Few advisors have heard of Benjamin, but the company launched a year ago as a tool meant to streamline back-office workflows for financial advisors. Today, the technology is being relaunched as an artificial intelligence–driven end-to-end business support system for RIA firms—or as the company describes it on its website: “The world’s first A.I. assistant created for advisors by advisors.”
Basically, Benjamin holds out the promise that it can integrate with a firm's current technology, "learn" many of an advisory firm's workflows and processes across a range of activities, from setting up meetings to sending out newsletters, and eventually "automate" those tasks, freeing up time for the advisor and support staff to do other things.
Co-founder and CEO Matt Reiner, who has both a CFA and a CFP designation, started his career working in wealth management firms. He said he and his colleagues kept stumbling into areas where the efficiency of the technology stack they were using could be improved. In fact, the firm later found through its own research that 41% of advisors’ time is still spent on tasks that could be, and probably should be, automated.
While Wealthmanagement.com has yet to see a demonstration of the platform or hear from analysts familiar with Benjamin, the intention is for the technology to help advisors recognize and automate as much as possible the regular and repetitive processes they already have but may be doing manually.
The platform is cloud native and hosted on Amazon Web Services. It was designed and built in-house, partially on homegrown robotic process automation technology and partially on customized off-the-shelf natural language processing tools from Microsoft’s LUIS (Language Understanding). Based in Atlanta, the team behind Benjamin has worked with AI experts at Georgia Tech and currently has three dedicated engineers and developers on staff.
Thus far the provider has enlisted 50 RIAs in its beta rollout to both build its data model and help the system “learn,” record and document workflows.
“We are starting to learn the tendencies and are then able to apply the self-learning AI and teach it the 'next best action,'” said Reiner. “We are able to provide insightful recommendations and ultimately will be able to tag specific workflows that have the highest level of return on investment."
Reiner made the point, however, that the neural network aspect of the platform can only be built out fully over time spent engaging with Benjamin.
This can take the form of automatically sending emails or texts to deliver documents or research, as well as setting meetings and scheduling events. The firm claims to have "automated" 100 different tasks, from the more mundane aspects of prospecting and client interactions like meetings, to ongoing relationship management.
The Benjamin platform has integrations based on a full suite of API access with the three major custodial platforms (including TD Ameritrade, now owned by Schwab). There are also API integrations with many individual providers, including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Redtail and Junxure, in the CRM sector, as well as Orion and SS&C Black Diamond in the portfolio reporting sector and DocuSign for e-signatures. When it comes to office productivity, there are integrations with the Microsoft Outlook and Google Docs suites.
Next on the team’s integrations list are working with the major financial planning application providers, Reiner said.
Entry level pricing for Benjamin starts at $5,000 annually with final cost based on the number of households a firm is looking to serve. While Reiner was reluctant to go into additional details, he said that pricing is meant to help small firms grow by reducing the per household cost as the number of households increased. The company also offers relationship-based discounts for firms working with some of the companies Benjamin integrates with.