Saturday, 31 December 2011

UK direct to consumer online financial planning tools

2011 was the year that direct to consumer online financial planning applications finally arrived in the UK, with a number of new products being launched. Here is a roundup of some of the players now occupying this space.

Money Advice Service: The logical place to start is with the government's own Money Advice Service. I've previously reviewed it here. Whilst it does provide a wealth of useful information, the actual financial planning tools are too simplistic to be of much use. It is paid for by an industry levy and free to users.

lovemoney offers a wealth of general financial information plus a Yodlee-based account aggregation and budgeting tool to help you track your spending. It also offers product comparison across a range of categories. It is free to users, from theidol.com (who presumably make a profit on products purchased through the comparison tools).

rplan offers access to discounted investment products on both new purchases or on agency transfers of existing products. For new purchases, rplan offers pre-selected portfolios or helps you choose from between 1,500 funds from a range of providers. A simple capital growth projection helps you plan to achieve a target capital amount and to stay on track. Investment values are updated in realtime. rplan charges no upfront commission and rebates 50% of trail commission (retaining the other 50% for itself).

nutmeg will offer discounted access to funds with a range of investment management tools, including auto-rebalancing, goal targeting and realtime valuations. Nutmeg has raised £3.5m in funding and is in private Beta, but not yet launched.

Planwise is the direct to consumer offering from Friends Life, offering a financial health check, pension profiler, savings calculator and risk assessment, all with access to telephone-based advisers. (Not to be confused by the recently launched US financial planning application with the same name). You will note from my previous review of this service that I've not actually been able to access it myself, and that I suspect it is mainly a play to recapture trail commissions.

AllMyPlans is another account aggregator with contract inquiry capabilities, which also offers a data vault for all your policy paperwork. All my plans reminds you of important dates in your plan and best deals at renewal time, and allows you to share your plans with someone else. It is paid for by insurance companies, with AllMyPlans becoming the servicing agent and picking up any trail commission on policies you register with it.

MoneyVista is probably the most comprehensive planning tool, covering retirement and other goals, protection (in the event of illness or death) and organisational tasks such as asset allocation. It provides alerts at important moments in your plan, and while it offers some product comparison tools, you can't actually buy anything through the site. MoneyVista charges users an explicit fee to use it after an initial free trial.

RetireEasy is similar to MoneyVista in the way it draws charts of your financial future, although its scope is less as it focuses on retirement planning only. RetireEasy also charges users an explicit fee for using it, but there is no free trial. [Updated 10.4.2012]

CoffeeBreakFinance provides simple tools for creating a budget and tracking actual expenditure relative to it, working out how much tax you could and should be paying, and helping you work out how much home contents insurance you need and maintaining the records you might need to support a claim. It is free to use.

MoneyOnToast.com is free to use and allows you to get quotes for, buy and trade products from the whole of the market across a number of different product types (it integrates with the Cofunds platform). It also a single place to organise and keep track of all of your financial information, and a range of interactive tools guides and planners. After a fact find, it creates a risk profile and is able to recommend products. It makes its money by claiming trail commission on funds consolidated on the platform. Finally they offer remote advice from fully qualified independent advisers for £35 and hour.  [Updated 22.6.2012]

InvestorBee.com helps consumers analysis the vast number of funds available using simple end engaging representations of risk, return and fee (TER) ratings for nearly 400 multi-asset funds. Investors can also compare their savings habits and returns against 1 million+ other UK consumers. It is free to use. [Updated 8.3.2012]

2012 promises to be another exiting year in the space. What will be particularly interesting is to see how those sites which make their money from initial and/or trail commission will respond to the Retail Distribution Review (RDR). I expect we will see a few new entrants, as well as a few exits from the market.

Other resources:



Disclosure: I've been involved in the development of both MoneyVista and CoffeeBreakFinance.