Another investment platform is due to arrive in NZ within weeks under the Flint Wealth brand.
As flagged last December, the latest platform business – an equal partnership between Australian firm Research IP, Harbour Asset Management and Trustees Executors (TE) – is primed to enter the increasingly crowded online investing space in NZ.
According to a Flint marketing document, the new business would eventually have two offers: Flint Wealth, a direct-to-consumer service à la InvestNow and Sharesies targeting “25 to 40 year old emerging investors”; and, Flint Adviser, a pure technology play allowing advisory firms to ‘white label’ the investment administration custodial service.
The Flint front-end is based on technology developed by Research IP, headed by Brisbane-based Darren Howlin, for the Taiwan government-backed ‘FundRich’ platform. Flint also uses “scalable technology, backed by [TE’s] custodial and administrative back office services”, the marketing document says.
Former head of sales for Morningstar NZ, Stuart Auld, is on board as Flint head of client engagement.
Ryan Bessemer, TE chief, said Flint aimed to “soft launch” the direct-to-consumer platform in September with the adviser module expected to go live early next year.
“We’ll start with managed funds and term deposits and then add equities in the second phase,” Bessemer said.
He said Flint had been working with a number of advisory groups over the last year to test the concept.
TE recently re-signed with Bravura to provide back-end software via the latest Sonata system. Bessemer said Flint could also potentially tap into other Bravura technology such as the Midwinter robo-advice service and other advisory systems the business currently offers in Europe.
Flint faces three platform competitors in the relatively small NZ advisory market led by FNZ and the MMC-owned Aegis with the NZX-owned Wealth Technologies slowly gaining a foothold (mostly in the stock broking sector). And on the direct-to-consumer side InvestNow and Sharesies have both carved out sizeable audiences; likewise, US equities specialists – Kiwi Wealth subsidiary, Hatch, and the Australian firm, Stake – have seen strong growth of late. In August, Sharesies also threw is hat into the US equities game.
However, the Flint marketing presentation says the NZ investment platform market is “ripe for disruption” with feedback “from advisors and retail investors [indicating] that they are unhappy with the current options on the market”.
“The financial advisory platform business “is currently dominated by legacy technology… often difficult to use,” Flint says. “Newer retail investment platforms have a limited product range or are aimed at a youthful audience. Our research found that more than 70% of potential investors between ages 30 and 50 were interested in investing online.”
Furthermore, the Flint presentation says platform fees “are unnecessarily high for light functionality and product access”.
TE, Harbour and Research IP own a third each of Flint parent company, Formosa Wealth.
Howlin has a long association with NZ, first as a research manager for Lonsec, which dabbled briefly across the Tasman, and related company SuperRatings (that still provides KiwiSaver analysis). He later had a strategic relationship with the-then NZX-owned FundSource to provide qualitative research on NZ fund managers.
Another Australian research house, Zenith Investment Partners, bought FundSource last year, ending the Research IP agreement.