Bill Harris has called Personal Capital the "culmination" of his career, but is now the right time for it? The personal finance service is a marked departure from those offered by Mint.com and Pageonce in that 1) it's more than a financial service, it's a financial institution, and 2) it's uniquely tailored to people with complex financial lives--people with high net worth and concerns about their asset allocation, not people who are struggling to get out of debt or spend within their budget.
Now is indeed the right time for Personal Capital, CEO Bill Harris explains in this interview, because similar principals apply. Just because someone isn't struggling doesn't mean they don't need help.
"There was a time five years ago when people were happy going to online trading sites and buying stocks on their own,” he says. “I think what’s happened is that households no longer have the confidence that they can do it themselves in terms of long-term investing, and in fact want the kind of advice we can deliver with our professional advisors.”
If you have any questions on the current climate of the personal finance industry, Bill is the guy to ask. He’s been in the business for some 20 years and has seen it evolve with the Web. No business hasn’t been fundamentally changed by the Internet, he points out, but only two industries have become completely virtualized with the Web: media and finance. In e-commerce, for example, you can buy something online but you still need trucks to ship it, so only one leg of the business has become electronified. Media and finance, however, are different animals.
“Financial activity need not be physical. Most of it is numbers in a computer anyway. Why do you need to go to a bank branch and sit down at a table and visit with someone? You don’t,” he says, adding: “The next decade of financial services will be marked by massive deconstruction of the existing financial infrastructure.”