8 Cool Tamarac Updates from the Envestnet Advisor Summit

Envestnet Tamarac Conference

Creole cuisine, bead necklaces and Saints football at the Metrodome are three things that I come to my mind when I think of New Orleans.

But last week, my thoughts were firmly focused on the Envestnet Advisor Summit, which was held in The Big Easy for the first time. With over 1,500 attendees, Envestnet’s client conference is starting to rival the size of the RIA custodians.

This is a quick review of some of the hop topics, new product announcements and other excitement that went on.

Envestnet CEO Jud Bergman always starts off the Advisor Summit with a history lesson of sorts.  This year, it was the innovation technology in the food industry that was instrumental in both the expansion of the United States and the overall improvement in nutrition that our citizens enjoyed.  Bergman linked this to Envestnet’s new branding of “financial wellness” as the goal for advisors and how his firm will support them with new and innovative software features.

Through a combination of organic growth and aggressive acquisitions, Envestnet is now biggest player in both fee-based advisory technology and turnkey asset management platform (TAMP) markets.

Bergman defined five pillars that make up financial wellness:

  • Planning – Goals-based financial planning has been gaining momentum for years and especially picked up steam during the DOL crisis. I’m glad to see this included since I believe it’s one of the best methods for advisors to deliver holistic advice. However, many competitors are also working to integrate it into their workflows and end-to-end processes.
  • Budgeting & Spending – Only the most gung-ho planners insist on working through their clients’ spending habits and making them setup a budget. Building this into Tamarac would be a differentiator that  could be used to demonstrate how wellness in inherent to advisors’ value added and would make them  better stewards of their clients’ financial health.
  • Investing, managing credit, protecting – I was trying to come up with a catchy term for the inclusion of this in the Envestnet messaging. They are “Mint-ifying” their system by adding credit monitoring, similar to what Mint.com does. Although, I don’t expect the Tamarac portal to start offering deals on credit card to clients.

Impressive numbers with increases across the board from Tamarac. Two important milestones reached this year were the 1,000th RIA firm and $1 trillion in combined AUM.  They also upped their control over $1 billion RIAs from 35% to 40%.

There were 290 RIAs with at least $1 billion in AUM, according to InvestmentNews. Those firms represent 15% of the total, yet they control 60% of assets, around $2.4 trillion.

But the number of $1B AUM RIAs keeps inching up every year due to M&A and a rising market. So, maintaining the 35% market share year over year was hard work, but expanding it to 40% was much harder.

My first reaction to these stats was that Tamarac firms might have more tech-savvy and younger clients. But their market share is so large that this couldn’t be the case. I’d like to see a survey on why their clients are using the portal, how long they have been using it, and how long they’ve been with their current advisor.

77% is an average across their entire base of RIAs, which means, of course, that a significant portion of firms are seeing lower access results. I think the median value would be more representative of how many clients interact with the portal on a regular basis.

I know that Fidelity’s eMoneyAdvisor’s portal is a big problem for Tamarac even as they have to partner with them and facilitate data exchange with the financial planning tool.  They don’t want to lose any touch points to competitors since it reduces their stickiness.

All in all, an average of 77% of clients is still a solid result and reflects well on the portal’s usability, functionality and as well as Tamarac’s training of advisors to push clients to the portal and away from paper reports and statements.

Explicitly including data aggregation as part of the advice lifecycle plays to Envestnet’s strength through their Yodlee division. It also places them at top of mind when going against eMoneyAdvisor, which has the #1 client portal and their own aggregation technology.

Notice that Oversight and Monitoring is at the top of the pyramid, which is part of their new “financial wellness” mantra.

This announcement is about leveraging Envestnet’s OpenENV initiative to provide third parties with access to their core platform functionality via APIs. Envestnet has grown way too large to be building customized solutions for more than the biggest clients. They need to stick to their product roadmap and release schedule if they have any chance of delivering on their promises. This partnership with AI Labs will enable clients to design custom portals, dashboards and other tools on top of Envestnet to help them differentiate their offerings to both advisors and their clients.

Remember that many banks, broker-dealers, RIAs and RIA rollups are fighting for the same pool of advisors and clients. They need innovative solutions that offer unique functionality, efficiency and bells and whistles to attract the best advisors and advisor teams. AI Labs has the potential to deliver on this.  (See Winners of WealthTech: Lori Hardwick)

I didn’t know my advisor could help me with my property tax assessments? I had to pay a real estate agent $125 to pull some comparable properties from the multiple listing service. It was money well spent since I was able to lower my tax bill by over $2,000 or 15% (I live in New Jersey, in case you’re wondering why my property taxes are so high).

This sounds like this advisor might have used Yodlee data to help with this, but I’m not sure. It is an interesting service to offer as part of the financial wellness campaign. Combining financial advice/planning with accounting services is becoming more common as well as vice versa.  A recent survey by Moss Adams reported that 50% of accounting firms have added financial planning services.

And Schwab’s 2015 RIA Benchmarking Report showed that 53% of RIA firms have at least one CPA on staff.  Could RIAs do more to find ways to help clients reduce their taxes besides just tax-aware trading or filing their returns?

Onboarding is often the first time a new client interacts with people other than their advisor as operations and other staff members move data and paperwork through the process. Making this process smoother and 100% automated should be the goal for every wealth management platform vendor.  It’s good to see Tamarac heading in the direction of completely electronic account opening, especially since some of their competitors already offer it. (See Comparing The Best Digital Advice “Robo-Advisor” Platforms For RIAs)

Brandon Rembe, Tamarac’s CTO, also announced a few CRM features that had been built outside of the Advisor CRM module. These include Tasks, for assigning to do items across a firm, Leads, for tracking prospective clients, and Templates, which can define a set of default configurations that can be applied to a group of accounts.

The new automated account opening process is currently in beta test with TD Ameritrade and Schwab, Rembe stated.

There is a ongoing struggle between end-to-end platforms like Tamarac and standalone apps that focus on specific functionality.  While they have to cooperate when it comes to common clients, the gloves come off when it comes to copying anything they think can enhance their platform’s usability and/or improve the overall client experience. (See What Exactly is Riskalyze Building?)

Tamarac can rebalance 10,000 accounts per minute, but someone still needs to review the orders generated to decide if they should be executed.  This new Trade Summary screen is designed to combine information that was previously spread across in a few different screens and should be a better organized view that reduces the time it takes to review and approve the rebalance results.  (See Advisor’s Guide To Choosing The Best Portfolio Rebalancing Software)

Sometimes it’s the little things that get you excited. Quick document scanning with your smartphone camera has been around for a while and many clients are already using it for check deposits, so training shouldn’t be an issue. I predict this will quickly become one of the most heavily utilized features.

Anything that can reduce the need for MS Excel is probably a good thing.  This new report is part of a push by Envestnet to add more business intelligence features to both their Tamarac and ENV2 platforms.

Another BI addition that will soon become a popular screen for advisors to stalk their clients as they log into the portal.  I’d like to see alerts added to prompt the advisor if say, any client logs on more than X times in a single day/week/month, which probably means that they are nervous about the market. The benchmarking should also be useful to know if your clients are utilizing the portal as often or in similar ways to the rest of the Tamarac client base.

From speaking with representatives from MoneyGuide Pro and eMoney Advisor, everyone seems to be getting along swimmingly and no one is worried about these new features slowly morphing into a financial planning product that could take business away from them.  I’m not so sure this is true.  There have to be some percentage of advisors that don’t really use a lot of the software features either because they don’t understand them or they don’t have time.  Having a subset of functionality built into Tamarac will definitely result in some of these advisors dropping their subscription to a standalone application and either make do with the limitations or enjoy the cost savings since they now have what they need for no additional cost.

It seems that goals-based planning will not be enough for Tamarac as they will also be including cash-flow based planning as well.  With Yodlee being able to pull in all of a client’s expenses and liabilities, it will be interesting to see how they design the U/X to allow advisors to select which method to use.

I had a lot of discussions about Envestnet’s expansion into financial planning.  The 2015 Finance Logix acquisition was clearly a warning shot across the bows of eMoneyAdvisor and MoneyGuide Pro that the days of Envestnet’s client base being an open sales pipeline could be coming to an end.

But the slow pace of integration of financial planning functionality into both Tamarac and ENV 2 combined with the shutting down of the Finance Logix stand-alone application has provided pure-play competitors with more breathing room.

This year’s Advisor Summit has included a number of financial planning feature announcements.  This family tree view is definitely targeting competitors like eMoney, Advizr and maybe even Naviplan who all offer support for trust and estates.

Envestnet Tamarac Conference

A bunch of other features were also announced at the conference including:

  • Sleeve-level reporting
  • Ability to purchase individual bonds
  • OMGEO Oasys Integration – for firms that use the Tamarac OMS, they will be able to connect to prime brokers and handle trade-aways
  • HiCharts for dynamic reporting
  • PDF Builder – create any custom layout and put data where clients want it

The big new for Advisor CRM was the switch to cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics 365 with full integration with the Office 365 applications.

Tamarac is also creating a consulting team to help with customizations.  This is a part of Envestnet’s attempt to broaden their ecosystem to cover everything an advisor touches.