The eHarmony of Robo-Advisor Platforms?
Implementing an online advisory offering allows a wealth management firm to caste a wider net and incubate clients with smaller accounts until they are able to direct more of their assets into their investment accounts. There are now a multitude of vendors offering competing platforms that can be leveraged to create this alternate sales channel.
Other robo-advisor platforms have been chasing their tails trying to recreate the Wealthfront experience, which is a losing proposition, Roy insisted. I assume he was referring to competitors such as Betterment Institutional, Upside, and Charles Schwab. (See 4 Robo-Advisors Go Head-to-Head at T3 Conference)
The Jemstep Advisor Pro platform is like a cross between Morningstar and eHarmony, Roy claimed. What the Jemstep management team, which includes CEO Kevin Cimring and Chairman Michael Blumenthal, have done is to differentiate their outsourced offering by building functionality that enhances an advisor’s ability to convert prospects into clients.
According to Roy, Jemstep does this in three ways:
- offering a free portfolio analysis and account aggregation for prospective clients
- integration with Salesforce CRM to automatically create contact records when prospects register
- a dynamic proposal process with automated segmentation of incoming prospects
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Many online advisory systems begin at the new account opening step of the client process. Some vendors offer basic prospect-facing tools that can be integrated into a firm’s website. But Jemstep takes this to another other level by offering services that are squarely in the marketing category such as prospecting and referral networks.
Other vendors have offered marketing and prospecting services to advisors, but they are usually point solutions and would require integration into an advisory platform. Jemstep, which already boasts 12,000 registered users, has their whole process tightly connected to provide a seamless experience for both the client and advisor.
While prospecting tools placed on the advisor’s website have become standard, Jemstep adds a few nice twists. One could be called an ‘exit poll’, which is a little box in the lower left corner of the screen that only appears if the use starts the signup process but does not complete it. It prompts the user to select the reason they decided not to sign up. This can be helpful to understand the motivation of prospective clients. I haven’t seen any other robo-platforms include this feature.
Data aggregation services have become a hot topic in recent weeks after Envestnet’s acquisition of Yodlee. They have been seen steady integration into most wealth management and personal financial management (PFM) platforms and could even be considered a ubiquitous component that end investors have come to expect. (See 5 Reasons Why the Envestnet Acquisition of Yodlee Was Brilliant)
Data aggregation is a key component of Jemstep’s prospecting process and feeds their portfolio analysis tools. Roy reported that 55% of prospects successfully link their accounts, a big increase from the 25% who had been linking previously. He believes the uptick it is the result of enhancements they have made to the user experience for prospective investors. (See What Robo-Advisors Can Teach Us About Focusing on the Client)
The benefits of Jemstep’s account aggregation is being felt by clients as 6-8% of new clients transfer additional accounts in less than six months with no human intervention. If advisors spend some time working their new book of Jemstep business, they could see an uptick in wallet share they capture.
Jemstep’s free aggregation service includes most account types including 401(k), 403(b), and 457 retirement accounts. This provides advisors with a fuller picture of each prospect’s financial condition.
Automated advisory services have enticed Millennials and self-directed investors with rock-bottom fees, which have resulted in low average portfolio sizes. Jemstep has an average account size of just $70,000, a pittance by RIA standards, but head-and-shoulders above pure robo-advisors like Betterment, which averages just $25,000. (See The Changing Face Of Robo-Advisors)
Data aggregation services offer the possibility of access to additional AUM that an investor may have at other firms. The average size of aggregated accounts of Jemstep prospects is robust $250,000, according to Roy, and provides a tempting target for advisors if they can leverage their new client relationship.
Once the prospects’ accounts are linked, Jemstep pipes the data into a number of powerful portfolio analysis tools. The output of these tools helps to communicate the value that the advisory firm has to offer, Roy pointed out.
One of the tools is a hypothetical back-testing analysis that compares the prospect’s current portfolio vs the one proposed by the advisor vs the S&P500 benchmark. This functionality is not easy to develop nor cheap to license! However, smart RIA’s that use Jemstep will be able to leverage this to help convert prospects into clients by visually demonstrating their value added in asset allocation.
A lot of advisors spend most of their workday embedded within their CRM system, since prospecting and servicing existing clients is a key component of their success. How new leads are managed can be the difference between a successful conversion and a failure.
Jemstep has built a seamless integration into Salesforce for transferring data on new prospects from the advisor’s website. As soon as a prospect enters their information, it is sent to Salesforce in realtime and a new lead record is automatically created and populated. This avoids manual entry that is prone to error and takes valuable time from the advisor or her staff.
Inside the Lead Detail page in Salesforce, Jemstep has created an Advisor Pro section that stores critical data about the prospect such as their risk level, target retirement age, annual income, current portfolio value, and any held away assets.
The tight integration between advice and CRM means that the warm lead has instantly been turned into an enterprise resource, Roy pointed out. This facilitates the integration of the Jemstep service into the advisor’s practice, he noted. (See Which CRM is Right for You? Envestnet|Tamarac’s Advisor)
Jemstep is differentiating themselves with value-added services and integration into key third party applications that are critical to an advisor’s workflow.
Jemstep offers automated client segmentation of incoming prospects, which can be configured by the RIA. , for accounts above the minimum AUM, can direct accounts into the RIA’s book and have a traditional advisor relationship. For smaller accounts, they can be maintained via Jemstep’s automated TAMP offering.
It’s not clear how technology vendors like Jemstep will be impacted by Salesforce’s recently announced wealth management offering, the eponymously named Salesforce for Wealth Management. What has occurred in many other markets is that the arrival of large or otherwise dominant competitor provides free advertising to a larger audience than the smaller competitor could reach and also validates the need for the specific product or service.
Jemstep has entered into a number of additional partnerships to offer advisors more tightly integrated solutions. These include Fox Financial Planning Network for practice management and Trugale, Egan Associates who provide branding, digital marketing and websites for advisors.
Dynamic Proposal Process
I once heard a talk by marketing guru Guy Kawasaki about what he refers to as customer “enchantment”. He calls it “the art of changing hearts, minds and actions.” It goes beyond simple customer engagement, which lots of online marketing folks already handle.
Jemstep seems to have taken the enchantment concept to heart and built it into the heart of their system. They invite prospective customers to become part of the proposal process, giving them a window into their own financial worlds. Many of them probably have never seen all of their financial information presented in a comprehensive way before. It’s enchantment that creates a much stronger connection and nudges them from lukewarm to hot very quickly.
Jemstep Advisor Pro includes a slick proposal process that does a good job of gathering enough information to place the prospective client into a suitable model portfolio without overwhelming the user with a barrage of questions.
Roy don’t believe that most investors understand the impact of their risk choices. This is why Jemstep implemented a two-factor risk model that combines determining the prospect’s stated risk with their ability to tolerate risk. (See How Risk Tolerance Software Is Disrupting Wealth Management)
The questionnaire process is configurable, Roy explained. Firms that deploy Jemstep can add additional questions to better define a prospect’s suitability. You don’t want a 70-year-old to be able to select an aggressive portfolio and risk all of his savings, he warned.
The Jemstep process is inherently goals-based, Roy claimed, with 90% of investors choosing retirement as their primary goal. As part of their retirement calculations, their system provides an estimate of future income that will be provided by Social Security. This reduces the need for the advisor to rely on a financial planning tool if only a ‘light’ goals-based plan is needed. Other popular goals included education, major purchases, and wealth building. Roy listed. (See Which Financial Planning Software is Right For You?)
One carefully planned aspect of their process is the use of progressive disclosures to avoid overwhelming the client with information, Roy noted. It is a guided flow to the point where the prospects are ready to engage with the firm.
It seems to be working well, since over 100,000+ clients have registered (accepted an advisor’s ADV) through the Jemstep platform, Roy claimed. This includes users from both their early direct-to-consumer service (for self-directed investors only, they never want to compete with their clients) and the current Advisor Pro platform, he stated. (See Robo-Advisors Can Not Live by Millennials Alone: ASI’s Andrew Rudd)
Orion Advisor Services Integration
Jemstep recently teamed up with Orion Advisor Services to offer a robo platform that combines technology from both firms. Jemstep will handle the front end, which will run on Orion’s portfolio accounting system, mobile apps and reporting. Since this is a technology-only solution, the RIA will be responsible for asset allocation, investment selection, and trading.
There are currently no plans for Jemstep to become a TAMP, Roy insisted. However, they are in discussion with some TAMP firms about how to increase their reach to additional advisor segments.
A lot of automation has been built into Jemstep’s integration with Orion. New households can be created automatically and the risk assessment is passed through along with model assignment. (See Orion Advisor Services Pumps Up Financial Planning with ASI Integration)
They have achieved a form of straight through processing that Roy referred to as Rapid Client Onboarding. A new client can go from prospect to ready to be traded in just 10-12 minutes with no human intervention required.
Jemstep Advisor Pro – Future Plans
Roy gave me a sneak peak at some upcoming features in their pipeline. They are planning new integrations with third party vendors such as iRebal and Tamarac. They also intend to build interfaces to additional custodians since Roy reports that they are being pushed for it by some of their larger clients.
There are some pundits who say that financial advisors could go the way of travel agents as more investors migrate to robo-advisors and self-directed platforms. Advisors that do not adjust their business model and support an online advice distribution channel risk seeing their business slowly drained away as existing clients retire and the remaining pool of new clients shrinks.
Implementing Jemstep’s robo platform would enable advisors to integrate an automated, low touch advice offering that can fill their client pipeline with Millennials and other small accounts that can one day grow into full-service clients.
The Advisor Pro service can be transformative in the RIA space, if Jemstep can execute on their partnership with Orion and continue to extend their platform with innovative features and services that help advisors convert a wide range of prospects into new clients.