LPL Financial (LPLA) said Wednesday that it plans to use BlackRock’s FutureAdvisor platform as its robo-advisor for both affiliated reps and RIAs.
This news follows a similar announcement made by RBC Wealth Management in February. FutureAdvisor, which was acquired by BlackRock in August 2015, now has over $700 million in client assets.
“We are excited to collaborate with FutureAdvisor to accelerate the development of our robo-advice solution, which we believe will enable our advisors and institutions to serve a variety of clients with independent, objective financial advice in a convenient and scalable manner,” said Ryan Parker, managing director of Investment & Planning Solutions for LPL, in a statement.
“The new solution will complement advisors’ existing practices and expand the availability of their services to current or potential clients who may prefer a digital alternative to the traditional method of receiving investment advice,” Parker explained.
LPL, which has some 14,000 affiliated reps, is not sharing a specific timetable for the full rollout of its robo-advisor offering. However, Rob Pettman, executive VP of product management for LPL, says the phased launch will begin in August at the firm’s yearly advisor conference.
The firm, Pettman says, started out by exploring one option for a robo-offering “and then changed course to a fully intergrated solution for our platform.”
“It will come out as part of phased [introduction] for a concentrated group of advisors and institutions to make sure all is working in accordance with our plan and is helping them … succeed,” he explained. As the process moves along, the firm “will add waves of advisors to access its functionality.”
Advisor Ross Gerber of the RIA firm Gerber Kawasaki in Santa Monica, California, says he is “really excited. There were many players trying to get this deal with LPL. This will give 14,000 advisors the same tools that Betterment and others have, including client onboarding online. It’s big news,” he explained in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
The development at LPL comes one year after Charles Schwab introduced Intelligent Portfolios for clients and nearly a year since it offered Institutional Intelligent Portfolios for advisors. The initiatives amassed $5.3 billion in assets by Dec. 30.
How do industry observers feel about LPL’s robo news and its impact on financial advisors?
“I believe that the robo world and the traditional FA world will increasingly merge,” said Chip Roame, head of Tiburon Strategic Advisors, in an interview. “This is just another group of FAs getting access to robo technology to offer to their clients.”
Michael Kitces, director of wealth management and partner of the Pinnacle Advisory Group, says LPL Financial’s news “emphasizes the point that the ‘robo’ technology is simply functioning as a distribution channel for asset managers and managed money strategies. It’s simply a new technology interface for existing money management strategies,” he explained in an interview.
Whether it proves financially fruitful or not, Kitces adds, “depends on the ability of LPL brokers to effectively distribute it to their clients, though, which remains to be seen. Not because the technology isn’t valuable, but simply because most brokers have no experience in digital marketing to acquire digital clients.
“As I’ve noted in the past, most robo-advisor solutions will fail to help brokers gain millennial clients, not because of a failure of technology, but because brokers simply have done nothing to establish relevant businesses and marketing channels to reach millennials in the first place.”
— Check out Best Full-Service Investment Firms Ranked by Investors: J.D. Power — 2016 on ThinkAdvisor.