We went from the draft of an idea to a digital product aiming to lead the movement toward sustainable investing.
When thinking about investing, the first color that may come to your mind is probably grey or dark blue, the colors of the suits serious men and women wear while trying to make more and more money. However, the investment world is changing for good, and now, with Seeds leading the movement toward sustainable investing, this color is now shades of green.
The pandemic, social injustice, and climate crises have put corporate behavior in the spotlight, and investors are reacting. The future of technology-enabled investing is tied into the social consciousness - how we invest our money matters.
Seeds is a fintech start-up offering an intentional, purposeful, and values-aligned engagement process and investment portfolios. Zach Conway, Seeds Founder and CEO, and Kristen O'Grady, COO and Head of Product, empower financial advisors to deepen their client relationships and grow their businesses. We joined them on their mission to enable more impact investing.
Creating a truly values-aligned portfolio is not an easy task. According to experts, the authenticity of assets and the attention to detail during screening make the difference. Seeds is a platform that incorporates investors' values and financial goals and proposes a personal, values-aligned, multi-asset portfolio.
Matching all these concepts together in a reliable and easy-to-use digital tool took effort and specific skills. The idea emerged from Zach Conway, who runs an advisory firm focused on holistic financial and life planning for his customers. He realized that more clients wanted to align their investments with their values, but they and other advisors he worked with didn’t know how to have the conversation. Once they understood a client’s values, it was also difficult for advisors to create a customized but scalable portfolio, given all the confusing and greenwashed ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) fund options in the market.
He wanted to change the situation. But how? Zach met Kristen at a networking event. She was developing investment products at large financial institutions when she became passionate about building products and platforms that have real impact outcomes in addition to financial results - investing can create meaningful change in the world.
“Values are personal, so true alignment comes from a customized solution from the bottom-up, and not from offering clients generic funds,” Kristen believed. So she made the jump to join the Seeds team and help build this innovative, customized solution to align investor values and wealth.
Both joined forces and knocked on Z1's door, looking for a digital studio to transform the complex idea they had in their minds into a functional, yet attractive tool. When they told us the Seeds’ mission of empowering advisors around intentional and purposeful investing, we were excited to be part of building a product that contributes to a better world! We joined their adventure and started to put all the pieces together.
We started researching this social approach to investment and designing a brand inspired by values-based growth. We used elements and colors that refer to the Earth and the kind of natural thriving that happens when experience, foresight, good intentions, and perseverance come together. These concepts are at the core of Seeds, and so they are reflected in the website and all the digital tools we crafted together.
Client experience is their number one priority, so we worked closely with Seeds to customize the user journey for both the financial advisor and their end clients. Each party could communicate through the connected portals throughout the advisor-to-client relationship. We used a well-tested technology solution with React + Apollo and Django + Graphene to achieve this goal.
“Z1 has an incredible eye for detailed design and is a great partner in building an ideal balance of form and function for our product,” says Kristen. That quote makes us proud, especially because Seeds put in front of us significant challenges to solve both at the design and the development level.
Indeed Candido Baquero, Product Manager at Z1, reckons this is one of the most complex projects we've faced at infrastructure, logic, data structure, and how dependencies work. “Zach and Kristen used a huge database as a source for their portfolio recommendation matrix. We had to do extensive testing to make the rating and comparison system work.
We refined the approach with different iterations until we got a perfectly functional system: A diagnostic survey that suggests investment portfolios based on the clients’ economic interests and personal values. ”With Seeds, advisors now have an intuitive and visual platform to easily walk through the entire client lifecycle, from prospecting to the proposal, onboarding, and ongoing engagement throughout the relationship.
Thanks to its distinctive approach, Seeds enables advisors to differentiate themselves and their businesses by offering values-aligned investment management. With this tool, advisors walk through a survey with their clients, and the platform reveals a proposal including how they think as investors, using behavioral psychology. Then it shows a customized multi-asset portfolio aligned to a client’s values and financial goals.
“There is a data-driven funnel investment process in Seeds bringing in both sustainability data as well as financial data, and then portfolios are constructed based on client preferences,” explains Zach. “With powerful insights from clients, the advisor can deliver an experience and a personalized investment portfolio.”
“We're delivering a platform that truly aligns investor financial goals and personal values without inherently sacrificing returns, thereby empowering investors across the country to participate in positive change," adds Kristen. “Seeds facilitates investors and advisors to have a guided conversation that reveals what kind of investor you are and how you think, how you make decisions with your heart and mind, and what issues are important to you from an ESG perspective."
Seeds' first client is a $6 billion advisory firm with 50+ advisors, and it continues to grow. Their founders are in discussions with other advisory firms to roll out to 2-5 more this year and we’ve been working recently on some great features. These include impact metrics to highlight the positive influence a client’s portfolio has on the planet and people and the integration with JUST Capital, a strategic partner firm, to figure out how to get the impact data and regularly calculate and display these metrics.
We are looking forward to seeing how Seeds changes the investment paradigm for advisors and investors and how much Earth, People, and Corporate Integrity impact society can harvest from this innovative digital product.
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