Envestnet Rebrands ENV2 as a Financial Wellness Platform

Envestnet advisor summit

Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment.

I’ve already written a summary of the recent Envestnet Advisor Summit, from a Tamarac perspective. (See 8 Cool Tamarac Updates from the Envestnet Advisor Conference)  But, I still have a ton of notes and tweets regarding the two other legs of the Envestnet technology stool; ENV2 and Yodlee. So, why not write another blog post?

Envestnet made some adjustments to the schedule for this year’s summit by compressing the schedule from three days down to two.  While this makes it easier to fit into the schedule of busy advisors, broker-dealer and bank operations people and executives, it did present difficulties for those of us who were interested in attending sessions across product lines.

This is a good problem to have! Sorry, we have too much interesting software for you to get to all of it in just a few days.  Envestnet has done an admirable job keeping Tamarac and ENV2 as separate and distinct distribution channels while merging the back-end plumbing to reduce maintenance and support costs without compromising the defining attributed of each product that clients love.

The ENV2 platform roadmap shows that they’re halfway through updates to Portfolio Administration and conversion to the React Mobile Development Toolkit. React works across both iOS and Android so you save time by not having to build out a native code base for each platform.

Envestnet shared updates that were completed on their client portal, advisor dashboard as well with the reboot of their digital advice offering.

Putting on my marketing hat, I think this re-branding is a savvy move. I’m sure most of the industry is as tired as I am of hearing the same old jargon being spewed out in conferences, press releases and sales presentations. “Holistic advice”

The competition is closing in on both sides of Envestnet’s business; RIAs as well as banks and broker-dealers and they need to push differentiators that can set themselves apart from the standard wealth management functionality that everyone is now offering. Financial wellness can be the ticket.

My consulting firm, Ezra Group, makes a living by helping enterprises make technology decisions. One of the necessary evils of the request for proposal (RFP) process (which we are usually put in charge of) is the seemingly endless feature checklists. If a vendor can’t check off all the key boxes, they usually don’t make the first cut.

Honestly, we have never had a client ask to include credit management as part of an RFP for a wealth management platform. Same goes for identity protection. We won’t know for a while if this push gains traction with prospective clients, but Envestnet is trying to expand the key feature checklist.

By pushing the envelope to try and expand the functionality hat is considered table stakes to include budgeting, managing credit as well as insurance, Envestnet can create a market all to themselves and hopefully lock out competitors.

There have already been a few articles written on Envestnet’s new insurance exchange (including this one from InvestmentNews) so I won’t recap all of the proposed features.  I’ll just say that I believe this is a brilliant move that can create an entirely new revenue stream that could rival what they generate from their third party manager network, which is already the largest in the industry.

Envestnet’s growing market share will become harder and harder to increase, so finding new products to sell is a crucial part of their growth plans.  Being able to act as the middleman between a bevy of insurance carriers and their 90,000+ advisor base where they can add a markup to every annuity and other product sold is a veritable gold mine for Envestnet.

I believe they will have some measure of success right out of the gate. However, their ability to drive sales to the level required to move the needle will require the right combination of logistics, back-end connectivity and intuitive and seamless user experience which they haven’t always been able to deliver in the past.

The insurance industry current generates almost one trillion dollars (try saying that in your best Dr. Evil voice) in revenue and is forecast to grow by almost 4% annually over the next five years. That’s a tremendous opportunity for a firm like Envestnet to enter, especially with their market share in wealth management to leverage.

Their Insurance Exchange will offer a wide selection of annuities including fixed, fixed-indexed, variable, contingent-deferred and private placement.

I’d like to see Envestnet build their U/X to be something like financial planning tool RetireUp, which provides a widget that allows an advisor to add an annuity to a client’s plan and instantly see the effect on cash flow. There is a slider that can adjust the amount to fund the annuity that easily demonstrates how it can cover future shortfalls. The annuity can also be purchased inside the application with all the correct paperwork being populated and submitted electronically. (See Stranger Things Are Happening to Financial Planning Software)

This sounds like the exact solution Envestnet president Bill Crager meant when he said about their planned functionality, “You select the right insurance solution, hit the button, and we will work with insurance firms to make sure that executes.”

I’m really excited to see the first version of the Envestnet Insurance Exchange when it launches towards the end of this year.

The advisor dashboard is an important part of any wealth management platform. I’m still surprised when we run an RFP and see vendor demos where they have a weak advisor dashboard or none at all!  There is so much data coming into advisors from all directions that they absolutely need a way to visually engage with it and manage it all on a daily basis.  Envestnet has been slowly enhancing their dashboard and the most recent release looks impressive, especially with the business intelligence and practice management features they added.

Wealth management had become so commoditized over the past few years, so we’re always happily surprised when a vendor goes in a direction to differentiate themselves in an area that we feel will deliver enhanced value for our bank and broker-dealer clients.

Envestnet finally integrated their Finance Logix acquisition into their branding by attaching the Logix name to their self-directed financial planning software.

I can’t say enough about how much work Envestnet has done to integrate their Yodlee acquisition and leverage every ounce of their innovation through their Envestnet ecosystem.  Linking their data aggregation services into Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker will provide endless value across the board and enable Envestnet to continue to offer innovative solutions to clients.

And on top of that, their division’s revenue was up an astounding 44%, which shows they didn’t get distracted by having to support their parent company’s endless needs for data and analytics.  Some pundits thought Yodlee would lose market share as prospective client shied away from doing business with a potential competitor. But that doesn’t seem to have been the case at all.  Even as competitors like Quovo, Pershing’s Albridge, Morningstar’s ByAllAccounts and Fiserv’s AllData (formerly CashEdge) all are thriving, they don’t seem to have made a dent in Yodlee’s business.   (See 5 Reasons Why the Envestnet Acquisition of Yodlee Was Brilliant)

Over this holiday weekend, you should take a few minutes and read my interview with Anil Arora, Yodlee’s CEO.  While he has been with Yodlee for the past 18 years, he has been able to leverage his prior experience at consumer products companies to keep their business moving forward. 

Americans have reach a new high with $13 trillion of debt. The government seems to have no problem piling it on ($21 trillion and counting) so why are we surprised that consumers are following suit?

83% says they don’t have an emergency fund and more than 50% say they couldn’t come up $500 if they needed it.  Sounds like the reason that budgeting and micro-saving apps have become so popular among Millennials.  (See Acorns vs. Stash: Why Micro-Savings Apps Are The Wave of the Future)

Budgeting is the new social media. Share your budgets with your friends. How much do you spend on movies and wine versus your peer group? Are you paying too much for your gym membership? Advisors need to move from focusing solely on wealth to financial wellness, which will have to include expenses. Without crisp action-oriented recommendations, all the data in the world won’t help advisors.

That’s the price we pay for “free” checking!

I think you do need an advisor to get the Yodlee app, but it would be nice to release it direct to consumers as well.

Envestnet EnvisionIQ

More ways to integrate Yodlee throughout the Wide World of Envestnet.

Both Envestnet platforms need more of this U/X thinking. Stop burying the key data points in the middle of the report! Put it up at the top!

In fact, I would recommend that Envestnet offer an option to replace their entire ENV2 interface with just a voice-activated search bar.

  • “Envestnet, show me my investment models.”
  • “Envestnet, how many accounts are low on cash?”
  • “Envestnet, please enable prospect John Smith for access to the client portal.”Envestnet Advisor Summit

Some very cool functionality was demoed by Frank Coates, the former president and CEO of Coates Analytics who is now the Executive Managing Director at Envestnet|Yodlee Analytics.

It’s always exciting when a company thinks outside the box when designing product interfaces.  Coates showed this with their EnvisionIQ product and a UI take from an application that most of humanity is familiar with; the iTunes play list. By saving a list of the reports an advisor likes to review together, the system can display them in order anytime requested, without having to click and generate each one individually.

Coates also demoed integration with the Amazon Alexa smart speaker where he asked it, “Alexa, what is my new money report?” while in his car and the system read out the salient details of the report. Then he can just skip to the next report and go through the entire list very easily.  This also works on any smartphone either by voice or standard selection options.

But the ability to flip through reports like you’re moving through news stories is quite powerful and will be a big time saver for advisors on the go.

I’ve seen a lot of these surveys over the past year or two, which all claim that investors really don’t like robo-advisors all that much and still long to speak with a human advisor.

But I’m not buying it as a long-term upward trend. Quite the opposite. I question the methodology used and believe that the number are much worse than reported and will continue to decline.  Advisors need to step up their game to stay in the business.  Software will continue to evolve and improve and offer more of what used to be the advisor’s bread and butter value.

Very interesting session at the the very end of the conference with Ted Benna, the father of the 401(k).  Benna was very adamant that most 401(k) plans offer too many investment options and plan participants simply aren’t equipped to decide which ones are right for them, no matter how much you try to educate them. 

Another one of the system quirks that drive Benna crazy is that participants can tap their 401(k) when they change jobs.  Money that is earmarked for retirement should stay that way, no matter how many times someone changes employers, Benna insisted.

Envestnet Advisor Summit

I couldn’t resist jumping in the line to get a photo with a financial rock star!