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TIFIN CEO Vinay Nair
TIFIN CEO Vinay Nair

A Q&A with Vinay Nair, Founder of TIFIN

Our tech columnist asks what is behind giving advisors with less than $100 million in assets free use of the TIFIN Wealth platform and other questions about where the industry-norm-defying entity is headed.

It seems too good to be true but as of Wednesday, members of the Financial Planning Association who have less than $100 million in assets under management can sign up and use the TIFIN Wealth platform for free—and the offer is valid in perpetuity.

Anyone that is or grows above that threshold of AUM is eligible for a 20% discount to use the platform, which today stands at $299 per month (or about $3,588 annually).

TIFIN made the same offer to members of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors back in May.

For those unfamiliar, TIFIN describes TIFIN Wealth as “an AI engine that enables organic growth for financial advisors, wealth enterprises, and workplace financial providers through investment proposals, marketing automation, and data science.”

[Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity]

Davis Janowski: Can you expand on that short description of TIFIN Wealth a bit, I get a lot of questions from readers, including advisors and other tech executives, and even industry consultants on what TIFIN Wealth actually is?

Vinay Nair: I do think TIFIN Wealth is an awful name—many people, I think, assume it is a [day-to-day] advisor platform but it has nothing to do with running an advisor workstation.

It [TIFIN Wealth] is an AI partner to help power growth. It includes components that span risk tolerance and risk alignment, AI-powered and conversational financial planning as well as financial personality assessments and an investment proposal engine and we have a few modules that fill gaps, for example a community-based giving experience.

And there is a marketing automation module—this includes personalization tools for client and prospect content generation and marketing and then there are data science capabilities. The latter complements the others by generating additional data or data signals that create a feedback loop and help refine the outputs of our data science algorithms.

Firms don’t have to use everything, some decide ‘hey, you guys can be my outsourced marketing module.’ Some of those older clients [advisory firms] are then expanding to data science.

DJ: Is Hightower still using Clout?

VN: Yes, they are still using our Marketing Automation capabilities [formerly known as Clout].

DJ: So, TIFIN Wealth, just so I’m clear, is made up of all or most of those 14 or so startups that you guys either built from scratch like Clout, Louise, and Magnifi or acquired including PlanIQ and Totum Risk and myFinancialAnswers, among others?

VN: Yes, that is correct. They are highly integrated and those names have all gone away … 60% of our team is product oriented. There are about 45 folks [working] on data science, [and on] AI, and large language models. And we just hired five more LLM engineers in the last week.

DJ: Circling back to Thursday’s FPA announcement, one of my colleagues said “this smells of desperation.” How do you respond to that?

VN: Selling it for free doesn’t help you even if it is a desperate move. It is more about the intelligence and data rather than what that small advisor can pay you.

And two other things. The core data science components do not apply to the smaller advisors—both for budget reasons and the maturity of where their business are at. No one has cracked the sub-$100M AUM advisor market yet [for this level of data science and analytics], most of the advisors don’t have the money to buy these things, and they don’t buy them.

While we are selling to enterprises, we have always asked ‘how can we create a data lake to support this segment too’—but part of the vision was always to offer these tools at a low price [to smaller advisors].

DJ: You did this in May for NAPFA members. Has that born fruit? Can you share the number of new users?

VN: About 300 advisors have signed up from the NAPFA universe and that’s why I said let’s do it again for the FPA advisors. If we can have 20,000 advisors that are totally ignored that data is very important to us and for them as a whole in aggregate.

DJ: I had a conversation not long ago with A.J. Boury (COO of TIFIN Wealth) and asked him if the Boulder HQ and its appealing setting and surroundings was the secret to hiring technical and engineering talent—and I wanted to ask you the same thing.

VN: It doesn’t hurt I suppose but when you create such a product-heavy culture that has an attraction all its own. They want to be at a place building something that is called ‘AI for Wealth’ rather than part of an ancillary team at a big asset manager.

DJ: How has TIFIN evolved from when we first spoke back in early 2021?

VN: In my mind it hasn’t changed. I took my stake in 55ip and put it into TIFIN. And TIFIN has focused on two tools [in building things]: AI and data science. And the business name comes out of Technology and Innovation for Finance—TIFIN—AI and innovation to change wealth, and that’s always how we viewed and view TIFIN.

We’ve launched several new businesses as well, a couple of them I cannot comment on as we’ve not announced them. But TIFIN.AI is one [itself an incubator for building AI-based digital assistants specific to the wealth and asset management sectors that was announced in July] ... and coming out of that is HL.AI, a joint venture with Hamilton Lane, which has been announced [an AI-powered investment assistant that will combine Hamilton Lane’s private markets data and intelligence with TIFIN’s AI technology and capabilities].

I think of what we build in terms of generations—TIFIN AI would be second generation—while 55ip we sold, and Paralel Technologies, and AMP, they are kids that have grown up and no longer need our help, they were the first generation [Paralel was incubated within TIFIN and now is profitable independent subsidiary that provides fund administration, fund accounting, transfer agency, distribution and advisory services to over $5 billion in assets across open-end fund, closed-end fund and ETF clients, according to TIFIN]. And they are no longer using shared resources.

Now, we can take capital directly into them. And that goes for AMP as well, which is super clear and external. [The independent subsidiary raised its own $10 million Series A round of funding in June and appointed its own board].

Others are teenagers and still need our help and not profitable yet—though Wealth and Magnifi are close to profitability.

It’s not a VC model, we create things from scratch—it is really a bit of a serial entrepreneur platform; that’s how we think of it. And it can also be thought of as an ecosystem of capital, talent and clients.

DJ: Speaking of VC capital and clients, you have six big investors in Broadridge, Franklin Templeton (specifically Franklin Resources), Hamilton Lane, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Morningstar and Motive Partners. Have I left any out?

VN: That’s right. Take JPM and Morningstar, they are the first folks to come in. TIFIN is trying to accelerate where wealth is going and the large firms can’t move as fast as the world is moving. We had the view a few years ago that AI and large language models and the building of AI assistants were all accelerating.

We have an annual TIFIN day in October when everyone comes in—and AMP and TIFIN Wealth and TIFIN AI didn’t exist last October—so we are moving [pretty fast].

We have strategy meetings where we talk about trends in the industry too. These led to HL.AI for example and Morningstar partnering with AMP and their data powering Magnifi, Motive is getting involved in AMP and then having their firms that make up their portfolio using it. To us what was important was aligning on development and the check [the six firms investing] was a measure of their seriousness [in wanting to use what we developed].

Again, partially, I haven’t made clear how this all looks and works externally [beyond TIFIN and the investors and partners]—so I hope this is helpful.

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