SmartAsset is another player in the holistic online “advice” and information market. Co-founder and CEO Michael Carvin states that the mission of the company “is to help people make the best personal financial decisions and to build the web’s best resource for personal decision-making.” SmartAsset originally launched as a “buy versus rent” analysis tool, allowing users to also see how much they could afford to spend if they did buy. It has since added information, tools and calculators for taxes, retirement, banking, credit cards and, unsurprisingly, since Focus Financial, the advisor roll up is one of its major investors, investing. For each category except for investing, it offers a somewhat curated list of providers, with comparisons and reviews.
On the investment side, SmartAsset has somewhat loftier goals and is focused on providing advisors with leads (for a price, of course). For investors, it provides an advisor matching service. For advisors, the value proposition is attractive. The portion of the site targeted to advisors says that it reaches “a monthly audience of more than 45 million Americans, and provides more than 5,000 qualified prospects per month to financial advisors (like you) across the country.” Using publicly available data and algorithmic robo-writing, it has been building profiles of advisors to be used for matching, with the goal of eventually having all 300,000 U.S. registered advisors eventually up and available. “Listing” is free, qualified leads are not. Other firms, such as BrightScope, have tried this in the past, without success. SmartAsset, however, has far greater sustained traffic and the backing of Focus Financial, which is in turn backed by Stone Point Capital and KKR.
It also brings the promise of qualified leads that may be worth the price. The typical lead they provide is in his or her 50s, with an average of $750,000 in investable assets, most of whom don’t currently have an advisor. Advisors can choose their leads by:
○ Range of investable assets
○ Number of introductions per month
The qualification process appears to be reasonably vigorous, conducted through a multi-step process that includes a detailed online survey with phone follow-up for a final vetting.
As the online advice and information environment continues to evolve, this model could provide a significant boost to the smaller independent advisor in the form of a cost-effective lead generation tool. Some have termed this Zillow for advisor listings – the question remains whether investors will “buy” an advisor like they buy a house.