TD Direct Investing launches “GoalAssist”, a new goal-based financial planning tool for do-it-yourself investors. Paul Clark, President of TD Direct Investing and Executive Vice President at TD Bank Group talks with Kim Parlee.
- If you are a do-it-yourself investor, sometimes it's easy to get swept up by market's ups and downs and forget why you started investing. TD Direct Investing is launching a new free planning tool called GoalAssist, which lets you set goals and then see how you are tracking and make adjustments if you need to. Your goals can be anything from investing in your retirement, making a big purchase, or building your wealth.
But let's take retirement as an example. You can start thinking about when you want to retire and how much you can start putting away. The tool can help you figure out how much your investment will grow over time and whether you're on track to meet your retirement plan. And if your goals change because, well, life happens, you could just adjust the goalposts. Earlier, I spoke with Paul Clark, who is the President of TD Direct Investing and Executive Vice President at TD Bank Group and asked him why they launched this new tool?
- It's really in direct response to our customers. About two years ago, we went out and solicited their feedback to really understand what they were looking for from us. As you know, we provide tremendous trading tools. But it was clear that there was a gap in our offering. And the gap really was helping clients understand how those trading tools fit inside of a financial goals based plan that helps them meet their life requirements, their life goals, whatever they might be. So whether it's buying a house, saving for retirement, that next trip, the training tools help them buy the assets. What they were missing was the plan that helped them actually achieve their goal.
- Now, I know one thing that-- because we've talked over the years, I know you're passionate about financial literacy. And it's interesting because the way you put this tool together requires-- or enables, I should say, the person to learn about what they're doing.
- Right. We kind of think of it a three legged stool. If trading actually helps you buy the assets and the planning helps you meet the goals, the literacy and the education helps you understand how to get there at the end of the day. It really is the piece that ties everything together. And so for us, we started from a premise that said if we don't educate our clients, how are they going to understand how they're going to get there and equally whether they've actually got the capability and the tools to actually meet the requirements they have? So over the last couple of years, we've completely revamped our content. And in fact in May, in addition to Goal Assist, we'll be launching our new education portal.
- I was taking a look at the tool. And it struck me that it's pretty plain language. There's not a lot of invest speak in it.
- Yeah. Yeah, that was deliberate. Again, in feedback from our clients as we built the tool over the last year, one of the things that became very apparent to us early in the process is that we were building a great tool for bankers. We weren't necessarily building a great tool for our customers. And the art in building something like that is actually taking the complexity out of the front end and putting it in the back end.
So when you look at our tool, it's actually quite simple. It's easy to follow. It speaks in plain language. It's something you and I would be very comfortable with. But the modeling and all of the guts of what is a planning tool sits in the background so that our clients don't have to interact with it. And the language is very plain language. Easy to follow, easy to understand.
- I know a lot of people have come out-- other companies-- and have created something like a set and forget application. So I put a goal in, retirement, buy a house, buy a cottage. And I can just walk away. I don't have to deal with it. You chose intentionally not to do that.
PAUL CLARK: Yeah, it was deliberate. Again, all these things were in response to what our customers were telling us. If you think about what they're planning for, these are some of the most important things in their lives. Whether it's their kids' education, their house, whatever it might be, would you be willing to just forego that to someone else and give them all the control, all of the power without you understanding what's happening? And so what our customers said was we want to be educated along the way. We want to be part of the process.
And so when we thought about these tools, we thought about them as an interactive model. One where we can learn about you to ensure that we're actually helping you meet your goals and equally where you can learn about how we actually build portfolios so you can be part of the process. Not intimidated. Come on the journey with us. What we're actually hoping will happen is over time, our clients' literacy will grow, their confidence will grow. And actually, we're hoping that they'll be confident to trade less, that they won't turn those portfolios, that they'll really think about the assets they buy in the context of the life that they're going to hold those assets, not the weekly movements that they see in the markets.
- I know one thing too when you were building this, you were getting-- you talked about lots of client feedback along the way. Tell me a bit about health check because something interesting happened.
PAUL CLARK: Yeah. So as you get towards the end, you have the opportunity to actually-- after you've built your plan and after you've described the risk that you're willing to take inside of that plan, you do a health check, which actually takes all of your assets with us and all of your future income that you might have, pension or otherwise, and tells you where you are. It just plots out your progress. And so for me, and the clients-- they got a green light that told them they were on track. And then as bankers, we like big vibrant dashboards. They got a red when they were not making the mark.
- And they're not so good with that.
- No, they weren't so good with that. And they were right because what they were saying was, we get that we may not be there, but don't intimidate us. Help us. And so the health check changed into something very different. Our health check is all about the little differences you can make to get back on track. And so again, it's a way for us to interact with our customers in a way that takes out the intimidation factor and demonstrates that just the subtlest of changes can actually get you to your goal.
KIM PARLEE: I think that's the interesting thing because I think people think sometimes goal, and they think oh, it has to be a big thing. It has to be retirement. But it could be vacation. It can be something smaller. I mean, that's the whole point is you get to create whatever they are.
- Right. And I think that's the other learning for us in this process. For a lot of our clients, they come to us with smaller goals. And in many ways, those are the goals to start with. Get some comfort with it whether it's the next vacation that you might be saving for or whatever that purchase might be. A boat, a car, whatever it is. Start using the goal planning tool for what are easier decisions to make over a shorter duration. Get some comfort with it.
We also have some other clients though that immediately jump to the I'm buying a house, I'm saving for our retirement. Those are goals that equally are easy to set up. But the one thing that we've noticed along the way is that our customers want to interact on the basis of how they live their lives, not how we're telling them to live their lives. And so we've left it very open ended with respect to how they build their goals.
- When you built this-- and I know that there is more coming. You've talked with the fact there is more coming with Goal Assist. But you've chosen to launch this part now. And that was based on your experience of the trading tool as well, wasn't it?
- It was. One of the things we learned-- and this goes back many years-- is that our trading tools evolve with time, and they evolve with our customers. And if you take an approach that says I've got it all figured out, and I'm going to put every piece of capability out there. One, you won't have figured it out because your customers will always tell you that there's something that they want to change. But equally, if you put too much in it once, it's difficult to absorb, and it's difficult to learn.
So we're treating this release as we have the build towards this release. We want to listen to our customers. We want to react to their feedback. And so we've tested out the first release with customers. They've already told us that the next release they would like to see us focus on asset allocation. So this is enables them to understand what type of industries they've invested in, what type of companies they've invested in, and aggregate that information in a very different way than they can now. And then the follow on release after that will be think of Uber Eats or any of the apps that are out there that you order your food on. Imagine being able to construct a portfolio in a very similar way. Again, all feedback from our clients.
KIM PARLEE: I only got time for one more question. But I mean, this has been I know a pretty great experience I know when you've launched it, the pickup was pretty fast. What surprised you about in terms of when you've launched? What happened?
- Yeah. So what we were hoping was that the tool would explain itself, that it would be so easy to interact with that customers actually wouldn't need to pick up a phone, they wouldn't have to go into the resource tools that we have, that they'd be able to complete it. And that has been the case. So very early in the process, we didn't market it. We just had a soft launch. And that first couple of weeks, the clients that visited the site, over 80% of them completed the entire process on their own without any engagement.
And when we've reached out to them for feedback, they've told us three things, the three things that actually matter most. First, it was easy. Second, it wasn't intimidating. And the third, it really provided them value and understanding whether they were actually on track to meet their goals or not. And it's caused many of them to adjust course, which is actually a good thing.
- Paul, thanks very much.
- Thank you.