When it comes to software for advisors, there always seems to be another company emerging with a new problem-solving piece of software. It's not uncommon for that company to be led by a current or former advisor.
Take a new company called SimpliFi, based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which was dreamed up by its three founders while they were MBA students at Wake Forest University. SimpliFi provides a basic online financial planning program delivered by a "virtual financial advisor," or VFA, called Sophie, at www.simplifi.net. SimpliFi believes its service can help solve a common advisor problem: how to serve more clients "with less face time," says one of its founders, CEO Bryan Link. A former bank investment rep, Link says he and his partners came up with the idea when they realized they made far too little money themselves to be able to afford their own advisor. The service will allow advisors to serve the 35 million middle-income Americans who want and need objective financial advice but can't afford it, says Link, noting that implementation of any plan is totally separate from the online service. While the service is available now for consumers at an annual fee of $74.95 or a quarterly fee of $24.95, Link believes a licensing model is the key to the company's success, and is in talks with several banks that he says are interested in signing on. Link says the company specifically gave its VFA a woman's name to make the service more attractive to women, since it believes women are underserved by the financial services community.--James J. Green