Today we’ve released version one of Altruist to Registered Investment Advisers and their clients.
This release is the product of tens of thousands of hours of work from the most talented group of people I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. We’ve had the support of an amazing lead investor (thank you, Nick Beim and Venrock), as well as an incredible group of alpha and beta testers to help shape our development efforts (special shout to DJ Windle, user #1, and Jared Tanimoto, account holder #1).
Version 1 is just the beginning. We’re going to completely change the way financial advisors work, for the better. However, disruption is disruptive. Building something that has never been built before, and doing it with a high degree of automation, is difficult.
The idea for Altruist was born a long time ago when I started my first RIA firm. It was 2004, and while RIAs had been around for a long time, it was still a very small segment of financial services. There were few compliance consultants to help with registration and even fewer technology solutions to make running a firm easy and efficient. In my case, one of the first decisions I had to make was where to custody client accounts. I called the 3 largest firms at the time, and only one was willing to work with me due to the small size of my client base (close to zero).
From there, my custodian told me I might want to look at some technology to help run my new firm and referenced their affinity program for discounts on various solutions like CRM, trading, performance reporting, and billing software. At the time I was pretty broke, so I couldn’t afford anything other than CRM. The rest I either created my own desktop applications for or did manually. It worked but wasn’t easy and I knew it wouldn’t scale.
I remember vividly asking my sales rep at the custodian, “Why doesn’t your company just have all of this stuff included?,” and he looked at me like I was crazy.
Over the next few years, I managed to grow from zero to $100 million of AUM, then $250 million, then over a billion, then growing by over a billion per year. All the while growing more and more frustrated with the fact that nothing was integrated and my expenses were out of control (over $200,000 per month just for software).
To make matters worse it was hard to deliver the best results for clients. Custodians made choosing the lowest cost, best investments expensive while implementing programs to drive assets into cash or investment products that paid them more. There were minimal technological advancements in 15 years, while robo-advisors were launching apps that allowed clients a far better experience for a fraction of the cost than us human RIAs.
The industry told advisors not to worry, and to differentiate by planning or charging fees a different way than AUM or to get more specialized. This is all fine, but why wasn’t anyone trying to level the playing field for RIAs? Why didn’t we have access to the same advancements in technology that could allow us to do better work for clients at lower costs? In 2018, I decided to take on that challenge. I resigned from my role as CEO of an RIA I founded and grew to one of the largest and fastest-growing in the US, to launch Altruist.
From day 1 our mission has been to make financial advice better, more affordable, and more accessible.
We want to make it easy for RIAs to launch, grow, and reach scale.
We want to make it possible for RIAs to work with 5x the clients they do today while doing better work, without working more hours.
We want anyone who wants (or needs) access to a financial advisor to be able to find one that is a perfect fit for them, regardless of how much or how little they have to start with.
Building Altruist has been the most challenging, yet most rewarding work I’ve ever done, and there’s still much to do. One of our key partners has run into some issues that will make our first public release less rich than we’d like, delaying key features like full ACATS, access to select mutual fund families, and a few missing account types (even though we’ve fully built those features on our end). We also don't have margin, options, or individual bonds on day 1. We won’t have integrations with CRM or planning software just yet either.
But, all of those things are coming, and likely by the end of Q2 or soon after. The foundation of our platform (our modern architecture and data model) makes Altruist the most scalable, technologically advanced platform for RIAs, ever. Hands down. We’ll be able to do things nobody has ever done before at prices so low it will make the incumbents' heads spin.
Advisors and their clients will win. Becoming an RIA will become easier and more affordable. There will be an explosion of access to quality advice for people from all walks of life.
Altruist v1 can already do some pretty amazing things:
Open and fund accounts, 100% digitally, with real-time data validation in <2 minutes
Trade equities and ETFs (and many mutual funds) commission-free with fractional shares
Easy to use models and blends of models, with full automation on rebalancing
Turnkey, free model portfolios (think better than Betterment, but no cost)
Built-in performance reporting (digital and PDF reports) on both Altruist accounts and TD Ameritrade assets (integration with Fidelity and Schwab coming soon)
A beautiful client portal (with a native mobile app launching soon)
And much more
We’ll be releasing new features every 2 weeks, ultimately building up to Altruist v2, expected to be ready by the end of Q2. Altruist v2 will address all missing features, security types, and account types that won’t be live in v1.
Altruist has become a movement. A movement fueled by financial advisors who care about their clients but are frustrated with the status quo.
We can change financial advice for the better, but we need to understand what we’re up against.
The incumbents will do all they can to slow us down. And keep in mind who they control – all the writers and consultants who are on their payroll as “company advisors,” the magazines and trade journals that they keep afloat with their marketing dollars and the conferences where they pay for the ultra-premium-platinum-diamond sponsorships. Mind you, none of this is free.
Disruption is disruptive. I can’t wait for you to start using the first version of Altruist. We’re just getting started, and we are going to change financial advice for the better, together.
Cheers, Jason Wenk
For Registered Investment Adviser due diligence use only. Not intended for use with clients; and not to be distributed to the public.