Pick any mutual fund company, go to its website and pull up a fund fact sheet. (We’ll wait.) Odds are, it won’t be listed on the homepage; or in the main menu, or in the FAQs. Most financial advisors go through this hunt-and-click exercise on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Few find it rewarding.
“If it’s a company I’ve pulled up before, maybe it’ll take me a few seconds to find their fact sheet,” says Susan Beattie, a financial advisor with St. Louis-based Huntleigh Securities. “But if it’s a fund family I’m not familiar with, it can take 15 minutes or more to filter through their website.” And if a customer asks about a few different funds, there goes an hour or two.
Bookmarking is useless. Mutual funds upgrade their websites, burying relevant information under snazzy marketing graphics and new product ads. Besides, there are too many to bookmark, Beattie says. “Funds change. Customers change. As an advisor, what I’m using today I might not be using tomorrow.”
And the constant meeting requests from mutual fund wholesalers — from the 15-minute “pop-ins” to the hour-long lunches — don’t help, because that information comes wrapped in a sales pitch.
While other areas of the investment world have embraced automated financial technology, like robo-advisors and robo-managers, the mutual fund industry has been slow to go robo.
Industry veteran Laurie Marchel was tired of clicking through endless menus and getting stuck in the loop of “back to previous page” prompts.
“This is all publicly available information. People shouldn’t have to walk over hot coals to get to it,” she said.
Enter RoboWholesaler. The brainchild of Marchel, the company “strips away all the marketing clutter” and simply aggregates fund fact sheets and wholesaler information for the 10 top-performing equity and fixed income mutual funds in dozens of categories, ranked by performance and updated in real time.
The website is minimalist. “It was important to us that someone could get there in three clicks or less,” Marchel said. She collaborated with industry consultants Sky Marketing on the design and program development, but the company is not affiliated with an investment firm. Financial advisors can currently access the site for free.
In launching RoboWholesaler.com earlier this year, Marchel joined the growing number of women becoming entrepreneurs in fintech.
“When I started putting this together, it was about making the broker’s life easier,” said Marchel, who has spent about 25 years in the financial services industry — on the broker-dealer side as a sales manager with A.G. Edwards and Edward Jones; and on the asset management side as a relationship manager with Russell Investments, BNY Mellon/Dreyfus and Invesco.