Savant Capital Management has built a successful advisory firm with nearly 3,000 clients and roughly $3 billion in assets the old-fashioned way with nine brick-and-mortar offices in three states, high-touch service and a merger between two large, established firms. Last month, it made a newfangled move when it launched eSavant Advisor, an online platform designed to attract new clients from around the country and to serve them remotely while giving them the same level of investment management and financial planning services that existing clients get.

The Rockford, Ill.-based fee-only wealth management firm services clients with assets ranging from $50,000 to multiple millions of dollars. It already handles clients remotely resulting from people who’ve moved away from the local offices and from referrals. “eSavant is an upgrade to our technology that allows more electronic communication and a concerted effort to develop a model specifically designed to service remote clients,” says company CEO Brent Brodeski. He adds that the platform is the next step in the company’s evolution to expand its offering nationwide.

Each eSavant client will have access to a dedicated financial advisor and a client service rep. Steven Geri, head of eSavant Advisor, says eSavant currently has three full-time advisors, and that number will expand as necessary. He says all three have their CFP designation and are seasoned pros.

Geri says eSavant could appeal to tech-savvy investors who want top-notch advice but don’t want to take the time to visit an advisor’s office; do-it-yourself investors getting closer to retirement who are accustomed to using online tools but now realize they need guidance from financial professionals; or people in any part of the country who haven’t found a nearby advisor they want to work with.

Savant expects to create efficiencies for itself by creating and delivering paperwork electronically, and for clients by saving them travel time going to and from an advisor’s office.

eSavant clients have an annual minimum fee of $900 versus the $5,000 annual minimum for Savant Wealth Management clients.

The company plans to market eSavant through online advertising and by raising awareness about the firm by publishing thought leadership articles on investment and financial planning topics. “We expect this to catch on,” Geri says. “We feel there’s a huge need for this kind of service around the country.”

Evidently, many other companies smell an opportunity to serve retail investors online. Corporate Insight, a New York City-based consultancy, now tracks more than 50 investment-related online start-ups. “They’re spreading like wildfire,” says Grant Easterbrook, a senior research associate at Corporate Insight.

Easterbrook groups them into eight different categories that include algorithm-based investment advice, packaged portfolios, and online financial advisors and financial planning.

“I haven’t seen many examples of someone offering a full suite of advisory services online,” he says. Easterbrook notes that most of the start-ups he tracks offer low-cost solutions aimed at the mass market, or premium services where you talk to a rep over the phone.

“If this is the start of a trend of large, reputable RIAs creating online platforms with services for the mass affluent, then that would be a big deal,” Easterbrook says, adding he hadn’t yet seen a demo of how eSavant works.

John Stuart, chief information officer at Beverly Hills Wealth Management in California, which caters to high-net-worth individuals, sees online advisor services as a growing trend that’s more apropos for the loosely defined mass market. “I don’t think a high-net-worth client can survive in an online investment advisory world,” he says, adding that matters such as trusts and cash flow management would be hard to handle on a strictly online basis.

Obviously, Savant Capital Management begs to differ.