An online future for financial planning?

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An end-to-end financial planning platform that allows the masses of underinsured Australians to access financial advice at the click of a button has just been launched.

Financial services firm Financial Index Wealth Accountants has kick-started the race to provide the nation with online and affordable advice with the launch of the platform.

CEO Spiro Paule said advisers and planners need not sweat, because it’s unlikely the MOVO online platform will steal any of their thunder.

“There won’t be any major disruption to the traditional advice industry. People with significant resources always opt to see a real-life planner in a meaningful way,” he said.

Instead, MOVO is targeted at those underinsured people who don’t get advice because they feel they don’t have enough money, they don’t trust the advice industry, or they prefer to go to family and friends.

The platform will significantly lower the barrier by providing a do-it-yourself option, and could even potentially act as a stepping-stone to users then seeking out a real-life adviser, said Paule.

“That trend has been quite evident over a long period of time. There is a ground swell of people who use meaningful resources to give them more control. They then think, ‘it’s got me this far, now I want to see a real life person’. I see [the platform] as that half-way step.”

MOVO includes three plan types to choose from: a basic at $199, a premium at $249, and a deluxe at $349. Despite the low-cost and lack of face-to-face contact, Paule insists there will be no compromise on quality.

“The advice is all provided for by a quality control process. We have a high-quality in-house advisers committee, and that same system will sit behind the mobile online portal. It’s the same regulatory system, it will just be done by the user themselves,” he said. “Quality won’t be compromised in any way.”

The Association of Financial Adviser’s CEO Brad Fox said he is intrigued by the idea, and time will tell as to whether it is a positive move for the industry.

“They certainly make some good points. We have a massively underinsured population and if you look at the baby boomers that are about to retire, they need advice,” he said. “However, research shows what people value most are interpersonal relationships.”

Often clients will also need their adviser to act like a coach to motivate them, which would not be possible with the do-it-yourself style of the platform, said Fox. The other risk is that if the program is too complex, it could actually turn people off financial services.

“However I would say from the perspective of innovation – we are encouraging our members to focus on innovation this year – this is certainly a very innovative approach,” Fox said. “It looks like quite a step forward in terms of technology, but will it create better outcomes? That’s what time will tell.”

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  • James Smith on 26/02/2014 10:53:34 AM

    Agree with Brad Fox's comments that innovation should be encouraged but I remain concerned at the inadequacy of regulations to protect consumers in these direct to market offers. Our advice industry is governed by the know your client and know your product rules with the adviser being held accountable for consumer protection. The direct to market offers also need to have adequate consumer protection. We have cancer warnings on cigarette packets. Why shouldn't we have warnings such as 'the insurance cover may not be suitable if your personal circumstances are not considered' or 'past investment performance is no guarantee of future performance'. There are numerous examples of these direct offers not meeting the needs of the end customer and big institutions treating customers with contempt ( As we approach the third year anniversary of the Christchurch earthquakes how many homeowners have received their insurance payout ?? How many superannuation members switched out of shares at the bottom of the market ? ) The direct to market TV ads and websites don't mention claims history or the self inflicted wealth destruction by their members during market corrections. It is too late to tell consumers 'buyer beware" after the damage has been done.

  • GAB on 26/02/2014 7:36:34 PM

    I assume if it's some sort of DIY financial plan then all commission from the sale of insurance is rebated? I mean, if the consumer is basically creating their own advice then they should pay themselves commission right?

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