complicated.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, just made an unusual purchase: a startup called FutureAdvisor, which offers low-cost, algorithm-based automated portfolio management. The company, whose dashboard is designed for use by investors who might not be able to pay a conventional money manager, is based in San Francisco and has primarily targeted a techie user base to date.

FutureAdvisor CEO Bo Lu said that the company will continue to offer identical products to users after acquisition, as it currently offers free and paid products. “We will continue to have an open platform that uses products from a range of providers,” Lu told. According to Reuters, BlackRock plans to use FutureAdvisor to allow banks, brokerages, insurers, and 401(k) firms to serve millennials and what BlackRock calls the “mass affluent” market, which has less than $1 million in investable assets. The acquisition comes just days after Salesforce unveiled an automated wealth management tool aimed at money managers. Neither FutureAdvisor nor BlackRock disclosed terms of the acquisition.

Betterment launched a service, called SmartDeposit, which will give members more control from their money. Saving money is hard and with SmartDeposit Betterment made it a bit easier by automating the task. With SmartDeposit users set thresholds on their bank account balance.

The service then intelligently detects when there is excess amount of cash just sitting there and moves it to Betterment where it is invested.

Motif Investing (US)

For creating low-cost, themed-based investments that are easy to understand.

In 2008, U.S. investors paid $376 billion in fees for the privilege of losing $8 trillion of their net worth, says Hardeep Walia. 

Like many other entrepreneurs, Walia was mad. His wife said, “Do something about it.” And so he created the online brokerage Motif Investing. Its users can invest in theme-based baskets that contain up to 30 stocks; it costs just $9.95, which is one-thirtieth the cost of typical online brokers. Themes can be industry-specific or something more playful. Invest in a motif called Lots of Likes, for example, and your stocks will be weighted toward companies accumulating the most likes on Facebook, regardless of market cap.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]”Innovations in technology can help wealth managers increase revenue, create greater efficiency and better retain clients”[/su_pullquote]And its 120,000 users can create themes of their own; they’ve built more than 100,000 motifs so far, and earn royalties if others purchase them. Walia and his wife even maintain his-and-hers portfolios: She invested in women-led companies with a theme called No Glass Ceiling (one-year return, up 13.8%), while he invested in one called Shale Oil (one-year return, down 27.8%).

Motif Investing, Inc., is a next-generation online broker that is pioneering thematic investing for individuals and financial advisors. The company, based in Silicon Valley, allows investors to trade “motifs”-intelligently weighted basket of stocks built around themes, investing styles or multi-asset models- for low fees.

Motif Investing, Inc., is a registered broker dealer and a member of SIPC. Motif has been ranked consecutively on Fast Company’s list of Most Innovative Companies in Finance and on the CNBC Disrupter 50 list. Motif Investing is a multiple Finovate alum, and earned Best of Show honors with its demonstrations at FinovateFall 2013 and FinovateSpring 2014.

The company’s investors include Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Renren Inc. Board members include former Securities Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt and former Boston Consulting Group Chairman Carl Stern.

In January 2015 Renren has led a $40 million investment in stock trading site Motif Investing, part of the Chinese social network’s growing portfolio of bets on financial tech startups. The new funding will fuel Motif’s expansion into tools for wealth managers and other financial advisors, who pay a monthly fee for software that helps them manage their clients’ portfolios. Motif has raised more than $120 million in total from investors including Ignition Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and Foundation Capital.

Hardeep Walia, a former Microsoft executive who co-founded Motif in 2011, said he plans to expand to the U.K. and Hong Kong this year. Renren, he said, could help with an eventual expansion into China, the country with the world’s largest Internet population.

Later Motif Investing has teamed up with Pacific Life to provide millennial investors with an opportunity to invest in the social causes they care most about. Four new motifs will be offered, each including stocks from major U.S. companies that have made significant contributions to charities and foundations focused on issues ranging from education and human rights to fighting poverty and cancer. The new motifs will be offered through a new subsidiary, Swell Investing.

The motifs will be managed by Pacific Life and Swell Investing, while Motif handles the technology and distribution. The company will donate 20% of its revenues to specific organizations within the four categories. Learn more about Swell Investing here. The new motifs are designed with millennials in mind. In addition to helping socially-conscious thirty-something investors, the motifs are also low-cost and transparent, two other issues believed to be especially important to the millennial generation.

After this, Motif Investing and Ascent Private Capital Management of U.S. Bank announced a partnership where Motif Capital Management (MCM), the wholly-owned investment advisor subsidiary of Motif Investing, will serve as the exclusive manager of thematic portfolios for Ascent’s advisors. This key alliance brings together the long-term, strategic, personalized wealth management of Ascent Private Capital Management with the intuitive thematic philosophy of Motif Investing.

Robinhood (US) 

To hear Robinhood founders Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Bhatt tell it, their free stock trading app was born in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street. So far, however, the only members of the 1% they’re taken money from are the big name investors who have pumped $66 million into their company: Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Ribbit Capital and celebrities Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto.

True, Robinhood might eventually squeeze the margins of other discount brokers. Yet it plans to make its own profits from the 99%—via interest on uninvested cash in customers’ accounts and pricey loans to those with margin accounts. During a beta test, Robinhood is charging 3.5% interest. When it officially rolls out margin loans, however, it plans to charge closer to the 8% or so going rate at E-Trade, Fidelity, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade on small accounts.

Robinhood grabbed our attention for years while it was still on the drawing board. The company succeeded in rocking the financial boat when it launched in Dec 2014 as the first mobile-first, fee-free brokerage, allowing users to trade stocks without commissions or account fees right from your smartphone. Later, the company announced partnerships that will let users of financial services StockTwits (one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in Finance in 2012), Openfolio, and Quantopian trade directly using Robinhood’s platform. Educational finance company Rubicoin also integrated Robinhood services when it launched in December.

Robinhood itself isn’t getting any new features, but users who also have accounts with Robinhood’s new partners will get to use widgets and buttons inside those respective apps. For social financial platforms StockTwits and Openfolio, this means looking at trading activity and immediately being able to trade without having to switch into Robinhood’s app. The same is true for Quantopian, a maker of trading algorithms. Perhaps best of all, routing through Robinhood means users can trade without paying commission fees.

Robinhood chose to partner with existing companies rather than expand its own portfolio of services so that everyone involved is focusing on what they already specialize in, says Tenev. “There’s been a lot of creativity in the space, and no possible way that we can create every type of product for every customer” he adds. “The interface cannot possibly stay focused and easy-to-use if we were to add every possible feature that a financial customer might want within Robinhood.

Natural exposure to Robinhood through those widgets could mean more users filtering in from partner services, but any projected user gains are hard to predict, says Tenev. There are more partnerships on the horizon, but Robinhood isn’t talking about which companies will be involved.

For sussing out hidden fees in your brokerage accounts. FeeX reads the fine print on your retirement and brokerage accounts, and shows how much you could save by investing in lower-cost options—nearly $19,000 for the average user, it says. And the service is free (although it plans to charge in the future).

The self-styled “Robin Hood of Fees” has grown rapidly since its 2012 launch. In less than a year, it has analyzed fees on more than $2 billion in assets for 100,000 users in the U.S. and Israel.

In January, it launched a new “Investment Test Drive” feature that enables investors to check out hidden fees on funds before they actually buy—and get recommendations on cheaper alternatives. Part of the service’s magic comes from crowdsourcing, as small-print readers everywhere help sniff out hidden fees, but chief marketing officer Erik Laurence says the company also partners with Yodlee and Morningstar, as well as uses government public and proprietary sources to dig up and calculate fees.

Next up for FeeX: Outing the nasty fees in the mortgage and credit card industry and a premium product to help pay for all this goodness. The company has both ambition and pedigree: Cofounder Uri Levine also helped to develop Waze, the crowdsourcing traffic app bought by Google in 2013 for $1.1 billion.

LikeFolio (US)
For taking Facebook and Twitter feeds and turning them into an investment- discovery tool. Millennials are famously risk-averse investors, preferring to put their money in savings accounts to the stock market. It makes sense—their parents’ investments got creamed twice during their formative years, first in the dot-com bubble burst and then the Great Recession.

Unfortunately, a savings account will not produce the returns needed for retirement. That’s why LikeFolio is trying gently to lure this next generation of adults (which is bigger than even baby boomers) into stocks with their secret whistle: Facebook and Twitter. LikeFolio analyzes user news feeds to see which popular brands everyone is yakking up, and then shows the trends versus stock price in simple graphics.

Experience shows that when people start mentioning a brand more often—whether good or bad—the stock price on the company behind the product may be ready to move. For example: The stock of electric carmaker Tesla skyrocketed months after social media conversations surged. Sears stock sank weeks after negative rumblings. (Cofounder and CEO Andy Swan says that, based on social media chatter now, he suspects Apple Watch sales are likely to disappoint.) The service is free, including its Learn & Earn weekly emails. This quarter, keep an eye out for LikeFolio Pro, a premium-trading alert service.

For helping both advisors and investors take only the risks they intend in their portfolios. This software, which is built for financial advisors, uses the work of Nobel Prize-winning behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman to measure investor risk tolerance levels.

Before Riskalyze, retail advisors only had squishy tools for analyzing investor appetite for risk. Riskalyze has the capacity to analyze more than 200,000 investment products—including stocks and ETFs—and then quantify the risk embedded in a portfolio with a single number. Investors are often shocked to learn that their position in Apple or another household brand, say, can put them well above their risk threshold.

Cofounder and CEO Aaron Klein says he has been adding hundreds of new advisors monthly to the platform, and his board includes high-profile advisors Barry Ritholtz and Josh Brown, aka The Reformed Broker. Last fall, Riskalyze launched Compliance Cloud, a big data platform that will help large wealth managers cull through millions of client holdings nightly, index the results, and deliver a report highlighting potential compliance problems.


For creating a financial dashboard to give wealth managers a 360-degree view of investor portfolios. Billionaire Joe Lonsdale is at it again, assembling a stable of techies to manage millions of pieces of data in complex portfolio holdings for the high-net-worth crowd. (Lonsdale is the cofounder of Palantir Technologies, the hot big data company that is becoming an incubator for financial tech startups.)

Addepar emerged from the ashes of the financial crisis with a special mission: to out financial risk. In the run-up to the financial meltdown, the firms that ran money for the 1% began investing in more and more types of products and in more parts of the world. But the internal systems to track positions didn’t keep pace with the increased complexity in the portfolios.

Most managers were depending on Excel and Google Docs, but those tools weren’t up to the job. And that meant that no one had a clear picture of what the risk exposures might be. Addepar says it’s working with advisors who represent more than $100 billion in net worth. Early Addepar adapters include Iconiq Capital, which manages some of Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune, according toThe New York Times.

The high-tech honey snagged a $50 million round of financing last spring, led by David O. Sacks, a former PayPal executive and founder of Yammer.

Ellevest (US)

Sallie Krawcheck spent a career at the top of some of the world’s leading financial institutions before starting Ellevest, an investing platform for women, in the beginning of 2015. She’d be the first to tell you that even her level of experience wasn’t enough to make it a cakewalk. “The truth is that being an entrepreneur is harder than running Merrill Lynch—and I should know,” she says, “having run Merrill Lynch. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

The former Wall Street executive has raised $10 million in funding to launch a new digital investment platform for women. The Series A round led by Morningstar, an investment research firm, and included a slew of financial heavyweights, such as Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz and the former CEO of PIMCO; Ajay Banga, president and CEO of Mastercard; and Brian Finn, former president of Credit Suisse First Boston.

The initiative—called Ellevest—doesn’t officially launch until next year. Krawcheck will be the company’s CEO and Charlie Kroll, founder of fintech startup Andera, will serve as Ellevest’s president and COO.
A veteran of the financial world, Krawcheck previously held top posts at Citigroup and Bank of America.

In 2013, she bought women’s networking group 85 Broads from former Goldman Sachs executive Janet Hanson. The business has since changed its name to Ellevate and expanded to include a mutual fund that invests in companies that advance women. Krawcheck will continue in her role as chair of Ellevate.
A product that targets women can also be very attractive to investors, adds Sharkey, who co-founded iVillage and was the president of BabyCenter. Female consumers drive “north of 85% of all purchasing power in the consumer marketplace,” she says.


Robots are everywhere. They help lawyers make decisions, they sweep up after our parties, and now they can help you figure out how to invest your money. Biggest brokerage firms in US started a price war against robo-advisors: Schwab launched free Schwab Intelligent Portfolios service, Vanguard announced online advisory tool, which costs 0,3% of AUM for investor.

Betterment, New York-based investment management and trading startup, has raised $60M in Series D funding – the company was valued at $500М (total funding – $105М). The round was led by Francisco Partners, and also included Citi Ventures, Northwestern Mutual, Bessemer Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures, Globespan Capital Partners, Anthemis Group. The company is valued at $400-500M, while its main competitors– Personal Capital and Wealthfront – are valued at $250M and $700M, respectively. Betterment is the largest company in the “robo-advisors” category in terms of assets under management with portfolio of $1,4B from 65 000 customers.
Wealthfront, the largest of the PFM services for algorithmic investment, has crossed the $2B mark in terms of assets managed and grew four-folds on this indicator for the past year. The major part of Wealthfront customers are young professionals who put around $90K in its hands, with the biggest account topping out at $10M.

Also Wealthfront announced that former Facebook design director Kate Aronowitz joined the company as their new vice president of design. Formed in 2008 as one of the new wave of financial robo-advisors, Wealthfront aims to largely automate the investment process, making it painless for users to invest their money even without knowing the first thing about the stock market. With Aronowitz now joining the company, she becomes yet another high-profile Silicon Vally designer joining the finance world.

Robo-advisor Wealthfront will manage the first $10,000 of an investor’s money for free and charges a flat 0.25% of assets a year above that—the opposite, it boasts, of the traditional money management model in which the percentage of assets charged falls as the size of an account grows. In a blog post earlier this year, CEO Adam Nash accused rival robo-advisor Betterment of “preying on those who can least afford it. ” Huh? Betterment charges a whole $3 a month for accounts under $10,000, or 0.35% of assets if investors set up a $100 monthly automatic deposit. For investors who have between $10,000 and $100,000, it charges the same 0.25% of assets as Wealthfront and above $100,000, it’s cheaper, at 0.15%. Both firms use similar low cost index mostly from Vanguard and iShares ETFs, although Wealthfront adds an individual stock twist for taxable accounts over $100,000 (more on that later).

Does 0.25% of assets a year strike you as pricey for robo-management of your money in passive index funds? Motif Investing’s main business is selling thematic stock portfolios (it calls them Motifs) to active individual investors. But it has challenged the robos with nine commission and management fee free “Horizon” motifs made up entirely of low-cost index ETFs. They’re designed for 1, 5 and 15 year time horizons and for three levels of risk. This too is a freemium play; Motif allows you to customize the portfolios—but then you’re back to paying its standard commission.

Another sort of free option: In March Schwab launched its Intelligent Portfolios, 20 risk-adjusted portfolios of index ETFs with no management or transaction fees. Note, however, that the underlying ETFs, a quarter of which are from Schwab, often have a higher average cost than the ones Wealthfront, Betterment and Motif use. Plus, Schwab keeps 6% to 30% of each portfolio in a low return money market account, earning a little extra profit for itself.

The Schwab portfolios could be attractive to investors who want to consolidate holdings at a full service brokerage where they can also trade individual stocks and to current Schwab customers. Indeed, in just five months, the portfolios drew $4.1 billion in assets with about 80% of that coming from existing Schwab customers. (Wealthfront manages less than $3 billion.)

Meanwhile, the robos have started adding their own bells and whistles. For example, last December Wealthfront expanded a service in which it buys individual stocks to replace (and replicate) the S&P 500 or S&P 1500 ETF in taxable portfolios exceeding $100,000. That maximizes the opportunities to harvest tax losses. While Wealthfront’s claim that this can add as much as 2% a year to returns is a gross exaggeration, it’s still a valuable service that can cost an extra 0.3% of assets a year to obtain elsewhere.

For stepping into the robo-adviser world and slashing management fees to zero. Chuck is hungry. The likes of Wealthfront and Betterment have been trying to eat his lunch with their low-cost investing software. But can they beat Chuck’s brand-new 0% on asset-management fees? Beginning in the first quarter of 2015, the new Schwab Intelligent Portfolios charge only for the underlying operating expenses of the ETFs in its passive investing product.

Schwab’s Naureen Hassan says the company is targeting the 80% of those who aren’t getting any formal investment advice and prefer a technology-driven approach. Schwab is a behemoth, with more than $2.46 trillion in client assets; it runs nearly $27 billion in proprietary ETFs—more than 10 times the assets in the most well-known upstarts.

So far, it has received 20,000 queries since the product was announced in October, and branches report that new customers transferred accounts from competitors in anticipation of the launch, Hassan says. Critics of robo-advisers worry that investors will feel shortchanged when the markets go down—where will they get advice?—but Hassan says there’s always someone at Chuck for Intelligent Portfolios investors to speak with.

An Atlanta-based company called iAllocate is using artificial intelligence to suggest where you should be stashing your millions. “Currently, provides investors of all levels a DIY set of tools to not only educate themselves about the investor inside them, but also take away a personal and strategic Asset Allocation Strategy.

The user/investor can then instantly build a diversified Tactical Investment Portfolio with ETF (Exchange Traded Funds) recommendations, which have been intelligently optimized using a proprietary iA algorithm from a selection universe of more than 400 different ETFs,” said the co-founder Tom Pair.

He is working with Dr. Sudhir Sharma, a portfolio manager of 20 years with a background in nanotech and machine learning. Pair worked at Goldman Sachs, UBS and Barclays. They have self-funded the project to the tune of $200,000 and they are looking into further equity funding.

The team has seen over 100 registrations and they are adding brokerage partners to help users act on the advice the robot gives them. They are also exploring offering the service as a white-label addition to investment house websites. “Comparable systems / software packages are expensive and not really an option for many upstart independent advisory firms,” said Pair.

eToro raised an additional $12 million from Commerzbank. The new $12 million round of funding provided to eToro represents the very first investment of CommerzVentures, which joins existing eToro investors in a Series D Financing.

CommerzVentures joined the venture capital arms of Russia’s Sberbank and China’s Ping An as a follower investor in the Series D financing of eToro. The total investment volume raised among the investors amounted to $39 million – eToro raised $27 million late last year from Sberbank and Ping The $39 million total includes a credit line of $10 million by Silicon Valley Bank. eToro was founded in 2007 with the vision of developing a platform that would open the financial markets to everyone by simplifying the user’s experience. eToro then developed a contracts for difference (“CFD”) trading platform, which was launched in 2008.

New online brokerage called Swell aimed specifically at millennials – Swell offers baskets of stocks with themes like “Improve Education,” “Fight Cancer,” “Uphold Human Rights,” and “End Poverty.”

For a minimum of $250, you can put your hard-earned dough towards good causes, while hopefully making a decent return at the same time (and don’t worry, you can be any age). You can put your hard-earned dough towards good causes, while hopefully making a decent return. Swell is a partnership between Pacific Life, an insurance firm, and Motif Investing, an online brokerage that allows people to invest “thematically.”

Acorns, the micro-investment app that sets up a portfolio for you by collecting your spare change, has today announced the close of a $23 million Series C financing, led by Greycroft Ventures and e.Ventures, with participation from Sound Ventures, Garland Capital, and MATH Venture Partners. This brings Acorns’ total amount raised to $32 million.

Asia calling
On TradeHero, users who are less familiar with how stock markets work can learn how to trade. On top of that, more experienced users can earn money by monetizing their reputation as a talented and well-informed stock trader.

This means that one user can subscribe to another user’s feed to know whenever they make a trade or post a comment. This information is valuable because it can then be applied to the real stock market. “We want to gamify trading,” said TradeHero co-founder and CEO Dinesh Bhatia. “People often ask me, ‘So you think the stock market is all fun and games?’ and I say ‘No, but the best way to teach someone about the stock market is with fun and games.’”

Bhatia got the idea for TradeHero back in 2007 and 2008 when the global economic crisis hit. Although he claims to have only been a hobbyist trader, Bhatia says he lost a great deal of money. According to him, the middle class will always bear the brunt of economic downturn. Because of this, Bhatia says he wanted to take back the power from Wall Street.

With TradeHero, users can essentially replicate the behavior of other successful traders many times over, thus empowering and incentivizing TradeHero’s users on both ends.

According to Bhatia, since TradeHero’s inception in January 2013, it gained 3.5 million registered users. Additionally, TradeHero has cracked the Chinese market.

“You can’t work remote from Singapore, you’ve got to get your ass to China,” says Bhatia. TradeHero’s first attempt to enter China was via a simple language translation on its app. However, the effort was a flop. Bhatia says: “We were so lucky because when we told our investor KPCB we failed, they said, ‘okay. Now try again.’”

TradeHero did try again, but this time it decided to go full force into its localization methods. It was a success, gaining 300,000 new users in China each month. TradeHero is inherently a very disruptive product in the financial sector. The app has built a database of millions of traders and traders-to-be. However, Bhatia says he remains fearful and respectful of Asian markets.

In July 2015 Singapore-based real-time financial monitoring app Call Levels was raising a US$500,000 bridge round to spur growth. Call Levels has previously raised US$140,000 in angel funding since its launch in October last year, led by angel investor and former JP Morgan executive Timothy Teo. The remaining funds came from private undisclosed hedge fund managers.

Cynthia Siantar, Co-founder of Call Levels, was previously a Hong Kong-based equity capital markets associate with HSBC for nearly three years, and also a Singapore investment analyst with Mercer Investment Consulting. Her co-founder, Daniel Chia, has roughly seven years experience as a Vice President at Ortus Capital Management, and prior to that as an Investment Manager at the Government of Singapore Investment Corp.

Put simply, Call Levels provides real-time financial monitoring and notification service on the cloud, covering more than 5,000 assets including US equities, Forex, Futures — and now Bitcoin. Users can set a call level — an industry term that means “call me when the price hits a certain level” — and be notified instantly through a mobile notification. A premium automated phone calling service is planned to be rolled out soon.

The startup has partnered with itBit, a global bitcoin exchange and the first of its kind to be fully regulated under the New York banking laws, which inked a deal to provide Bloomberg’s 300,000 terminals globally with real-time Bitcoin monitoring. Call Levels is available on iOS, Android and Apple Watch.

There are plans to offer customised versions of the software to financial institutions like banks to help them better engage their wealth management clients. Several have already approached the team to discuss deals, Chia said, with two large deals expected to be signed soon. Currently, banks spend huge amounts of money every month on contacting clients through manual phone calls and SMS.

“The whole wealth management industry still works on relationships [between manager and client],” Siantar said.

To be clear, Call Levels is not looking to white label its technology. The app, which is seeing 15 per cent month-on-month growth, already boasts 6,000 users who have created 20,000 active call levels. There are an estimated 230 million people globally who own at least one stock in the markets actively, suggesting a global opportunity — not limited to Asia. Hobby traders and market watchers are also viewed as potential users.

StockRadars, a Thai-based service for trading stocks of Asian public companies, raised $800 thousand round at a $5-$10M valuation.
Chinese stock trading app iMaibo has more than 650k installations and planed to raise up to $10 M next round.

Financial services site FundsIndia announced that it raised US$11 million in series C led by asset management firm Faering Capital. Existing investors Foundation Capital and Inventus Capital Partners also participated in this round. The fresh funding will be used for marketing. It will also be used to enhance its service offering, especially using mobile platforms.

FundsIndia offers mutual funds from all asset management companies, stocks, and exchange traded funds (ETFs) from Bombay Stock Exchange, fixed deposit products from companies, Reliance MyGold Plan, and other services. It has tied up with 39 banks for online transaction facilities and claims to have customers from all over the country and abroad.

Asia to surpass North America as Welthiest Region in 2016: great opportunities for fintech
Fast growth in Asia and strong market performance drove much of the wealth growth in 2014, when worldwide assets reached a record-high $164.3 trillion, according to the 2015 Global Wealth Report by the Boston Consulting Group ,Winning the Growth Game. Wealth managers and advisory firms are also anticipating the coming digital revolution in financial services, though a tangible impact has yet to be felt.

In fact, Asia-Pacific is expected to surpass North America as the wealthiest region in 2016, with China (at 25% growth) and India (at 44% growth) being the main catalysts. It is also expected to drive half of the global wealth growth until 2019. “I may be biased, but when it comes to wealth, I truly believe Asia is the place to be,” said Federico Burgoni, a partner focusing on Asia-Pacific.

Senior partner Bruce Holley also saw opportunities in profitability as more financial services go digital. The uses for technology in financial services range from more basic offerings such as mobile banking to more complex backend technologies such as “robo-advisors” that use algorithms to create optimal portfolios for investors based on their goals, timelines and risk tolerance.

So-called “fintech” can even include social media that allow clients to discuss market developments. Technologies can be embedded into the client experience, and different ones can be targeted to specific groups. “Across different age groups, digital can mean different things — is it mobile, is it desktop,” Holley said, adding “Older users are actually active users on the desktop.”

But digitization is not occurring as quickly in wealth management as in other industries, partly because of the difficulty in determining how to integrate technology into a client-advisor relationship. But robo-advisors such as Betterment, Wealthfront, Future Advisor, Motif Investing and lesser-known players, are creating competition for wealth managers who feel pressure to act.

“The vast majority of wealth clients want a person and an individual they trust and they can talk to. They just want that in a very different way,” he said. “It’s not just sitting behind a mahogany desk once a quarter or twice a year” but about more frequent and rapid interactions.

But innovations in technology can help wealth managers increase revenue, create greater efficiency and better retain clients. Financial technologies such as robo-advisor algorithms can help with profitability by allowing the relationship manager to spend less time making portfolios for individuals but spending more time with clients.

Photos: Getty, company profiles

Life.SREDA VC is a global fintech-focused Venture Capital fund with HQ in Singapore