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You want your Robo-advisor to be different?

2. You want your Robo-advisor to be different? Really? Why?

7 mins read

“Tell me why you are different from the other B2B WealthTechs?”

That’s a question I get asked in almost every pitch I do.

But why do buyers ask that? Why do they want to be different? From who? For what reason?

I don’t think you can get a useful answer to this question. That’s because it isn’t the right question.

This week, I’m going to give you some feedback on this and how to ask it in a different way to get a better outcome.

Robo-advisory is 15 years old at best. That’s nothing for a sector. We are still learning how to deliver, design, price, scale, succeed, integrate, etc. What is the percentage of people who use digital wealth today? Let’s be generous and go with 5%. So greenfield is 95%.

So when you ask “Why are you different?”, what do you want us to be different from?

When you are tasked with building a Robo-advisor, what you should be doing is looking for the best practices within the existing Robo-advisors and replicating those. The customer is just getting used to digital wealth. They are becoming comfortable with their wealth being on an app with no advisor, fractional ETFs, instant statements, (rather than monthly ones), instant fund transfer, clean design, and no paperwork.
They don’t actually need different.

If you built a perfect copy of Betterment and you get half the AUM they have (US$30 billion), you think anyone would complain? I don’t. People like Betterment. It is really good.

Why, for your first effort at a Robo-advisor, would you try to build something different from an app that has spent 15 years working on it? Indeed, it would be awesome if you could even build half of what they had.

How about this as a better question when you meet a B2B WealthTech provider:

“What makes you the same as the most successful Robo-advisor out there?”

In my 7 years at Bambu, I have never been asked that question.

But surely you should be learning from the most successful Robo-advisors like Betterment, Wealthfront, Scaleable, StashAway, etc. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a huge amount of customer research design knowledge etc. Just leverage that!

As mentioned in the first issue of WealthTech Wednesday, the new D2C Robo-advisors in Singapore have scaled more than the incumbent banks, and indeed that is the same in many countries.

D2C Robo out-selling incumbents…still think you need to be different? Why? You probably think different is better as you worry that if you build the same as everyone else, why would people use yours? I’ll come to that.

So let’s go back to the pitch. You meet a B2B WealthTech. Someone like me:

The Pitch

You: So tell me why you are different from the other WealthTechs?
Me: Sure. But first, if I may ask, why do you want to be different?
You: Because I want to outsell my competitors.
Me: How about if we build something that is the same as the best Robo-advisors out there, that we know customers will like, that will cost you less and be delivered quicker? Would that make sense?
You: But doesn’t everyone have one of those?
Me: Actually, no. The majority don’t.


Of course, I have tried to make it obvious. I am sure I have missed out on a lot, but truly being different simply means you are paying to experiment with your money while other financial institutions are building solutions that we know customers want.

What you need to be is quick.

Delivering now is better than being different. Why let your customers leave you by trying to be clever? Just be simple, customer-centric, and now. When you have billions of AUM, hundreds of thousands of customers, and are profitable, then be different.

If I am honest, I blame the buzzword of all buzzwords – “Innovation”.

I have nothing against innovation, and at Bambu, we have built some super cool stuff. But we don’t need innovation for every solution. What works best for Robo-advisory today if you don’t have one, is that it is a beautifully designed, frictionless experience that your customer loves. And we already know what that looks like.

Would love to hear what you think about this. What am I missing? Why do you all feel this deep need to be different? Comment on LinkedIn and I’ll reply.

That’s it for this week. It’s a start. So much more to get across.

Truly I just want to make it better.

Ned Phillips
Founder & CEO










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