In the first in our series of short Q&A interviews with the movers and shakers of fintech and alternative finance we hear from Dann Bibas, CEO and founder of Fountain Money.
Digital wealth management, often dubbed robo advice is an area of fintech with huge potential to disrupt. Its target, the £1trn UK wealth management industry, however, has so far shown much resilience to start up firms aiming to lower costs and automate some services. Fountain Money is one such example of a digital wealth disruptor but with a twist, it employs both human advisers as well as robots.
How did you become a fintech founder?
"I’ve been investing since I was a student and worked at Citigroup for several years where I advised all kinds of institutional investors. I (unintentionally) became the go-to investment advisor to friends and family.
That’s how I started learning about the world of wealth management. I eventually realised that customers were struggling to find all the perks of a digital experience alongside the human touch of an advisor to address life’s big financial decisions. And just like that! Fountain was born."
That’s the short version, of course.
What's the most exciting thing happening at the moment in your part of the industry?
I’m really excited to see digital wealth services inching closer and closer into people’s daily financial lives, particularly in the US. Betterment successfully launched a current account, which makes it easier for customers to invest directly from their everyday bank accounts. And Acorns launched a “found money” feature where cash-back rewards are seamlessly reinvested. It’s brilliant.
In both cases, they’re finding creative ways to reduce friction and empower people to invest more of their disposable income with minimal effort. The obvious ways to reduce friction are all out there, like speedy onboarding or automated KYC. What’s the next product or feature to dramatically reduce friction? Ahh, everyone’s working around the clock to find it. That’s what I find exciting.
Digital wealth management is yet to properly scale, can it ever do so?
Definitely. There’s so much room for the industry to progress. I’m optimistic about the flurry of new partnerships between tech-savvy startups and incumbents. These partnerships come in all shapes and sizes but I’m seeing a common thread between all of them which consists of more efficient routes to market, clearer paths to monetisation, and more sensible unit economics.
How far can automation go in wealth management?
Here we go. My favourite question. I have very strong views here. Automation is playing a central role in cutting costs but fully automated processes neglect the human empathy and expertise that is required to help people manage more significant sums of money.
I believe the industry is moving into a sweet spot defined by “flexible automation”. Imagine a customer experience that automates low-value, frequent, and costly services, whilst plugging in human expertise for infrequent and high-value decisions.
What is your favourite fintech or alternative finance app/platform?
Transferwise’s Banking app. I’m hooked. I’m based in London but have friends and family spread out across a few countries and can’t help but feel like I’m always on a plane. My day to day spending in London meshes in with my travels. I’d like to think it was built for me. For the record, I’m not getting paid for this.