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Technology Integration Critical to Compete With Wirehouses

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It was the deliberate choice of Jim Casey, founder and CEO of Palm Beach, California-based Integrated Wealth Management (IWM), to slowly grow the company he founded in 1995. However, when John Wong, chief compliance officer, came on board in 2011, things had changed. The firm had operated for years with just a handful of advisors, but was now on a growth trajectory — eager, Wong said, to exponentially increase its advisor force, client base and the amount of assets under management.

That shift could not happen without the support of a state-of-the-art technology system.

“What we needed was something with a high level of integration,” Wong said. “We knew that the system as it was — we had a portfolio accounting and trading system made by one company and a client relationship model (CRM) system made by another and they did not ‘talk’ to each other — would not get us to where we wanted to get to.”

At the 2012 Schwab Impact Conference, IWM found Envestnet’s Tamarac, and the firm was quickly impressed by its offerings, which over the past four years have not fallen short in any way and have provided a solid foundation for IWM’s growth goals.

For one, it has been instrumental in attracting advisory talent to the firm.

“When we took the decision to grow quickly, we also decided that we wanted our firm to look attractive to people coming out of wirehouses,” Wong said. “Firms like Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and so on invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology every year. We wanted to offer people leaving wirehouses something equally, if not more, attractive than what they would have in a wirehouse. Tamarac has been a wonderful platform for that and in helping us grow to where we are today in terms of doubling our client base and our assets under management since 2012.”

Tamarac’s Advisor Xi suite (IWM uses all three products, Advisor Rebalancing, Advisor View and Advisor CRM) also offers a high level of data integration, which IWM requires as its client base continues to grow. Integration capacities keep on getting better because “Envestnet invests very heavily in technology and comes out with new enhancements every two months,” Wong said. These “bells and whistles” are as much the product of stakeholder feedback as they are Envestnet expertise, he said, and this “collective thinking” ensures that Tamarac remains robust and at the forefront in terms of delivery and in meeting the needs of the advisor community it serves.

But most importantly, Tamarac has helped and continues to help IWM’s advisors better understand their clients at an individual level.

“Tamarac is a highly flexible and customizable system, and that’s important when it comes to the style and content of performance reports,” Wong said. “The formats can easily be switched depending on what clients want, which means advisors can segment their client base according to how they respond to the reports they’re presented. Millennials, for example, are very tech-savvy and they check their accounts on their iPhone or iPad. But an advisor team may also have older clients who are not so tech-savvy and who prefer traditional reports with charts, graphs and research. The system remembers these differences and can run off different reports for different clients.”

Behavioral finance has shown that people react differently to information and that the way in which information is presented, or framed, is important in guiding people’s financial behavior and decision-making. Being able to customize the reports that they send to clients in a way that clients appreciate and respond positively to allows IWM’s advisors to get to know their clients better, Wong said, and help them take better financial decisions.

IWM’s clients have also expressed their appreciation for the Tamarac client portal’s design, Wong said.

“The look, feel and style when the clients log in is very modern and very pleasing to the eye,” he said. “Again, the portal is extremely customizable — you can show your clients lots of stuff or very little stuff, the color schemes are customizable, you can move data points around and so on.”

— Read How an Acquisition Brought Better Tech to Bronfman E.L. Rothschild on the ThinkAdvisor TechCenter. 


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