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How to get the second opinion you’ve always wanted for your portfolio

With permission to repost from the Globe and Mail.

No one has yet been able to make a business out of offering investors second opinions on their portfolios.

The latest attempt to provide second opinions may just be the greatest: a website called Wealthscope, where investors and advisers can put their existing portfolios through a brisk, thorough workout, or test their own ideas for portfolio building. A basic service tier is currently available for free. More comprehensive services will soon be offered to advisers for a fee.

Wealthscope was built by a team led by Pauline Shum Nolan, who is a professor of finance at York University’s Schulich School of Business. The CFO is Bruce Seago, a player in Canada’s online brokerage business going back to its early days. Ms. Shum Nolan said the project took shape as a way of producing the kind of portfolio analysis she was unable to find while working with the York University pension plan. From there came the idea to offer the service to individual investors. “As I talked to people, they said, you know what, there could be a need in the retail market for a second opinion,” Ms. Shum Nolan said.

The target audience for Wealthscope is people between 30 and 65 who already have already started to invest. Portfolios are analysed for performance, downside risk, fees, income and diversification, and then assigned an overall letter grade. If you’re looking for portfolio building ideas, there are Wealthscope model portfolios for aggressive, balanced and conservative investors. If you pick your own asset mix, Wealthscope will show you exchange traded funds from various providers that you can use to track each asset class investments as a whole rather than separate pieces. There are also planning tools on the website that can help you figure out how much you need to save for retirement, and how much you will spend once retired.

A few people in the advisory world have tried over the years to set up a business based on second opinions, but foundered because of the challenges of generating steady fee revenue. Wealthscope’s model is to generate income from selling the service to investing professionals, and possibly through partnerships with investment companies. “We want to maintain our objectivity, though,” Ms. Shum Nolan said. “I think that’s really lacking.”

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