When Advisors Become Technology Developers

The winning team at the hackathon designed a customizable online prospecting tool. (Photo: Timothy Welsh) The winning team at the hackathon designed a customizable online prospecting tool. (Photo: Timothy Welsh)

You know you are onto some new advisor technology when advisors are actually the ones doing the product development. Case in point, the first annual Black Diamond Hackathon.

Over 30 advisory firms came together for three days last week in Jacksonville, Florida to participate in designing new platform features for the popular Black Diamond portfolio management and performance reporting system from SS&C Advent.

“Listening to clients is the best way to ensure that the technology we are offering is something that solves a problem or fulfills a need,” said Dave Welling, co-manager and head of advisory at SS&C Advent, who was the host for the advisor forum and hackathon.

(Related: Tamarac Is Fixing Advisors' Software Pet Peeves)

The hackathon was designed to identify new features, functionality and capabilities to help advisors run a better business. Advisors worked with Black Diamond personnel to brainstorm ideas based on their own business opportunities and concerns. Each group then targeted one specific idea and translated the suggestion into a full-blown design mock-up. The teams created a presentation, complete with videos, props, sound effects and humor, and pitched their solutions to the full group at the executive forum, which then voted on the winners.

Four teams made the finals with ideas such as a tool to create an operational portfolio update to view key clients at a glance; a meeting confirmation tool that allows end-clients to customize what they would like to discuss; a business intelligence tool with revenue and AUM scenario analysis as well as compliance statistics; and an online prospecting tool designed to demo an advisor’s technology capabilities.

The winning product design suggestion was the online prospecting tool that enables prospects to customize the way they would like to view their financial details and risk in an anonymous way. This feedback will be helpful for advisors to get a better understanding of that potential future client, as well as to provide an impressive technology demonstration of what the prospect will experience as a client of that firm.

The winning team comprised Brian Boughner of Parallel Financial Partners, Rob Allan of Johnson & White Wealth Management LLC, Tom Rippberger of AdvisorNet Financial, Jeff Hendren of Quovo, as well as Everett Hagan, John Milne, Jason Domizio and Justin Wayne from Black Diamond.

This winning product design will be included in an upcoming Black Diamond enhancement release and the advisors who dreamed up this cool concept will be drafted onto the product team to provide feedback and advice on how the new feature will be delivered. As marketing and business development continue to sit at the top of the list of business management issues, look for more of these types of “front office” technology tools to be developed by traditional back office technology platforms.

“We participated in this event with the objective of enhancing our own internal workflows and walked away with so much more,” noted Ginger Glenn, chief compliance officer of Welch Hornsby Investment Advisors. “Working through the behind-the-scenes design and development process with these collaborative teams was a real eye-opener into the depth and focus that happens in building the tools and technology we use on a daily basis.”

M&A Driving Firm Growth

Rounding out the executive forum and hackathon was a series of discussions on the changing financial advice landscape, with a focus on technology and M&A activities. A high-profile panel with senior executives from HighTower Advisors, Dynasty Financial Partners and Liberty Capital Partners discussed the latest events. The key takeaway from the panel is that it is unusual for firms that reach $1 billion in AUM to be able to continue to grow at their previous rates without supplementing their growth inorganically through strategic mergers and acquisitions.

The Black Diamond hackathon is yet another great example of how technology firms can enlist their users to design future enhancements and needed features and functionality to scale their advice delivery.

As the trend continues for advisors to become technology developers, look for more such hackathons, such as the Orion FUSE conference, which brings together 30 different technology firms in a mountain-side lodge for a weekend every September in Park City, Utah.

--- Read DOL’s Fiduciary Rule Fuels Tech Trends at Conferences on ThinkAdvisor.

Reprints Discuss this story
We welcome your thoughts. Please allow time for your contribution to be approved and posted. Thank you.