The Globe and Mail

Power Corp.’s Portage Ventures backs financial software provider Conquest Planning as it looks to expand

It took some convincing for Mark Evans to come out of retirement.

In 2011, Mr. Evans, the founder and chief executive of Emerging Information Systems Inc., a financial planning software provider, sold his company to U.S. software company Zywave for $160-million.

“At that point I retired; I thought ‘I’m not doing this again,’” he said. But in 2018, some of his former business partners stressed that there was still work to be done. Financial planning software was still not serving the needs of its clients.

“Nobody’s really figured this issue out for how to get financial planning to the masses,” Mr. Evans recalls his colleagues saying. “It’s too time-consuming, too trial-and-error with the tools. We need to figure out a better way. And there’s an opportunity here.”

That opportunity became Conquest Planning Inc., a Winnipeg-based financial planning software provider that helps financial advisers develop and rank a series of financial strategies that suit a client’s needs and goals.

Conquest announced Wednesday that it raised $7.5-million in funding. It will use the investment to hire more talent, expand into Britain this year and enter the U.S. market next year.

The fresh capital comes from Fidelity International Strategic Ventures, IGM Financial and Portage Ventures, all of which have invested in the company before. Portage, which focuses on fintech investments, is a subsidiary of Power Corp., an early backer of Wealthsimple, a fintech giant.

Mr. Evans said Conquest takes the pain out of financial planning, which he says most people approach the same way they do when they visit the dentist.

“You don’t really want to go, you’re afraid of what’s going to be involved,” he said.

“The planner sits down and says, ‘Well, let’s change these numbers, let’s see what happens,’ … It’s really time-consuming; it’s error prone; it’s really hard for the consumer that’s participating to follow what’s going on.”

Mr. Evans said Conquest’s product is more intuitive than older financial planning software, and that the pandemic provided an ideal environment to show off his software’s ease of use.

Advisers can “build a plan with a client remotely at any time. And the clients can look at their plans online and the advisers can see what the clients are playing around with in what we call our sandbox area,” he said.

Conquest has six enterprise clients that represent about 15,000 financial advisers, including Canada Life and Investment Planning Counsel. Mr. Evans said the company will be adding more clients in the coming months.

IGM, one of the three investors, is also a Conquest client. Mr. Evans said he has a long-standing relationship with Jeff Carney, who was IGM’s CEO until September, 2020, and now advises that company.

“He was like, ‘We need this. This is the next generation of financial advice and we want to be invested as well,’” Mr. Evans recalled.

He said it was too early to seriously consider selling the company or exploring a public listing, but that his investors are well-placed to advise him on the next move.

“We can focus on building the company, and they can give us advice at different points in our evolution about what options we might want to look at.”

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