Culture and Talent
Anthemis and Exponential Ventures are getting into ‘financial wellness’
- Anthemis and Exponential Ventures launched an incubator program focusing on financial health.
- Observers argue that these programs help evolve the next generation of personal finance tools as the nature of work and customer needs change.
While the swipe of a finger can reveal a snapshot of one's finances through a range of apps, some in the field want to evolve that further by helping startups develop products that look at financial health in a holistic way. Anthemis, a Luxembourg-based financial services company, and Exponential Ventures, the innovation arm of South African financial services company MMI Holdings, on Tuesday launched a London-based incubator program to look at financial wellness. It's a concept Anthemis CEO Nadeem Shaikh said speaks to the relationships between financial health, physical health, insurance and incentives to change behavior. "How do we create a set of products and services that accomplish multiple needs of the consumer?" is the biggest problem in the space, he said. While the majority of personal finance tools today focus exclusively on one consumer need, Shaikh said the space is lacking products that address related areas that have impacts on financial health such as healthcare and insurance. The Anthemis-Exponential program's first class has yet to be named, and it adds to the list of development programs for financial technology companies, like Y Combinator, JP Morgan Chase's Finlab, Barclays Accelerator and others. What sets its apart is its lack of a set application or curriculum. The training and level of investment will be tailored specifically for the five or six selected companies that will be part of the program for two years. While startups may approach organizers, Anthemis and Exponential ventures will be actively seeking entrepreneurs who would be a good fit, said Shaikh. "It's a thoughtful response to the innovation gaps that we see in the marketplace," he said. "Were trying to figure out a space that's very different from traditional accelerators where we're taking a deep understanding of a particular space both from a VC perspective and from a financial institution perspective and trying to build some great businesses." Shaikh explained that the program will benefit from the expertise of MMI Holdings, which, in turn, will help the startups get their products to market -- whether they are for consumers or businesses. Anthemis and Exponential Ventures have other companies they've invested in: ABAKA (a savings platform), Monese (an online banking service), Qapital (an app that lets users set goals and rules to drive saving habits) and Payoff (a company that provides loans to customers who are paying off credit card debts). While broadening the reach of personal finance tools, some in the field say it's important to keep some degree of specialization, to ensure simplicity and ease of use for the consumer. “What works better is a targeted approach based on specific needs,” said Peter Wannemacher, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “What disruptors can do better in is personalization and specialization -- it's not about trying to sell them every product but keeping it to 'we can help you manage your finances or buy a home'." Others say incubators such as the Anthemis-Exponential Ventures program will help evolve personal finance tools as the nature of work and customer needs change. “If we look at financial wellness as a concept, we saw the rise of it in the early 2000s, and it prompted you as an individual to think about your finances holistically,” said Sarah Biller, a consultant and instructor at Brandeis University’s financial technology program. “Financial wellness for a full-time Uber driver is very different from someone who spends their entire career in the life sciences sector."