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Fidelity, Schwab Custodial Platforms Take Center Stage as T3 Kicks Off

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Advisors: leave your technology woes behind. Custodians want to manage your tech for you.

That message was delivered loud and clear on Thursday as the Technology Tools for Today (T3) conference dedicated to advisor tech kicked off with big announcements from custodians Fidelity and Schwab.

In a sign that integrated technology platforms are playing a larger role in advisors’ practices, Fidelity Institutional introduced its new WealthCentral Technology Bundle, a one-size-fits-all software package for breakaway advisors and other new entrants to the advisory space. The bundle packages third-party technologies on the WealthCentral brokerage platform, including External IT’s Cloud Desktop, Redtail Technology’s customer relationship management system (CRM) and Advent’s Black Diamond wealth management platform.

“We want to accelerate the technology roadmap and give advisors what they need,” said Ed O’Brien, head of platform technology for Fidelity Institutional. “Breakaways and new entrants were coming to us and asking for the fastest way to get started on technology, and we put together this bundle for them.”

O’Brien noted that Redtail CRM, Black Diamond and External IT are among the software products that have previously been available on WealthCentral. The difference is that the bundled package is easier for advisors to adopt, because it is offered at a single price and a single sign-up, he said.

The cost for advisors is a quarterly minimum of $5,000 plus a range of three to four basis points depending on a firm’ assets under management.

As for Schwab’s Thursday news, it was announced that Redtail’s CRM also will participate in Schwab OpenView Gateway along with Orion Advisor Services’ portfolio accounting service.

“As advisors continue to optimize technology, some have identified Orion and Redtail as attractive platforms for their firms, so we are pleased to welcome both of these firms to Schwab OpenView Gateway,” said Neesha Hathi, senior vice president of Schwab Advisor Services, in a statement. “Over the last year, we’ve experienced dramatic growth in adoption of Gateway as advisors are seeing the benefits of improved efficiency and enhanced client experience.”

On Thursday, Schwab reported that it has marked a milestone in user growth compared with 2013. Approximately 1,400 independent registered investment advisor firms and 6,000 users at those RIAs now use Gateway, representing increases of 83% for firms and 39% for users versus two years ago.

Fidelity’s O’Brien said WealthCentral’s technology bundle for breakaways is brand new and just came out of a pilot that involved approximately seven RIA firms that were new entrants to the advisory space. Several hundred advisors already use Redtail, External IT and Black Diamond via the Fidelity custodial platform, O’Brien said.

During a breakout session on cybersecurity, External IT user Damian Gallina, a principal with Buttonwood Financial Advisors, who uses Fidelity’s custodial platform, said External IT’s cloud desktop is the sort of technology that allows him not to worry about technology so he can stay focused on his practice.

“Before External IT, I was a one-man show and I didn’t want to be in the technology business. I wanted to focus on my practice,” Gallina said.

In more T3 news, External IT unveiled the latest iteration of its cloud desktop at the conference on Thursday. The latest version includes improved security and workflow features such as single sign-on and built-in token two-factor authentication.

— Check out  Fidelity’s eMoney Deal Will Help It Compete With Robo-Advisors: Kitces on ThinkAdvisor.