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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Meet the Software Firm That Wants to Power the Next Gen of 401(k)s

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The drive to deliver customized savings solutions to 401(k) plan participants is dependent on mining financial data from all components of savers’ lives.

Salary and deferral rates are simple intel to aggregate these days.

But in order to tailor customized strategies for participants, such as those offered in managed account programs, record keepers and advisors need access to participants’ financial lives outside their workplace plans.

An Orange County-based software company, vWise, is one of the companies helping record keepers build the next generation of participant platforms that hopes to mine data on assets and financial information outside of workplace plans, be it from an old 401(k), or IRA assets a spouse may have inherited.

“Think of us as the outside IT division for record keepers and third-party administrators,” says David Ferrigno, chief financial officer of vWise. “We can build what they need in far less time, and with a focus on participant experience that a lot of record keepers don’t have the internal talent to build.”

In a nutshell, the firm is building the tools that record keepers are so eagerly bringing to the advisor channel.

Those tools have become increasingly vital to the highly competitive recordkeeping market, which is depending on plan advisors to drive new business.

VWise has a line of about 10 software solutions that record keepers can acquire and white label.

Its proprietary VMax SmartPlan platform, which aggregates participant and plan analytics and provides fiduciary compliance tools alongside employee communication solutions, now boasts data on about $1.6 billion in participants’ assets held outside of qualified plans.

That extent of software capability is exclusive in the market—Ferrigno says he knows of no other software firm building such platforms for the B2B market.

“Our focus, and what our software has proven to be really good at, is engaging participants,” explained Ferrigno.

Specifically, user interface design is structured around increasing participant education and motivating higher enrollment levels.

Or as Ferrigno puts it: “We’re grabbing participants and dragging them over the goal line.”

Currently, vWise has relationships with about 70 record keepers and third-party administrators.

Tony Mingo, who once made his living as a financial advisor, founded the company nine years ago.

Demand for customized software solutions has been brisk in the last several years, but Ferrigno thinks it is just the beginning of what he expects to be a heated race by record keepers to fight for advisors’ attention, and to get them equipped with best-in-class technology solutions that can drive enhanced plan design and savings outcomes.

“All providers, and to some extent advisors, are looking for technology to become more efficient. We’re really excited to get them where they want to be,” said Ferrigno.

Some record keepers maintain internal software capabilities, but he’s confident the behavioral-finance-influenced solutions designed by vWise are best in class.

“It’s clear to us that our participant facing software provides a better online experience for participants than anything that has been build in-house,” he said.

“Some of our provider clients want help with specific areas, whether it’s a better online participant experience or communication solution. Other record keepers just want to see what we have so they can take those options to advisors for their feedback,” added Ferrigno.

And others are relying on vWise to create an entire new participant experience.

The company has also invested in what Ferrigno calls the highest quality video capability that can be interfaced with the software. Beyond its staff of developers, its headquarters houses a production studio, used to create education and plan communications videos for participants.

Award-winning Hollywood directors and professional actors are employed to make the most compelling tools with which record keepers can woo advisors, and for advisors ultimately to deliver to sponsors and participants.

No expense is spared, said Ferrigno.

“Our expectation is to absolutely thrill the industry with the solutions we’re bringing,” he added.

— Check out 5 Reasons Most Robo-Advisors Are Not, in Fact, Advisors on ThinkAdvisor.


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