Toronto-based financial planning software developer Planswell is offering a new feature that includes peer leadership and networking, plus up to 50 guaranteed prospective clients per month, according to an announcement. Called Plancraft, the feature is being rolled out to Planswell’s roughly 2,000 advisor clients, of which around 1,300 are based in the United States.
A relative newcomer to the U.S. financial planning marketplace, self-funded Planswell launched its U.S. operations late last year to provide planning-as-lead-generation for financial advisors. With the new Plancraft offering, the firm wraps an advisor-friendly professional network around its core planning service, said CEO Eric Arnold. An advocate of executive coaching since he started participating in sessions in 2018, it’s his way of extending the practice to advisors who are using Planswell’s services.
Plancraft works by providing groups of eight to 10 participants access to Planswell employees, some of whom are entrepreneurs in their own right, as a sort of financial planning trainer and meeting facilitator. Facilitators do not need to have a professional coaching background. Within the groups, participants coach one another through the challenges and issues they face in their own businesses, with guidance provided by Planswell, “much like some of the leading organizations do with CEOs and top executives,” said Arnold. He cited the Young Presidents' Organization, Entrepreneurs' Organization and peer mentoring membership organization Vistage International as inspirations for his own program.
Participants in Plancraft, which costs $199 per month per advisor, receive access to virtual “high level keynote speakers,” like advisor trainer Ermos Erotocritou and communication coach Mary Jane Copps, and weekly live events, webinars, training and coaching. Advisors can also “opt in to receive a guaranteed number of prospective clients per month, ranging from 10-50,” according to a company announcement. Eventually Arnold wants to add in-person events for Plancraft participants, too.
Advisors new to Planswell are automatically placed into Plancraft groups, with attention given so that advisors who are in competition with one another are not placed in the same groups. The peer-to-peer groups have members from both Canada and the U.S., and advisors can opt out of the feature if they want; there is no contract or obligation to continue using the service.
Advisors new to the business should benefit greatly from the networking providing via Plancraft, said John Lysack, an independent financial advisor based in Toronto. He has about 400 clients and has been a Planswell user for roughly 10 months. He gets about 20 leads a month from the service, he said.
While Lysack has worked as an advisor for four years, he said the peer-to-peer business development will be a boon for the right advisors. Citing the difficulty of getting those first few clients, he said that “new advisors will have a good opportunity to build some sort of mentorship with senior advisors. I think there’s a really big value add for younger advisors.”
In his own practice, he’s looking forward to the additional leads offered from participating in Plancraft. He signed up for the service two weeks ago and is anticipating the first meeting as soon as the service is picked up by enough advisors.
For XY Planning Network members—now numbering more than 1,500—Plancraft's peer-to-peer networking, study groups and educational resources may sound familiar. XYPN offers those services, alongside perks like technology and discounts for professional services and software, for $447 per month per advisor. Notably, Planswell hired two former XYPN directors, Jennifer Mastrud and Scott Gill, who are now Planswell's chief marketing officer and chief compliance officer, respectively. Their influence in creating "advisor ecosystems" is already being felt.
Although there may be similarities, Plancraft is designed specifically for Planswell users. "While XY[PN] is a membership community for independent, fee-for-service advisors in the U.S., Plancraft partners with a wide variety of advisors and life-licensed insurance agents throughout North America," according to a company spokesperson. "Plancraft core training is specific to our proprietary system for onboarding Planswell households and to our in-house financial planning software."
Planswell has built more than 350,000 financial plans to date, according to the firm. With the addition of the Plancraft feature, Arnold expects Planswell to appeal to more advisors, who in turn will help boost the popularity of the firm.