In 2018, Chicago-based Oranj became the financial service industry’s first wealth management platform available to advisors and end-clients at no cost.

Since then, the fintech industry has continued its fast-paced evolution, but few entrants have followed Oranj in launching software using a “freemium” model in which the initial install and basic features are free, but upgrades and additional features may come at a price.

Nevertheless, Oranj’s experiment in offering an end-to-end wealth management solution for advisors has been a success, said CEO David Lyon.

“It took some time for advisors to acclimate,” said Lyon. “I think we’ve developed a robust feature set so that advisors have seen over the years that Oranj is not just a cheap, inexpensive technology platform. We have the same capabilities that other leading platforms have. Advisors have signed up with us, seen that, and it’s helped us gain more traction and attract more advisors.”

Fintech For Advisors, By Advisors
But Oranj, launched in 2013, wasn’t always an end-to-end solution, and it wasn’t always free. It has its origins as an advisor’s advisory platform: Lyon founded his own RIA and multi-family office, Main St. Financial, in 2011, two years before he founded Oranj as a digital practice management tool for advisors with a client portal.

After working nearly a decade in the music industry, Lyon discovered that advisors struggled with technology in ways similar to major music companies – just as record companies struggled to keep up with technology as it shifted from vinyl records to tape to digital downloads, advisors have also been challenged by the move to a more fully digital, online environment.

Lyon realized that he, like many advisors, was spending too much time, effort and money doing the day-to-day work of providing financial advice, which left him unable to step back and take a broader perspective on his business and the industry as a whole – a dangerous problem when the industry’s rate of change is accelerating.

Today, advisors are expected to do more with less, said Lyon, a trend evident in the ongoing margin compression within the industry. Margin compression in financial advice is mostly a product of increasing overhead, including technology costs and new services demanded by the end-client, said Lyon. With more advisors opting to remain independent from larger firms, more of the responsibility for evolving and growing the business ends up falling on their shoulders.

So in 2013 and 2014 Oranj rolled out what was essentially the underpinnings of a business-to-business roboadvisor platform – a web portal for clients that included well-functioning account aggregation, communications and marketing tools, and a streamlined, app-like account opening process. Since then, the company has grown the Oranj platform through internal innovation and acquisition into a more complete offering for advisors.

“What you’re seeing is a shift in thinking from a kind of best-in-breed mentality where, in order to truly have best-in-breed, you have to piece together five to six different disparate pieces of software that individually might be great, but by cobbling them together you lose a significant amount of efficiency in the form of cost savings and time savings,” said Lyon. “We’re able to save advisors time. The more applications you have to log into, the more time it’s going to take to do things – and integrations are never as seamless as they are on a platform like Oranj, which does a number of the things those disparate software platforms do, combined in one place.”

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