10 Transformational Trends from the T3 Enterprise Conference

T3 Enterprise Conference

The high rollers were out, in Las Vegas last week, laying down their bets and placing wagers on contestants in high stakes games.

Except these players were going all in on wealth management technology at the T3 Enterprise Conference, which was held for the second year in a row at the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Vendors always come out in droves for T3 conferences, which is a testament to the force of nature that is Joel Bruckenstein.  Thanks, Joel!

Risk Management

The evaluation of investor and portfolio risk has been significantly enhanced as a slew of new products have hit the market that help advisors and their clients better quantify how their view and handle risk.

ATA RiskStation

This is a brand new application that launched here at their first T3 event.  Their founder and CEO, Aladin Abughazaleh, walked us through a demo and stoked some interesting discussions on their positioning in the market.

While it is true that the risk profiling and assessment field already has some big names, they all target individual advisors and deal with one client at a time.  Based on their demo, that is not where ATA RiskStation is looking to play.

Their functionality is clearly targeting the enterprise by providing an aggregated view of portfolio risk across the entire firm. They offer the ability to drill down to geographic regions, branches, individual advisors and then accounts.

https://twitter.com/ianmckennaftrc/status/1054486881600073728

ATA allows firms to set global risk tolerance levels and this enterprise dashboard highlights accounts that have moved outside of the predefined bands. It is a tool that many broker-dealers, banks and RIA aggregators should be looking into to get a better handle on risk exposure across all of their advisors.

The application also includes real-time portfolio stress testing with a range of market downturns and external economic shocks like oil & gold prices spikes/drops.

Finmason

Finmason is a provider of risk management and financial planning tools and technology.

Finmason has built a strategy around partnerships and becoming the engine inside many other applications. Their list of partners include Orion Advisor using their APIs to power Monte Carlo calculations and Totum Risk leveraging them for portfolio analytics.

At T3 Enterprise, Finamason announced the business intelligence provider AdvisorClarity will be integrating Finmason investment analytics tools into their platform via their robust set of APIs.

Cybersecurity

This is an area that does not get a lot of attention at most wealth management technology conferences.  But it should.

There is a pressing need for multi-factor authentication (MFA) when accessing client data from remote locations plus adoption common standards & technical controls.

FCI Cyber & OS33

FCI is the new brand for the former Financial Computer, run by founder and CEO Brian Edelman. As a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP), FCI’s products and services protect private data, provide evidence of compliance to regulatory agencies (FINRA, SEC, NAIC, NYDFS, etc.), and delivers and remediates cyber compliance to endpoint systems.

Edelman announced a partnership with secure cloud services provider Workplace by S33 to enable advisors to protect client data in accordance with guidelines from FINRA and the NY Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) as the March 1, 2019 NYDFS deadline approaches. Along with Justin Kapahi, VP of Solutions & Security at OS33, they pointed out that US regulators are becoming more aggressive with fines for cyber failures, with Voya Financial getting a $1 million fine and Facebook being hit up for billions.

Edelman listed some of the top security risks facing financial institutions:

  • Misunderstanding cyber regulations
  • Underestimating the costs of a cyber breach and regulatory actions
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
  • Relying on end users to resolve cyber issues
  • Attestation of meeting cyber regulations with no evidence of compliance
  • Lack of incident response expertise

Executives will soon be held personally responsible for cyber breaches, Kapahi and Edelman noted, and the launch of the Cybersecurity Policy Enforcement System will protect wealth management firms from these issues.

The new cybersecurity dashboard from FCI and OS33 will track all data movements and user activity with screen videos for every computer connected to your network providing the compliance department with ⁦unprecedented audit capability.

OS33 has also developed an isolated, secure browser that allows remote users on public computers to safely access firm’s SaaS applications.

CleverDome

It is difficult for completely new ideas to take hold in any market. This has been especially true for CleverDome as they have been busy explaining the advantages to their community-based network security model to the financial services industry.

Spradlin, COO of United Planners, has announced a string of successful partnerships as firms climbing on board include Riskalyze, Redtail CRM and TD Ameritrade. (See Is CleverDome the Holy Grail of Cybersecurity?)

Financial Planning

Fiserv

Fiserv Investment Services has always been one of the top providers of wealth management technology with the most robust portfolio account, rebalancing, trading and reporting systems in the industry.

Financial planning is an area where they have not focused much attention, even though they acquired a strong technology provider back in 2010.  In 2018, the firm has re-launched their financial planning software as part of an integrated, end-to-end wealth management offering.

An advisor’s time is being stretched thin due to administrative tasks, with some advisors spending 40% of their time on non-client-facing work.  Fiserv wants to help advisor get this time back with their new financial planning  dashboard, which provides an intuitive view of everything and connects disparate tasks.

Fiserv’s Product Manager for Adviser Solutions, Igor Jonjic, reported that according to their survey, 73% of advisers said the financial planning process is too time-consuming and often it is cumbersome technology that doesn’t integrate well with other systems that becomes a major roadblock.

While it’s true that the features being offered by Fiserv’s financial planning solution is very similar to others on the market, what they offer that most lack is tight integration into their end-to-end wealth management platform.

This includes connectivity to their model management hub where the home office can create a set of models that get pushed down to advisors so they can access them through their integrated proposal generation tool. The clients can then be seamlessly passed to the account opening workflow and the models implemented without having to pass data to an external system where errors could be introduced.

While this is similar to what Envestnet is doing after their purchase of FinanceLogix, Fiserv has had more than five year head start on their integration work.

The Fiserv financial planning system includes an automated retirement scenario calculator that will recommend increasing savings, reducing expenses and/or retiring later in order to increase the client’s probability of success.

Another advantage of Fiserv’s all-in-one solution is their inhouse data aggregation technology call AllData, which was acquired back in 2011 with their purchase of peer-to-peer payments provider CashEdge.  AllData is one of the most robust solutions on the market and is in Intel inside many other aggregation offerings.

MoneyGuidePro

Hughes, Chief Growth Officer at MoneyGuidePro, promotes the cause that advisors should charge for creating financial plans.  A recent survey showed that 59% of planners still charge based on AUM only. (See 4 Top Financial Planning Software Apps for Advisors)

MoneyGuidePro has deconstructed and gamified financial planning by breaking up functionality into widgets that they call BLOCKS. These widgets can be plugged into an advisor’s website in any combination to enable clients to walk through their own planning exercises alone or with an advisor.

The social security optimizer BLOCK from will show clients what it costs them to take SS early.

Good point, Carolyn! (See

Advicent

Advicent is one of the largest providers of advisor planning software, including Naviplan and Profiles, and is based in Milwaukee, WI. I recently interviewed their CEO, Angela Pecoraro, for my Winners of WealthTech series.

“Clients are expecting more personalized experiences,” stated Tom Burmeister, Director of Financial Planning for Advicent.

Advizr

The success of financial planning technology vendor Advizr has been off the charts since they were founded in 2012.  Pivoting from direct RIA sales to enterprise deals and then to managing corporate 401k plans has enabled CEO Hussain Zaidi to capture huge clients like Fedex, Alight Solutions (formerly Aon Hewitt), SEI and Franklin Templeton (the latter two are also investors).

The Advizr team presented some eye-opening statistics on financial wellness in the workplace, which is an area they are focusing a lot of time and energy.  They show that firms that offer technology that improves their staff financial wellness has employees that are more loyal, more engaged, more satisfied and more productive. (See Stranger Things Are Happening to Financial Planning Software)

Their software enables firms to conduct employee financial assessments and identify their needs and priorities. Advizr workplace tools can also integrate with client’s marketing plans and coordinate with company events such as 401(k) enrollment periods.

Advizr has moved so far beyond RIA financial planning software that they’re almost in a different category entirely. Their focus on building tools to help corporations support the financial wellness of thousands of employees has opened up tremendous revenue and growth opportunities.

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Compliance & Legal

Brian Hamburger & Bob Veres

One of the great untold stories of financial planning is that advisors used to work mainly with less affluent clients, Hamburger explained. It is only recently that they started focusing on wealthy clients and locking out mostly younger ones with fewer assets.

Hamburger believes that the SEC’s rule making has been more reactive than proactive. He thinks they’re just chasing headlines, hedging their political risk and making busywork for firms.  Veres piled on with his opinion that the SEC won’t rest until every advisor has to spend their entire day on paperwork.

The SEC is not enforcing the Investment Advisor Act as written, Hamburger claimed.  He asserted that this was due to pressure from Wall Street, which now has veto power over the SEC’s actions, keeping them from focusing on their mission of protecting the public.

“And now states are passing fiduciary rules for the same reason. [The] SEC’s failure to enforce its own rules has left a huge void,” replied Michael Kitces via Twitter.

Much of what passes for conventional wisdom is “appallingly inaccurate,” Hamburger claimed. He has heard people saying that the “window” has closed for advisors to switch firms due to the breakdown of the broker [recruiting] protocol, since they will now be subject to non-solicitation agreements. This is not true, Hamburger stressed, but the arguments made by brokerages against breakaways are changing.

Veres compared brokerage firms that block breakaway brokers with former Communist countries that had to patrol their borders to keep their citizens from leaving.

Advisors don’t want to leave their firms to make more money. They want to leave to take better care of their clients, Veres insisted. Most people in financial services are good people – they just work in really bad cultures.

Custodians

No one looks at custodians as boring providers of low margin services anymore. They have morphed into innovative providers of a wide range of technology and integration services. Some are leaders in the space and some are working hard to catch up, but all of them wanted to impress the audience here at T3 with their technology chops.

Apex Clearing

Chris Fesler, CTO of Apex Clearing, gave what I thought was the most original presentation describing how his firm approaches technology and how his role impacts their decision-making process.

Apex has built a very strong niche with digital-first startups and cutting edge financial apps.  They are sometimes a victim of their clients’ success as a firms often jump ship once they reach critical mass. This happened with Wealthfront, who left last year after they reach $10 billion in AUM. It is happening again with free trading app Robinhood, which has exploded in popularity and is now valued at almost $6 billion.

Robinhood announced they were switching to self-clearing after they built their own internal clearing and settlement systems.

When I asked Fesler about Robinhood’s decision, he said that it was the right move for them. But my unasked follow-up question would be is this the start of a trend? Will more successful startups do the same?

Apex still maintains a premier list of clients including robo-advisor Betterment, online retailer and cryptocurrency trader Overstock.com and TAMP RobustWealth.

“My job is to suck the stupid out of our systems”

— Chris Fesler, CTO of Apex Clearing

My new favorite quote of all time.

My second favorite quote from Chris was, “We focus one or two stupid things at a time and either rip them out or build something nice on top of them.”

Three questions being asked by Apex’s younger customers (I believe the average age of their customers is in the mid-thirties, which is a few decades below the industry average):

  • Why isn’t it easier to invest in cryptocurrencies?
  • Why do I have to pay for trades?
  • Why can’t I buy a part of a share on stock?

Fesler made the case for custodians to move to real-time processing by beating up on batch processing. “Batch processing depends on highly interconnected & interdependent super-machines where errors cascade through all downstream systems.”

TradePMR

Steve Durko, TradePMR’s CTO, was busy talking up his firm’s support for data sharing with third party applications during his talk in the exhibit hall presentation space. The custodian launched their own digital advice platform in 2016, called EarnWise, and has been hard at work enhancing it with partnerships.

Durko’s presentation was titled, “Growing your technology platform through integrations” and he offered three tips that will help companies grow their platform:

  1. Focus on value – Make sure you understand deeply how your product fits in your customers’ workflows, before handing it off to a third party.
  2. Love your developers – Shift your thinking to how you can get developers to succeed using your platform, and it will by association, make it more valuable to customers.
  3. Build on top – Provide an infrastructure for others to build and grow their business by accessing your underlying data

They also announced an integration with FinMason’s FinRiver API toolset that will offer advisors access to their customizable risk tolerance process.

TD Ameritrade

TD has always been near the forefront when it comes to technology integration with partners. Now they want to move towards the cutting edge in other areas that might impact advisor workflows.

Dani Fava, Director of Institutional Product Strategy & Development at TD Ameritrade Institutional, did a fantastic job playing the role of technology futurist as she described a wide variety of innovations that could soon be impacting financial advisors.

Oh, and genetic testing could help predict how long clients will live. How will that change financial planning convos?

Video-enabled applications power by artificial intelligence will monitor your facial expressions and determine your current emotional state, Fava predicted.  Companies will then be able to customize advertising that would be best suited to your mood and feelings.  (See “Don’t Get Creepy”: Privacy in Wealth Management & Emerging Technology Trends)

Advisors need to be careful about downloading 3rd party apps like , Fava warned, since by default they have access to everything you type on your phone.

Next generation clients have completely abandoned calls and email and now communicate exclusively via text message, Fava noted. Advisors who insist on trying to get younger clients to pick up the phone will be sorely disappointed.

Fava also gave us a peak at the next communication tool to sweep the nation: Holograms. The technology is not mainstream yet, but maybe in the iPhone 20?

Folio Institutional

Folio Institutional is a custodian, broker-dealer and technology provider founded in 1999 and based in McLean, VA.

The custodian’s Digital Wealth Services Platform recently won an award from wealthmanagement.com for transforming online investing.  Folio’s President, Greg Vigrass, believes his firm offers superior technology solutions and has a broad range of products beyond just tools for advisors. For example they also provide a model manager exchange supermarket that makes portfolio strategies available on a fee-basis. (See Can Retail Model Marketplaces Challenge TAMPs for Assets?)

Wealth Management Platforms

Orion Advisor

I was fortunate to be able to attend Orion’s client conference last month where they made a slew of new product announcements

Orion Advisor Services launches its newest innovation, Orion Enterprise, a collaboration with recently acquired TAMP FTJ Fundchoice. This integration furthers the company’s promise to support the management needs of broker-dealers and RIAs of all sizes. The offering includes FTJ’s proprietary multi-strategy investment process, and popular Market Movement Strategies.

Orion’s purchase of FTJ will enable them to go head-to-head with Envestnet on many deals that they simply could not compete for in the past.  More broker-dealers, banks and large RIAs are looking for an all-in-one solution that combines a strong wealth management platform with outsourced investment management services.

Integrations are one of Orion’s many strengths.  Their platform is designed to be open with a large library of APIs that facilitate data connectivity with dozens of partner products.

Envestnet

As part of their new focus on Financial Wellness, Envestnet announced a number of initiatives to expand their product suite beyond traditional wealth management functionality to include credit scores and other personal finance data. FinCheck the kind of intuitive app that investors are used to seeing from innovative firms like Mint or Acorns. Kudos to Envestnet for seeing the trend and taking action.

Accounts + Wellness + Budgets + Goals + Control are building in micro-nudges that allow your clients to have a better daily life.

According to Envestnet’s statistics, clients who access their portal have, on average, twice as many investment accounts and twice the AUM on the platform.

Eating The Dog Food: was launched to enable partners to access internal ENV data & services, but has matured to the point that themselves are now leveraging to iterate more quickly.

Envestnet revamps their proposal generation system (finally!) into more of a sales-focused tool connected to account opening workflow, b/c it is a core part of their system (no account can be opened w/o a proposal) it was overdue.

We’ve known this for a while. (See Advisor-Managed Portfolios Knocked Out by Home Office Performance)

Envestnet Analytics (rebranding of their acquisition Wheelhouse Analytics) to offer performance analytics, asset flows, peer comparison & fee analytics (what advisors are charging) @ENVIntel #T32018

Vestmark

As president Rob Klapprodt explained from the stage, Vestmark is probably the biggest wealth management platform vendor that you’ve never heard of.  While they don’t have the marketing power of Envestnet or a $31 billion market cap like Fiserv, Vestmark has still managed to gain market share with high profile noches on their belt at UBS and Fidelity. They also ousted their competitors from Philadelphia-based brokerage Janney Montgomery and top 10 TAMP Brinker Capital.

The strategic decisions to expand from a technology-only provider to offering back office outsourcing and then to launching their own TAMP, facilitated the purchase of a BPO provider, the launch of their model marketplace, registering their own RIA (Vestmark Advisor Services) and finally, the acquisition of TAMP .

Vestmark launched their Model Marketplace 2 1/2 yrs ago as an open architecture hub to connect asset managers and managed account sponsors. They were slow to get traction, having just passed $1 billion in AUM this year, a majority of which is from Janney’s decision to outsource their UMA program.

The addition of  puts their TAMP offering on the map by adding not only another $4 billion in AUM, but an experienced team of traders and operations staff with a robust product shelf, an advisor investment RFP hub and extensive practice management tools. Adhesion’s tax transition service facilitates tax loss harvesting and unwinding low cost basis positions without breaching clients’ tax budget and starts at +10bps. (See Can Retail Model Marketplaces Challenge TAMPs for Assets?)

Partnership w/ will drive a new model marketplace from to allow to access third party strategists & outsource trading. (See 3 Reasons Why Model Marketplaces Are Taking Off)

Vestmark appears to be building an infrastructure similar to Envestnet.  Could they be tempted to buy a smaller financial planning vendor as well?

Oranj

Oranj built a successful RIA wealth management platform through both organic development and targeted acquisitions.  As they finish up merging Junxure’s CRM and TradeWarrior’s portfolio rebalancing into their system, they will have an end-to-end environment that will be giving Tamarac a run for their money. (See Oranj Leapfrogs Robo-Platforms With TradeWarrior Acquisition)

I spent some time talking with Oranj’s founder and CEO, David Lyon, and some of his sales team at their T3 booth.  They reported strong interest in their freemium MAX product which they launch last year. MAX offers Oranj’s client-facing tools, account aggregation and trading and rebalancing technology (from TradeWarrior, which they also acquired last year) at no cost, with the carrot of a premium version dangling in front of them.  Lyon told me that they have a good rate of converting freemium clients to the paid version. (See Comparing The Best Digital Advice “Robo-Advisor” Platforms For RIAs)

Robust Wealth

RobustWealth is a turnkey asset management platform and RIA technology provider based in Lambertville, NJ. They were recently acquired by insurance broker-dealer Principal Financial Group.

Some of Kerin’s predictions for the future are that customers will 1) expect more 2) want more options and 3) need personalization.  So, how can technology be leveraged to disrupt the customer experience?

This is a concept that I have not heard expressed before. Could the same client access advice from the same firm through different channels? If so, how common is this? If it is common, do these clients have the same level of satisfaction with their advisor’s technology stack as do clients who only utilize a single advice channel?

Kerins recommended that firms should evaluate technology by asking whether they’re building for the advisor or to interact better with their customers.  Modern wealth management solutions should enable personalization, financial planning, client preparedness, as well as monitoring profit & loss, he insisted.

Jessica Wooke, RobustWealth’s Chief Product Officer, gave us a sneak peak into their 2019 roadmap:

  • Integrated financial planning – continues the trend of wealth platforms offering “lite” planning tools.
  • Enhance enterprise services – makes sense since Principal probably wants to expand usage of their software internally, but needs more robust admin and management tools.
  • Targeting the community bank channel – this client segment is getting a lot of attention from TAMPs and digital advice providers. RW should move fast to grab their share.

RIA Aggregators

HighTower Advisors

Hightower Advisors is a wealth management firm, RIA aggregator and technology and services platform provider that has $55 billion in AUM and is based in Chicago, IL.

High Tower chose Salesforce as their platform due to the strength of their Infrastructure and enterprise services. For identity management, they chose Okta since they offered more flexibility and control than Salesforce’s built-in identity services.

Salesforce has one of the most open and customizable platforms on the planet. It’s not surprising to hear that a firm has built their own experience on top of it.

I need to see the workflow for this since it is partially duplicative of what most CRMs provide.  Do advisors switch back and forth between both? Do they have to switch out of the CRM to send a text message?  Why not integrate it like Redtail did and allow advisors to stay within a single app?

Customer Support Outsourcing

HelpShift

This was the first time I had seen HelpShift at a wealth management conference and they really made a splash with their presentation.  The firm is one of the largest providers of outsourced customer support and has some large clients with 300K users that initiate 3 million inquiries per month.

HelpShift showed how the cost of offline support such as text messaging reduces costs versus phone-based support by 80% or more.  Implementing an AI-powered bot to handle support requests costs just 99% less than email support.

I would like to check in with HelpShift to see how their products are being accepted by the industry. I think a lot of banks and larger broker-dealers would be interested in outsourcing some of their customer support to their technology, if it provides the level of benefits they claim.

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