After more than a year in the making, the latest investment platform to hit NZ shores should go live in the next week or two.
As first reported last September, the platform – equally owned by Australian firm Research IP, Trustees Executors and Harbour Asset Management – is initially targeting the direct-to-consumer fund market plumbed successfully by InvestNow and Sharesies over the last three years.
Darren Howlin, Research IP founder, said the launch of the new service, to operate under the Flint Wealth brand, was “imminent”. Howlin said Flint had “agreements in place” with several NZ managers to list products on the platform as well as a strong pipeline of interest from others.
He said Flint aspired to the fund “supermarket” model, offering investors a wide choice assisted by technology including Research IP artificial intelligence and machine-learning developed for its Taiwan government client. Trustees Executors supplies back-end administration and custody for Flint, using the latest version of the Bravura Sonata registry software.
Research IP fund manager reports would also feed into the Flint platform, as well as via other channels, Howlin said. The researcher supplies information on almost 700 funds sold in the NZ market as well as rating several products and managers under a bespoke paid service.
While Howlin and fellow Australia-based Research IP partner, Oliver Trusler, are well-known in the NZ market, the firm made its first hire this side of the Tasman last week after naming Andy Mahony as investment consultant.
Mahony resigned from EriksensGlobal earlier this year, ending a five-year investment research stint with the Auckland-headquartered actuarial consulting business.
Howlin said in a release that “Andy is a highly capable and respected financial services professional and brings a strong understanding of the New Zealand marketplace”. The business also has researchers in Australia, Taiwan and the Philippines.
“We think hiring Andy is a good strategic move rather than a ‘land grab’,” he said.
In addition to helping develop the NZ fund research coverage, Mahony could also offer broader investment consulting services over time, Howlin said.
“Andy’s hungry to create something,” he said.
Research IP has also launched the first stage of its so-called ‘RIPPL effect’ project in an attempt to “bridge the gap between a full research report and our data tear sheet”, the company said in a release.
According to Howlin, the technology-based project would tackle the problem of “scaling up” qualitative research across a broader product set that to date has largely been assessed on quantitative factors only.
He said it was impossible for research firms to cover in-depth the fund universe (of about 800 products in NZ and 3,000 in Australia) without adding significant staff resources.
But Howlin said a technology-enabled approach could allow researchers to cover the entire fund market “in a way that gets meaningful information into the hands of investors”.
Research IP had placed the first “stepping stone” in that direction with the ‘RIPPL effect’, he said.
Last week global research house Morningstar announced the marriage of ‘quant and qual’, bringing the two previous separate units under a single reporting structure. The move would “help us meet investors’ growing interest across asset classes and spur innovation”, Morningstar said in a statement.
While Morningstar has a couple of NZ-based staff, including global data director Greg Bunkall, the company has no specialist fund researchers on the ground here. Likewise, Zenith Investment Partners, which bought NZ research house FundSource off the NZX last year, is yet to appoint any local employees.
Howlin previously provided qualitative research to FundSource, stepping into the breach with Research IP after the NZX ended his contract just prior to the Zenith sale.
Former Morningstar NZ head of sales, Stuart Auld, was named as Flint Wealth client engagement manager in August.