“Good ideas are always crazy, until they’re not.”
– Larry Page, co-founder of Google
When Envestnet CEO Jud Bergman announced that his company was shelling out just under $600 million to buy data aggregator Yodlee, saying that the market did not approve was an understatement. The firm was blasted by both the press and equity analysts, who scoffed at the 50% premium Envestnet was offering and wondered aloud why they were "buying the cow when you can get the milk for free?" These factors helped drive Envestnet's stock price down by 35% the day the deal was announced.
Boy, have things changed since then.
Since that fateful August day in 2015, Envestnet's revenue has almost doubled (~$800mm vs $421mm) and their stock price has followed suite with more than 100% increase (from Feb 2016). A steady stream of new product announcements including expansion of their APIs for developing payment solutions and their AI-powered FinCheck app (which won a Best in Show award at Finovate 2017). Bergman's vision of a new era where data becomes the unifying force connecting advisor and consumer networks has been validated not only by the stock market, but by new M&A in the data space. (See Envestnet Rebrands ENV2 as a Financial Wellness Platform)
Data aggregation vendor Quovo is being acquired by Yodlee rival Plaid for just under $200 million, per Bloomberg News. This is Plaid's first acquisition and comes on the heels of a big capital raise of $250 million in venture funding. Plaid has quintupled their valuation to $2.65 billion from just $500 million in 2016.
This deal is important for a number of reasons. First, it demonstrates that holistic coverage of data across both retail banking and wealth management is critical for companies that want to succeed in the finance space. Plaid's business is primary in retail banking while Quovo's is in investments, so that's complimentary. While Quovo has some coverage of banking, it wasn't anywhere near what Yodlee or Plaid provided. This is apparent from the differences in valuation. Acquiring firms and VCs clearly value retail bank data and connectivity over the same on the investment side.
Second, Data aggregation has moved from an optional feature to table stakes for every banking and wealth management platform vendor. Quovo was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Yodlee acquisition, as many of Envestnet's direct competitors went looking for alternatives data sources. But the hunger in the market for digital advice is more than any one vendor can satisfy, which is why we have so many (see below). (See The Data Whisperer: How Yodlee Plans to Revolutionize Financial Advice)
But as in any growing market, only the largest and/or most innovative vendors will survive. Many of the smaller players will be gobbled up, like Quovo, by competitors with deeper pockets and a desire for scale. Aggregation is quickly becoming commoditized, so scale will be critical as profit margins become thin.
Third, it validates the price Envestnet paid for Yodlee. According to InvestmentNews, Plaid's revenue last year was close to what Yodlee was generating four years ago, around $90 million. Plaid's business model is very similar to what Yodlee was when they were a standalone entity. They both built platforms with robust developer tools that enabled fintech firms to pull retail banking data for their customers. They also both are marketing their tools as able to deliver credentials, and manage user authentication in a secure manner.
As aggregators, they both had wide coverage across thousands of financial institutions that facilitated use cases such as personal financial management, lending and mobile banking.
So, if Plaid's value is now approaching $3 billion, an argument could be made that the Yodlee business is worth just as much, if not more now, since they have had four years of additional revenue growth. Yet, Envestnet's total market cap is just $2.44 billion. (See 5 Reasons Why the Envestnet Acquisition of Yodlee Was Brilliant)
Advisors Behind the Curve
It seems that the VCs are peering into the future where a holistic view of clients' financial lives becomes ubiquitous, even though most financial advisors don't see the need. But this wouldn't be the first time that advisors are behind the innovation curve.
Plaid and Yodlee have the broadest exposure, especially in banking (i.e. checking, credit cards), this is less important to financial advisors since they don't use expense data, unless they're doing budgeting, which is rare. While clients prefer to see all of their data in one place, they don’t necessarily want their advisors to see it. This could lead to more clients going to robo-advisors like Personal Capital that offers free PFM tools.
One trend that helped the most well-known aggregators is that client firms are demanding higher levels of accuracy in held away data. While every aggregation provider connects with thousands of financial institutions, the quality of data they receive and reliability of the connection can vary widely across vendors. There is a movement of technology firms to become "aggregators of aggregators" where multiple feeds are used to provide better coverage across less common data sources as well to provide redundancy in case of outages, which are not uncommon.
Another concern for aggregation vendors is that many financial institutions have implemented two-factor authentication, which is breaking connections and requires manual intervention by advisors in order to re-synchronize client data. To resolve this requires API gateways like Plaid and Yodlee have built that provide structured methods to leverage authentication protocols rather than manually entering user credentials. (See Comparing The Best Digital Advice “Robo-Advisor” Platforms For RIAs)
New Wave of M&A?
Could the Plaid purchase of Quovo be the first in a new wave of M&A in the aggregation space? When we started looking into aggregation years ago, there were only a few vendors out there. Now there are more than 20 providers of B2B data aggregation services. Some are owned by large companies who acquired them in prior transactions.
It is difficult to compare data aggregation vendors, due to the opaqueness of their technology and sheer quantity of data that they process on a daily basis. There are no public evaluations of the coverage, consistency or accuracy of data aggregation vendors. The only information available is anecdotal from speaking with wealth management vendors that utilize their services.
Banking aggregation platforms provide access to content such as account information, deposits, balances, pension plans, etc. Not only for banking consumption, but also business banking. Wealth aggregation vendors focus on custodial feeds and connectivity to broker-dealers to download investment account data.
As data aggregation becomes more of a commodity, firms have shifted more towards the Plaid/Yodlee model of building out their APIs and branding themselves as platforms for building financial applications. (See HNW Clients Are Driving Banks to Expand Digital Advice Solutions)
Data Aggregation Tools
This is a list of data aggregation providers that are owned by large companies or where the original firm grew big enough to be considered one of the leaders in the space:
- Addepar – Founded in 2009 and backed by big name VCs, a leader in HNW alternative investments data and client reporting, popular with family offices, but very expensive. Reached $1 trillion in aggregated accounts in 2018.
- Broadridge Financial Investigo – Purchased in 2008, robust enterprise application with lots of broker-dealer clients, delivers reconciled data that is integrated with their client reporting solution.
- Fiserv AllData Advisor (formerly CashEdge) – Purchase in 2011, with strong, enterprise technology that is leveraged by other aggregators, started in investments but expanded into banking and recently into mortgage lending.
- Morningstar ByAllAccounts – Purchased in 2014 for just $28 million, known mostly for individual investor account aggregation, very popular with RIAs and wealthtech vendors. Being integrated into Morningstar Office Suite. Combined with the Morningstar security master, it provides data on mutual funds, ETFs and SMAs and reduces data mapping.
- Pershing Albridge – Acquired by PNC Investment Services in 2006 and then by BNY Mellon as part of their acquisition of PNC in 2010, lots of broker-dealer clients, has built data cleansing and reconciliation processes to provide performance-ready data, which is a differentiator, since most aggregated data is only clean enough to view positions, they're very focused on investment space and competes mostly with Investigo, partners with AllData Advisor, 99% of their data comes from direct feeds, a retail bank aggregation partner would be a good fit for them.
- Private Client Resources – Strong in alternative investments with 1,200+ family office clients. Reached $500 billion in aggregated accounts in 2018.
- SS&C Advent Custodial Data (ACD) – Acquired with the purchase of Advent Software in 2015, arguably the largest network of custodians of any provider (800+).
- SS&C Evare – Acquired in 2009, institutional-grade aggregation using mostly direct data feeds, strong in custodial direct feeds, consumer finance, retirement plans, and support for alternative investments.
These are the smaller aggregators in both banking and investments that could be scooped up by larger players or could use new funding rounds to acquire each other:
- Aqumulate (formerly Advisor Exchange) – Acquired in 2007, competes with ByAllAccounts, covers banking and investment data as well as hard-to-access assets, such as life insurance, 401ks, annuities and REITs.
- Clearwater Analytics – Automated data aggregation, portfolio accounting and reporting solutions. Claims they aggregate, reconcile, and report on more than $2.2 trillion in assets.
- Electra – Founded in 1998, primarily aggregates buy-side accounting data for trade settlement, billing and recon. Other vendors report that their data is very clean.
- Figo – Based in Germany, serving European and Australian clients.
- Finicity – Founded in 1999, their API offers transactions, account history, client statements, ACH verification, enrollment and registering online accounts. They offer account and income verification services that can be used for lending decisions. Partnered with Experian for assess consumers' ability to pay.
- Flinks – Claims to be the Plaid for Canadian banking & APIs.
- Mesitis Canopy – Based in Singapore, mostly Asian data, but planning expansion to London and Zurich. Also provide visualization and analytical tools.
- MX –
- SaltEdge – Founded in Toronto in 2013, they offer aggregation and enable payment processing through a unified API gateway.
- Wealth Access – An aggregator of aggregators, they combine data from five aggregators including Quovo and ByAllAccounts, won an award for “Best Account Aggregation”
These are pure API providers in banking that could be acquired to add/enhance the capability that aggregation vendors may lack:
- 3rd Vista – Targets financial apps with APIs to connect to bank and credit card data.
- Bankin – French startup with a mobile banking app that is a combination of PFM, financial coaching, funds transfer (which I'm told is difficult in France) and savings tracking. Includes APIs with data enrichment.
- Eurobits Technologies – Founded in 2004, all clients in Europe, strong in banking data & APIs. Also offers user monitoring and enrichment of banking transactional data.
- eWise – Founded in 2000, they claim to have invented client-side account aggregation, have built a consumer-centric personal data management platform that banks can white label and aggregates banking data, investing data and illiquid assets. Sells white-labeled money management apps and something called "API micro-services", which allow developers to build financial apps that leverage eWise transaction categorization, cash flow forecasting and alerting.
- Instantor – Based in Sweden with aggregation APIs across mostly Scandinavian institutions and also an automated risk analysis system. Working with over 200 banks in 17 countries.
- Kontomatik – Founded in 2009 in Poland, this platform allows banks access to data on activity and consumption of financial products by third-party customers. Has connectivity to a lot of small, Eastern European banks.
- Linxo – According to TechCrunch, "banking apps suck in France". Linxo is a French multi-banking app company that builds APIs to aggregate accounts. They offer a B2C PFM app without a white label solution. Raised $24 million in 2017 and is appears to ByAllAccounts with heavy emphasis on grabbing individual account data through manually entered user credentials. Connections appear to be mostly to banks in France, but they are expanding.
- Railsbank – More of an API provider for accessing banking data than an actual aggregator.
- SDK.finance – Offers a wide variety APIs to build fintech products such as E-wallet, Payment Processing, P2P Money Transfer, Gift & Prepaid Cards, Currency Exchange, Card-to-Card payments, Mobile Bank, Internet banking, Loyalty programs.
- TrueLayer – KYC, credit scoring, and bank data access platform, still in private beta in the UK.