Phil Siarri talks to Gene Khalyapin, founder and CEO of Perfiqt, a Montreal-based startup that offers an AI-powered finance app that compresses hours of advanced financial planning into minutes of engaging processes to help users make smarter life decisions.
Hi Gene, nice to meet you. Can you tell us about your background?
After 10 years in finance in New York, I moved to Canada, got my MBA and settled here in Montreal. I started several business in the US and Canada before working on Perfiqt. One of my key strengths is the ability to quickly grasp the conceptual framework of very complex systems to see what’s important. It’s been a great asset to analyse personal finance industry.
In Canada, we built powerful financial software for advisers. To my surprise, I learned that most advisers were just salespeople for mutual fund and insurance companies. Their advice always boiled down to the same blind recommendation to “save more, save early, don’t spend — invest”. That makes sense for them because that’s how they make money. But we saw thousands of people who got screwed because of that one-size-fits-all advice.
I had high hopes for robo-advisers, but they used new technology to streamline just the selling part of advisers’ jobs, doubling down on the same “save more, save early, invest” push. Big banks had even worse service.
I saw a sad picture. The finance industry is fine-tuned to make profits instead of helping you. Finance is complex, which makes it harder for you to realise when you’re being screwed. The stories of people who lost their savings were heartbreaking.
It was hard to stay uninvolved, so we came up with a simple idea of how to shield millions of people from financial abuse: instead of better advice, give them the information. Fast and free access to unbiased actionable information is powerful. When you know, you are less likely to be screwed. You can question your adviser, robo-adviser or banker. You can see if you’re off-track and start making corrections earlier, whether you need to save more or to spend more (yes, for some it’s a better option). We opened our powerful financial software to consumers and it became Perfiqt.
What is Perfiqt?
Perfiqt is artificial intelligence that uses gamification to simplify finance. After two years, we found a way to turn hours of advanced financial planning into just minutes of fun and engaging process, that’s easy enough for any user regardless of their financial knowledge.
Perfiqt can help millions of people answer any financial question, personally — no “it depends” answers, no general guidance or “rule of thumb” advice, no sales pitches. In fact, to avoid bias we don’t provide any advice at all. Just the information.
This turns traditional financial planning upside down. Instead of building better system for advisers to learn about you and your life, we built a system that simplifies finance for you. You already know your life better than anybody. Combine that intimate knowledge with clearly presented, unbiased financial information, and you have everything you need to start making smarter decisions yourself. Buy or rent? Pay off debt sooner? Invest? Travel more? Information is the best shield from financial abuse, and that’s what Perfiqt gives people.
You mentioned that you didn’t like the quality of the services offered today. Do you position yourself against banks, advisers and other incumbents?
No, we don’t fight against banks or advisers — we fight against the abuse in the system. Great advisers and banks who really care about their clients actually welcome the tools that provide more information and promote transparency. Our missions are aligned here and we will do whatever we can to support them in their efforts to serve people better, whether they are our partners or not. Have a look at Desjardins advice section, for example — I really like this amazing initiative by a big bank.
If you use fear, confusion and appeal to authority to sell products that benefit you at the expense of your clients, then Perfiqt may be a direct threat to you. We’re giving people free and easy access to unbiased information to empower them to stand up for themselves. An informed person is much harder to trick.
Read the rest of the interview on BankNXT