A Connecticut financial planning firm says it has a solution for financial services companies that are having a hard time providing financial guidance to the mass market or don't have the time.
Brian Hollander, the president and chief executive officer of DirectAdvice Inc., in Hartford, says the 90-employee Internet company's automated system enables companies to save hours and money in serving the mass U.S. investor market, which he says consists of about 60 million households.
Companies using DirectAdvice put their own brand on the system, which starts with a 10-minute questionnaire the consumer fills out online.
"If you give one of us half an hour, we can do what would require 20 to 30 hours for someone else to do," Mr. Hollander said, referring to personal financial advisers.
DirectAdvice, which was established in 1995, neither manages assets nor recommends company-specific products and does not function as a brokerage or mutual fund provider.
Mr. Hollander said that while his company does not exclude the affluent market, it focuses on the mass market because "competition at the high end is very aggressive."
The most recent census found that about 2.8 million U.S. households have half the nation's wealth. The Spectrem Group, a Chicago consultant, said that at yearend 2000 at least 3.7 million Americans had $1 million or more of investable assets - and these are the people advisers and institutions, for the most part, are targeting, Mr. Hollander said.
Companies including Mellon Investor Services, Wachovia Corp., and People's Bank of Connecticut use DirectAdvice for their customers, he said. It is also offering its platform to customers of the German brokerage Incam and Japan's Softbank Finance. Mr. Hollander said these companies are generally using DirectAdvice to serve clients with investable assets of around $50,000.
In May the company struck a deal with Bankmark, a third-party marketer owned by Mellon Financial Corp., to offer financial planning to employees of its shareholder servicing clients. More recently it announced a plan to build customized financial plans for its customers with Ayco Co. LP, of Albany, N.Y.
Institutional customers pay DirectAdvice a one-time fee for licensing fees, annual maintenance fees, and customization and user fees. He would not give the average fee but said some companies pay seven-figure amounts a year for the service.
Though DirectAdvice does not directly promote its services to retail investors, about 3,500 of them use its service independently through its Web site, Mr. Hollander said. They pay $75 a year.