Have 7IM just delivered the best financial planning software user experience ever?

Have 7IM just delivered the best financial planning software user experience ever?

Imagine if advisers could have access to a retirement planning tool that was as easy to use as a computer game, with a user interface so intuitive that you really don’t need any training or guidance on how to use it. Such a product could potentially transform how advisers engage with clients digitally.

The truth is this product already exists and has done since 2013. It is called 7IMagine. As someone who (in normal times) probably racks up as many miles as anyone else in the industry seeking out truly innovative advice technology, I can say unequivocally I have never seen a better user interface on a piece of financial planning software.

Let me be clear 7IMagine is not going to give you the depth of granularity of tax planning that can be provided by Prestwood Truth, the detailed cash flow capabilities of CashCalc, or the level of drawdown modelling of Timeline. It can’t model life insurance needs, or even amount of income protection cover needed to allow for any loss of income due to illness, remembering that every financial plan fails without an income.

What it does do however is provide an incredibly simple tool that advisers can use to clearly articulate high-level analysis of a client’s current position and their likely retirement income and other key financial needs in their lifetime. It also has an incredible wow factor! For many advisers, this app is exactly what they need to capture new clients and manage ongoing relationships simply.

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Last week 7IM launched their latest update to the software, this brings many significant enhancements. In this version the adviser can take far more control over how much of the service is offered to the clients, for example they can exclude the whole My Future option if a firm uses a different cash flow or retirement planning tool. They can also exclude the My Wall content comprising articles commissioned by 7IM, as well as the ability for clients to use My Future to produce their own versions of the planning modelling.

The process begins in the My Money part of the system which acts as a client portal for the 7IM platform. This will load details of all existing investments, the underlying holdings, their asset allocation and performance. It is all delivered in an incredibly slick touch sensitive interface enabling users to drill down into different product wrappers, performance over a range of periods, the mix of asset classes and the geographical spread of investments.

From there the adviser can move to the My Future part of the system, where they begin the retirement modelling process. This starts by building a profile of the client, their family, income and property assets. All of this is populated again using an incredibly simple and intuitive touch interface. From this user moves on to a new screen to input details of the different types of savings, investments and other assets and who they are owned by. This includes both financial products and other assets such as property and collections etc.

Having added an asset, you can drag and drop it between different members of the family or indicate if it is owned jointly. Individual growth rates can be allocated to different types of investment.

In each of these input screens amounts can be easily manipulated using sliders on a mobile device but equally by tapping in the relevant fields you can manually enter numbers, so you don’t have to try to get to a specific number using a slider, which can be challenging, especially for the fat fingered among us, of whom I’m certainly one.

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From this the system will then generate an interactive view of the client’s assets and liabilities both currently and at different points in the future. Tabs at the bottom allow you to switch between the assets of different family members and assets held jointly.

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The system now enables users to switch between the current value of money and future money (i.e., allowing for inflation) with just a single tap of the screen. 

From here the 7IMagine enables the process of building a financial plan aiming to meet both retirement needs and other important milestones such as provision for children’s education and deposits for their houses. Provision can also be made for leaving legacies after death. Other bespoke financial events involving either income or expenditure can be easily added. 

The most significant feature changes are around the way that an adviser can model retirement income for a client. 7IMagine now allows the adviser to enter up to four different levels of income during retirement starting at different dates this enables an adviser to potentially model significant spending in the early, more active years of retirement.  While conventional wisdom maybe that people only need 2/3rds of their working income in retirement, the reality for the physically active newly retired is that life can be much like a permanent weekend, and when do you spend more during the week or at the weekend? 

This can then be adapted to reflect reduced expenditure as the client becomes less active in later years, but subsequently significant increases in the last few years of life where the cost of either in home support or nursing home care are likely to be significantly higher. 

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On the downside, the system will automatically bring through the values of any assets held with 7IM all other assets have to be manually added to the system and the values updated each time you use it. I really would like to see interfaces built to leading practice management system so that this information could be imported automatically. With an increasing number of adviser software suppliers delivering their own APIs this is not anywhere near as difficult as it used to be. It would still need work, but such work would bring real benefits to advisers.

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Having entered all the future events and income needs in retirement the system builds a plan to show future income needs, if these are addressed, and any shortfall and when it might occur together with an overall picture of wealth in the future. This includes projected future value of all assets including the growth rates assumed together with all the underline details and events.

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Once an adviser has created a plan, they can email a link to it to the client or prospective client who can download the plan and if the adviser gives permission the client can manipulate the plan themselves and return their modelling to the adviser.

It is worth recognising that there is significant evidence that clients who feel they have designed their plan themselves, or at least had an active role in the process are far more likely to persevere with a plan in adverse financial circumstances as it is their plan.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that digital communications are now an essential part of all client relationships, so having a financial planning tool that enables advisers and clients to collaborate in such a powerful way is really valuable.

The FTRC team are increasingly focusing on what investment platforms are doing to differentiate themselves from being just another administration, transactional engine aggregation and custody service. 7IMagine is already an exceptional tool for advisers to use with clients, but I could see it being so much more. It would need significant development, but it is very clear to me how this could be built out to deliver a truly compelling proposition which would put 7IM head and shoulders above most other platforms.

To be fair the cost of the additional development would not be small, and it probably could not then be provided as a “free of charge” tool, but I see enormous scope to develop this as a front-end customer engagement service providing comprehensive reporting and client servicing for which advisers would probably pay a modest monthly charge, which could be either passed on to the client or absorbed by the firm.

If 7IM want to push on and become a genuine third wave platform, that is truly innovating and disturbing the tired traditional platform market building out 7IMagine in the way I have outlined above looks to be a natural course to follow.

Even without these additions I find myself wanting to use superlatives I never normally employ when talking about advice software. If parts of this analysis seem rather gushing, and very different from my normal style, it is because this app deserves it like just about no other piece of advice tech out there.

If you have never used 7IMagine go to the iOS, Mac, Android, or Google Microsoft apps stores and download the latest version. But be prepared to never be satisfied with traditional financial planning software again.

About The Author

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Ian founded Financial Technology Research Centre in 1995 nearly two decades before “FinTech” became part of the industry lexicon. A boutique consultancy the firm focuses on how personal finance organisations can communicate more effectively with their customers and help them take better financial decisions. As part of this work the firm work with many of the U.K.’s leading long-term savings institutions, financial advisers and technology providers to identify emerging technologies that can transform customer relationships. More recently the firm has added its own InsureTech and RegTech ventures to help advisers ensure they help consumers find the life insurance and workplace pensions solutions that best meet the needs. In addition to developing a UK view Ian travels extensively to identify similar trends around the world and the lessons that can be learned from other countries.

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