Fintech’s Next Frontier: Introducing Luminary

Feb 14, 2023

Feb 14, 2023

Legacy wealth planning has the potential to be transformative: in addition to the enduring economic and philanthropic benefits, the satisfaction of knowing this aspect of your life’s work will persist is incalculable. However, the field of trusts and estates (T&E), as it exists today, is one of the messiest, most complicated, and lowest-tech areas of finance remaining. Between advisors, attorneys, CPAs, and clients, hundreds of thousands of stakeholders are stuck with manual, fragmented, time-consuming processes, resulting in untold mistakes and missed opportunities. Only a small fraction of families have access to the most advanced T&E strategies, and even these are constrained by slow, brittle, duct-taped tooling that can’t handle reporting or entity management at scale.

It’s against this backdrop that we introduce Luminary, the latest company from 8VC’s Build program. Luminary was founded on the conviction that T&E should be modernized and democratized in the form of an industry-standard software platform, available to every advisor practicing today. This will not only improve individual outcomes, but also raise the bar for the whole industry. Everyone wins with more streamlined and transparent workflows, leading to more idea generation and value creation, and less time wrangling paper and fixing mistakes - especially for RIAs and family offices. Over the long term, Luminary has a unique chance to own the infrastructure for T&E as a field - while giving RIAs the tools to make T&E a fully supported co-specialty.

Modernizing T&E presents a massive opportunity. Over the next generation, ~$80 trillion will change hands in the US alone. A significant portion of this wealth is subject to estate taxes today, a number that will rise dramatically in 2026 when current taxation thresholds are scheduled to be cut in half (barring new legislation). 

However, the obstacles are similarly formidable. When a client’s focus begins to shift from making more money to leaving a meaningful legacy, the modern tech stack doesn’t exist. Excel and email are the state of the art, even in larger family offices. As a result, it’s impossible to consolidate all of the relevant data and structure into one place. This, in turn, prevents advisors and clients from exploring strategies and scenarios dynamically and intuitively. The lack of collaboration options not only inhibits advisor-client relationships, but also makes it harder to work with other parties, principally CPAs and attorneys, who will be actively drafting and reviewing relevant forms and documents. The steepest cost, though, is opportunity: with more resources, expert planning and active, high-yield investment, more charities and causes could achieve dramatically greater benefits.

The Luminary product vision is fundamentally about creating trusted, stable, multi-generational infrastructure for financial management. This entails substantial upfront investment and technical difficulty: on top of the inherent challenge of building a system of record, Luminary must combine multiple complex data-intensive workflows in an intuitive way, while maintaining interoperability with adjacent systems and enabling multi-tenant collaboration. 

Luminary has started by building a foundation that allows the layering of specialized functionality and strategies on top - while supporting new user personas and unlocking additional value. This is part of what makes Luminary so powerful: it doesn’t simply digitize tasks that used to be manual, it’s a force multiplier for the skills and knowledge of each contributor to the legacy planning process.

The Luminary product vision combines workflow automation with the augmentation of human expertise to bring efficacy and precision to legacy giving, in three phases:

  • Design: Advisors can build multiple scenarios, cleanly exploring more sophisticated options and testing performance outcomes in real time.
  • Collaboration: Luminary allows advisors to work dynamically, iteratively, and intuitively with their more sophisticated clients, exploring different strategies and revisiting and updating them as well.   Advisors can also work with attorneys to create structures and documents, backed by real-time asset information and scenario illustrations.
  • Execution and reporting: Luminary’s reporting module effortlessly communicates the holistic performance of tax and transfer activities, highlighting all the metrics clients care about. Luminary also captures and surfaces all client to-dos, upcoming responsibilities, and responsible parties.

In addition to its many native functions, Luminary will integrate deeply with third-party tools used in T&E processes, including functions such as CRMs, asset reporting, and document management.

Launching an 8VC Build company means we are co-founders as well as investors. This requires us to form a vision around a problem still unaddressed by top technical culture, and join forces with exceptional leaders to refine and operationalize that vision. The Luminary team possesses a diversity of strengths and experiences, united by a common purpose. 

  • CEO David Barnard ran private wealth management for AllianceBernstein, overseeing more than $100 billion in client assets, and has served multiple philanthropic organizations as a director or trustee. 
  • Head of Engineering Ian Lyons built a wide range of apps and platform components over eight years at Blend, from the early pre-product days to post-IPO. 
  • CPO David St. Geme held early product leadership roles at Blend, Origin and Addepar, gaining deep experience building zero to one and shipping for the real world. 

Together, they combine incredible depth and breadth in wealth management, wealth tech, and more generally, building products and services around some of the biggest decisions in life. Just as importantly, they’ve enlisted a stellar early team of like-minded contributors to magnify the vision.

My involvement in Luminary represents both a logical next step, and a meaningful one. I co-founded Addepar to create an operating system for investment management, and later co-founded Opto to make private markets available to all investors. Through my own philanthropic ventures, and getting to know some of the top family offices, I’ve seen the disparity between technology for creating wealth, and strategically reallocating it. In fact, T&E is one of the last core elements of wealth management yet to be reimagined in dynamic, digital form. Doing so will unlock transformative possibilities for advisors, with positive network effects reaching numerous other players in their orbit. More broadly, 8VC has a strong tradition of pairing veteran operators with outstanding technologists and entrepreneurs to address the most glaring problems in their industry, and the Luminary team is off to an exceptional start.

The fact that T&E is highly procedural can obscure that it is also intensely personal. Wealth transfers, while legacies endure. Luminary was created to ensure both ends are achieved with the utmost care and intentionality.

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