Today we are joined by Neil Darke from The Lifehouse Company whose goal is to make financial planning for every day folk accessible and affordable – through the use of mobile technology, practical apps, online tools and crystal clear information.
Over to Neil. Our questions are in bold.
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Who are you and what’s your background?
I arrived in the City of London in the early nineties via South Wales and Bath University where I studied Mathematics and Statistics. It might be sad, but it’s definitely true that I have always loved numbers and am rarely happier than when immersed in a spreadsheet making the numbers come to life. For the lions share of my career I worked as a stock broker with Collins Stewart before becoming CEO of Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management in UK and Europe.
What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
My title is CEO, but my day to day role is to drive the thinking that underpins the evolution of our business. We are trying to crack a tough nut and missteps are inevitable, so it’s about keeping us all level headed, focused and motivated as we listen and understand our (initially millennial) target audience and shape our offering.
Can you give us an overview of your business?
We created The Lifehouse.Co to encourage people to get the most from their lives by making personal finance accessible, affordable and engaging through mobile-first technology, practical apps, online tools and digestible financial information. Our central belief is that personal finance is the enabler of life and everyone can shape their future by connecting it with their actions today. Our aim is to to encourage customers to feel in control of their finances, understand what’s important to them in life, be prepared to continually adapt their behaviour and feel confident they will get to where they want to go.
Tell us how you are funded.
We have provided our own seed funding and will require further funding to fulfill the development of our planned products and services.
Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
The Financial Services industry is only interested in generating profit from customers wealthy enough to generate it for them. They have little interest in what’s important to customers on an emotional level, so rather than helping them take control of their finances, it suits them to keep things complex.
Post-financial crisis “Young Britain” (Gen Y & Z) is faced with a unique situation of the burden of responsibility shifting from the state to the individual (pensions, tuition fees etc.), combined with low interest rates and unaffordable house prices creating a sense of pessimism in some, and avoidance of reality in others.
Our offering enables our customers to make the most of their lives, whatever their situation or outlook by using technology to understand their approach to money and taking small steps in an agile and iterative manner that will unlock greater things.
Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
We are initially targeting the Millennial Generation (Gen Y) who we sub-categorise as carefree or settling down. But the truth is everybody’s situation is different and while age is a factor is does not predefine us and we simply want everyone to have enough of the right information, tools and confidence to make the most of their finances.
Our initial business model is intentionally freemium – what we are giving away is a fresh perspective on timeless principles and relevant information that makes sense. Going forward we will make our revenue via a subscription or recommendation model (or both).
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
Two things – the view that the young and/or poor are uneconomic and are not worth helping. Secondly, the closed-shop big-banking cartels that make the development of better, cheaper and more efficient services incredibly difficult.
What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
People are not lending targets, they are human beings that need to be helped to save while enjoying their lives.
What phone are you carrying and why?
An iPhone 5S which I will hang onto for as long as possible before I have to pass it on to one of my kids.
Where do you get your industry news from?
Wealth/ financial advice news from: Wealthbriefing, thewealthnet & Citywide, although Citywire main source as they cover personal investors (Citywire Money), wealth/ investment managers (Citywire WM) & IFAs (Citywire New Model Adviser).
Also get financial sections of daily/ weekend newspapers.
Fintech news from separate sources.
What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
Both from the states, we’re always referencing LearnVest and Society of Grownups.
Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
Clearly on the transactional side the walls will be knocked down by evermore efficient API’s and improved regulation. When it comes to personal finance the Millennial Generation themselves will make the running. They know what they want and are not tied to the old ways of doing things or the loyalties their parents still show to the established brands. The new style banks have tough mountains to climb but people power will ultimately win through.
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