Robo-advice  

Robo-adviser taps into workplace market

Robo-adviser taps into workplace market

OpenMoney has bought Steve Bee's employee benefits platform in a bid to target small and medium size enterprises, which the robo-adviser believes are untapped for their potential to close the advice gap.

OpenMoney, which was rebranded as the advice arm of robo-firm Evestor earlier this year, completed its acquisition of Jargonfree Benefits last week in a deal that will see Mr Bee and director Andrew Rice join the business.

Mr Bee founded Jargonfree Benefits in 2013 in a bid to offer employees at SMEs access to the same standard of workplace benefits as enjoyed at larger firms. 

Following the acquisition the platform will host access to OpenMoney's robo-advice services.

Figures from a House of Commons briefing paper in 2018 showed there were an estimated 16.3m SME employees in the UK - a market which Anthony Morrow, chief executive and co-founder of OpenMoney, said was "relatively untapped" in the advice industry. 

Mr Morrow said: "While there is no single way to address the advice gap in this country, we believe technology and the workplace have huge roles to play, which is why the deal to acquire Jargonfree Benefits makes sense to us.

"The work Steve and the team do will complement perfectly what we are doing at OpenMoney - making affordable, personalised advice available to the masses.

"The SME workplace is a relatively untapped market in terms of closing the advice gap in this country. Many of the 16.3m people who work for these companies in the UK do not have access to the same workplace benefits as those who work for the big corporates."

In May OpenMoney published a report showing the advice gap had widened in the past four years and the rise in robo-advice had done little to help the situation.

The research found while some digital providers now offer one-off advice, many "simply offer online investment management" without real financial advice or personal recommendations.

Mr Bee said: "This is a hugely exciting moment for the business, our existing clients and the millions of employers up and down the country who care deeply about the people who work for them.

"It makes sense to me that the tools people need to both understand and control their own finances should be readily available in the workplace.

"We’ve got a long way to go, but I’m confident that as part of OpenMoney we can make huge strides in building the benefits market for SMEs and in doing so ensure high quality affordable financial advice might one day become accessible to every worker in the UK."

In September OpenMoney announced it was set to enter the mortgage market next year with the launch of an advice service aimed at first-time buyers. 

Mr Morrow said adding mortgage advice to the robo-adviser's list of services was the next step in its plans to become a "one-stop-shop for people's financial affairs".

rachel.mortimer@ft.com 

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