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INTERVIEW: A Look At The Idea Behind Wealth Innovation Firm CircleBlack

Eliane Chavagnon, Editor - Family Wealth Report, October 24, 2014


Family Wealth Report speaks to CircleBlack, a wealth innovation firm which is in beta testing mode for financial advisors.

CircleBlack, which describes itself as a “wealth innovation company,” recently entered into the next phase of its development – beta testing for financial advisors.

Lebenthal Wealth Advisors was the first firm to sign on as an early adopter of the cloud-based platform, which will be released more broadly to the RIA community and the clients they serve at a later date.

CircleBlack was designed to provide financial advisors with information about client portfolios, advisory relationships, total wallet share of assets and industry investment trends. It also provides mobile capabilities and automated updates and alerts, promoting frequent advisor-client interactions and thus boosting the client experience.

John Michel, chief executive of the firm, has built numerous businesses in the past including Bloomberg Wealth and the Merrill Lynch entities that were combined into what is now called Merrill Edge.

There is some truth in the phrase “trust but verify,” Michel told Family Wealth Report. A product like CircleBlack allows clients to verify where all their assets are and how they are behaving on a daily basis.

Michel referred back to the “Apple craze” and how a number of investors didn't know they had, for instance, a 30 per cent exposure to the company because their various advisors had each invested in it.

“We look for those kinds of things,” Michel said. “In that case, Apple didn't turn out to be a particularly bad investment – but this is not always the case.”

CircleBlack charges a fixed fee per client for its services – and they can have as many accounts as they want – while pricing is still being finalized, the different price points will depend on how much human interaction they want to help use the service. The firm is currently run by a team of 20, with around 200 clients on the retail side queued up to join the platform.


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