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Jamaica’s own money advisor by mobile phone

Published:Wednesday | March 18, 2015 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham
The Money Visor app created by Nicola Johnson.

Money advice is now only a click away with the launch of the Caribbean's first mobile application dedicated to financial planning.

The Jamaican creator of Money Visor, Nicola Johnson, hopes to change the way advice gets to clients by opening a communications channel that literally places financial advice at the customer's fingertips.

Johnson was a rookie financial advisor in December 2013 when she found herself racking up travel miles to bringing financial advice and closing money management deals with clients. The insurance and equity-linked products she was offering could only move to the client if they had confidence in the advice she was offering.

"Being new to the insurance industry, it was a bit of a challenge to travel across parishes to answer a basic question or give general information. I found myself having to spend a lot before I could earn, so it got me thinking that there must be a more efficient way to give this advice without driving cost," Johnson said.

"I did a lot of research, wrote down my ideas and I discovered that apps are the way to go," she said.

Johnson then turned to Apps Design Jamaica to build the app. She ploughed her own money into getting the developers to make her project work. They soon found that the project was breaking new ground in the Jamaican financial landscape and taking them where no one in the Caribbean region had gone before.

"It was actually when I was in advanced discussion with the developer of the app that he pointed out that he had never seen anything like this in Jamaica or the Caribbean before," Johnson said.

Breaking new ground is the stuff of entrepreneurs. Johnson says Money Visor represents her fifth commercial effort, on which she has spent about $700,000 in development, web hosting fees and product launch. She is now talking to potential local partners with an international reach, but refused to divulge their names.

"I will only say that the feedback has been tremendous and they are interested in it, and it is only a matter of time. Once decisions are finalised, then we'll know who these persons are," she said.

Johnson says her previous four ventures have prepared her for Money Visor, which is her biggest project yet.

"I was involved in payroll processing, then I offered services in bookkeeping and accounting. There was also grocery retail and merchandising before I did a bit of motor vehicle fleet management," she recounted.

Money Visor became available on March 1, 2015, and there are four to six downloads of the app per day, Johnson said, totalling 54 and counting.

Multiple features

The app features 11 distinct areas of financial advice and financial planning tools, including Investing, Money Advisor, My Child's Future; which allows the user to plan for children from birth to when they go on their own; Budgeting; Money Health Check, allowing the user to run an in-depth assessment of their finances.

A Retirement feature allows the user to plan for retirement at any age. Risk Profile guides users in making investment decisions given their appetite for risk. The Redundancy feature is aimed at helping people to plan and cope with being separated from their jobs through redundancy.

There are also features on Savings, Insurance and quizzes to test knowledge.

The app is available for free download, which means that Johnson has to find other ways to monetise the product. She says she is already in talks with partners to develop advertising support.

Additionally, Money Visor has a premium service which offers one-on-one consultations from expert financial advisors for a fee. The service is being targeted at tech-savvy professionals and young people.

The Money Visor app currently operates on Android devices. Johnson says she opted for that platform because it is the most popular in Jamaica at this time. Still she is not limiting herself to Jamaican users, and before the end of the year, Money Visor will be available on iOS, Windows and Blackberry OS.