[The Institute for Innovation Development interview series invites innovation experts, innovative business leaders and emerging fintech companies to talk to our readers about their latest innovation activities. The series seeks to learn from innovative business creators, uncover innovation best practices, and discover how to apply these insights into a financial services business model.
We recently sat down with co-founder Ariana Amplo of InHub, an innovative, Chicago-based, fintech company that is pioneering a modern RFP process for the institutional investment community. Ariana, 29, was a former advisor with Morgan Stanley’s institutional arm, Graystone Consulting, working with retirement plans, foundations/endowments and other institutional investors.]
Hortz: The challenges and problems around the RFP process are well known and widely experienced by thousands that work in the space. What was the difference in your case? What got you on the road to finding a new solution and becoming an innovator?
Amplo: My co-founder and I were in utter disbelief when we, as young investment consultants, competed in our first request for proposals (RFP). It was so archaic. We received the RFPs in the mail or e-mail, spent countless hours filling them out (after reading through mountains of internal, unorganized content), then had to get it compliance approved. [We] printed 5-13 copies ourselves, mailed them out, followed up a lot and waited. It was truly shocking how inefficient the process was for the RFP respondent. Then, I issued my first RFP on behalf of a client, and saw it from that side – yikes! It was all like a bad joke.
We found ourselves questioning the whole system, every single time. ... “Can you believe this is …,” “Isn’t there a tool that …,” “Wouldn’t it be nice if …,” “It will save us 100s of hours when …” Eventually [we] realized we had the vision for a better RFP solution, and no one else had or was fixing the issue.
We brought youth, a fresh perspective and a “can-do” attitude to a process that others before us had just accepted. We thought the status quo needed an update, and after years of dealing with the issues, decided to build the solution ourselves.
Hortz: What are the key benefits or solutions that InHub provides?
Amplo: InHub’s eRFP tool offers the ability for an RFP Issuer to create and issue an RFP—online, centralize all responses—online; invite others to review the proposals—online; take notes, collaborate and vote—online; and communicate with and update respondents easily—online. eRFP offers a centralized, modern and flexible tool for any search—whether you have a three-person committee reviewing responses or 20, or whether you have five or 50 respondents. Upgrading the process allows our users to get to the important parts of evaluating the content and making important hiring decisions, not "administering" the process.
On the other side of the table, a streamlined process benefits the RFP respondents, allowing them to respond online versus physical mail and providing them features, such as an auto-recall button which pre-fills their answer based on their last RFP—a huge time saver. Ultimately, because our tool streamlines the process for the Issuer, the respondents also see fewer delays throughout and it can truly accelerate their sales process.
For investment consultant RFPs run directly by an investment committee, we added an extra layer of assistance. We offer sample RFP questions, a network of potential candidates and a guided RFP service to help them get started off on the right foot with arguably one of their most important hires. Too many times we saw the wrong RFP questions go out and completely unqualified advisors being invited to participate. We knew we had to offer more than just technology for this space.