Driving Technology Innovation From a Utah Ski House

Developers at the Orion FUSE hackathon in Park City, Utah (Photo: Tim Welsh) Developers at the Orion FUSE hackathon in Park City, Utah (Photo: Tim Welsh)

The Orion FUSE conference is hitting its stride as a driver of technology innovation. From startups to established technology firms, attendance at FUSE to show off integrations is becoming a way to gain attention from the advisor community and gain traction within the advisor technology ecosystem.

In its fourth iteration, FUSE has grown tremendously from a handful of developers looking to build integrations through an open-source approach on GitHub to an online platform to host code for other developers, to now supporting the larger purpose of making Orion a bigger platform for integration with applications that advisors use, such as CRM, financial planning, client portals, PFM tools and more.

(Related: Orion Forms New Partnership to Launch Tech, Marketing Platform for TAMPs)

According to Orion CEO Eric Clarke, FUSE came about from his many conversations with integration partners over the years and formalized into an actual live event to foster collaboration and relationships.

“Developers are not answering the phones when advisors call with issues regarding their technology and integrations,” Clarke noted. “The best outcomes happen when the people who are actually engineering this great technology know each other and can quickly and easily reach out to solve these issues and maintain a healthy dialogue.’”

This year, FUSE attracted over 100 developers, product managers and technology executives uniquely gathered in a large ski house in Park City, Utah (some stayed at the luxurious Hotel Park City nearby). The main event is the annual FUSE “hackathon,” where attendees spend 72 hours coding to the Orion API to bring efficiencies, innovations and new ideas so that advisors and their clients can make the most of their technology investments.

The hackathon is not only a collaborative way to drive innovation for advisors, it is also a competition. To encourage that innovation, FUSE features 16 awards that range from the best use of the Orion API to the best “True Hackathon Development.”

Industry influencer Michael Kitces kicked off the competition with remarks on technology innovation in general.

“There are basically four areas of technology development that advisors need,” he said. The first question advisors should ask themselves is “Will this new technology simplify things, making it easier to do business, because many of our processes are complex and time consuming Advisors also have many repetitive steps in their work, so is this new technology streamlining a process by taking nine steps down to three or four, which is compelling as you add up those time savings over a year.”

Kitces continued, “Next, can the new technology development completely automate that process by removing all manual steps, substantially transforming how advisors and their staffs work? … Is the new tech providing advisors new capabilities so that I as an advisor can deliver new, valuable services and advice to my clients? Lastly, can the new technology give me business insights into how to better operate and manage my business?”

Kitces was a judge for the hackathon along with other industry influencers Joel Bruckenstein, Bill Winterberg, Tina Powell and Spencer Segal, as well as advisors Shannon Spotswood of RFG Advisory; Heather Fortner of Signature FD; JD Bruce of Abacus Wealth; Ryan Beach of CLS investments; and Billy Oliverio of United Planners. The judges held court for the pitches in the garage of the FUSE house, judging the presentations and results of the weekend development.

As an example of the innovation happening at FUSE, the team from Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA), the highly popular and respected mutual fund company used by thousands of RIAs, hacked together a solution over the weekend to provide Orion’s trading and rebalancing systems with the underlying holdings of their popular “blend” funds. 

Without this integration of the underlying holdings, most rebalancing systems have a difficult time dealing with blend funds when doing rebalancing, as the systems are not able to properly categorize blend funds. Most rebalancing systems typically put them into either the equity or fixed income bucket, which is not an accurate representation of the clients’ asset allocation.

The winners of FUSE 2017 hackathon are:

  • Best in Show – RIA in a Box (for the third year in a row)
  • Best Use of API – BlackRock
  • Best User Interface – Asset Map
  • Best Business Intelligence – Fix Flyer
  • Best CRM Integration – Redtail
  • Best Advisor Innovation – Mineral
  • Best True Hackathon – AdvisoryWorld
  • Best Work Saving Development – Advisory World
  • Best Newcomer – Dimensional Fund Advisors
  • Best Burning the Midnight Oil – FinMason
  • Best Custodial Integration – TD Ameritrade
  • Best Compliance/Due Diligence – RIA in a Box
  • Best Most Likely to Disrupt – Cleverdome/NetFoundry
  • Best Bang for your Buck – BlackRock

To learn more about what went on at the 2017 Orion FUSE conference, check out the many tweets on the #FuseUtah hashtag on Twitter.

--- Read RIA in a Box Launches New Regtech Software on ThinkAdvisor. 

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