Innovative Investment Advice Site Coming to Life in Alberta

Honoured for the opportunity to work with ATB in the ambitious goal of creating an innovative online investment advice tool—MasterPlan—the pilot phase has just wrapped up and results are now being analyzed. Reflecting on what we accomplished to date—the concept, sheer scope and complexities of the project—provided a formidable challenge, but one that was eagerly welcomed.

This article sums up a recent interview with Rita Sly, Managing Director, Mass Market for ATB Investor Services about her experience working with Top Draw and creating MasterPlan.

Q) ATB’s online advice site is more than a website. How would you describe what the project evolved into?

A) We’ve created an interactive tool that not only allows, but encourages Albertans to create a financial plan, learn the basics of investing, and receive customized recommendations based on their current situation and future goals. Special considerations were needed for security, confidentiality, and advanced calculations and programming.


Q) What basic problem was ATB trying to solve?

A) During our initial research and focus group phase, I distinctly remember the comments of a well-educated, professional young woman: “If I had something like this, I would feel smart enough to talk to an advisor.” Many Albertans know they should—and want to—plan and invest for their future, but they have no idea where to start. Our goal was to adopt technology into a non-intimidating advisory role.

From our organization perspective, our goals were to:

  • build a sustainable model that would stand the test of time,
  • improve the quality and reach of our advice, and
  • help improve the efficiencies of our advisors and decrease the cost of our delivery model.

When investors can start the conversation with Albertans who are “educated and enlightened,” our advisors can offer more complex advice. In essence, we wanted a tool that would cover the basics, so we can take them through the next steps.

Q) What was the inspiration for the project?

A) We realized that delivering customized quality advice for such a complicated subject was a challenge. Yet there had to be something that we could emulate as a model. That turned out to be tax software, an easy-to-use, bulletproof tool that makes preparing tax returns brilliantly simple for do-it-yourselfers. That was the concept we worked toward: a simple, self-guided, do-it-yourself online tool.

Q) What steps were taken before putting the pen to paper?

A) At ATB, we’re very good at studying “the best,” analyzing and improving upon components that already work well. Over the course of three weeks, we used “mastery immersion,” a process in which we recorded, watched, and analyzed the advisory process. The planning tool advisors currently use when working with clients was the framework of all the questions, timing, and components that would need to be included in the interface.

Q) When did Top Draw come in and what was their role?

A) Top Draw was hired to transition the planning tool from paper into an online experience. Based on a comprehensive Requirements Document, this process involved coming up with the interface, templates and information architecture, then applying graphic elements that would welcome and draw participants into the process.

Extensive calculations were also a significant part of the equation, along with all the programming and coding needed to make the piece interactive. One of the biggest challenges from a design perspective was making the site engaging so that participants would invest 20 minutes of their time working through the site and the process. We understand how lofty of an expectation that is!


Q) What results have you gathered from the pilot?

A) We are still analyzing the data and will be very thorough in this process; however, we know that 50% of visitors spent the time required to complete the process. It’s dangerous to try to prove you were right, so we will be very diligent in our assessment. But we were, to be honest, pleasantly surprised by this number. It validates that Albertans want to have a plan. We will take what we learned and refine our approach even more to make it better.

Q) What impressed you about working with Top Draw?

Their recommendations were exceptional in terms of design, layout and navigation. Top Draw’s commitment to the project, in terms of timelines and deliverables, was also outstanding.

A) The unique perspectives and skills that each member brought to the table. They understood how to reach people in spite of large amounts of information, how to entice them to stay and engage with the interface. Their recommendations were exceptional in terms of design, layout and navigation. In fact, we actually find the structure and functionality of the account opening page so much easier than the tried and true process we use now! They turned a massive questionnaire into an easy to digest process.

Top Draw’s commitment to the project, in terms of timelines and deliverables, was also outstanding. We both learned a lot through the process and look forward to continuing to collaborate as we work toward the full launch.