Sam Seaton’s energy and enthusiasm is infectious. An Aussie who has lived in the UK for over 20 years, she is the chief executive of personal finance management tool Moneyhub.
Seaton is always thinking about people: what makes us tick, our behavioural traits, our habits and our foibles. And her interest in people affects her approach to technology. She is most interested in the practical ways in which it can improve our lives.
As a teenager in Australia, Seaton was horse mad and she took part in the Australian Olympic eventing squad for their home games in 2000.
But her path to technology was less surefooted. Her father insisted she could not make a career from horses, so, somewhat reluctantly, she agreed to go to university. Unsure of what to study, she looked at job ads in the newspaper and found there were lots for computer programming. Ever the pragmatist, Seaton chose computer science.
She never felt she quite fitted in. She has always had other interests than technology but this has helped her relate to those who are less self-assured. Indeed, she understands many advisers find technology challenging.
“They have been through so much change. Advisers would just like everything to work a bit better and to be better integrated, but legacy makes things difficult. A new world is on the horizon but there are growing pains.”
Technology will change our experience of financial services and financial management, says Seaton. She is particularly excited that advances are putting us on a path to taking more control of our data.
Most of us have reached the point where we are comfortable giving our data to third parties if they have something useful to offer. Take Google maps.
“It has become the only way to get from A to B. But Google is collecting my data; they don’t share it with me and I don’t know what they do with it. What if there was a secure way to share that data with you if you asked Google?” asks Seaton.
“Blockchain is a secure way of tying all this data together and Google could share the data with us, the consumer, in a blockchain.”
So consumers could track their own data, how it is being used and where it is being used securely. Critically, they would control how it is used. And they could also monetise the data. Imagine a world where we got paid for the permission to advertise to us online through a crypto-currency. It is not far off.
For the more immediate future, Seaton and her team are most excited about the implications of open banking for both investors and advisers.
Open banking will open up third party access to the transaction data banks routinely store, as long as the consumer authorises it. As a result, Seaton foresees a limited shelf-life for fact finding and risk profiling, although she gamely acknowledges this idea irritates some people.
It would mark an end to advisers’ form filling and tedious trawling through statements. More accurate data also means advisers can create financial plans based on the full picture, not their client’s edited highlights. This should lead to better customer outcomes.
Seaton believes we can make our money work harder for us too. MoneyHub uses machine learning and transaction data to predict whether a user will go overdrawn as much as six days in advance. It also has an API that tracks every bank’s interest rates, updated at four hour intervals.
So it can show the optimum level of cash to hold in a consumer’s current account and then get the bank to move the rest of their cash to the highest-performing interest account on the market. This could also be phenomenally useful for clients in drawdown.
Advice is currently thriving, buoyed by the pension freedoms and the wealth of baby boomers. That said, future generations are not expected to have the same levels of wealth.
But Seaton is a woman who turned a horse, Pepe, destined for the knackers, into an eventing champion. She believes tools like Moneyhub will help younger generations to set and meet financial goals, playing their part in future wealth creation. They are nurturing tomorrow’s advice clients.
Miranda Seath is research director at Platforum
CV: Sam Seaton
2016-present: Chief executive, Moneyhub
2011-2015: Chief executive, eValue
2000-2011: Consultant, Tillinghast Towers Perrin
2000: Competed in Australian Olympic Games as member of Australian eventing squad
1995-1999: Employee benefits and reward consultant, Towers Perrin