SEI is running a pilot program to improve its administrative and operational platform for advisors, with a full launch planned for the first quarter of 2013.
“We are significantly upgrading the functionality and the capabilities of the administrative and operational platform,” Steve Onofrio, managing director at SEI, told AdvisorOne on Tuesday.
The SEI Wealth Platform brand encompasses the firm’s current investment platform, administrative and operational platform, and the practice management platform, Onofrio (left) said.
What’s unique about SEI’s platform, Onofrio said, is that they are integrating a full custodial solution with their current technology. “It’s different in the industry because all of the solutions available to independent advisors today don’t have an integrated custody platform as well,” he said. Typically, advisors use independent software and specialized subsystems that they interface to a custodial system. The enhanced SEI Wealth Platform will have integrated portfolio management and rebalancing systems, an automated fee system, and will produce performance reporting statements. “What this allows is free-flowing information between all these systems,” Onofrio added. “It then enables the advisor to spend more time with clients and building the business.”
Another benefit of the platform, Onofrio said, is that it reduces the amount of resources an advisor needs, such as people to process transactions on their end, as well as additional software, not to mention the time it takes to learn, implement and upgrade various systems. “They don’t have to spend the money to buy additional subsystems. They don’t have to spend the time or money to integrate them.”
Information flows automatically, Onofrio said, and assets are identified in one database, as opposed to in the portfolio management system and the custodial system, forcing advisors to import data back and forth as needed. “Our system doesn’t require that at all. Nobody has to manually import it, do the modeling, do the trades, and then export the trades back to the custodian for execution.” In addition to savings in time and money, Onofrio also points to savings in frustration, as the single database will prevent information from getting “out of sync” between an advisor’s records and the custodian’s.
The platform has fully unified, household capabilities, as opposed to taking an account-based approach. Onofrio calls the platform “household-centric or model-centric.”
“We accommodate non-SEI assets for our larger advisors. The new offering will also enable us to be a full custodian, so we’ll be able to and will custody any asset that we can receive an independent price or value for. It’s really an integrated and streamlined technology, with open investment architecture.”
The platform was initially launched in the United Kingdom, where is has been operating for six years and has 17 clients “up and running,” Onofrio said. “There was a huge need over in the United Kingdom. They didn’t have any systems over there, so their technology for advisors was well behind ours.”
After adapting the platform for the U.S. tax environment, SEI started transitioning advisors to the platform in 2012.
“We used that time to build out our infrastructure here, meaning we had to retrain some of the people here. We had to define our service environment, the transition solution for bringing them from the current system to the new system, and then all of the training that’s required for our advisors—not that there’s a lot of training, but training for the new system.”
As of September 2011, the platform supports 83 mutual fund-only advisors. In the first week of July, SEI will add five large, complex, high-volume advisors to the new platform. “We want to make sure that the client experience is defined properly for our advisors,” Onofrio said.
The firm will begin transitioning more advisors to the platform at the end of the year, and Onofrio expects the entire client base will be upgraded to the new system gradually over the first quarter of 2013. “We have a line of clients who want to get on this system,” Onofrio added.
Feedback from advisors who are using the platform currently has been positive. “They all like it,” Onofrio said. “It has unified managed household capability, which is a big advantage for them today. They like its streamlined nature. It has workflow management within it.”
Onofrio noted that the firm will “really start to focus on functionality once we get these larger, complex advisors on the system.” The advisors on the system now work with mutual funds only, and with SEI mutual funds at that, so the full extent of the system’s capabilities are untested. ”When we put non-SEI assets on unified managed household and then do the automated rebalancing on it, that’ll be a big advantage for a lot of people.”