Which businesses are driving Manchester’s FinTech sector? At the first 2020 Robert Walters Tech Forum, we met the differentiators providing a unique value proposition within the financial services sphere.
Anthony Morrow, CEO at OpenMoney talked moving away from the ‘robo-advisor’ concept, scaling a FinTech in Manchester, and accessing a new market of budding investors with a cost-light tech model and a human focus.
Figuring out the best ways to use your money isn’t always easy, so it makes sense to seek advice from professionals. But that advice usually comes at a price and can be time consuming. OpenMoney wants to help all types investors make the right decisions with their money, and make sure that these services are accessible to everyone.
Built upon the premise of offering honest and expert advice, OpenMoney seeks to eliminate the exclusivity shrouded in financial advisory to support all individuals with a financial goal, no matter the scale of the investment.
With a strong financial services background behind him, Anthony launched the business as ‘evestor’ in April 2017 alongside partner Duncan Cameron, former co-founder of Money Supermarket.
“Working for a business that dealt closely with financial advisors, it became clear that for people without large sums of money, the traditional advice community was becoming more exclusive and unaffordable. Typically, your venture would have to be way beyond the remit of a first-time or inexperienced investor to gain face-time with an advisor.”
“The demands of the industry were and remain counter-intuitive, considering the individuals lacking experience or significant capital to invest are the ones neglected by the market. Trying to make those decisions in isolation is a significant challenge, with a wrong decision having the potential to make a large impact on an inexperienced investor in an unstable financial position.”
“Identifying this gap, we sought to build a service that was technology-driven but with human access behind the scenes to engage a new market of investors. We’ve found this instils greater confidence in users, who can navigate the advisory process online, with the comfort of knowing they can speak to a human if they need to.”
Companies within the robo-advisor sphere are beginning to struggle, providing like-for-like products that are tech-intensive and are void of any human interaction. With little to differentiate in a saturated market, all target the experienced and large-scale investors:
“The term robo-advisor was coined in the US with businesses such as Wealth Front and Betterment becoming the trailblazers for a digital breed of stockbrokers and fund managers that essentially managed investment portfolios through apps. Whilst their algorithms behind the scenes provide the robotics, the term itself is a misnomer as advice isn’t necessarily attached to any of these products.”
When you’re trying to recruit in the development, UX and marketing spaces, you need to be in Manchester to access that talent.
“Replicas of this concept, such as Nutmeg and Wealthify, have appeared in the UK, all resting on the assumption that the investor is clued-up to make strategic decisions as well as having the money to invest.”
“Because of the market we’re angled towards, people that aren’t particularly financially comfortable or confident, they want assurance to feel the decisions they are making are sound, without having to make them in isolation. In fact, almost 80% of the people that come through our service, we recommend that they don’t invest because of their financial position. Interestingly, only 10% of our customers make use of the human interaction – proving it’s the assurance factor that gives our users confidence to engage.”
OpenMoney now has a customer base toppling 45,000 and a staff count of 55. Founding the business in Wilmslow, Anthony and Duncan took the decision to relocate their business to Manchester at the end of 2017 to support their growth plans.
“We naturally founded the business where we’re both based in Wilmslow but quickly found that we were outgrowing the space we had, but more importantly, we knew Wilmslow held little attraction to the Millennial generation that we were looking to hire. When you’re trying to recruit in the development, UX and marketing spaces, you need to be in Manchester to access that talent.”
“Fitting to our low-cost overhead model, we decided to move to the St Peter’s Square We Work in mid-2018 and have been stationed there ever since.”
A problem for Manchester’s FinTech community is its comparisons to London, but should we be putting the two cities side by side?
“London is a totally different beast and for Manchester and the North to be successful as a tech hub, it needs to play to its strengths rather than being undermined by comparisons to the capital.”
“The reality is that Manchester is still very much in its infancy as a tech hub. While there’s plenty of initiatives out there such as Pro Manchester and FinTech North, the environment still seems splintered. Ultimately, we’re always going to be smaller than London, so it’s about playing to our geographical size and creating more cohesion between the plentiful number of fintechs, financial services and facilitators that already exist here. At the moment, we’re still trying to find out how we all communicate.”
OpenMoney has set themselves the target of being a profitable entity by 2022. Is 5 years a reasonable timespan to become profitable?
“It’s a tough environment to steer towards a profit goal - there’s a lot of sunk costs involved with getting a platform and proposition underway, and you’re not going to acquire your customers overnight. Considering these challenges, you must go in with your eyes open and know that you’re not going to achieve profitability quickly. At the same time, you must always have visibility within the business as to how and when profitability is going to come.”
“When you plan appropriately and realistically it is possible. We’re not shy in saying we want to make our investment cost light and that’s part of our strategy to ensure the platform is profitable long-term.”
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