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Client vulnerability fintech eyes ‘breakout year’ in advice sector

Client vulnerability fintech eyes ‘breakout year’ in advice sector
Aveni's founders, Joseph Twigg, Jamie Hunter and Lexi Birch

An artificial intelligence fintech which can detect vulnerable customers is hoping for a “breakout year” in the financial advice sector, after building a tool to analyse clients' speech.

Edinburgh-based Aveni first launched at the end of 2019 with a product which wrapped natural language processing around the entire advice journey, of which detecting vulnerability was a part.

But Joseph Twigg, along with two other founders - Lexi Birch and Jamie Hunter - quickly realised upon taking it to market that advisers weren’t interested in the whole thing, and were instead interested in different parts of the service.

“So we ended up unpacking the platform,” said Twigg. The start-up then spent around nine months working with Nationwide to build out its vulnerable customer tool, which it has now launched with one of its earliest adopters, the Key Group.

The tool extracts information from client calls and puts it through Aveni's system, which automatically checks for signs of vulnerability. Advisers can access the results of these checks via Aveni’s dashboard.

The tool also pre-populates things like suitability reports or CRM systems.

“We reckon we can make the advice process 50-70 per cent more efficient, which is attractive to big companies for growth ambitions,” Twigg explained.

“We can have quite a big impact on end-to-end advice journey.” 

Focus on larger, fast-growing IFA firms

Rather than focusing on the long tail, one-two person IFAs, Aveni has set its sights on the “middle ground”, which Twigg describes as the firms with at least 20 advisers.

Aveni said private equity-backed consolidators were expressing a particular interest in its product.

“Relatively small firms which are growing very fast are a good fit for NLP [neuro-linguistic programming]. We’re having lots of talks with them.”

Aveni has been actively distributing its services since July last year. With one salesperson so far, the start-up wants to use the funds it intends to raise in coming months to build its sales team and grow in the advice space.

“This is complex technology, and the enterprise space is slow on the way in. But hopefully, it’ll be slow on the way out too,” said Twigg.

In the coming months, Aveni plans to announce at least three new deals with some of the UK’s largest financial advice and wealth management firms. 

“This year will hopefully be a breakout year in financial advice for us,” said the founder, who is also in discussions with a digital mortgage broker and an advised platform technology provider.

“In advice, client lifetime is typically 20 years and at the outset they're typically not vulnerable. But because you're managing their money over such a long space of time, you build up a library of interactions."

Vulnerability ‘big differentiator’

Twigg moved to Edinburgh back in 2010 to work for Scottish Widows Investment Partnership. Twigg then moved to Abrdn prior to its acquisition of the firm, and later witnessed the merger with Standard Life.