Roboadvice goes back to the future

A roboadvice product last offered 20 years ago could be dusted off and repurposed for modern consumers.

Tuesday, September 22nd 2015, 6:00AM

by Susan Edmunds

Michael Littlewood developed a computer programme called Planit to provide financial planning tools for Fletcher Challenge staff while he was the company's employee benefits director.

Littlewood, a former co-director of the Retirement Policy and Research Centre, says he now sees the potential for it to be redeveloped as an online roboadvice product.

The tool allows users to enter information about their current circumstances, investments, income, savings, retirement plans and insurances.

It then delivers information about what sort of outcome the user is on track to achieve so they can determine what could be tweaked to change it if need be.

When Fletcher Challenge broke up, Superlife took over the product aspect of Planit but Littlewood held on to the intellectual property.

He said he had been thinking for some time that there was a need for a product like Planit in the market.

Although it has not been used since 1996 he said it was still much more advanced that other roboadvice offers.  “There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.”

He is determining whether it is feasible to relaunch it. 

It was unlike anything else in the market because it provides thorough financial planning information without pushing a user to buy a particular product.

"You’ve figured out you want to live on 60% of your pre-retirement income, Planit might tell you you can get 50% including NZ Super based on what you’re doing at the moment, after tax in real terms. To fill that extra 10% it’s going to cost you 8% a year, and it’s up to you to decide where you want to save it," he said.

It could be picked up by a big financial services provider or bank, he said.

Littlewood said if the programme looked likely to be relaunched there would have to be a discussion with the FMA about how it would fit with the regulatory process.

But he said it was not advice as much as it was giving people a “sophisticated financial calculator”. 

“If you went to a financial planner they would be doing this stuff and saying ‘I recommend' but with Planit you do the calculations, and from then it’s a case of what do you think of that?”

Tags: roboadvice

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