Multiply founder and CEO, Vivek Madlani, tells us how they are making financial advice available to all online for less

Home > CEO Interviews > Multiply founder and CEO, Vivek Madlani, tells us how they are making financial advice available to all online for less

Why did you set up

Before I set up Multiply I was a derivatives trader for many years. The last two years I spent in the banking industry, I got very close to the retail side of the business, back at RBS, so I covered NatWest in Coutts in Addlestone.

I saw first-hand the world of financial advice, the impact advisors can have on their customers, and just how much help customers need out there. It struck me as being such a valuable service to help people with money, and there’s such a huge demand for that help. In 2016, a big review of the financial advice market was conducted by the FCA and the Bank of England, which is what opened up the doors for firms to try and have a digital, automated approach to providing advice.

It was the combination of seeing the value of something and wanting more people to have access to it than otherwise would do, and the opening up of the ability to automate advice. Those were the two things that motivated me to start the company.

What’s the ultimate goal for the company from the consumers’ and your customers’ perspectives? What do you really want to help them achieve?

It’s really interesting. Through the journey, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people now about their finances. Because we’re holistic, we don’t just do investing or we don’t just do life insurance; we cover the whole broad spectrum of all the money stuff, and it’s something that struck me.

I speak to really, really smart people, like top doctors and dentists and engineers and developers and consultants, you name it, and just almost all of them are very, very bad with their money. They are under-optimised; they have certain goals but what they’re doing with their finances, what they’re doing with their money doesn’t really match that up. They might have certain areas where they’re on it, they’re really focused, they know what they’re doing, but there are other areas that they totally miss out on.

The ultimate endpoint is being able to provide advice in a digital form so it’s low cost, to provide that advice in a scalable way, and for the default setting for people’s finances, to go from where they are today, which is mostly bad, to a point where the default setting for someone’s finances would be good.

That would be through a combination; not just providing advice, which is almost like an information layout or like an operating system for someone’s money. If you think about what advice is, and it’s purely connecting people to the right products at the right time, the right amounts, but it’s also all this infrastructure that’s come about over the last five or ten years that allows you to fully automatically implement those recommendations.

There’s all this amazing infrastructure that allows us as a company just to automatically get people to a good state with their money. We call that autonomous finance. It’s like self-driving money.

And what do you provide advice on?

Originally, we had a very holistic product and had up to 11 sector recommendations. That would be anything from paying off debt to setting up emergency funds, to life insurance recommendations. With life insurance, we’d drill down to should it be a family income benefit policy or a level term insurance, what time period, etc. It would be very detailed. But providing people with that whole set, whole suite of 11 recommendations, we found once we launched, it was quite overwhelming for people.

We found that there were two main reasons people were downloading our app and two major areas of help that they needed.

There was one, which was needing help buying their first home, and there was another, which was needing help in the very early stages of accumulating their wealth.

For the first set of people, they’re mid-20s to late-20s. They’ve just got past that point where they’re spending less than they earn and they’re putting money aside, and buying their home is their first big goal they want help with. And for the latter, it’s often people who have started a family, they’ve bought their first home.

That’s now where we’re focusing our advice. We’ve still got the ability to provide advice on life insurance, pensions and everything else, but we’re really focusing in on those two goals. Ultimately, our framework for people’s wealth is there are three major buckets. There’s your home, there’s investing, there’s pensions and retirement, and then there’s the whole area of either foundations or life insurance or wills. Almost like protecting your wealth and doing the basics right.

What’s been the best part of running the business so far?

I’d say that moment has really come quite recently because we’ve seen a lot of things come together. December 2020/January 2021, when we launched a version of our product that not just provides advice as an information product, but also starts implementing those recommendations and starts putting our research into action.

We’re very much close to that autonomous finance vision that we’re talking about. There’s still product and infrastructure that we need to build out, but we’re starting to see it take shape. We’ve had a lot of customers now download the app and are using it to actually move money and follow recommendations, which is amazing to see.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

It came with a high point at the end, but certainly going through the whole process of getting regulated. That took longer than we expected. In all fairness, because we think the FCA were fantastic in helping us through, but the reality is, getting to the point where we were regulated for a fully digital journey that could be holistic, it’d never been done before, and there was a lot there for us to unpick and navigate through. That was really difficult to get through, but we’re at a point now where we’ve got those permissions, we’ve provided advice to over 10,000 people now, on an automated basis, and we understand how that advice needs to be provided and really those hot spots of where people need that advice.

What do you think can be done to help people manage their money better?

I think the big thing is contextualising it within people’s lives. People don’t care about products. People don’t care about what they get when those things are done. They don’t care about the nitty-gritty of a product itself. All they care about are their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what’s really powerful is contextualising a product or a particular strategy and plan.

One of the most important things that we collect information on are people’s goals. That’s so powerful because then you have a sense of what they want and where they’re going. For some people, they don’t have anything in particular. They just want to increase their levels of wealth and have a great lifestyle.

For other people, it is something very specific. We’ve collected huge amounts of insights around the goals people have, what they look like. I think one of the really critical things to do as an advisor is then to ensure that whatever you present back, it’s contextualised in those goals, in people’s futures.

The other challenge we have as advisors is not just focusing on that though. As an advisor, you can’t just provide people with what they want. You have to also balance that with what people need to do. If someone needs to save or put some money aside in an emergency fund, whatever it may be, we also need to provide that information too.

What book could you recommend to help people be better with their money?

There was a book that for a while was my bible, which was The Little Book that Beats the Market, written by Joel Greenblatt, but that’s very much trading focused. That was back in my trader days. I actually think, and this is going to be controversial, I actually think that the more time I spend in the world of advice, the more I feel it can be simplified down to a point where I think within four or five well-placed five to ten-minute videos. To do a good job of your money, it’s not just something you do one day and then it’s all set. You have to constantly make sure that you’re on the right flight path and you’re doing the right thing for your money.

There has been a book that has made a huge impact on my life, and I think there’s a number of things within that that we’re now beginning to implement into our app, and that is Atomic Habits by James Clear. I think that’s a fantastic book that really does break down the science behind habit formation, and there’s lots of helpful insights in there around what to do in order to make a habit stick. I think one of the foundation stones of your money and your finances is to set up a handful of really good habits, maybe in your 20s or early 30s, that then compound through your life and really, really pay huge dividends.

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