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Innovative effort at Fidelity Investments results in Harvard students presenting new business ideas

John Dix | Aug. 11, 2014
Fidelity Investments today hosted four teams of Harvard students who demonstrated new products that Fidelity can bring to market, the culmination of a program the investment giant put together to collect innovative ideas from new sources.

To lure these new investors, the AI team concluded they had to offer a tool with an intuitive interface that could personalize investment advice based on the users' goals, and automate portfolio construction.

The prototype application demonstrated featured drag and drop and other common touchpad controls to set goals, after which Fidelity Robo Advising, as they called it, would select target markets for the newbie investors.

While the Fidelity "mothership," as the AI team referred to it, could develop this tool in-house, they advised using an incubation approach featuring a lean team of 5-6 people because they would be able to move faster and take more risks.

* Social.   The social media team also targeted Generation Y millennials, principally because they are the heaviest users of social media. Millenials represent one quarter of the U.S. population today, their research showed, and they spend three to eight hours on social media per day.

What better way to get this target group excited about investing than to lower the barriers to investing and cater to their social leanings, they say.

The Pocket Change app they conceived would let users build portfolios of stocks in companies they are interested in, share those lists with friends, and make fractional investments a bit at a time, making it more fun than overly risky. It would also have built in tracking tools to show how investments are doing, and potentially even let you create fictional portfolios to whet the appetite.

Built-in learning modules would enable users to learn more about investing at their own pace, with the idea that as investors got more serious, they would be perfect candidates for Fidelity's huge portfolio of traditional investing tools.

The team said they could build a full working prototype in three months.

* Wearables. The wearables team was told to specifically address workplace investing, and ended up focusing on health savings accounts (HSA),  which Wikipedia describes as "a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States who are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan."

The myHSA app the team came up with is designed to help users leverage the core advantages of HSA programs — contributions are tax free, the savings grow tax free, and withdraws are also tax free — by removing the complexity of participation.

The app demonstrated simplifies record keeping, tracks your balance, lets you pay bills, makes it easy to invest and, the wearable component, can be connected to wearable devices that track exercise for plans that offer rewards for participants that stay in shape.

The wearable team wanted $200,000 to take the idea to the next step.

* Data visualization. The final team was also asked to focus on workplace investing, in particular on new ways to enable Fidelity relationship managers to show clients how their employees are benefiting from Fidelity programs.


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