From the September 2017 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Firms Announce Tech Plans; One Strikes a Deal

LPL Financial provides advisors with details on a new app, its digital platform and virtual assistants, while Kestra Financial moves to buy H. Beck

LPL Financial plans to launch a new mobile app in 2018 so clients can access their account information anywhere, anytime. Meanwhile, it will roll out its robo-advice platform this fall and has plans for virtual assistants. President and CEO Dan Arnold and other executives shared this news during the firm's yearly advisor conference, LPL Focus, held recently in Boston.

Instead of having a physical human assistant, advisors could tap into LPL, which would manage a group of virtual assistants for its affiliated advisors. “Now, I [would] pay for when I use it, I don't have to train them, [and] I don't have to manage them,” Arnold explained. “They’re going to know the systems, so it takes friction out of the system, which potentially lowers my cost [as an advisor] and allows me to allocate my time to the highest yield.”

During the next month-end cycle in August, LPL will roll out what Arnold calls “cool new statements,” which should reduce the amount of time advisors spend discussing such information with clients. Also, LPL plans improvements to its investor portal, AccountView, later this year.

According to Rob Pettman, executive vice president of product and platform management, the first wave of invitations to the independent broker-dealer's digital platform were set to go out Aug. 15. With Guided Wealth Portfolios, investors will have access to a low-cost technology solution with the personalized planning, service and advice of an advisor, he explained at Focus.

“I understand that some of the custodians have it, but we’re going to be one of the first broker-dealers to be live with a tool like this that's delivered by independent advisors,” Pettman said. “There's going to be things we learn along the way to enhance it and make it better fit into their practices.”

The platform has been in pilot since last year and has about $14 million in assets under management and more than 700 investors, according to LPL. The average age of the investor on the pilot platform is 41. “First lesson learned is it's not just for millennials,” he said.

Kestra News

Independent-advisor platform Kestra Financial says it is buying H. Beck from Securian Financial Group. The groups work, respectively, with about 1,700 and 600 advisors. “The announced transaction puts us over the 2,000 mark in the aggregate,” said Kestra CEO James Poer in an interview.

In terms of assets under management at its RIAs, Kestra has $21 billion, while H. Beck has about $2.5 billion. (These figures do not include assets under administration.) “We approached Securian about the organization, and they liked our ideas … ,” Poer said. “We explained that we could provide a great home to and a bright future for H. Beck.”

The firm has other changes in store. “Kestra is rolling out a [robo-advisor] and an investor-portal capability in the fourth quarter [of 2017] and in the first quarter [of 2018],” the CEO said. “We hope to add similar capabilities for H. Beck in short order,” depending on the date the purchase closes and related issues.

H. Beck has been owned by Securian for the past nine years and will keep doing business via its own RIA and broker-dealer with its own management team based in Bethesda, Maryland. Securian's history dates to 1880, when its predecessors began work in the life insurance business in Minnesota.

For its part, Kestra did business as NFP Advisor Services until 2016. Insurance broker NFP Corp. sold the group to Stone Point Capital, and it was renamed Kestra. The firm is based in Austin.

“Separating from NFP last year really empowered us to look at the wealth management business,” the CEO said. “We are committed to growth in the space … and are having lots of talks in the marketplace. This is the fruit of that labor.”

Kestra works with Fidelity's National Financial Services for its custody and clearing services, while H. Beck relies on Pershing. “We see this as an opportunity, as it gives us entrée on to the Pershing platform,” Poer said. “We are committed to Fidelity as a partner but now have Pershing in our arsenal, too; no one has to re-paper or move their business one way or another.”

—Emily Zulz contributed to this report.

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