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Portfolio > Portfolio Construction

RIA Rolls Out Uber-Like App

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A Southern California RIA is giving millennials and other investors a mobile tech tool that it hopes will drive traffic to its services.

Gerber Kawasaki Wealth & Investment Management of Santa Monica recently launched My Money Page, which can be used on smartphones and computers to do budgeting, track savings and retirement goals, calculate net worth and pull together bank and investment account information.

“Like the taxi app Uber, we want to make an industry better and more efficient while becoming a dominant player in it,” said President and CEO Ross Gerber, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.

“Many of our clients live and die on their phones now,” he said, “so being on that real estate is really critical.”

In addition to the functional aspects of My Money Page, the app gives Gerber Kawasaki the opportunity to show the value it can bring to potential clients, and existing ones.

“We took our Twitter feed and put it into the app,” he explained. “This way, clients can see what’s going on [in the markets] and what we are up to. Also, by being on their phone, they have a way to get notifications about market-moving events” or trends the RIA wants to highlight.

In addition, the app features an “activity feed that shows what others are doing, like Steve is working on his budget,” Gerber said. “You can also get pictures, like one of Tahiti, to use in the retirement-goal sections. Nine-tenths of the battle, after all, is getting people to save.”

The Anti-Robo App

The My Money Page app “is an anti-robo-advisor feature,” Gerber says, noting that robo-advisors just focus on building portfolios and not the matters most clients want help addressing.

“What we do that’s key is to work on the life issues and go about solving them with clients,” explained the executive, who notes that Gerber Kawasaki has about 3,000 clients and $330 million in assets under management.  

With My Money Page, “Wherever you are, it’s all there, and it’s here all the time. Young people want everything on their phone at any time,” Gerber stated.

Some of the firm’s millennial and baby boomer clients are using the app already, he says, as are lots of users who aren’t yet clients. “But we can see [their information] and offer to talk to them about their IRAs, personal planning issues, etc.,” he explained.

Gerber Kawasaki says it has worked closely with its partner LPL Financial (LPLA) to develop the app so it complies with FINRA regulations. “They’ve been hugely supportive,” said Gerber. “The app was developed by advisors for clients and advisors.”

Future Focus

The RIA plans to share the app with other advisors down the road at no cost – as tech companies like Firefox, for instance, have done with their innovations. “We love and want feedback,” Gerber said, “and want to be the killer app for finance.”

However, the firm’s leaders and staff know that winning and keeping clients depends on meaningful human interaction.  

“We embrace and respect the hard work advisors do in a human way,” he explained. “There’s no tech solution for listening, having empathy and the like.”

Advisors’ role is to help with the details, like how to make financial plans and decisions during a tough divorce, after the death of a loved one or when switching jobs. “These are the kinds of things advisors do and clients need,” Gerber added, “and we want to be one of the biggest firms in U.S.”

The group is adding about $150 million to $200 million in assets a year. Its short-term goal is to get to $1 billion and “end up” at around $10 billion, according to the CEO. “We want to be the firm for Generations X and Y, as well as for baby boomers.”

“The aim of the [My Money Page] app is to create a connection between clients and professionals, so investors can work with real advisors as much or as little as they like,” he explained

“It’s not a robo-advisor at all. It’s a connection,” Gerber said. “We wanted to build an app that solves many of the financial issues people face daily and that lets them do financial planning online. It’s not about portfolio management. We do that with you — like traditional advisors.”

— Check out Personalized Portfolios Are Under Attack on ThinkAdvisor.


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