Technology plays a key role in advisors’ firms. It helps them run their businesses more efficiently. It helps them communicate with clients and provide dynamic service. It helps them manage the enormous amount of data they deal with on a daily basis. And sometimes it presents a new source of competition.
Advisors are demanding that technology. In fact, a study released in April by Jefferson National found that the highest earning advisors were “tech obsessed,” meaning they spend twice as much on technology in their firms.
We recognized the following honorees in the 2016 IA 25 for their work meeting advisors’ technology demands.
Eric Clarke, Orion Advisor Services
Every advisor is different – different clients, different strategies, different needs – so being able to integrate the disparate tools they use to serve clients is critical. That’s why Clarke and Orion Advisor Services are “hyper focused” on integration.
“We believe every advisor should have the ability to choose the systems that are the best fit for their firm and will enhance their ability to add value to their client experience,” he said.
Orion serves over 800 advisory firms with $280 billion in assets under administration. “We’re big believers in using technology wisely,” he said.
Stuart DePina, Envestnet | Tamarac
DePina is a serial tech entrepreneur whose mostly RIA clients embraced Tamarac's portfolio and client management. It's kept improving the software through constant interaction with its users.
Since its purchase by Envestnet in 2012, DePina has continued to successfully guide Tamarac as part of a larger public company, no small feat in itself, while remaining the calm voice of technology understanding and advisor-client advocacy.
“We give clients a voice,” said DePina, group president at Envestnet | Tamarac, “and turn voice into action.”
(Photo: Shane O'Neill)
Naureen Hassan, Morgan Stanley
After leading the successful launch of Charles Schwab’s Intelligent Portfolios platforms, Hassan was a clear target – for other firms hoping to harness her technology expertise for their own advisors.
Morgan Stanley lured her away to lead the strategy and marketing of digital tools and platforms for the wirehouse's 16,000 financial advisors and 3.5 million clients.
Like many in the industry, she says robo-advisors cannot replace their human counterparts, but why not let technology do what it does best? “Modern technology has the power to simplify advisors’ lives by automating mundane tasks — opening accounts, rebalancing portfolios — freeing them up to spend more time with their clients,” she explained.
(Photo: Shane O'Neill)
Neesha Hathi, Charles Schwab
Clients’ expectations for how they interact with their advisors has been changing for some time, Hathi said, and “advisors are doing a great job nowadays embracing that change.”
You can see that in the relative lack of perturbation over digital advice services, which have been largely embraced by advisors who see them as a tool rather than a threat.
In fact, Schwab launched Institutional Intelligent Portfolios to help advisors do just that. The advisor-facing version of Schwab Intelligent Portfolios was launched in June 2015, and less than a year later, the platforms are managing $6.6 billion for advisors and clients.
Ed O’Brien, eMoney Advisor
After a couple of decades supporting advisors’ technology at Fidelity Investments, O’Brien was a clear candidate to join eMoney Advisor when Fidelity majority acquired it last year. In March he was named CEO of eMoney Advisor, replacing the estimable eMoney founder, Edmond Walters.
As Michael Durbin of Fidelity Wealth Technologies said in announcing O’Brien's ascension, “I’m confident he will help us further establish eMoney as the strongest ally of advisors seeking to meet the growing high-tech and high-touch expectations of their end clients.”
Clara Shih, Hearsay Social
Although Shih didn’t envision herself working with advisors, when she launched the first social business application on Facebook as a side project in 2007, the industry took notice.
“Frankly, Wall Street firms found us,” Shih told ThinkAdvisor Staff Reporter Emily Zulz. “They said, ‘These life events that you find — the fact that someone has just gotten married or had a baby or changed jobs or is thinking of retirement — those are exactly the trigger points around which we want to talk to clients.’”
Jon Stein, Betterment
Stein kicked off the robo-advisor threat back in 2010 when he and co-founder Eli launched Betterment, bringing digital investing to do-it-yourself investors on an easy-to-use platform. Since then, the firm has introduced Betterment Institutional, a digital platform for advisors; and Betterment for Business, a digital 401(k) platform that invests participants in index ETFs.
The additional platforms brought Betterment’s aggregate assets to over $4 billion and its total clients served to more than 150,000 as of April 2016.
--- Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Betterment's co-founder. Eli Broverman is the co-founder and COO of Betterment.