Product Lead / Head of Product: A startup hybrid role spanning research, product design, product and delivery management, QA and community management functions.
I was engaged for over a year and helped take the product – lumiant.com.au – through initial validation to its launch and transition to an operational revenue generating state on track to generate over $5M revenue in 2023.
How can a financial adviser help their clients to look beyond money and the markets and focus on achieving what really matters?
Financial advisers and planners play multiple roles for clients, extending from financial guide to trusted counseller and life coaching roles for many Australian couples. The trouble is, this level of service is difficult to charge for, deliver consistently and measure value from.
An additional challenge is that financial planning as an industry in Australia faces numerous headwinds: regulatory change brought about by the findings of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry as well as a shift in customer needs and expectations to self-serve and see more tangible value delivered for the cost of advice.
A foundational group of advisers from across Australia were looking to create an online advice platform that would help advisers increase the value they could deliver to their clients, while complying with the new regulations. They engaged strategic design consultancy Tobias to take a human centred approach to this challenge who in turn brought me on as product lead.
Our hypothesis was that by providing a tool to shift the conversation to a higher level, based on life values not money, advisers could foster longer more valuable relationships with their clients.
An opportunity to differentiate by thinking beyond money
Values-based advice had been espoused by advice industry experts such as Bill Bacharach since the 70s, but it was a philosophy that had never been delivered at scale in the Australian financial planning market. The status quo was an industry shifting slowly away from a product-based commission model with fragmented tool chains and a lot of overhead to comply with regulation. This increasing cost to serve is driving up fees with no clear benefit for the client.
Our challenge was to understand the current financial advice journey and deliver a new end-to-end software enabled process, compliant from the ground up, that helped advisers engage and retain clients at scale. We found that the key to client engagement was for the adviser to have structured tools to understand what clients really want out of life and to demonstrate how they could help them align to their values and achieve their goals.
In discovery we researched pain points and opportunities in the adviser-client journey, based on interviews across the foundation group of advisers. Several modules for the platform experience were mapped out and prioritised.
Design and concept testing phase (initial modules)
The concept design phase had an 8 week lead time planned before the build phase which was divided this into 4 x 2 week sprints, each one focussed to learn the most important thing to validate for each module, in the spirit of lean UX.
One of the key modules was the Your Values advice experience, a card based interaction which drew on many behavioural models to enable the tool to create core conversations with advice clients:
- Dimensions of Wellness (Swarbrick)
- Core Motivators (Fogg – Stanford’s Persuasive Design Lab)
- Theory of Basic Values (Schwarz)
- LifeValues (Vitt)
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (Hayes)
Before build, various rounds of concepts for the tool and service design were tested with advice clients and advisers around Australia.
We used the agile scrum process to iterate towards the releases and I played the role of product owner in a team that grew to include a product designer, scrum master, a backend developer and 2 front end developers.
The technical foundations and first two modules were prioritised for initial alpha build. Alongside the product and tech stream, branding workshops were held to establish a name, brand and go-to-market strategy.
Due to covid restrictions the early product was mostly remote tested, although there was some in person testing which was helpful as we had designed both physical card-based face to face and digitally delivered versions of the experience.
Testing was lean and took the RITE approach across 14 sessions. The recordings and verbatims from real advice clients were helpful both for product development and marketing for sales and capital raising.
Our next challenge was putting the product into the hands of our foundation customers to self serve. This was especially challenging because the product did not yet serve an end to end process and support was not yet operationalised. Training documentation and induction sessions were key to overcoming this obstacle. During this phase we learnt how different advice practices were adapting the Lumiant process to their existing one. This was a significant piece of change management.
We learnt a lot from advisers using the live product, with analytics instrumentation such as HotJar complementing direct feedback.
Transition to operational phase
Now that the value proposition had been validated, our challenge was to set up operations to deliver the SaaS solution at scale. As product lead I was involved in helping the team with the following activities:
- Setting up support and training layer
- Supporting sales and marketing with product information and conversion optimisation
- Setting up billing and BI dashboards for product analytics
- Onboarding new staff and defining roles and responsibilities
- Refactoring earlier work as new insights were made
- Setting up a modular design system and rationalising product elements
- Incorporting lean ux and rapid prototyping workflows into ongoing agile delivery
Initially we focussed our scope on helping advisers convert prospects into new clients across a series of modules that deepened the relationship over time.
Once that was built out, we focussed on making each module interdependent to support a widening variety of use cases to respond to the market, including helping advisers migrate legacy clients to the platform or packaging tiered versions of the product.
In addition to adviser and client portals for users to manage the product, the foundational modules included:
- Your Confidence: a survey for clients to self-assess areas of their financial life
- Your Values: a card-based interactive conversation to get to the heart of what’s important to clients
- Your Goals: a method to align goals and strategies to living values
- Your Investment Preferences: video courseware to collect informed consent from clients on how they want their money invested
- Your Lifebook: A high-fidelity client dashboard and Record of Advice created at the click of a button
In addition to the above, banking and investment portfolio integration was developed for the client side and practice management software integration was developed on the adviser side.
During my tenure I was involved in helping to achieve these milestones for Lumiant:
- Establishment of annual recurring revenue for the SaaS product
- Acquisition of customers and end users: 14 advice practices, 39 advisers, 150 active households and contracted agreements for a further 900 households to join the platform.
- 2 successful capital raises grossing over $2M funds raised
- Happy clients and happy advisers as seen in these testimonials https://youtu.be/queEN7sZ5b0
In addition, Lumiant’s social impact has been remarkable, driving financial inclusion for women and investment strategies that align to client’s values and social concerns. Its appeal to millennial investors who prioritise values-based investing is driving higher levels of engagement for a previously underserved segment.