Tired of providing equities advice? Give us your business, startup says

By Simon Doyle | February 23, 2017 | Last updated on February 23, 2017
3 min read

The abundance of investment advice online has been a steady force behind client migration toward self-directed investing.

Now an Australian financial data startup, Simply Wall St, is taking a run at the Canadian market, hoping investors will pay annual subscription fees for access to market data, infographics and equities analysis.

Simply Wall St launched in 2014, initially covering the U.S., U.K. and Australian markets. This month the platform, which has grown to have 80,000 members, announced it is now covering names trading in Canada and New Zealand.

The startup aims to complement online dealers by providing self-directed investors with stock information. It offers visualizations of stocks, for instance, with each given a unique “snowflake” chart indicating its value, dividend, future potential, past performance and corporate health.

Simply Wall St, according to a release, is a “fintech startup aiming to replace stocks investment advisors,” but Al Bentley, founder and chief executive, says the firm wants to replace advisors’ equity advice—not their jobs.

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“Direct equities advice is basically dying, in terms of human advice,” he tells Advisor.ca. “It’s too expensive and it only works when your clients have large portfolios.”

Robo joins ETF association

WealthBar, a robo-advisor, has joined the Canadian ETF Association (CETFA), marking a first for the trade group. “By establishing stronger ties with institutions like the CETFA we are able to advocate for better and more innovative investment solutions for all Canadians,” Neville Joanes, portfolio manager at WealthBar, says in a statement. Canadian ETF assets rose to $113.7 billion at the end of 2016, up 27% from a year earlier, the CETFA says.

He adds: “We feel many advisors are not very qualified to offer direct equities advice. […] It’s also time consuming for them to be doing equities, so a lot of them now are […] putting their clients into funds.”

Bentley says his platform could help advisors who have clients wanting to section off part of their portfolio for equities investments. Some advisors, he adds, are using his website to perform portfolio analysis for clients.

“They […] use us to produce portfolio reports, and things like that,” he says. “We can actually help these people, using software, to avail their costs. While it may appear that we want to replace advisors, actually we see ourselves as being complementary.”

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The company has partnered with online brokerage Questrade, whose Canadian users receive a free trial to Simply Wall St’s subscription service. The partnership allows users to import their Questrade portfolio for analysis and other reports.

The startup is also working on allowing trades by Questrade from within the Simply Wall St website, as it already does with brokerages in the U.S., but Bentley cautions the service is not a robo-advisor.

It does not provide advice based on goals, for instance, as that “falls down into the robo space,” he says. The value of the service is as much about analysis and visual presentation of the data as it is about the data itself, he says.

Simply Wall St’s paid plan is currently US$115 per year for new users (reduced from US$150), though a free version is also available with limited functions.

Read: Artificial intelligence, overseen by humans, key to new robo

It has gained about 2,000 Canadian subscribers since it started using separate tags for Canadian users at the end of December, he says. (Canadian subscribers may have previously joined, tagged as U.S. users.) The service covers 18,000 companies listed on the NYSE, Nasdaq, TSX, LSE, ASX and NZSE exchanges.

The startup has raised AU$700,000 in funding, which included AU$600,000 led by Michael Quinn, managing partner at Innovation Capital, an Australian venture capital firm.

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Simon Doyle