by Greg Bright
In what is bound to shake up the fledgling Australian fintech industry, Chicago-based Morningstar Inc is working on an Australian launch for some of the robo-advice services of its US subsidiary HelloWallet, which provides various online retirement and financial “wellness” software and information.
A Morningstar Australia spokesman confirmed last week that the firm was working on an Australian offering – which would likely involve adjustments to the calculators used – but was not yet in a position to disclose further details. This would involve HelloWallet’s ‘financial wellness’ and retirement capabilities, but not the business itself.
HelloWallet has been one of the big success stories in the robo-advice space in recent years. It was founded by Matt Fellowes in 2009, with seed funding from Steve Case, a co-founder of US tech giant AOL, and then was acquired by Morningstar for US$52.5 million in May last year.
To be fair, neither Morningstar nor HelloWallet refer to their services as “rob-advice”, although others do in the increasingly grey field of online financial information, with various categories of “advice”.
Fellowes, who remains CEO of HelloWallet, is a former academic and fellow at the Brookings Institute who studies and writes about consumer finance, particularly focusing on behavioural biases and influences. The Brookings Institute is generally regarded as the most influential public policy think tank in Washington.
HelloWallet markets its services through employers in the US, while Morningstar’s main reach in Australia is through financial planners and dealer groups, as well as the SMSF information market.
It was this month awarded the “Best in Show” award at the big fintech conference in New York, FinovateFall, which included about 70 entrants from technology companies. The 1,500 technology people in attendance selected the winners.
Morningstar said: “HelloWallet presented its suite of financial guidance products, including a ‘Wellness Score’, which helps individuals work toward financial goals and see how they stack up against their peers, and its new online retirement planning tool powered by the Morningstar ‘Wealth Forecasting Engine’. The new tool combines HelloWallet’s expertise in behavioural science with Morningstar’s experience in retirement planning and wealth forecasting.”
The business works on a paid subscription basis – normally with the employer paying for, or at least subsidising, the cost. For every five subscriptions sold, HelloWallet donates a free one to a family in need.
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