Fidelity Institutional Wealth Management Services (IWS) announced Thursday that it was incorporating Black Diamond's portfolio management and reporting application to its roster of third-party advisor applications on its WealthCentral RIA platform.
Edward O'Brien, Fidelity IWS's senior VP and head of technology, said the agreement represented a "pretty important milestone" in the development of WealthCentral, adoption of which is "growing rapidly" among Fidelity IWS's 3,300 affiliated RIAs (as of June 30, 2010) since the platform's "broad rollout" in late 2009, and that any RIA firm affiliating for the first time with Fidelity, including breakaway brokers, "goes onto WealthCentral."
O'Brien said more than 600 Fidelity RIAs were using WealthCentral, a trading, reporting and rebalancing platform that included a range of third-party applications such as CRM from Oracle, portfolio reporting from Advent, financial planning software from EISI NaviPlan and now Black Diamond's Blue Sky. The new reporting application is a Web-based portfolio management and reporting system living on the cloud that will allow users, according to Fidelity's formal announcement, "to outsource and automate daily reconciliation of their clients' investment information, including aggregation of assets that may be held-away from Fidelity, as well as run comprehensive, customized reports on demand and view data dynamically on Black Diamond's Web platform."
Specifically, O'Brien says phase one of the rollout of Black Diamond's Blue Sky will begin in the fourth quarter with implementation of a single sign on to access both WealthCentral's core applications and Blue Sky. In the first quarter of 2011, development plans include the addition of contextual linking within WealthCentral to the Blue Sky application, allowing an advisor, for example, to create groups of clients and perform portfolio rebalancing without leaving the single WealthCentral-Blue Sky platform.
As for cost, O'Brien said that Black Diamond will set the price of the application for each Fidelity IWS RIA based on number of client accounts and the firm's assets under management. He estimated that the cost for a typical RIA firm with six associates and 300-500 client accounts would be in the range of $15,000 to $20,000 annually, or some 15% off the list price of Black Diamond.
Michael Durbin, Fidelity IWS's president, says WealthCentral is a good part of the reason that "Fidelity is 'winning' the breakaway broker" recruiting wars, since it appeals to wirehouse brokers' desire for an "end-to-end" technology platform. He said a "large portion" of the 600 RIAs now using WealthCentral are so-called breakaway brokers. There is a clear benefit to existing RIAs adopting the platform as well, Durbin argues, since they can pick and choose which discounted third-party applications they prefer to use.
Durbin presented the Black Diamond deal as part of Fidelity IWS's strategy "that we started several years ago" of providing best-in-class third party applications "on a rational, open architecture WealthCentral platform" that offers "deep" intra-allocation integration "with bi-directional" data transfer between those applications. While hastening to add that "you won't say we're the advisor's app store," Durbin noted that part of the business impetus for the Blue Sky addition was that Black Diamond and Fidelity already had some 80 shared clients in common, which helped convince Fidelity that Blue Sky would be a welcome addition to the platform.
As for future additions or enhancements to the platform, Durbin said to "expect to see a thoughtful continuation" of enhancements to the platform, and "don't be surprised to see additional third-party vendors," saying it wouldn't be "choice for choice's sake," but applications that could offer "deep integration." "We'll keep the investment up" in WealthCentral, he pledged, further asserting that "we're in an all-out custodial arms race," but that Fidelity would "emphasize efficiency" for its advisors. Finally, he suggested that, again in response to user interest and competitive pressure, Fidelity was working on a mobile application for WealthCentral.
Read an interview with Reed Colley, founder, code writer and CEO of Black Diamond on AdvisorOne.