So far, most applications of blockchain technology have been solutions looking for problems. That’s not to say there haven’t been some really exciting use cases like Othera or Data Gumbo. It’s just that so much garbage has been created alongside these gems of hope. ICOs, NFTs, and speculative cryptocurrencies in general, have created a tremendous amount of noise that serious investors need to peer through in order to find anything of substance. When a $4.2 billion company runs their entire business around monitoring crypto transactions to thwart ransomware attacks, one wonders if the value being created offsets all the collateral damage.
We recently talked about how many bright minds see blockchain/crypto as a viable investment thesis going forward. Look no further than Andreessen’s $3 billion crypto fund, or ARK’s belief that Energy and Financial Services will be most disrupted by innovation over the next five years. Indeed, massive amounts of funding are flowing into fintech startups.
It makes you wonder what these pundits are getting really excited about today? To answer that question, we’ll turn to a firm called TIFIN which ARK Invest’s own Cathie Wood recently joined as a member of their Board of Directors.
Founded in 2018, Denver’s own TIFIN has raised just over $49 million in funding from Morningstar, Broadridge, and JP Morgan to build a platform that conceives, creates, and operates fintech companies. These notable investors also help provide exits for TIFIN’s portfolio of companies. Late last year, 55ip, a tax strategy engine, was acquired by J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Today, we’re going to look at what use cases the remaining 10 fintech companies in TIFIN’s portfolio are addressing.
10 Financial Technology Companies
|Magnifi||Natural language search for assets|
|Clout||AI-powered growth marketing|
|Positivly||A financial personality test|
|Totum||An AI-powered risk assessment tool|
|PlanIQ||Conversational AI to help clients DIY|
|Louise||Philanthropy + wealth management|
|Financial Answers||Buying financial media companies|
|Paralel||Front office, meet back office|
|Farther||The first digital family office|
|Arbor||Canceling debt, creating savings|
(For all the link builder SEO types who are getting ready to email us, all of the below logos link to the respective company websites.)
Magnifi: Natural language search for assets
Founded in 2018, New Yawk City startup Magnifi has built a semantic search engine for finance that helps investors “discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks.” It’s basically a search engine – you input complex terms in natural language and the output is a list of assets from a universe of 7,575 funds, 2,238 ETFs, and 10,000 separately managed accounts (SMAs). We’d be interested to see how this tool can assess the “pure-play-ness” of stocks, and that’s probably a feature coming soon.
We’re not financial advisors or asset managers – the two stakeholders the tool has been built for – but a cursory look at some search results isn’t overly impressive. For example, a search for “robotics funds” and “low risk robotics funds” returned roughly the same result, though a search for “high risk robotics funds” did pull back leveraged ETFs. In all cases though, whoever bucked up some dollars for the “sponsored slot” came out on top.
We used the first example we came across to make a point, but there’s clearly value to be had in having a platform that aggregates assets and makes them searchable – much better than trying to piecemeal things together using Google searches and ETFdb.com. As of last month, the platform reached 10 million searches.
You can’t just screen-scrape a bunch of prospectus documents for word mentions to assess the “pure-play-ability” of a particular asset. Nor should you let people pay to float to the top. Just because a firm is willing to pay for all the right thematic keywords – space, robotics, fintech – doesn’t mean their ETFs are best in class.
Clout: AI-powered growth marketing
Boulder, Colorado startup Clout does something that’s right up our alley – content marketing. Prior to offering our own subscription product, we produced research (content) which other firms would leverage to sell their own products. We would then get a commission on sales, something known as “affiliate marketing.” (If you add some analytics then you can call it “growth marketing.”) Clout pulls from a database of over 250,000 pieces of content, then uses AI to show the right content to the right person, often using their own widget.
Clout also offers firms the ability to white-label content, create their own content, or they’ll even create custom content on demand. The problem is – and we know this based on experience – that the large majority of finance-related content out there is total shite.
Given Clout is part of a broader well-connected network of financial firms, they probably can achieve traction pretty quickly. Last we checked, large firms were paying $3-5 for a quality email lead or about 2% for every $10,000 in assets you could attract. But if you’re producing exceptional content, it’s always more lucrative to sell your own product.
Positivly: A financial personality test
Some people don’t want to talk about genetic intelligence because it implies we’re born with traits we can’t change, something that drives the D&I mafia absolutely nuts. Truth is, our genetic makeup impacts how we live our lives (the old nature vs. nurture debate), and that’s true for our individual approaches to investing. Some people (like us) are far more risk-averse than others. New Yawk startup Positivly has built the world’s first financial personality test, matching people to investments and advice.
The team spent decades in the world’s finest financial institutions and universities honing their approach, and we’d have to say it’s brilliant concept. Every financial advisor would love to have a tool like this to engage with their clients, especially when it comes to question 19 of 21 – “approximate the value of your investable assets.”
Totum: An AI-powered risk assessment tool
Speaking of risk tolerance, Georgia startup Totum provides a multi-scoring risk tolerance tool kit – Totum Risk – for financial advisors and investors with a focus on risk you can handle (risk capacity) versus how you feel about risk (risk tolerance). It’s the first company to employ a risk measurement that considers your geography, industry, health, family, balance sheet, and where you are on the road to retirement. With the addition of machine learning algorithms, Totum can now alert an advisor or investor of a life event that is impacting their investments and financial goals. For example, they monitor a couple’s text messages to see if a spouse is cheating, at which time they proactively begin divorce planning. (We may have made that last part up.)
PlanIQ: Conversational AI to help clients DIY
It’s interesting how most of these fintech companies use the same three TIFIN office addresses – New York, Boulder, Mumbai – but some only use two. Sometimes, it’s better people didn’t know John-in-Mumbai is the man behind the curtain.
With offices in New York and Boulder, PlanIQ is another tool targeting the relationship between advisors and clients. This time it’s “conversational AI to address specific questions and provide intelligent answers fast.” That’s what we thought an advisor was supposed to do, but the sparse website doesn’t tell us much more except to expect an early release of the tool in Q3-2021.
Louise: Philanthropy + wealth management
Even if you’ve been a complete asshole throughout most your career, around middle age you start to realize that helping others is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Some people prefer to do this at a tactical level, while others prefer to vet the 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in America alone to see which deserve their money. Louise promises to help integrate wealth management with philanthropy so you can feel good about becoming rich, a slow and boring process that doesn’t involve speculating on meme stocks. The platform links investment goals to philanthropic values, “while engaging the whole family to support causes they care about.” People who answer Positivly survey question three with something greater than 0% are probably great leads for Louise.
Financial Answers: Buying financial media
Simply put, Financial Answers is a company that buys financial media companies. In May of this year, TIFIN announced a $100 million acquisition spree where they plan to acquire “media firms with high quality, engaged audiences.” The vehicle doing the acquiring is Financial Answers. An article by WealthManagement.com details the first acquisition made – The Adam Mesh Trading Group, a longtime publisher of dozens of financial education and investing newsletters with over 11,000 paying subscribers and over a million registered users.
The end customers are described as “active do-it-yourself investors with significant assets who often lack an advisor relationship.” We’d also add family offices into that mix, many of whom subscribe to our own platform because they grow weary of all the Foolish information being dispensed these days, and they lack the resources to perform research in-house.
Paralel: Front office, meet back office
If you’re at a bar in Canary Wharf, and some dime piece asks you where you work, just make sure to use the term “front office.” These roles are client-facing, which means they demand the highest salaries. Unfortunately, the place where most of the heavy lifting happens – the back office – has always had a bad rap. That’s why Paralel hopes to improve the relationship between asset managers and the back office. Of all TIFIN’s portfolio holdings, this one is perhaps the most cryptic. A platform debut is expected for Q3-2021.
Farther: The first digital family office
We mentioned family offices earlier, and these are essentially management firms for the ultrawealthy that help manage every aspect of their financial life. In other words, it takes a certain level of net worth before someone will wait on you hand and foot. The founders of Farther come with extensive experience in wealth management, and that’s helped them create a family office type offering for people with only a few million laying around. The fees? Transparent, and more than reasonable.
People who answer Positivly survey question 19 with something greater than a million bones are probably great leads for Farther.
Arbor: Canceling debt, creating savings
People often say the Spaniards are a bit lackadaisical when it comes to ambition, but it’s certainly better than being like zee Germans. Life is meant to be lived – a beber y a tragar, que el mundo se va a acabar – and sometimes that means extending beyond our means a bit. Arbor is an app that helps encourage saving as opposed to spending. Based out of Spain, the company with the same name is helping people become healthier when it comes to their finances by educating them. While we’ve seen plenty of apps like this for the Americans, it’s great to see one for the 450 million native Spanish speakers on this planet.
A common theme throughout this list of financial technology companies is the use of artificial intelligence to better serve clients. A recent press release talks about how TIFIN’s investor Broadridge will integrate distribution for Positivly, Magnifi, Louise, and Totum, “each of which addresses friction in the wealth tech industry.”
It hints at what TIFIN talks about – start with the customer, not the investment manager. We understand that small scrappy startups are often too busy executing to update their websites, so most of these firms are probably doing a lot more under the hood. Bringing the outdated financial services industry into modern times bodes well for clients, and that’s what matters most.
We sold our Global X Fintech ETF holding and used the proceeds to purchase a legaltech stock with a 70% market share. A $50 billion opportunity awaits, and they’ve only achieved about 3% penetration – plenty of room to run. Become a Nanalyze Premium annual subscriber and we’ll show you our entire portfolio of more than 30 tech stocks.