Oranj David Lyon: We’re The Un-Robo-Advisor

Today, using Uber to hail a cab, Amazon to buy electronics or Venmo to transfer money have become commonplace. Dealing with a live person to handle every day tasks seems almost quaint and old fashioned.  So, why would engaging with a financial advisor be any different?

As reported in a recent Boston Consulting Group study, “Wealth management clients are increasingly accustomed to using mobile, social, cloud and web technologies in their personal and professional lives. Thus it’s no surprise that they expect the institutions and experts managing their wealth to progressively employ digital tools and practices as well, to improve service, efficiency, and the overall client experience.”

While the so-called “robo-advisors” are grabbing all the headlines and spending money on splashy advertising campaigns, providers who offer the same technology directly to advisors are flying under the radar.  A company with the interestingly spelled name of “Oranj” is one of these and has built a technology platform that allows advisors to offer their own digital advice solution.Oranj was originally developed as an in-house product by Main Street Financial, according to CEO David Lyon.  It was developed in response to client complaints about their manual, paper-driven procedures.

“Clients were telling us that they wanted our processes to be more fluid in nature, less reliant on the static document of the quarterly performance review,” explains Lyon. These types of comments, plus the realization that consumer behavior has changed, led the Chicago-based RIA to begin looking into developing a digital application.

Six months ago, the only firms offering outsourced “digital practice management” services besides Oranj was Jemstep and Upside Financial, which was recently acquired by Envestnet.  Since then, most of the other robo-advisor firms have launched outsourced solutions of their own.

So what does Oranj have to differentiate themselves from an increasingly crowded field?

One major differentiator is that Oranj is not an RIA and is not competing with their advisor clients.

“We compare to robo-advisors, since we provide a digital extension of the advisors’ business, but we’re not managing assets,” Lyon explained. “Oranj provides the advisor the ability to be mOranj David Lyonore digitally enabled, without having to change their business.”

Firms using Oranj can enable an automated portfolio component from their website, where prospects can be directed to risk tolerance questionnaires and then be matched with a portfolio created by the advisor.  This allows RIA’s to provide a low-touch offering for small accounts or clients who are comfortable interacting entirely online.

“Consumer behavior has shifted, and it’s really time that we shifted as well,” Lyon emphasize. The old processes that the industry relied on do not match up with the way clients’ lives are unfolding.  They are fluid and dynamic in nature, he countered.

Client and Prospect Facing Portal

Adding technology from Oranj provides advisors with new way to engage with clients, starting when they first encounter the firm as prospects.

From the very beginning of the relationship, the prospect experiences first-hand what the relationship will be like. “Instead of trying to sell to them, we’re showing it to them, we’re allowing them to experience it,” Lyon explained.

By engaging the prospect on the platform right from the beginning, advisors can help set the stage for a new, more collaborative style of client relationship.

However, simply having robo capabilities doesn’t mean advisors will wake up every morning with five new clients without having to do any work. This is not a ‘set it and forget it’ solution, emphasizes Lyon.

Referrals are still the best way for advisors to generate new business, Lyon pointed out.  As part of their research when building Oranj, his firm analyzed thirty years of sales and prospecting data from the advisory industry.  They found that, on average, it requires 10 referrals to generate 3 meetings to create 1 new client.

Advisors can place a link on their website for prospects to start a profile and begin engaging with the platform. When a prospect is ready to take action, Oranj makes it an enjoyable and streamlined experience. Lyon does not believe in replacing the advisor, but enhancing him. “This is just another tool in the advisor’s tool box,” he noted.

While Lyon has done research on prospecting best practices, Oranj does not offer any help to advisors in web marketing, lead generation or connection to referral networks the way that Jemstep does. These features could become relevant as online technology firms look for ways to stand out from the crowd.

Oranj can aggregate all of a client’s financial accounts, including banks, credit cards, brokerages, insurance policies — and can even pull in real estate values via Zillow. It takes as little as seven seconds to add an account (if user names and passwords are handy).

Clients can access financial planning insights into goals, investments, risk management, net worth, insurance needs and liquidity, and can perform monthly cash flow analysis.

Online account opening and transfers are integrated into the system, along with Laser App and DocuSign, for a  seamless account opening process. Clients can upload important documents, such as deeds, titles, wills, and passports, while advisors can upload ADVs, quarterly performance reports and investment recommendations.

Advisor Facing Portal  

“We wanted to be smarter about who we were reaching out to, and what we were reaching out about,” says Lyon.Oranj David Lyon

To that end, the platform provides advisors with tools and features to help promote meaningful and proactive conversations. These include real-time views into clients’ financial lives, a live feed of users’ activity, and alerts that indicate when clients make changes, add accounts or modify their goals.

This way, advisors can engage in more meaningful conversations. “Advisors need to enhance their business based on what clients expect in today’s on-demand world,” says Lyon. “We have to shift from providing service based on the advisor’s terms to the client’s terms.”

The platform is visually appealing and has modern, clean look and feel—but the dashboard is not customizable nor does it include widgets or other small configurable components like some of their competitors.

Lyon also aimed to improve the experience for prospects. “Prospects need a way to be able to engage with advisors, and get a sense of what it’s like to work with them,” says Lyon. “People no longer want to go through the advisor’s process. They don’t want to meet with someone for four or five hours to determine if this advisor or firm can provide value.”

Whether the user is on a smart phone, tablet or PC, the application automatically resizes and re-formats itself to make it easier to perform transactions and view information.

Platform Expansion

Oranj is looking to expand their platform beyond just onboarding, portfolio construction and rebalancing. They have added basic CRM functionality as well.  Whenever a prospect interacts with Oranj, contact records are automatically added or updated in the CRM.

Advisors cannot update or sync any data from their existing CRM’s to Oranj, however this functionality is in development and should be available by early summer, Lyon said.

Considering how many full-featured CRM applications are available, it is doubtful many advisors will take advantage of the Oranj CRM.  They would be better off integrating with the top 3-4 vendors so they can create and update client records automatically.

Oranj does not offer a proprietary portfolio management system, and there are no plans to offer this functionality any time soon.

Third Party Integration

The platform integrates with third-party providers, however, such as CRM, financial planning and portfolio management vendors, and supports single sign-on so advisors do not have to log on separately to each account.Oranj David Lyon

“We are also addressing scalability,” says Lyon. “I think everyone is viewing the digital space today, as a way of taking on more clients, or maybe approaching a smaller account size.”

Pricing

Oranj charges a flat price of $250 per month for first user and $50 per month for each additional user at the sane firm.  This is quite a reasonable cost when compared to other firms that usually charge based on AUM.

Oranj launched in 2012, but has only been available to the greater advisor population since October 2013. As of this publishing, 625 advisors use the platform representing 210 firms with more than 60,000 clients.

Future Plans

Lyon listed a number of enhancements they have planned for this year, including:

  • Integrated Comments and Chat Feature—Integrated comments and chat (with archive for compliance) for real-time communication between clients and advisors.
  • Analytics Dashboard—Provides advisors with analytics needed to tailor outreach to clients, including which users logged in, how long they were logged in and which dashboard views they visited.
  • Mobile App—Provides advisors a snapshot of clients and prospects, enables them to create new user profiles, send invites and more. Allows clients and prospects access to financial accounts, goals and collaboration tools.

For advisors looking to step into the digital age, Oranj offers an attractive solution that is part advisor/client portal, part prospecting tool and—for those willing to add an automated portfolio component—part robo-advisor. While it is missing a few key features such as single sign on and more customization options, it still has a lot to offer RIA’s that are looking to launch an online presence for a reasonable cost.

When used to its fullest extent, Oranj can provide a platform to help advisors evolve and re-define their practices into a more on-demand, fluid and digitally-based model that better reflects consumer behavior today.

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Alternate titles for this post:

  • Oranj You Glad I Didn’t Say Robo-Advisor?
  • Oranj: Always Fresh, Never From Concentrate
  • A Clockwork Oranj: A Solution to The Dystopian Future of The Advisory Business?
  • If Robo-Advisors Are Apples, Oranj is Different