Jim Dario of TD Ameritrade Jim Dario of TD Ameritrade

There are a number of awards in the advisor industry that celebrate innovations and success in technology, but TD Ameritrade Institutional’s inaugural Innovation Quest (IQ) awards will not only recognize tech innovation but help fund that innovation, says Jim Dario, managing director of product management at TDAI.

While a panel of distinguished judges has chosen the finalists for the awards along with a $25,000 cash prize and a trip to TDAI’s LINC national conference in February, advisors themselves will have a say on which application wins the grand prize, which comes with a an additional $25,000 cash award to help make those tech innovations a reality. The three finalists’ advancements, chosen from 135 submissions, hold the promise of “transforming the practices” of RIA firms, Dario said in an interview.

Building on TD Ameritrade’s open-architecture technology platform approach for advisors, Dario said that “collectively, each finalist focuses directly or indirectly on the client experience.”

(Related: SmartAsset Uses AI to Extend Advisor-Prospect Matching Service)

The finalists are:

1) Emotomy. The Tiburon, a California-based firm, was nominated for its risk assessment tool, which uses advanced analytics providing advisors with an “early indicator” of specific clients who “may be at risk of leaving” an advisor’s firm. The tool gives advisors a chance to “enhance that relationship” to forestall losing the client.

2) iMar Learning Solutions. This Van Alstyne, Texas-based firm was nominated for Plan-It, a financial literacy application that links client accounts with financial literacy education based on their spending habits and patterns. The app can “create a new group of investors, who can relate to the significant benefits of advisors,” said Dario.

3) Dynamic Wealth Solutions. This Southfield, Michigan-based company was nominated for RIA Genie, a voice-activated “assistant” for RIA firms that uses AI natural language processing to “develop a cost-effective voice-activated workflow assistant that reduces or eliminates the need for low-end administrative workers and empowers advisors to be more productive.” This app, Dario said, allows advisors to improve the client experience by applying the voice activation technology that “we’ve seen in other parts of our lives,” said Dario, such as with Amazon’s Alexa.

The genesis of the IQ awards came from TDAI’s realization that “it was important to go out to our constituents—advisors and tech entrepreneurs; students; educational professionals…the whole industry” to understand what RIAs and their clients needed to succeed in the near future, Dario said.

The themes that arose from all those entries, he said, included the need to “incorporate machine learning and artificial intelligence; cybersecurity—that’s paramount in the minds of many submitters” to improve the client experience and to serve the next generation of investors. That last theme reflected the “importance of financial education and planning” to serve a “larger population [of clients]  now and the next generation as well,” he said.

To win the grand prize, the finalists’ submissions will need to “come alive on the LINC stage,” Dario said, during TDAI’s national conference in San Diego on Thursday, Feb. 7 through a demonstration and a prepared video. The LINC audience will help choose the winning submission that will be announced on the last day of the conference, Feb. 8.

The IQ awards help to demonstrate, Dario said, that the use of technology “doesn’t replace” the advisor-client relationship but rather “supplements it,” allowing advisors to focus on higher-value service offerings.

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