Most advisors will say one of their biggest pain points is the problem with data — as in how many times they and their staff have to re-key the same data into multiple systems and applications just to get business done.
Even routine “simple” tasks, such as managing a client’s change of address, can mean accessing multiple systems and screens, typing in the same information sometimes a half dozen times or more just to ensure that reporting is accurate, documents are titled appropriately and statements get sent to the right place.
For many reasons, most notably an advisor’s own choices to get the best in breed solution, their technology systems, applications and custodians have grown up in silos. This creates problems with connectivity, which leads to inefficiencies and manual workarounds, thus preventing advisors from faster growth and limiting their capacity.
While this technology integration problem has been a perennial issue, the good news is that progress is being made thanks to a collaborative advisor technology community and leadership from the industry’s custodians.
Case in point: The ninth annual TD Ameritrade Institutional Tech Summit. This two-day tech confab, held in 100-degree-plus heat this summer in Dallas, was the scene of over 40 advisor technology executives gathering together with the executives, developers and product managers from TD Ameritrade’s Veo Open Access initiative.
According to Jon Patullo, TDA managing director for Technology Platform Management, the momentum and promise of technology integration came from a 2010 advisor meeting held in Turtle Creek, Texas.
“Advisors were telling us that technology integration was a real issue in their businesses, because they liked having choice of using their own personal favorite CRM, financial planning and portfolio accounting systems, and didn’t want to suffer the trade-offs of an all-in-one bundled solution, or have their technology stack dictated to them by their custodian or broker-dealer,” he said.
Patullo added that, “Choice is good, however, it creates complexity. It occurred to us that there was an opportunity for TDA, as their custodian, to play the role of technology integrator, so the custodial data they needed would be able to freely flow from our systems of record to their applications and back again.”
To do this, Patullo and Chris Valleley, TDA director for Institutional Technology Solutions, and their teams floated the idea of creating an application programming interface that third-party technology vendors could code to, so that data could pass easily and one system could update multiple, third-party systems, saving massive amounts of advisors’ time and resources, while enabling advisors to work with their vendor of choice.
“We started with just a handful of tech vendors to help validate this idea and to begin to build a roadmap for what this could look like,” Patullo noted. “Collaborating with the industry vs. us doing it on our own was a much faster way for development and has been the real success behind Veo Open Access.”
Today, Veo Open Access includes more than 150 tech vendors. Patullo and Valleley credit the spirit of cooperation among the advisor technology industry as key to this growth. Based on the success of earlier attempts at technology integration among the advisor technology industry, technology firms generally have been more than willing to put their competitive instincts aside to facilitate making advisors’ lives easier.
An early example, Your Silver Bullet, was a ground-breaking initiative launched by then Junxure CRM CEO Greg Friedman and his partner Ken Golding to gather the advisor technology industry in 2007 and foster cooperation among platforms and systems to help solve the data integration problem. YSB eventually numbered several dozen technology firm members and showed that there really was a collegial spirit in the niche market of advisor technology.
YSB disbanded a few years after custodians began taking the lead in technology integration, but its early members — such as Brian McLaughlin of Redtail, Eric Clarke of Orion and Kevin Hughes of MoneyGuidePro — remember it fondly. And it’s no surprise that these three firms were the first to jump into Veo Open Access.