Wealthify, a Wales-based robo-adviser co-founded by a Guernsey financial services professional, has sold a majority stake to Aviva, in what is being seen as a strategic change of heart by the Norwich-based insurance giant.
The move comes 18 months after a senior Aviva executive dismissed artificial intelligence and automated advice as a realistic prospect for the firm.
In April 2016, Aviva’s head of retirement solutions policy, John Lawson, told a Citywire journalist that although he thought that the “seeds of real robo-advice are beginning to appear”, the time for its actual application in advising clients was still “a long way off”.
Around the same time Lawson was sharing these thoughts, the robo-advice company Aviva would go on to invest in a year and a half later, Wealthify, was being founded in Cardiff by an “award-winning” tech entrepreneur Dr Richard Theo and wealth manager Michelle Pearce (pictured above).
Pearce considers herself to be from Guernsey, even though she wasn’t actually born on the island, and the island evidently agrees, with the local newspaper having covered the news of Wealthify’s acquisition on Tuesday, noting that the company also had enjoyed “significant local backing”.
“I was raised on Guernsey, where I attended primary and secondary school before doing my degree at Edinburgh University,” Pearce told International Investment.
“And after graduating, I returned to Guernsey, where I first worked at [the] boutique stockbroking firm Spearpoint before becoming a wealth manager at Brooks Macdonald, in the Guernsey office.”
Pearce moved to Wales to take up the opportunity with Wealthify where, as well as being a co-founder with Theo, she is also the chief investment officer.
Wealthify targets millennials and those new to investing, and offers a range of five low-cost plans through ISAs and other investment plans.
Aviva has said that it will continue to support the robo-adviser’s expansion and growth strategies.
Aviva UK Digital managing director Blair Turnbull described the acquisition as an “important step” in the insurer’s digital strategy, emphasising the simplicity, ease and convenience of such low-cost investments using Wealthify.
He added, “It is remarkably easy to use, with no expensive jargon, no expensive fees – and you can start investing with as little as £1.”
Wealthify was aided in launching with a grant of £143,000 from the Welsh government.
Theo said he and his Wealthify colleagues were “particularly proud” that the business “was born in Cardiff, home to a thriving financial services, software and a start-up eco-system” that benefits enormously from the Welsh government’s vision for placing Cardiff at the forefront of the UK’s leading locations for fintech and entrepreneurs.
Wealthify’s chairman is Guernsey-based Richard Avery-Wright, co-founder and chief executive of RAW Capital Partners.
By coincidence, Avery-Wright is a graduate of Cardiff Business School in Business Administration.