It used to be much easier to spot potential gems in Fintech in the earlier days. “Potential gems” for me means those innovating in terms of business model or serving at scale an underserved need.
Over the last couple of years, the market has allocated increasingly more resources – financial and human capital – and competitiveness has intensified at all levels – government, corporate, and private – that we all have difficulty to keep up with this pace.
My post today will cover a rare Fintech that I have patiently kept in touch with close to 3yrs. Envizage is a UK based venture that I met through the valuable bridges that the UK Trade & Investment mission maintains. Vinay Jayaram is the founder and entrepreneur that keeps fine-tuning the positioning of the venture, to bring the best of it to market. Whenever I speak with Vinay, I can’t avoid thinking of Paolo Sironi’s goal-based framework and his emphasis on what “advisory” means – since robo-advisors are most frequently not advisors nor robos.
As is the case often with a broad and innovative vision, you can’t box it in one category. Envizage has this issue. Some say it belongs to consumer banking –as it was the winner of the retail banking award – others may say it is a lifestyle Saas, or a holistic financial advisory Saas solution. And several voices will echo their concern, “why do we need another service since we have such a choice of digital wealth managers, digital lenders, digital insurers, digital mortgage brokers, digital pension managers, etc?”. The answer is actually “We Are in need of a holistic goal-based advisory Saas that can work at scale and with very low cost”.
We – the end customers – need simple, clear, and customizable, advice and guidance to make better choices, to deal with the uncertainty of life and to manage our lifestyle. The existing solutions – Betterments, Nutmegs, Habitos, Wealth Wizards, Haven Lifes,…- assume you know how much to save, how much and what to insure, how much to put aside for your pension, what you need to do to be able to buy a house, retire at a certain age, etc.
Most of the scattered and laser-focused Fintech providers, offer great UX and cheaper, faster service and access. However, they “Assume” that you and I – the end customer – know exactly what we need and want, and in some magic way, we are cognizant of the uncertainties of life that may easily result in missing our end goals.
Envizage has done research that shows that most consumers are what they call “low-intent”, which means not well prepared for the “call to action” buttons on the existing solutions (asset allocation, insurance, loans, mortgages, pensions etc). As a result, consumers appear to have inertia. Fintech and financial service providers experience low conversion rates, and both sides are dissatisfied.
This is the gap that Envizage is filling. A huge end-customer need is served through the Envizage intelligent software engine that uses Big data analytics, AI and institutional quality simulations of future outcomes.
The second need that Envizage serves at the same time, is a need that banks have had for a very long time. Envizage offers a viable solution so that banks can serve the mass affluent at scale and a functional way to serve end-customers through the bank mobile-first channels that have failed miserably with their product push approach. In addition, Envizage helps banks to deal with the regulatory complexity inherent in offering financial products and services, by shifting the focus from suitability at the point of sale, to an outcome-based regulatory compliance.
Envizage is effectively delivering advice at scale through their sophisticate goal-based Saas. I had the privilege to watch a demo of one front-end application powered by Envizage’s engine behind the scenes. As a customer, I could input simple parameters about my personal income statement and balance sheet, and then play around with goals – like dream house, kids, retirement age etc – and see visually how these changes affect the probability that I reach or not my goals.
A few weeks ago, I covered Evalue, with which Envizage is already in partnership through their API offering. Envizage has a partnership strategy and is creating an ecosystem with other like-minded providers to deliver high-end decision making through digital channels for everyone. PWC and Capgemini are already integrating Envizage for their financial services clients. AdviceFront, a UK advisory software, is in partnership and Decipher Finance, a US portfolio and tax optimization provider. Another niche provider, OxfordRisk, whose software uses behavioral analytics for financial profiling, risk capacity, and investment suitability tools, is also in collaboration. Quovo, the account aggregation provider, is already linked to the Envizage ecosystem and will be taking their integration to a higher level soon.
Envizage’s pipeline includes insurance companies, robo-advisors, hybrid financial institutions (banking of all sorts and insurance). Their motto is “Own your future” for end-customers.
For francophones, it is easy to get the vision of Envizage. “Envisage” means form a mental picture of the future, grasp what it may look like, conceive. Envizage was selected in late 2016 in the Accenture Fintech lab.
Efi Pylarinou is a Fintech thought-leader, consultant and investor.
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