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Free version of Algorithmic Trading Platform for retail investors

We have just released beta of Empirica – Algorithmic Trading Paltform for retail investors! It’s lifetime free for development, testing and optimizing of trading algorithms.

Our development team (exactly this team who implemented the entire system) also provides full support in algorithms development as well as connectivity to brokers. If you need help just contact us.

Among many features what is unique is our exchange simulation where you can influence market conditions under which you test your algorithms. No others software offers such a realistic level of simulation.

In paid versions we offer the execution of algorithms in robust server side architecture.

Download free version of Trade Pad at www.empirica.io. We strive for your feedback!

Algorithmic Trading Software

Who is moving FinTech forward in continental Europe? Thoughts after FinTech Forum on Tour.

By Michal Rozanski, CEO at Empirica.

In the very centre of Canary Wharf, London’s financial district, in a brand new EY building, a very interesting FinTech conference took place – FinTech Forum on Tour. The invitation-only conference targeted the most interesting startups from the investment area (InvestTech) from mainland Europe. The event had representative stakeholders from the entire financial ecosystem. As Efi Pylarinou noted – the regulator, the incumbents, the insurgents, and investors, were all represented.

 

Empirica was invited to present its flagship product – Algorithmic Trading Platform, which is a tool professional investors use for building, testing and executing of algorithmic strategies. However, it was amazing to see what is happening in other areas of the investment industry. There were a lot of interesting presentations of companies transforming the FinTech industry in the areas of asset and wealth management, social trading and analytics.

 

The conference was opened with a keynote speech by Anna Wallace from FCA. Anna talked about the mission of FCA’s Innovation Hub; that is to promote innovation and competition in the financial technology field and to ensure that rules and regulations are respected. Whilst listening to Anna it became clear to me what the real advantage of London holds in the race to become the global FinTech capital – London has Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the Government in one place – and what’s most important, they cooperate trying to push things forward in one direction.

 

FinTech Forum on Tour

 

Robo-advisory

A short look at the companies presenting themselves at the event leads to the conclusion that the hottest sector of FinTech right now is robo-advisory. It’s so hot, that one of the panellists noted it’s getting harder and harder to differentiate for robo-advisory startups. On FinTech on Tour this sector was represented by AdviseOnly from Italy, In2experience,  Niiio, Vaamo and Fincite – all from Germany. Ralf Heim from Fincite presented an interesting toolkit ‘algo as a service’ and white label robo-advisory solutions. Marko Modsching from niiio revealed the motivation of retail customers, that “they do not want to be rich, they do not want to be poor”. Scalable Capital stressed the role of risk management in its offering of robo advisory services.

 

Social analysis/Sentiment/ Big Data

The social or sentiment analysis area, keeps growing and gains traction. Every day there’s more data and more trust in the results of backtesting as that data builds up over the years. The social media space is gaining ground. Investment funds as well as FinTech startups are finding new ways to use sentiment data for trading. And, it’s inseparably related with the analysis of huge amounts of data, so technically the systems behind it? are not trivial.

Anders Bally gave an interesting presentation about how to deal with sentiment data and showed  how his company Sentifi is identifying and ranking financial market influencers in social channels, and what they discuss.

Sentitrade showed its sentiment engine for opinion mining that is using proprietary sentiment indicator and trend reversal signals. Sentitrade is concentrated on German-speaking markets.

 

Asset management

From the area of asset management an interesting pitch was given by Cashboard, offering alternative asset classes and preparing now for a  huge TV marketing campaign . StockPluse showed how to combine information derived from social networks and base investment decisions on the overall sentiment. United Signals allows for social investing by making it possible to trade by copying transactions of chosen trading gurus with a proven track record, all in an automated way. And, finally BondIT, an Israeli company, presented tools for fixed income portfolio construction, optimization and rebalancing with use of algorithms.

 

Bitcoin and Blockchain

An interesting remark was given   by one of the panelist: ‘we have nearly scratched the surface for what blockchain technology can be applied to in financial industry’. Looking at the latest news reports that are saying that big financial institutions are heavily investing in blockchain startups and their own research in this field, there is definitely something in it.

A company from this sector of FinTech – Crypto Facilities, represented by its CEO Timo Schaefer, showed  the functionalities of its bitcoin derivatives trading platform.

 

Other fields

Hervé Bonazzi, CEO of Scaled Risk, presented its technologically advanced Big Data platform for financial institutions for risk management, compliance, analytics and fraud detection. Using Hadoop under the hood and low latency processing. Ambitious as it sounds.

Analysis of financial data for company  valuations, Valutico presented a tool that’s using big data, AI and swarm intelligence. Dorothee Fuhrmann from Prophis Technologies (UK) presented a generic tool for financial institutions to derive value and insights from data, interestingly describing indirect exposures and a hidden transmission mechanism.

Stephen Dubois showed  what Xignite (US) has to offer to financial institutions and other FinTech startups in the area of real-time and historical data that is stored in the cloud and accessible by proprietary API.

 Qumram, in an energetic presentation delivered by Mathias Wegmueller, described technology for recording online sessions on web, mobile and social channels, allowing for the analysis of user behaviour and strengthening internal security policy.

 

Conclusion

London is the place to be for FinTech startups. No city in Europe gives such possibilities. Tax deductions for investors. Direct help from the UK regulator FCA. Great choice of incubators and bootcamps for startups. No place gives such a kick. Maybe Silicon Valley is the best place for finding investor for a startup, maybe the Wall Street is the centre of the financial world, but London is the place that combines both the tech and the finance. It has a real chance of becoming the FinTech capital of the world.

 

About organizators

The people responsible for creating both a great and professional atmosphere at the event were Samarth Shekhar and Michael Mellinghoff. Michael was a great mentor of mine who transformed my pitch from a long and quite boring list of functionalities of our product to something that was bearable for the audience. Michael let me thank you once more for the time and energy you have devoted to Empirica’s pitch!

 

And because the FinTech scene in our region is not well organized yet, I sincerely advise all FinTech startups from Central and Eastern Europe to attend cyclic events of FinTech Forum in Frankfurt organized by Techfluence professionals!

 
Read about our Lessons learned from FinTech software projects.

 

 

FinTech Companies

 

 

 

Empirica has been nominated for Best Fintech Startup at CESA 2015

 

Empirica has been nominated for the Best Fintech Startup in Poland at the CESA festival. CESA (Central European Startup Award) is the biggest no-pitch, no-conference start-up festival in the Central-Eastern European region. The festival brings together nearly 4.000 start-ups from 10 countries and it will be held in Vienna this year.

We are in good company, as other companies nominated in FinTech category are:

  • Zencard
  • Billon
  • WealthArc
  • our friends from FriendlyScore

The Central European Startup Awards is a series of events in the CEE countries, that aims to recognize and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and startup ecosystems of the region. This year eight categories will be awarded in:

  • Startup Of The Year
  • Best Investor
  • Best FinTech startup
  • Best Cloud/Data Application
  • Best User Experience
  • Best Social Impact Startup
  • Most Influential Woman
  • Best Coworking Space

 

CESA regognized FinTech as separate category this year reflecting that financial technologies are now the fastest growing technology sector worldwide. Incumbents in the financial industry – big banks and other financial institutions – are witnessing the emergence of new players that are profoundly changing the way individuals and business conduct their financial operations. Global investment in financial-technology (fintech) ventures tripled from $4.05 billion in 2013 to $12.2 billion in 2014, with Europe being the fastest growing region in the world, according to a report by Accenture.  Last year, fintech investment increased at more than three times the rate of overall venture capital investment. While it remains to be seen whether the burgeoning fintech industry will actually pose a threat to established institutions, it is clear that the sector is rapidly growing and many of these entrants are here to stay. Investors in the nascent sector are taking notice, profitable exits are on the horizon, and big banks are investing in new technologies to strengthen their competitive positions.

 

More on this year’s nominees:

http://centraleuropeanstartupawards.com/shortlisted-poland

cesawards-logo

FinTech. Lessons learned from over 5 years of financial technology software projects.

By Michal Rozanski, CEO at Empirica.

 

Reading news about fintech we regularly see the big money inflow to new companies with a lot of potentially breakthrough ideas. But aside from the hype from the business side, there are sophisticated technical projects going on underneath. And for new fintech ideas to be successful, these projects have to end with the delivery of great software systems that scale and last. Because we have been building these kind of systems for the fintech area for over 5 years we want to share a bit of our experience.

 

fintech empirica

 

“Software is eating the world”. I believe these words by Marc Andreessen. And now the time has come for finance, as technology is transforming every corner of the financial sector. Algorithmic trading, which is our speciality, is a great example. Other examples include lending, payments, personal finance, crowdfunding, consumer banking and retail investments. Every part of the finance industry is experiencing rapid changes triggered by companies that propose new services with heavy use of software.
The best evidence that something is happening somewhere is to see where the money goes. Investments in fintech companies globally grew to $12 billion last year, which is a three times increase comparing to 2013, and five times during the last five years, according to the research reports by CBInsights.

If fintech relies on software, and there is so much money flowing into fintech projects, what should be looked for when making a fintech software project? Our outsourcing software projects for the fintech industry as well as building our own algorithmic trading platform has taught us a lot. Now we want to share our lessons learned from these projects.

 

1. The process – be agile.

Agile methodology is the essence of how software projects should be made. Short iterations. Frequent deliveries. Fast and constant feedback from users. Having a working product from early iterations, gives you the best understanding of where you are now, and where you should go.
It doesn’t matter if you outsource the team or build everything in-house; if your team is local or remote. Agile methodologies like Scrum or Kanban will help you build better software, lower the overall risk of the project and will help you show the business value sooner.

 

2. The team – hire the best.

A few words about productivity in software industry. The citation is from my favourite article by Robert Smallshire ‘Predictive Models of Development Teams and the Systems They Build’ : ‘… we know that on a small 10 000 line code base, the least productive developer will produce about 2000 lines of debugged and working code in a year, the most productive developer will produce about 29 000 lines of code in a year, and the typical (or average) developer will produce about 3200 lines of code in a year. Notice that the distribution is highly skewed toward the low productivity end, and the multiple between the typical and most productive developers corresponds to the fabled 10x programmer.’.
I don’t care what people say about lines of code as a metric of productivity. That’s only used here for illustration.
The skills of the people may not be that important when you are building relatively simple portals with some basic backend functionality. Or mobile apps. But if your business relies on sophisticated software for financial transactions processing, then the technical skills of those who build it make all the difference.

And this is the answer to the unasked question why we in Empirica are hiring only best developers.

We the tech founders tend to forget how important it is to have not only best developers but also the best specialists in the area which we want to market our product. If you are building an algo trading platform, you need quants. If you are building banking omnichannel system, you need bankers. Besides, especially in B2B world, you need someone who will speak to your customers in their language. Otherwise, your sales will suck.
And finally, unless you hire a subcontractor experienced in your industry, your developers will not understand the nuances of your area of finance.

 

3. The product – outsource or build in-house?

If you are seriously considering building a new team in-house, please read the points about performance and quality, and ask yourself the question – ‘Can I hire people who are able to build systems on required performance and stability levels?’. And these auxiliary questions – can you hire developers who really understand multithreading? Are you able to really check their abilities, hire them, and keep them with you? If yes, then you have a chance. If not, better go outsource.
And when deciding on outsourcing – do not outsource just to any IT company hoping they will take care. Find a company that makes systems similar to what you intend to build. Similar not only from a technical side but also from a business side.
Can outsourcing be made remotely without an unnecessary threat to the project? It depends on a few variables, but yes. Firstly, the skills mentioned above are crucial; not the place where people sleep. Secondly, there are many tools to help you make remote work as smooth as local work. Slack, trello, github, daily standups on Skype. Use it. Thirdly, find a team with proven experience in remote agile projects. And finally – the product owner will be the most important position for you to cover internally.

And one remark about a hidden cost of in-house development, inseparably related to the IT industry – staff turnover costs. Depending on the source of research, turnover rates for software developers are estimated at 25% to even 38%. That means that when constructing your in-house team, every fourth or even every third developer will not be with you in a year from now. Finding a good developer – takes months. Teaching a new developer and getting up to speed – another few months. When deciding on outsourcing, you are also outsourcing the cost and stress of staff turnover.

 

4. System’s performance.

For many fintech areas system’s performance is crucial. Not for all, but when it is important, it is really important. If you are building a lending portal, performance isn’t as crucial. Your customers are happy if they get a loan in a few days or weeks, so it doesn’t matter if their application is processed in 2 seconds or in 2 minutes. If you are building an algo trading operations or payments processing service, you measure time in milliseconds at best, but maybe even in nanoseconds. And then systems performance becomes a key input to the product map.
95% of developers don’t know how to program with performance in mind, because 95% of software projects don’t require these skills. Skills of thinking where bytes of memory go, when they will be cleaned up, which structure is more efficient for this kind of operation on this type of object. Or the nightmare of IT students – multithreading. I can count on my hands as to how many people I know who truly understand this topic.

 

5. Stability, quality and level of service.

Finance is all about the trust. And software in fintech usually processes financial transactions in someway.
Technology may change. Access channels may change. You may not have the word ‘bank’ in your company name, but you must have its level of service. No one in the world would allow someone to play with their money. Allowing the risk of technical failure may put you out of business. You don’t want to spare on technology. In the fintech sector there is no room for error.

You don’t achieve quality by putting 3 testers behind each developer. You achieve quality with processes of product development. And that’s what the next point is about.

 

6. The Dev Ops

The core idea behind DevOps is that the team is responsible for all the processes behind the development and continuous integration of the product. And it’s clear that agile processes and good development practices need frequent integrations. Non-functional requirements (stability and performance) need a lot of testing. All of this is an extra burden, requiring frequent builds and a lot of deployments on development and test machines. On top of that there are many functional requirements that need to be fulfilled and once built, kept tested and running.

On many larger projects the team is split into developers, testers, release managers and system administrators working in separate rooms. From a process perspective this is an unnecessary overhead. The good news is that this is more the bank’s way of doing business, rarely the fintech way. This separation of roles creates an artificial border when functionalities are complete from the developers’ point of view and when they are really done – tested, integrated, released, stable, ready for production. By putting all responsibilities in the hands of the project team you can achieve similar reliability and availability, with a faster time to the market. The team also communicates better and can focus its energy on the core business, rather than administration and firefighting.

There is a lot of savings in time and cost in automation. And there are a lot of things that can be automated. Our DevOps processes have matured with our product, and now they are our most precious assets.

 

7. The technology.

The range of technologies applied for fintech software projects can be as wide as for any other industry. What technology makes best fit for the project depends, well, on the project. Some projects are really simple such as mobile or web application without complicated backend logic behind the system. So here technology will not be a challenge. Generally speaking, fintech projects can be some of the most challenging projects in the world. Here technologies applied can be the difference between success and failure. Need to process 10K transaction per second with a mean latency under 1/10th ms. You will need a proven technology, probably need to resign from standard application servers, and write a lot of stuff from scratch, to control the latency on every level of critical path.

Mobile, web, desktop? This is more of a business decision than technical. Some say the desktop is dead. Not in trading. If you sit whole day in front of the computer and you need to refer to more than one monitor, forget the mobile or web. As for your iPhone? This can be used as an additional channel, when you go to a lunch, to briefly check if the situation is under control.

 

8. The Culture.

After all these points up till now, you have a talented team, working as a well-oiled mechanism with agile processes, who know what to do and how to do it. Now you need to keep the spirits high through the next months or years of the project.
And it takes more than a cool office, table tennis, play station or Friday parties to build the right culture. Culture is about shared values. Culture is about a common story. With our fintech products or services we are often going against big institutions. We are often trying to disrupt the way their business used to work. We are small and want to change the world, going to war with the big and the powerful. Doesn’t it look to you like another variation of David and Goliath story? Don’t smile, this is one of the most effective stories. It unifies people and makes them go in the same direction with the strong feeling of purpose, a mission. This is something many startups in other non fintech branches can’t offer. If you are building the 10th online grocery store in your city, what can you tell your people about the mission?

 

Final words

Fintech software projects are usually technologically challenging. But that is just a risk that needs to be properly addressed with the right people and processes or with the right outsourcing partner. You shouldn’t outsource the responsibility of taking care of your customers or finding the right market fit for your product. But technology is something you can usually outsource and even expect significant added value after finding the right technology partner.
At Empirica we have taken part in many challenging fintech projects, so learn our lessons, learn from others, learn your own and share it. This cycle of learning, doing and sharing will help the fintech community build great systems that change the rules of the game in the financial world!

 

 

New tendencies in Robo Advisory space

In case you haven’t yet learned about the new robo financial advisor businesses (or digital counselors ), this should be the year you do. They are fast growing and gaining ample assets.

Based on a study by Corporate Penetration, from April 2014 to July 2015, the top robo-advisors — or automated investment services as many choose to be called — went from $115 billion to $21 billion assets under management

With these new companies bringing more investors and with all the business continuing to mature, there will undoubtedly be many changes that affect the robo-advisory market. Here’s that which we are prone to find in 2016 and beyond.

Legacy Firms Go Robo
As the robo-advisor industry grows it will continue to attract the attention of financial services companies that are established. These corporations desire to offer what their clients need — money management that is easy — while at precisely the same time bringing more funds to manage. Right now they’re losing dollars to the upstart robo-advisor companies under direction. Since the amount of money under management determines how much money firms can make, they will pay attention to the reason why they are losing out on new investment dollars.

Just previously year, Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab Corp. and The Vanguard Group have either created their own digital services unit or partnered with an existing pureplay robo business.. You’re able to get the other large companies to join the trend.

Increased Kinds of Investment Options
They work by ensuring you’ve got the right asset allocation for your targets using index funds. A number of them subsequently additionally use tax loss harvesting as ways to improve yields.

Beyond their own original assumption of money management that is digital, robo-advisors will start offering options as a means to obtain a competitive advantage in a increasingly crowded market. You could possibly end up seeing matters such as portfolios according to different analytical strategies using beta that is intelligent and technical analysis. Businesses will use these investing alternatives in an attempt to make their services more appealing to those that desire to overcome and time the market but still do not want to manage their own portfolio.

The Flip Side
One trend that will probably coincide with robo-advisors’ evolution is lousy investment options. We have to be prepared to see existing companies or upstarts begin offering robo services at extremely high fees. We will also probably see this paired with awful investment choices which have fine print that is concealed and additional high fees that’ll lock customers into contracts

It’s no different with index funds that bill more than 10% for the same thing you can get for 006%.. Such funds continue to be in business because people get demanded by salespeople that are competitive to put their money there or they do not take the time to comprehend what makes a great investment. The sort of companies that run these funds may achieve success by trumpeting a trend and preying on consumers that are uneducated.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Closings

Depending on at, it’s projected there are about 200 robo-advisor companies out there, many which don’t have a lot of assets under management. Together with the area this packed, expect to find acquisitions closes and mergers. The rate of employee turnover in the marketplace might be fast given that robo-advisors tend to have smaller borders as a result of lower fees they charge. And when it comes to survival of the fittest, it’ll probably be problematic for independent robo-advisor to gain enough traction to make it on their own..

The consolidation is already occurring — BlackRock Inc. recently purchased Future Counselor and Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance purchased upstart online money supervisor LearnVest.

More Options for Private Guidance
Robo-advisors work nicely without important life changes on the horizon for clients and for individuals who don’t need added services such as estate planning. Robos choose all the stress out of obtaining the right asset allocation and investments; they are also maintained by them without an excessive amount of cost.

Nevertheless, as investors reach stages in their life where they want more advice that is personalized to work through choices — buying a property, saving for college or getting ready to retire — they’ll want access to more than simply a computer program

That is really where the robo-advisor firms will start to incorporate human counselors to help with matters that are more complicated. This may mean an increased fee to obtain a person that is dedicated adviser, or it can mean that one is paid for by customers as guidance that is more involved is needed. The natural evolution of the market’s can lead to conventional human advisors accentuating their practice by pairing up having a while label robo-advisor to offer the automated investment services ; premium services which demand a dedicated financial advisor may still be offered when needed
Robo-advisors are here to remain, but the services will continue to evolve to generally meet the demands of younger investors over the course of their life. For when they may be needed and more investment options, this includes services that are increased. With an increase in competition, you are going to see these matters become a large part of the mixture.

The Great FinTech Trends – Robo Advisor Race

The Fantastic FinTech Robo Advisor Race

Possibly no other sub sector of the arena that was fintech has received as the robo advisors as institutional and retail interest. The company of financial planning and personal investment impacts substantial pools of capital and large investor sections. Innovation in the investment technology space is creating a race that is furious among insurance companies and startups, brokerages, wealth management businesses to serve a changing and evolving account base. .. But you will find many factors to consider as competition heats up
Who Are the Robo Advisors
By now, the robo advisors are familiar to almost all fintech watchers. Their services include automated portfolio preparation, automatic asset allocation, risk assessments that are on-line, account re reconciliation and other digital tools. Well known players comprise Theme, Wealthfront, Betterment and Folio , among others.

Generally, robo advisors allow more folks, who otherwise may not be able meet account minimums or to invest with confidence, to enter the market in a passive way. Conventional wealth management companies and financial advisers cost 1% of higher or AUM. Robo advisors fulfill a need for more economic, automated and digital preparation tools which might be preferred by younger, digital informed investors or those who want more privacy and control over their portfolio.

Nonetheless, it’s not other younger generations and merely the Millennials who favor digital investment tools. Firms have figured out this and are starting to compete with the robo advisors.
For on-line brokers, robo advising feels like a natural extension of what was already an electronic service. Stock brokers went through a substantial transformation in the late nineties during the first dot com boom and most, or even all, became online agents. More fascinating is the degree of interest in robo advisors from very traditional players such as insurance companies, asset managers and wealth management businesses. Buy, these firms are aggressively moving to assemble and associate with robo technologies

Below is an inventory of some of the announced mixes and launches within the last two years:

* Northwest Mutual acquiring Learnvest

* BlackRock acquiring Future Advisor

* Invesco obtaining Jemstep

* Vanguard launching Private Adviser Services

* Charles Schwab found Scwab Intelligent Portfolios

* Fidelity Investments launching Fidelity Go

* E*Trade launching Adaptive Portfolio

Challenges and Concerns

The decision for traditional financial institutions to compete with robo advising is, on the one hand, practically apparent, while requiring some complicated factors. Lower fees and the digital transformation changing the financial services sector has become an universal subject. The main tactical dilemma for conventional players who enter robo advising seems to function as impact to their current business
A vexing dilemma for those players with an incredibly big AUM base is the potential cannibalization of their fee revenues. If these players switch to a robo advisor model and charge lower fees for the same AUM, they will, essentially, have to attract a larger AUM base to make precisely the same fees as before, while at the same time investing in new technologies to support the automated preparation and digital toolkits. Cost reductions might need certainly to come from a reduction in headcount among their financial adviser sales force to maintain profitability in the midst of these capital outlays.
But it can be even more complicated for those players who desire to offer a hybrid vehicle service including the digital toolkits of a robo advisor while offering light touch individual counselor services. For these kinds of offerings, distinct tiered account services, with changing fee levels might be a more intelligent strategy
Offering a robo advisor service might be an opportunistic play for wealth management businesses who sit at the nexus of the inter generational wealth transfer which is taking place. .. Losing accounts through the inter generational wealth transfer is a stress for businesses who heavily rely on the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation for much of their fees. The situation is very different today, while older generations may have profited from traditional advisors during an age of very high returns and interest rates. Companies must navigate these waters carefully not to appear too digital to their traditional customer base, while also not appearing to be laggards to your customer that is younger that is prospective. While a robo advisor service might be an excellent way to keep AUM amounts steady inside the business, as younger family members inherit assets from older ones, it may have to be branded separately from other types of accounts.

FinTech Tendencies :

There’s an age old question in wealth management and investment guidance : Man or Machine. The conflict has started today.
Over the last six years, a related section of FinTech that’s received a lot of curiosity, and a fair share of controversy, is automated investment services… or what’re frequently called “robo advisors. ”
These technology-backed advisors were assembled on the premise that many of the actions performed by a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) can be replicated by complex intuitive software. They guarantee lower prices, simplicity of making investing “fun” and also the bonus potential.
Robo – advisers like Wealthfront and Betterment have realized something that 99% of startups never do – turning an idea into an organization that is growing, prospering, and has the chance to be a permanent fixture in its industry.
In reality, the $47 trillion wealth management giant BlackRock only acquired FutureAdvisor, another robo advisor platform with $600 million under management

But the process of creative destruction in the FinTech business is occurring so quickly, I started questioning whether dangers that were competitive can already jeopardize comparatively new success stories like these. Looking at the companies that bookend them – the old-guard firms on one side, and the brand new crop of products and startups on the other — I came away with a healthy dose of skepticism on the future of the stand-alone robo-advisor.

Robo Advisors and the Bet on Millennials
One of the central selling points robo advisors made to the VCs who have funded them was a toxic mistrust of more traditional wealth counselors and financial services firms, their DIY attitude, and millennials’ internet savvy. Given the two important financial disasters they’d experienced in their lifetime, these millennials supposedly harbored a degree of mistrust for the fiscal brands their parents revered that would make defection a near-certainty. They viewed the large banks as inherently bad, and perilously self interested.

As it turns out… a recent report conducted by Salesforce indicates that many millennials actually do favor having an advisor.. Eighty-one percent wanted their counselor to manage their money completely alone, or collaboratively with them compared to 86% for Gen- 89% for Baby Boomers and X’ers — not that distinct.
What is more astonishing is that millennials stood out as the generation most interested in face-to-face interactions with the advisor – 47% get investment advice versus 36% for Gen- 46% for Baby Boomers and X’ers. The number one reason millennials gave for firing their adviser was high fees, which robo- counselors have exploited with fees that are a fraction of the cost of conventional wealth management
Millennials are certainly somewhat less comfortable relying completely on technology as the incumbent robo, while their preference for technology was unmistakable – advisers envisaged. There stays a definite desire to learn just how to manage cash, in order to ask questions, express financial goals and to have a trustworthy adviser involved.

In short, it seems that robo- advisors won’t replace the conventional advisor ; they will sit alongside them to provide an optimal blend of human and technology brains.

In response to fit what younger investors are searching for, and to the increase of Wealthfront and Betterment, conventional financial advisors like Schwab and Vanguard recently established “robo advisor platforms” of their own that comprise a substitute for connect to an individual, if desirable.
They’ve slashed fees, and now offer a wider array of investment vehicles than the incumbent robo – advisers. And with early stage investments in FinTech quadrupling recently, it’s no surprise that after only a few months these hybrid platforms attracted an amount of capital that’s many times greater than what the stand-alone robos had accumulated in years.
What this tells us is that Wealthfront and Betterment are correct — many investors have elected to cease paying their more traditional RIAs for a service in which some facets can be performed by technology, info, and automation. And these benefits extend much beyond those who can afford the guidance of Schwab peers are ’sed by it. Millions of middle-income families may have access to a greater degree of guidance that is advanced than their net worth may have ever enabled before
But technology can’t create an investing worldview from an individual ’s special demands and aims, hold their hand and encourage them to stay composed. And these human qualities are valuable to investors than these companies may have estimated
Boom or Doom For Stand Alone Robo Advisors?
Since the incumbents offer merchandise that is similar with comparable fees, the stand alone advisers will need to convince investors that they have something the big guys don’t. Despite the trust and their inventions they’ve constructed with many investors, the stand alone robo-advisors haven’t yet shown they can generate better yields, net of fees. So they’ll need to explain how and why their algorithms are not inferior to the algorithms other companies can create. But if investors find the prospect of managing cash overly complex, the nuances of algorithm building will probably not make for a good advertising hook.
The recent spike in advertising by Betterment and Wealthfront indicates that they feel a need to match Schwab, etc. on their field of battle – which is a scary proposition given how well- financed the big brokerages are, and how seasoned they’ve become at mass media marketing.

It’s also likely to be a losing battle because incumbents like Fidelity and Vanguard can create fees on the inherent ETFs they put in customer portfolios, enabling an extended life value and therefore greater allowance for higher client acquisition prices.

Reed Hastings said that before HBO could become Netflix Neflix had to grow and become HBO. Using this example to the space that is advisory, it appears like the incumbents have refurbished Wealthfront and Betterment ’s secret sauce faster than these firms could replicate that value added human element that Schwab and Vanguard offer
I have no doubt a successful departure lies in these companies futures, but if and when they can be acquired, it’s going to probably be by a traditional company that also realizes that it needs to leverage new technology and become “half- man, half-machine”

Empirica lectures on Fund Industry Summit 2014

Empirica was invited to give a lecture on ‘Usage of Algorithmic Trading in investment funds’ at Fund Industry Summit 2014.

Conference gathered representatives from over 70 financial institutions. The event was held in Warsaw and plans are that it will be repeated in yearly cycles. Especially that both organisers and participants deemed the conference a success.

The agenda of the summit included 9 lectures on topics related to investment funds day-to-day operations like MIFID II and AIFMD European Union directeves, Internet funds distribution and organisation of self-care channels.

Empirica’s lecture, held by its CEO Michal Rozanski on ‘Usage of Algorithmic Trading in investment funds’ was a good opportunity to share with the wider audience results of our latest research regarding market impact reduction in high volume transactions.

 

FIS_Mrz_Speach2

Empirica CEO, Michal Rozanski during the lecture at Fund Industry Summit

Fund Industry Summit 2014

 Empirica CEO, Michal Rozanski during the lecture at Fund Industry Summit

Ekipa z Warszawy

 Our team on Empirica conference stand

Video summarizing Fund Industry Summit 2014

Empirica joins advisory board of London’s FinTech Connect

FintechConnect logo

Michal Rozanski, CEO of Empirica, was invited to join advisory board of FinTech Connect. The main purpose of the board would be to share knowledge and experiences with new fintech ventures looking for support.

FinTech Connect is a new initiative for the global community of financial technology stakeholders – investors, financial institutions, fintech startups and solution providers.

Empirica definitely sees a need for one place where people interested in advancement of financial technologies could exchange ideas, experiences and good practices. We are already taking part in similar initiative but on different field – IT Corner association for local software companies – and advantages of such an initiative are obvious to us. When such an idea gets critical mass of people involved that want to be active, then the effect is much more than the sum of its parts. IT Corner is living evidence of that. Therefore we are great fans and we will happily support the development of FinTech Connect.

FinTech Connect provides a digital hub and meeting place for the fintech sector. It allows start-ups, tech providers, investors and financial institutions to connect and do business through community platform. FinTech Connect has already thousands of members and the count is growing daily. In addition to start up events, FinTech Connect provides global seminars and conferences on subjects such as banking security, cash management and commercial payment strategies for corporate treasurers, and cloud IT platforms for financial institutions.

Steve Clarke, the founder and CEO of FinTech Connect says: ‘We launched FinTech Connect because we wanted to provide a global platform and community for  the fintech industry. With the incredible amount of innovation going on within many different technology hubs around the World, there is a natural element of fragmentation between stakeholders and it can at times, seem like innovation is taking place within micro-communities; either in certain geographies, sub sectors or on a smaller scale again within accelerator or incubator programmes.’

FinTech Connect is also organizing Europe’s most exciting exhibition of fintech startup innovation – FinTech Connect Live. This conference will gather over 2000 fintech professionals, over 100 exhibitors and over 100 speakers and visionaries all in one place for two days in London in December 2015.

 

Learn more about FinTech Connect at: www.fintechconnect.com

and about FinTech Connect Live at: www.fintechconnectlive.com .

Our Algorithmic Trading Platform in large brokerage house!

Empirica has successfuly finished the implementation of its Algorithmic Trading Platform in one of the largest brokerage houses in Poland.

Brokerage house will use our software to:

  • aid its internal trading operations, like market making of derivatives on Warsaw Stock Exchange
  • offer functionalities of our platform to its institutional clients, which will be able to build, test and execute their own algorithmic trading strategies

Implementation included connecting of our software system directly to the system of Warsaw Stock Exchange (Universal Trading Platform delivered by NYSE Technologies), as well as the integration with transaction systems of brokerage house. Additionally we have fulfilled and successfuly passed tests regarding the highest security, stability and performance requirements.

This implementation is an important milestone for our system. The usage by team of market makers is a proof that our system is capable of performing high-throughput and low latency operations on level required by most sophisticated traders on the capital marketets.

 

Robo advisors – new wave in FinTech

In the space between DIY investing and personal — but pricey — financial advisors sits the robo-advisor, a crop of firms that manage client portfolios via computer algorithms, cutting prices and passing the savings on to investors. These online advisers have taken off over the last several years: There are currently a couple hundred firms in the race.

What’s a robo advisor?
A robo-advisor is an on-line financial advisory firm that leverages automation and algorithms to help manage client portfolios. That automation empowers robo-advisors to offer investment management services to consumers for a fraction of the price of a financial advisor that is human. Lower fees, joined with superior features like automatic rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting, can yield higher returns.

How they work
Most of the companies urge portfolios of low cost exchange-traded funds according to surveys that are on-line that investors fill out. The thought is that investors will do with generally diversified portfolios and low fees.

The companies use algorithms to put investors into various portfolios according to risk tolerance.

How to use Robo-Advisor

Automated Customer Onboarding – the questionnaire

The questionnaire is the first step of using Robo Advisor. User’s profile is being created with parameters like:

  • age (defining overall risk aversion level)
  • investment goals (defining users expectations)
  • users experience with losses/gains
  • making important financial decisions

Our Robo Advisory platform covers the interpretation of user’s answers into automated advise.

 

Balance projection

Balance projection gives the user quick view how his portfolio balance would look like in the future for given investment values. In order to make the projection more eye-catching we introduced possibility of generating balance curve based on either static growth or mathematical function development. For example, on average, portfolio increases 4% every year.

 

Asset allocation

Asset allocation is the selection process of the right instruments adequate to users risk profile. Our platform allows to automate managing the allocation, using defined algorithm. For example, with higher portfolio risk we can invest more into stocks and with smaller portfolio risk we invest more into fixed income products. Real asset allocation model has to be decided.

 

User Portfolio,

It is possible to monitor user’s portfolio balance in user dashboard. Platform provides history of portfolio balance over the selected period. User is able to check his current portfolio allocation grouped by three factors:

  • Instrument type
  • Instrument sector
  • Instrument region

 

Portfolio rebalancing

Automated portfolio rebalancing is a crucial functionality for robo-advisory service. Let’s assume that user got asset allocation with 60% stocks and 40% fixed incomes. Over the time, because of the reinvesting dividends or other user-defined factor, his portfolio allocation changed to 70% stocks and 30% fixed incomes. User does not want to take such a big risk so we do portfolio rebalancing to back to original allocation.

 

 

List of successful robo advisors

Betterment
Betterment is a perfect starting point for young investors. They make investing easy for beginners by focusing on simple asset allocation, goal …

Personal Capital
A free and easy-to-use service that syncs up all your financial accounts in one location. Personal Capital creates summaries of your spending, net …

Wealthfront
An automated investing service with an emphasis on asset allocation with low fees. Wealthfront’s service really shines with taxable accounts….

Stash Invest
Stash could be the perfect investment app for a new investor. Its $5 minimum initial deposit removes the single biggest obstacle to investing, but the…

Fidelity Go
Fidelity’s entry into the robo-advisor service helps beginning investors. Its pricing is very transparent, and if you have an existing account, …

Aspiration
Aspiration may be the perfect robo-advisor service for anyone who wants to invest in socially responsible companies. They have low fees, and the fee-…

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
Overall a solid entry into the robo-advisor space. Though the service will exclude beginning investors because of the high minimum deposit. Other robo…

WiseBanyan
WiseBanyan is a free robo-advisor service with some decent features. Unfortunately, we question if the business model is sustainable….

Hedgeable
Hedgeable brings the techniques of hedge funds down to the less well-heeled masses, so everyone can have access to the investment industry “secrets.”…

TradeKing Advisors
TradeKing Advisors is a platform well worth investigating if you’re looking for professional investment management at a very low fee and $500 deposit …

Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios
Overall a decent service that deserves a looking into. Though we question its large allocation to cash and choice of some of the ETFs in order to make…

LearnVest
LearnVest is a decent free budgeting tool. Though compared to its competitors lacks investment reporting. Financial planning is available for an …

Rebalance IRA
Rebalance IRA provides insight into your portfolio and helps you make better decisions by not letting emotions get in the way and selling too often, …

AssetBuilder
AssetBuilder might be a reasonable service to use on large accounts, particularly over $20 million where the annual fee is just 0.20%. But on smaller …

Financial Guard
Financial Guard offers straightforward advice, to upgrade your current portfolio, pay lower fees, and choose better funds. Their business model is …

SigFig
SigFig itself isn’t a bad service, but their recommendations seem simple at best. There are better robo-advisors available….

Wealthsimple
Truewealth

Personalcapital 

FutureAdvisor 

 

Extending the customer base

With a customer base that the size of each of the competition combined, based on Stein, robo advisory Betterment can also be bringing folks, along with assets. It’s not difficult to chalk that up to Stein, and its $0 account minimum admits that some of Betterment’s accounts are modest. But he says all of the customers counted in that tally are saving into funded accounts, with most putting a sizeable amount that is “ away.”

That minimum — or instead, the lack of one — has set the pressure on other robo advisors as well as traditional advisors, many of which have dropped their own minimums over the past year. Private Capital, which has $1.8 billion in assets under management, recently lowered its account minimum by an ambitious 75%, falling from $100,000 to $25,000. The company might have the ability to get away with a minimum still in five digits because its customers also get a dedicated financial advisor.

TradeKing Advisors has lowered its minimum. It found its two tiers of service with initial deposit conditions of $25, and $10,000 000; those minimums now sit at $ and $5, 000. Rich Hagen, the business’s CEO, told NerdWallet that minimums were lowered to remain competitive.

And Wealthfront lowered its account condition 500, noting from $5,000 to $ in a blog post that it was reacting to a “surge in demand” from youthful robo customers . Those customers desired to take advantage of Wealthfront’s generous pricing arrangement, which manages the first $10,000 completely free (Betterment bills 0.35% on accounts under $10,000 that consent to a minimum $100 monthly auto-deposit; those without auto-deposits are charged a monthly fee of $3. That $3 a month — which amounts to more than 7% per annum on a $500 balance — is a point of contention between the two robo-advisors, including a public war of words on Medium.)

 

 

What to look for

To the reader that is causal, the differences between robo advisory companies might appear small but in reality isn’t. You’ve got a choice between:

  • Minimuml Deposit – Some robo advisories it is possible to start out with others and nothing need substantial sums to begin with
  • Yearly Fees – Know about ETF fees and hidden costs
  • Asset allocation – Asset allocation of each robo advisory may differ quite a bit based upon how old you are, and just how their risk assessment questions are answered by you
  • Account Type Support – Do combined, they offer individual, IRA, etc.
  • Automation – Some robo services are 100% automated vs human assisted advice
  • Tax Optimization – Services like Tax-Loss Harvesting
  • Custody of Funds – Handled by you in which they give advice to trading, or directly by the company
  • Management of Assets – Manage only a part or all of your assets
  • Ending-Target – Retirement simply, or other targets (i.e kids education)

 

Best Robo Advisors – Breakdown by Asset Size (2016 Ranking Comparison)

Below is the listing of this year’s top robo advisors by asset size.

# Robo Advisors Total Assets Under Management*
1 Betterment $4,200,000,000
2 Charles Schwab $4,100,000,000
3 Wealthfront $2,800,000,000
4 Personal Capital $2,100,000,000
5 FutureAdvisor $600,000,000