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

Quote from Sonny Kapoor, Co-Founder/CEO, OneDigitalTrust: 'Death anxiety’ can create cognitive distortion, which makes people act irrationally, such as putting off essential 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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