In the age of Robinhood and robo-advisers, a downtown financial management firm is getting in on the investment app fray.
Taylor Hoffman launched its new stock-trading app called Avidus last month. The company hopes to carve out a niche that pairs the investment app concept with in-house pros who manage users’ investments.
Founded in 2017 and with $325 million under management for high net-worth clients, Taylor Hoffman is banking that it can leverage that experience to bring users to its app amid high-profile competitors like Robinhood.
Firm co-founder Brandon Taylor said Avidus sets itself apart because the company’s employees handle the grunt work of investing in stocks — as opposed to Robinhood, in which users handle their investments themselves.
“We’re one of the few ‘do-it-for-me’ apps. If you want to invest in stocks but you want someone to do it for you, that’s us,” Taylor said.
Users can invest a minimum of $100 in Avidus. The company currently offers one investment strategy built on stocks from 30 American companies across different sectors. Additional strategies are expected in the future, potentially to include alternative investments such as wine or art.
The company generates revenue off the app with a 1 percent management fee per account. Taylor, speaking last week, said the app had 60 users thus far.
The company financed the development of the app with $1.4 million in capital that was raised in a friends-and-family round in 2021.
Taylor said the company used the pandemic months to plan for the future and landed on the app as a new offering for existing customers while also opening the company up to new clients.
“We spent a lot of time during the pandemic thinking through our culture and the direction where we wanted to go,” he said. “I think we felt like we wanted to do more than we were doing and open up professional money management to people who are younger and communities not traditionally targeted by Wall Street.”
Taylor said about half of the firm’s clients are in the Richmond area, while the other half are elsewhere in the country though they also have some sort of Richmond connection. The hope is that the Avidus app will allow the company to break out beyond its usual networks to find a wider national customer base.
“‘Achieve scale’ is defined to us as bringing on people none of us know,” Taylor said.
The app is available on Apple’s App Store. Taylor Hoffman officially launched the app to the wider public in January after a soft launch in October.
The company has 11 employees out of its 6,400-square-foot office in Two James Center.
Taylor, who has more than 20 years of experience in wealth management, founded the firm with Gabe Hoffman several years after Taylor hired Hoffman at a major Wall Street investment firm around 2013.
Taylor is a VCU alum and Hoffman graduated from Campbell University in North Carolina.
As for the Avidus moniker, the firm had some challenges in finding an unclaimed name for the app, and ultimately hired a consultant to aid the search.
That consultant met with the team and came up with 20 options. Avidus, a portmanteau of “avid” and “us,” rose to the top because it suggested enthusiasm and community, Taylor said.
“We realized it was really difficult,” Taylor said. “Every cool name you can think of had been taken.”