What a difference a year makes, particularly in the advisor technology industry. This fast-moving space adapts to changes in the economy, consumer preferences, emerging technologies and innovation faster than anywhere else in financial services — all in its quest to be hyper-focused on ways to more efficiently support human advisors and keep the robots at bay.
To get the latest updates, there is no better venue than the twice-yearly Technology Tools for Today (T3) series of conferences, produced by industry icon and technology guru Joel Bruckenstein. T3 is the place to be to get the barometer on what is hot, trending and emerging in advisor tech.
This year’s T3 Enterprise event, recently held in Las Vegas, was markedly different from its previous edition just a year ago in one important category: regulatory changes. With the DOL fiduciary rule finally put to rest, the home office executives of independent broker-dealers, large RIAs and other multi-advisor entities have turned their attention to helping advisors become more efficient and productive and not retro-fitting back offices to comply with DOL’s complex requirements.
“Last year, just about every exhibitor here had some form of signage on how their platform helps with DOL compliance,” said celebrity attorney Brian Hamburger of MarketCounsel. “This year, however, everyone must have refreshed their marketing, because I don’t see any mention of DOL at all.”
The legal expert shared his regulatory insights during a sit-down keynote session with industry observer Bob Veres. “Regulators have been chasing headlines with their rule making,” Hamburger noted. “We didn’t have a custody rule until after Madoff, and we didn’t have to worry about business continuity until after 9/11.”
As for what’s next, Hamburger pointed to the many rising and alarming headlines tied to cybersecurity breaches as what will most likely influence the next wave of regulations. This should make industry participants re-think their technology systems, platforms and practices to ensure the sanctity of client information.
On a positive note, Veres believes that the innovation happening in advisor technology, particularly the investment automation being driven by robo advisors and the fiduciary movement, will empower firms and advisors to move down market and more efficiently deliver advice to lower-asset thresholds.
Also on display at T3 were the massive investments being made by both technology platforms and asset managers to make access to low-cost and feature rich “model marketplaces” and outsourced investment management platforms even easier. With such new tools, human advisors can one-up robots, and despite the death of the DOL rule, still maintain a fiduciary-forward mentality through lower-cost investment options.
A case in point: the launch at T3 of Orion Enterprise, an offering developed by Orion and its newest sister company, FTJ Fundchoice, a well-known turnkey asset management program or TAMP acquired by Orion’s parent company, Northstar, earlier this year.
The expanded offering extends Orion’s continuum of self-directed trading and rebalancing solutions to include fully-outsourced investment management, special memorandum accounts, unified managed accounts and TAMP services, specifically aimed at the “forgotten” broker-dealers and RIAs that large TAMPS, like Envestnet, may be less focused on in their quest to be the preferred provider to the top-end of the market.
“This is a great time to be an advisor,” noted Bill Wostoupal, executive vice president of national sales for NorthStar. “Technology has been the great equalizer for advisors. However, the big gap that we are seeing is that despite the great technology, we as an industry are not optimizing what is available,” he said.
Wostoupal is looking to the combination of technology and investing through Orion Enterprise to close that gap.
With a similar theme, the head of Vestmark, a leading outsourced investment and technology platform not widely known outside of the enterprise community, took to the general stage to announce its technology and investment management initiatives.
This includes its recent integration with Oranj, an emerging client service and investment portal, in addition to tools, technologies and investment management solutions added via its acquisition of Adhesion and now available in an integrated suite.