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From Management Consultant to Entrepreneur, Sonny Kapoor Finds Opportunity in Estate Planning

CEO Sonny Kapoor and co-founder Rocky Mehta founded OneDigitalTrust, a pioneering digital estate planning platform, to spare families the stress and strain of dealing with the costly and time-consuming process of a loved one dying intestate, or without completing their estate planning.

Through their own experiences, they tapped into a little-known opportunity to address the needs of the mass affluent who are underserved in this area. Many believe it’s too costly to be worthwhile, and others don’t think they have enough of an estate to worry about.

Sonny sat down with Sarah Snell Cooke, co-founder of The Credit Union Connection, to share insights into his mission, vision and B2B model for OneDigitalTrust.

Sarah Snell Cooke: What’s the origin story of OneDigitalTrust?

Sonny Kapoor: I have worked as a management consultant for financial institutions for many years. During an engagement to overhaul the strategy for a credit union-owned RIA (Retirement Investment Advisor), we proposed digital estate planning as a new, innovative offering with the potential to deepen family and financial wellness for members.

The recommendation received much acceptance, but instead of building it themselves, the institution asked if I would build it so they could license it. And OneDigitalTrust was born.

The challenge of designing a platform that would be simple and affordable especially resonated with me because my father died intestate when I was 17 years old. I experienced first-hand the challenges my mother and I encountered in settling his estate, working through age-old estate planning laws.

SSC: Why are people not completing their estate planning? What’s the problem with that?

SK: Why such a remarkable proportion of the U.S. citizenry does not have a legally valid plan in place is a complex question. Up to this point, the easy answer was that the process was expensive and cumbersome.

This issue should be materially addressed with the advent of digital estate planning platforms like OneDigitalTrust. Yet, between 2023 and 2024, a 6% decline was recorded in Americans with an estate plan.

The more complex answer is buried in the deep psyche –estate planning makes individuals confront their mortality. Nobody welcomes the anxiety that accompanies such a task. Much of the avoidance is due to mortality salience – an awareness of the inevitability of one’s death creating anxiety, which triggers a powerful defense mechanism to side-step such thoughts (e.g., trivializing one’s likelihood of death or amplifying one’s ability to boost longevity, etc.). As a result, thoughts about our death are banned from persisting in our awareness and estate planning remains de-prioritized.

SSC: Who is OneDigitalTrust’s target audience? Why did you choose B2B?

SK: Our platform is intended for use by the mass affluent – all of those who do have some assets to pass down but suffer sticker shock at the lawyer’s fees or don’t even know where to start. Many don’t realize the thousands – or tens of thousands of dollars and more – that can be lost to a family legacy when someone dies intestate (without an estate plan).

Our platform streamlines the process, removing complexity through a custom-built, proprietary design, to offer affordable estate planning to many who never thought it would be within their means. We’ve lowered the barriers to entry to both price and users being overwhelmed by the complexity of it. OneDigitalTrust has built-in features to help users optimize their probate exposure so that more assets go into their beneficiaries’ pockets.

With so many – more than 65% – avoiding planning their estates, it’s crucial that we get our platform out to as many people as possible. This is why we decided to leverage a B2B, or business-to-business structure and sales model. By partnering with banks and credit unions, financial advisory firms, wealth management companies, insurance agencies and employee benefits companies, OneDigitalTrust can quickly touch many more families’ lives to save them from the head- and heartache my mother and I endured.

Digital estate planning is an ideal offering for institutions that desire to deepen the value of their own brand. Since estate planning goes to the very core of personal and family wellness, our B2B capability allows institutions to offer it as their service.  As a result, users credit the brand of their trusted provider with the peace of mind they feel when they complete their plan. This amplifies the brand loyalty for the institution like very few other offerings can.  Further, it is through our unique B2B partnering model that we can offer institutions a real option to generate a new non-interest income revenue stream to counterbalance the fee income that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and others are chiseling away.

SSC: How does OneDigitalTrust connect with companies to offer your platform?

SK: At one level, we have integration partnerships, such as Mastercard/Finicity, Zillow and others, that enrich the capability and functionality of our platform. We’ve also partnered with leading digital banking platform providers, like Jack Henry, Q2, Temenos and more, including proprietary integrations to embed OneDigitalTrust in their clients’ digital banking experiences. There’s no heavy lifting required for banks and credit unions; within days, they can reap the rewards of developing even more meaningful relationships with their customers and members.

SSC: What are the benefits to the institutions you partner with and serve (credit unions/banks/financial advisors/law firms/benefits providers/insurance companies)?

 SK: First, we are a B2B solution provider. Our objective is to focus on deepening our partners’ brand instead of promoting the OneDigitalTrust brand. Our powerful white-label capabilities deliver exceedingly well on that objective.

Second, unlike referral models, we offer our partners the ability to garner an exceedingly healthy margin while keeping the platform highly affordable for end-users. This helps our financial institution customers generate a durable new revenue stream to offset the loss of overdraft and debit interchange non-interest income that’s been slowly eroding.

Third, our customers can deliver an essential, highly desirable end-of-life planning capability to safeguard the legacy of their customers and members – quite literally, everyone needs an individual plan.

And finally, our partnering model extends beyond platform enablement. Our Partner Success team helps customers with ongoing support, from custom implementation playbooks to data analysis to sharing and cataloging best practices to webinars and training to various marketing support activities to measure and monitor utilization and performance.

Financial institutions are often seen as slow to adapt and less tech-savvy than fintechs. By partnering with an innovative platform like OneDigitalTrust, banks and credit unions can break free from that reputation and bring more attractive services to younger customers and members.

SSC: Any final comments or thoughts?

SK: Humans have an instinctive and ongoing existential fear of death. This ‘death anxiety’ can create cognitive distortion, which makes people act irrationally, such as putting off essential estate planning. The paradox is that having completed their estate plan, the same individuals reduce the intensity of such death anxiety and amplify personal and family well-being enormously. We believe financial institutions are best suited to deliver estate planning to their customers so they can deepen their brand among the communities they serve.

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Cracking the Code: How to Help Mass Affluent Clients Embrace DIY and Advisor-Assisted Estate Planning

Many financial advisors, particularly those serving clients through credit unions and community banks, face a challenge: how to effectively engage the “mass affluent” market.

These folks have a household income of at least $75,000 and liquid assets of between $100,000 and $1 million. They comprise one-quarter of our nation’s population.

They are the middle class and the sweet spot for financial advisors. Their numbers are significant, and they are primed for advisors to help them build for retirement and end-of-life planning. Effective, efficient estate planning will cement their personal legacy for their loved ones and cherished causes, as well as reduce unnecessary hassles for their families after they pass.

One key to unlocking this market lies in dispelling a common myth: top-shelf financial planning is reserved for the high-net-worth crowd.

You’re in an ideal position to extend your financial institution’s status as a trusted preferred financial institution (PFI) beyond savings and loans into investing and estate planning. And you can combine high tech and high touch by mixing do-it-yourself digital and face-to-face interaction to pull it all together. Let’s discuss how.

The Power of Small Steps in Estate Planning

Think back to the countless times you’ve encountered a client hesitant to begin investing because they don’t believe they have enough to make it worthwhile. You likely countered with the power of compounding interest, demonstrating how even small, regular contributions can grow substantially over time.

The same principles of starting early and building in small increments apply here, also. That begins with dispelling their misconception that estate planning necessitates a complex web of trusts and other legal documents.

The reality is that a fundamental plan—a will, beneficiary designations on accounts, and perhaps a power of attorney—can provide a strong foundation for the mass affluent. And they can accomplish this for a fraction of the cost they might have thought.

Here are some solid steps to follow:

  • Compounding Clarity: Frame estate planning as a way to safeguard their legacy. Just like consistent investments grow over time, a clear plan provides long-term peace of mind for them and their loved ones.

Start by guiding clients through all the people they’d like included in their estate planning. For a basic will, they can assign percentages, and it’s pretty much done. And, within OneDigitalTrust’s platform, your clients can always convert to a custom will or trust later. Custom wills can get very granular into who receives what when the family member passes.

  • Start with the Basics: Highlight the importance of having a will or basic trust, even for those with a seemingly straightforward financial picture. Explain how that ensures their wishes are followed and avoids potential family conflict during a difficult time.
  • Small Steps, Big Impact: Emphasize that simply starting is a crucial first step. As their wealth and life circumstances evolve, they can easily adapt the plan on their own or with your help as their trusted financial advisor. If they convert to a custom will or revocable trust, they can adapt beneficiaries and inheritances as desired.

Digital Tools Empower DIY and Advisor-Assisted Planning

As with banking and investing, technology has revolutionized estate planning, making it more accessible and affordable for the mass affluent. Tools like OneDigitalTrust’s digital estate planning platform empower clients to take control of their wishes while offering valuable opportunities for advisor involvement.

Here’s how these tools can benefit both you and your clients:

  • Client Empowerment: Digital platforms guide clients through creating a basic estate plan, fostering a sense of control and understanding.
  • Increased Accessibility: OneDigitalTrust’s tools are available 24/7, allowing clients to work on their plans at their own pace and convenience.
  • Enhanced Communication: Digital platforms can facilitate communication between you and your clients, allowing for clarification of questions and updates to the plan as needed. Inside our Advisor Portal, financial advisors receive nuggets of vetted advice to share with their clients, making you look sharp and building even more trust that you’re on their side.

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Positioning Yourself as the Trusted Guide

While DIY tools empower clients, it’s crucial to position yourself as the trusted advisor who complements the technology. Here are ways to leverage your expertise:

  • Review and Refine: Offer to review a client’s DIY plan, ensuring it aligns with their specific goals and circumstances.
  • Tax and Legal Nuances: Explain how even a basic plan can benefit from the guidance on tax implications and potential legal complexities.
  • Complexities and Future Needs: Discuss situations where a DIY approach may not suffice, and clients should follow your and OneDigitalTrust’s guidance when the need for more sophisticated planning arises.

Over time, your trusted relationship with your client will build, and based on your experience with them and others, you’ll see opportunities and pitfalls for them that you can then share and advise, creating opportunities for deeper service and upselling.

Unlocking the Mass Affluent Market

Remember, the cornerstone of successful financial planning is building trust and empowering clients to take control of their financial future.

By offering a combination of accessible technology and your expert guidance, you can become their go-to for helping them build, enjoy and then pass on their financial legacy, one well-informed step at a time.

170M Americans need an estate plan. OneDigitalTrust offers a white-label, turnkey estate planning platform with pricing options tailored to the needs of individual credit unions and financial advisors.

Contact us today to learn more!