Building a Robo-Advisor - What I learned this month

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30 August 2018
“It’s been a difficult month; there is a lot going on at OUTvest; everything is great!”
If this statement sounds strange to you, then you are in good company.
It’s like asking an ultra-marathon runner: “How do you feel?” The answer would be similar “My legs are killing me, I am so thirsty my tongue is swollen, but I love this.”
This is my experience at OUTvest at the moment.

This month was a realisation of what quality feels like inside a financial technology business.

To build quality means constant work and evolution of your offering, constant questioning and changes. It means governance and oversight, internally and externally.

What looks from the outside like a slowly evolving business is actually thousands of tiny improvements by a group of dedicated people.

Every step of our journey is punctuated by quality control, from unit tests and peer reviews on our software code base, to manual testing by our software testers, to governance committees (like our investment committee and the advice committee), to internal audits, external audits and executive reviews and ongoing compliance reviews by our regulated compliance officers.

It’s one thing to be a technology business providing a simple client experience. It is completely another to provide a regulated service to clients where we are responsible for the investment advice and administration by a major regulator.

We launched our first annual reviews this month. Every single client at OUTvest gets a personalised review, starting from the anniversary of their first investment. It’s a recap of your investments, what you changed, what you didn’t, and what we think you might need help with.

Regardless of the annual review, our human advisors are there to help you if you ever need personal advice. You may not know this, but they currently review every single new application. If they are concerned they will contact you to help you

As Niel, the Head of Operations at OUTvest, will tell you in a separate article, we have also entirely rebuilt the page that helps you design your tailored investment goal on our website.

You can change almost everything, and then undo it. It’s so powerful it will even help you understand the impact of going against our fund recommendation.

So it is with many other aspects of OUTvest that most of you will never see. It’s the debate every single day about how we improve your experience, what products you would like to invest in and how you would like to engage with us.

For instance, we are working on dedicated digital journeys for those of you who know that you want a tax-free savings account, and for those of you who want to make use of our Crowdvesting service.

We have designed a system to help you track and update your financial targets for each of your investment goals. We are just trying to find a space in our product pipeline to fit it in!

We also have a partnership with JustOneLap that help us to help you make better investment decisions through the fantastic articles on the JustOneLap site about everything from debt to weddings. It’s an OUTstanding initiative to help provide high quality financial educational information for you.

We also write our own articles. Gareth van Deventer, a certified financial planner (CFP) and member of the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa, is the head of our advice centre.

He has written some powerful articles that can help you to improve your investment decision making. I have not met a stronger consumer champion in my career than Gareth.

He is the person who, along with his team of financial advisors, makes sure that whatever happens, your interests come first. This is another thing that makes OUTvest different.

Deeper into OUTvest, we continuously monitor our investment products to ensure they achieve your investment objectives.

We also regularly review our advice algorithms and human advice guidance protocols. We run every advice system we design and build through a peer review process — something else you will most likely never see... but we do it to help us sleep at night.

All through this, we are mindful that we are not perfect. But we do strive to get better and better each day.


Grant Locke
Twitter: @grantclocke
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