Ed O’Brien typifies the type of person that this year’s IA 25 seeks to honor. A person of deep competence in their specific field (in O’Brien’s case, advisor technology) who exhibits broad knowledge of advisors’ challenges (gained over 30 years toiling in Fidelity Institutional’s technology trenches) and a record of producing solutions for advisors matched by a passion for the independent advisory industry.
Holder of a U.S. patent with experience overseas, in March, O’Brien was named CEO of eMoney Advisor, which Fidelity majority acquired last year, replacing the estimable eMoney founder Edmond Walters. While it began life as financial planning software for advisors, eMoney’s trump offering may well be its emX digital wealth management platform, designed for end clients but provided through advisors. As Michael Durbin of Fidelity Wealth Technologies said in announcing O’Brien’s ascension, “I’m confident he will help us further establish eMoney as the strongest ally of advisors seeking to meet the growing high-tech and high-touch expectations of their end clients.”
When asked in an April interview whether advisors need new technology or just need to make better use of their existing tech tools, O’Brien said advisor technology is “far better than we’ve had historically.” While some advisors haven’t made enough of an investment in their technology, others have, he said, but failed to invest “in the people or the processes.” A central focus of eMoney, O’Brien said, is to help advisors “not just in [providing] efficiency but in deepening the relationship with clients; making the relationship more productive,” with the eMoney platform being the “ennabler of that relationship.”
It’s one thing to gather demographic data on clients — “any CRM can do that” — or provide more transactional efficiency, he said, while it’s quite another to “gather the emotional needs of the client” and then meet those needs. First determine, he said, “What are they passionate about? Is it wealth transfer or philanthropy?” and then use technology to collaboratively achieve those goals.
“The beauty of technology” is its ability to provide different ways to meet client needs. So, for example, if a client wants a face-to-face relationship with an advisor, use supporting technology like video or a WebX application to make that personal meeting not just possible but easy.