Interviews

How VouchedFor aims to use customer reviews to bring transparency back to the financial sector

7 min read

25 October 2015

The demand for customer review websites that help consumers to find reputable tradespeople and post reviews of those they’ve used is growing exponentially – including VouchedFor.

The London-based client reviews website for independent financial and legal professionals, announced earlier this month that it closed a $5.4m Series A investment round.

The investment, the company said, will be used to help millions more customers get proper financial and legal advice from accountants when they need to make crucial decisions such as writing a will and buying a house. The company’s founder, Adam Price, pointed out that consumers are understandably cautious when deciding who to trust with their life’s big financial and legal decisions – 79 per cent of believe it’s difficult to find a well-recommended financial adviser, according to research by YouGov.

Founded in 2012, VouchedFor has enjoyed year-on-year revenue growth of 350 per cent and now has a membership base of over 7,500 IFAs and legal professionals – as well as a database of over 35,000 vetted client reviews to match consumers with the ideal financial advisor.

According to Price, the company brings a new level of transparency to the financial industry. It describes itself as the TripAdvisor for financial and legal professionals.

Prior to this latest investment round, VouchedFor received a $1.5m seed investment in 2014 in a round led by DN Capital with participation from Octopus Investments and Samos Investments. All of the investors understood that helping customers to get better advice and giving them an easy way of getting hold of information and gaining better transparency was a compelling proposition.

Simon Rogerson, CEO and co-founder of Octopus Investments, said: “In the face of changing legislation, sound financial and legal advice is more important than ever. That’s why we’re so excited to be backing VouchedFor, which shares our passion for excellent customer service.”

Price had the idea for the company when he was working in wealth management. “While I was working for Barclays numerous friends and family members would ask me for financial advice,” he said. “I wasn’t an adviser and despite working in the finance sector I didn’t know any advisers that could do what they wanted. It made me realise that good advice was hard to find and applying the consumer ratings model to the problem was a logical way to fill the void.”

The decision to do his own thing was also made easier by the arrival of his first son, which caused him to re-evaluate what he wanted from his career.

“The first investment came from my own savings, which amounted to the cost of a family car,” said Price. “It enabled us to launch a pilot version of the website in 2011, but I then had to go back to work for a few months while we built the full version, which we launched in June 2012.”

Read on to find out what difficulties Price faced in the early startup stages.

Like many startups, VouchedFor struggled initially. “The first 21 months, before we raised investment, were pretty tough,” remembered Price. “The hardest thing about creating a startup is that in the early stages you are aware that you are developing something unique and innovative, but also realising that every failed entrepreneur had believed the same at some point.”

There are good networks for accessing the London angel investor and Venture Capital community, Price has found. “If you can make one or two good contacts, it can spiral from there. Then, everyone has their own style,” he said. 

“Mine was about persistence, commitment and delivery. I spent 21 months meeting potential investors, explaining what I was going to do, doing it and then going back to them. It can take four to five cycles like that to win an investor’s trust.”

Read more about gaining trust:

The site’s first big step forward came when Price and his team identified how to verify customer reviews in a robust and scalable way. He pointed to the controversy around some consumer client reviews websites that have been criticised for publishing fake reviews – something that has more serious implications when consumers are looking for reliable financial and legal advice.

“Originally, we said that a customer could only review a professional if they found them through VouchedFor directly,” he explained. “However, this created an issue since it meant that we were ignoring the views of the 10m people who were already using professionals. So we found a way of being able to take these reviews in both large volume and with tight verification processes.”

Price believed that faced with the complications involved in finding expert advice, too often these days people leave planning their futures until the last minute – something that is not only costly but can also be also extremely stressful.

“We want people to view VouchedFor as the number one destination in which to seek financial and legal advice, whilst also creating a trusted community in which consumers can share their experience,” he said. “We hope to bring a new sense of transparency to the financial and legal industry and enable consumers to receive the best possible advice at life’s biggest moments.”