BrightScope’s New Tool Shines on Financial Advisors

Last week, BrightScope launched Advisor Tool, a new and improved way to search for investment advisors.


Twin brothers Mike and Ryan Alfred founded BrightScope in 2007 with a goal to “bring transparency to opaque markets.” It accomplishes this through two free services:

  • A tool that allows users to view the ratings and rankings of public-company retirement plans (401ks) accessed through a public database.
  • The new Advisor Tool, which provides key info for selecting an advisor such as experience, fees, and average account balance.

Here’s how Advisor Tool works:

  1. Decide: Choose to search for an individual advisor or firm
  2. Set parameters: Enter what you’re looking for, such as the advisor’s name, city or state, the value of assets, and so on (see inset below).
  3. Compare: The results include basic info: location, qualifications, area of specialty, client types and more detailed data such as legal disputes, formal complaints, cost of services, and a list of exams passed.  
Advisor Tool Features

It allows you to compare and contrast the following characteristics of up to three advisors at a time:

  • Type of registration held
  • Current employer
  • Dollar value of the assets under management
  • Average account balance
  • Primary client type
  • Years of experience
  • Fees the advisor charges
  • SEC & FINRA disputes

Results can be filtered by the following criteria:

  • Number of assets
  • Average account balance
  • Current employer
  • Client types


Besides sitting down with a phone book, asking Aunt Laura, or Googling financial advisors, users can search directly through the FINRA and the SEC databases. However, both have been described as “clunky” and “needlessly complex.” BrightScope brings web 2.0 search and discovery to this important area.


While the tool is powerful, it is not without limitations. The results are only as good as the sources of information used, primarily Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) BrokerCheck database and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) investment advisor database. 

But as advisors upgrade their listings, for a fee, with photos and other detailed information,

search results will prove even more useful. BrightScope expects to be one of the most effective marketing tools available to advisors. 

And BrightScope has ambitions beyond investment advisors. It’s already working on a similar service for insurance agents that should be available later this year.
Search results allow for a quick view of advisor info (5 May 2011)


Alumni News — Week of April 25, 2011

On April 27, Prosper gave 200 new lenders $104 to get started. The company is celebrating the news that prosper lenders are averaging 10.4% returns.

American Banker on Yodlee and Geezeo growth in the PFM market. Yodlee grows French market, and Geezeo signs more credit unions.
Author Jean Chatzky opens her Debt Diet Challenge to 5 readers who are in debt.
Bank Innovations highlights six companies as noteworthy to see at Finovate Spring on May 10th & 11th in San Francisco. releases site upgrade. The upgrade, made over the Easter weekend, includes improved calendar, a revised mobile application, receivables managements and online payments and more.
BrightScope featured on TechCrunch. The post highlights BrightScope’s launch of advisor pages.
Capital Access Network awarded prestigious award. The company won the 2011 Monarch Innovation Award from Barlow Research Associates.
CashEdge’s Small Business Survey finds that small businesses want electronic payment solutions.
Consumer Reports integrates BillShrink’s recommendations into reviews. BillShrink has similar affiliate relationships with and T-Mobile.
Credit Karma releases Credit Score Climate Report stating credit scores fell two points in the Q1 2011.
Currensee makes Lead411’s Hottest Boston Tech Companies list second year in a row. See them at Finovate Spring.
H&R Block names former eBay exec as new CEO.
Mengia signs with Icelandic banks, Arion and Landsbanki. Mengia will provide PFM services to both banks, which will provide 90% of Icelandic banking customers with access to an integrated PFM platform.
Monitise launches Hong Kong mobile service with JETCO, which will help it break into the Asia Pacific market.
Stock Twits names Francisc Costello chief operating officer.
Tile Financial releases the “Spend Grow Give” app. Now available free in the App Store.
USA Today covers BrightScope’s new tool for choosing the right financial adviser & informs what attributes to look for.
Wescom Resources Group offers Geezeo PFM to clients. Wescom will be rolling out Geezeo as a complement to the Credit Union’s existing online banking platform.
Xero releases Xero Touch, its new app built on HTML5 that will run on iPhone, Android, Windows7 and Blackberry.
Yodlee holds a mobile banking webinar on May 3. Attendance is free. Details online at

Alumni News — Weeks of December 13 and 20, 2010

To see Finovate news updates in real-time, follow our feed on Twitter

Backbase explores mobile banking in its fall webinar series.

BlazeMobile creates smart payments sticker.

BrightScope releases top 30 retirement plans.

Capital Access special report on “Black Friday” and small business sales data.   

SunTrust has added the “Transfer Now” product suite from CashEdge including person-to-person and me-to-me transfers.

ClairMail and Cardlytics partner to provide transaction marketing opportunities. 

Expensify is hiring for multiple positions. – The company is currently looking for Web developers and computer engineers at several levels.

FIS launches innovative new mobile banking product. — Users can establish mobile account management with their debit card, no online banking signup needed.

Geezeo selected by University Federal Credit Union as PFM provider.

GoalMine hosting cash contest via Facebook to spread the word.

Kapitall closes series A funding round. — The company did not release funding amounts or sources.

Kasasa on “green” community banking. — See what a green bank looks like.

Seventy percent of US Airlines have migrated to Kony Mobile-powered travel apps.

Lending Club featured in San Fransisco Chronicle, Black Enterprise, and PBS.

mFoundry deploys Washington Trust Bank’s mobile banking app. — This makes 260 customers so far using the mFoundry mobile applications.

Congratulations to Mint founder, Aaron Patzer, winner of a TechFellow Award for General Management.

Mozo powering new “Compare, Ditch and Switch” campaign. — The services allows Australians to shop around for better banking services.

Just in time for the Holidays, PopMoney gift cards at

SmartyPig launches cash rewards card with only a one-time activation fee of $4.95.

Victrio receives $5 million investment for voice-printing technology.

Weekly Updates — Week of November 15, 2010

To see Finovate news updates in real-time, follow our feed on Twitter

Backbase is launching its fall webinar series. — The first 25 signups get a copy of Brett King’s new book “Bank 2.0.”
Billeo is powering the new American Express inSite service. — Amex users get rewards and bonuses from within their browser.
BillFloat shines at the “Under the Radar Conference.” — The company won the “Judges’ Choice” and “Audience Choice” awards in the Commerce category.
Blippy lets users “fancify” their profiles.
Data is king at BrightScope. — See the  O’Riley Radar article which includes a five-minute video on how the startup gathered 401k plan info from the Department of Labor

Credit Sesame launches. — Public Beta is open to everyone. Excellent info-graphic about consumer debt in America
eRollover announces new website. — The new site is designed to be easier to navigate and better show analytic tools.
GoalMine launches with $25 reward to users who establish a $25 per month investment plan. — The program not only encourages ongoing investment, but highlights the convenience of the company’s online GoalPack gift card system.
Ixaris launches Secret Path Developer Challenge. — Secret Path rewards developers who build payment applications on Ixaris Opn for social media networks, mobile devices and ecommerce.
Kasasa Poetry Challenge. — Poets can win cash prizes, and have their work used in a Kasasa commercial.
Monitise and US Bank work together for contactless payments solution.
Mozo wins Deloitte’s Rising Star award. — The award is for companies in operation for fewer than three years.
PayNearMe garners $16 million in venture capital. — Khosla Ventures led the funding round. The company will also be launching a mobile payments application. 
SmartyPig adds 21 new “Best in Class Retailers” just in time for holiday shopping. — Retail partners boost users’ savings by up to 14% when the savings goal is withdrawn via their gift card.
Tempo Payments powers reward card for Sheetz convenience stores. — The decoupled affinity debit cards are independently-branded rewards debit cards, which link to the customer’s checking account.
Wikinvest launches Android and Blackberry apps which allow users to view their accounts regardless of brokerage.

How to Do a Great Demo #2 — Ask for Something

This is a guest post from John Fishback of 154 Consulting — the firm that helps us coach the innovative fintech companies selected for Finovate on their demos.

brightscope.png Finovate’s
unique format is exhilarating for attendees, but it puts real pressure
on demoing companies to leave the audience with something to remember
and act on. The demo from BrightScope at Finovate 2009 in New York (video) is an excellent example of a demo, and especially a conclusion, built to drive the audience to act.

Alford, BrightScope’s President and head of product development, speaks
to three audiences with his demo: individuals relying on their 401(k)
for retirement planning, plan sponsors, and advisors. For each, he
offers something that makes BrightScope compelling. More importantly,
he asks each group to take action at the end of the demo.
spends most of his time speaking to plan participants, and shows how
BrightScope helps them understand how their 401(k) plan stacks up. In
this first section, Ryan highlights a feature that helps participants
and BrightScope work together to their mutual advantage: requesting a
rating for your plan. This is a savvy choice. By spending time on this
feature, he turns participant’s mental dialogue from “I should check
this out if my plan is covered” to “I should check this out no matter
other two audiences, plan sponsors and advisors, get less time on their
value drivers. But Ryan effectively illustrates their needs and shows
how BrightScope meets them. For plan sponsors, the honest desire to do
right by participants is supported by BrightScope’s dashboard, which
shows what drove plan ratings. For advisors, their hope to generate
business in advising poorly performing plans is clearly supported by
BrightScope’s advisor tools.
this point, Ryan has done a good demo. He has a unique product and
he’s letting it speak for itself. But his conclusion is head and
shoulders above most. He asks each of his audiences to complete a specific task, saying:

“If you are a participant, you should get your plan rated. 

you are a plan sponsor, you should request a free demo of the dashboard
to see if this tool will help you understand and improve your plan. 

If you are an advisor, please contact us to learn about how you can gain access to our advisor tools.”
my line of work, we call these “calls to action” or “asks.” They’re the
actions you want your audience to take, and it’s always important to
make them very clear. 
even more important at Finovate. Finovate’s format of seven-minute
demos with a minute-long break between each provides a lot of
excitement, but it also gives the audience an immense amount to think
about. After each demo ends, there are only about twenty seconds to
really think about the demo before Finovate’s master of ceremonies,
Eric Mattson, thanks the presenter and begins introducing the next
company. Those seconds are when the audience decides what to do.
the Finovate 2009 event in New York, a third of presenting companies
left the stage with no call to action. They simply summarized their
main points or key messages and thanked the audience. Just over a
quarter did better, finishing their demo by asking for a specific
action that could take place anywhere.  
rest? Forty percent of presenting companies ended their demo with some
version of “come see us at our booth.” That’s not a bad ask,
particularly because Finovate explicitly builds in networking sessions
between demos. 
after too many demos end with “see us at our booth,” the audience
starts to tune the phrase out. Several people tweeting on the
Finovate 2009 demos on Twitter remarked about the constant refrain of “come to our booth,” and lamented that they didn’t know why they should.
So how should a demo end if the next step you’d like the audience to take is actually to come visit your booth? Use the moment to start the conversation you’d like to have one on one. Rather than a generic invitation to visit the booth, invite the
audience to see some specific aspect of the product you haven’t had a
chance to show. Or focus on a possible objection (e.g. “If you’re
interested in seeing how we integrate quickly and easily with 95% of
all core processing systems, we’ll be walking through that at our
matter what you specifically close with, use the last moment you have
everyone’s attention as BrightScope did – by asking the audience to
take the next step.


This is a guest post from John Fishback. John is the principal of 154 Consulting and directs 154’s Financial Services Product Group, which combines message development and presentation advice services with financial services industry experience to help financial services companies, startups, and vendors develop and market products that speak clearly to customers’ needs. He can be reached at