Business Spotlight SEries
Managing your finances, creating a budget, preparing to buy your first home, saving for retirement, and starting a plan for college funding, are all big initiatives we may face at some point in our lives. It can be overwhelming for many. Financial advisors can be a “wealth” of knowledge to help individuals receive guidance. Often, however, only people who make a certain amount of income can fit a personal financial advisor into their budget.
Thankfully, there is a new company, Filance, LLC, and its mission is to provide expert financial services to the regular everyday person, from the convenience of your mobile device. The vision is to “significantly close the wealth gap by providing affordable access to financial experts, knowledge, and resources.” We sat down, “virtually”, with Founder and CEO Ronda Reid-Mohammed, to learn more. An IT professional with over 18 years of experience in leadership and information technology, she has a passion for finance, discovered a need, and jumped in to fill it. Watch the interview here, or read the overview below.
When did you open your doors?
Ronda’s idea came about in 2018. After a discussion with other financial advisors and some consideration, she decided to get into the mobile market. “Everyone has a phone and being able to offer the service via the mobile app was a little different… out of the ordinary for financial services. So, in 2019 we started working on the iOS app, and it was released in July 2020.” Ronda and her team are working on the release of the Android app now.
How were you drawn to this idea?
Ronda: “A little over two years ago, I attended a free class on financial planning and investing. At the end, they offered a more individualized experience. For a two-thousand-dollar retainer fee, they could help you. The idea of having to pay such a crazy amount of money was insane for me. Many people are living paycheck to paycheck. They’re trying to figure it out. They don’t have two thousand dollars to sit down and talk through their situation. I felt there had to be a better way, so I decided to create one.”
Who do you hope to serve with the Filance mobile app?
Ronda explains how “typically, financial advisor services are for people who make a certain amount… most of them have retainer fees and all other sorts of fees that regular people cannot afford. I wanted to reach out to everyday people. My audience is that middle class, you know the people who typically find themselves in a situation where they make too much to get any assistance and don’t make enough to pay for assistance on their own.”
Ronda explains how a common scenario is someone that thinks, ‘I feel I make enough, but for some reason, I’m living paycheck to paycheck. I just need someone to take a look at this for me and just help me have a plan for my money.’
“Not everyone has the goal of being a millionaire or being a trader or investor, but I think everyone deserves an equal opportunity to live comfortably,” Ronda shares. “The target market may be the average person who needs a little help because they don’t have a portfolio. Or perhaps they need someone to help them with a budget, or plan for retirement. Or maybe they are looking to purchase a home, want to figure out their finances, and figure out how to fix their credit to prepare for buying a home.” This is made available to anyone using the app, from the convenience of their mobile device.
How has the market responded to your initiative?
Fortunately, the response has been very positive with Filance, LLC. “We’ve gotten a lot of great reception from the market and also from financial advisors,” says Ronda. “Oddly enough, that was kind of my reluctance. Are financial advisors going to be willing to go away from having retainer fees and that type of model? … I think the environment is right for people to say, yes, we're certainly open to helping people we don't typically help.”
Breaking the Access Barrier to Financial Services
Ronda: “Another big factor for me was access. You know, me being a black woman raised in a black community, black neighborhood, we never saw financial advisors in our neighborhood. And so, this type of app breaks that barrier as it opens access to everybody no matter where you are. And again, the platform is very client-driven. So, if I am looking for a service, I can post that service on the app and say, ‘hey, I only have one hundred bucks to spend on this. Who can help me with this service?’ Filance breaks down barriers for people who have financial issues but cannot get access to live expert guidance
So what does someone do when they go onto your Filance App?
Ronda: “So, they log in, click to post their request with a title, and they put a description with a little information. Then they enter their budget.”
“For example, someone recently posted they have a budget of 50 dollars and they wanted help with creating a basic plan for their money. They click submit, and then financial advisors will reach out to them and say hey, I’m willing to help you. The client chooses the advisor they want to work with. Each financial advisor has a profile they create, and they can post a video introducing themselves. You see all the information about their certifications, and you can do everything, from live video meetings, chatting, talking, and transferring documents, all from the mobile app.
How is this different from the robo-investor type advisory services?
Ronda: “Some people have moved to this type of service, which is just a technology base. It tells you where you should invest and what you should probably do, and it is just not personalized.”
“And then for the more personalized services, some firms require you to have at least $150,000 in a portfolio before you can use their service. So, it has kind of marginalized some people who may be able to use the service. You know, I think regular people can probably use those services more than people with a lot of money. Everyday people don’t have the room for a lot of mistakes. They kind of have to get it right the first time.”
Are you looking to add more financial advisors to your platform
Ronda: “Absolutely. Most work for a big firm, but this is something they can do in their spare time to make a little extra money. It is no skin off their back to help someone for, you know, 50 bucks or 100 bucks. Then it expands their market. They can to people in California and Nevada and wherever to increase their client base and make a little money.“
What’s the number one way you bring in new customers?
Ronda’s primary way of increasing exposure for the Filance App has been word of mouth through other financial advisors. LinkedIn has been invaluable for networking.
Additionally, the amazing team behind her has gotten their core groups out there on the app.
Creating an Instagram account has also helped significantly in her growth as well as an initial email campaign and prelaunch.
How do people find your app?
People can find the Filance app by searching Filance, or search keywords such as finances, budgets, or debt management. The app is live on iOS. The Android app is coming soon.
What is the best way to reach you?
Thank you, Ronda, for helping provide on-demand live expert financial help to individuals of all income levels.