If you want to know what future technology tools and applications you and your custodian or broker-dealer will be using to help you deliver advice, there is no better place find out than at the T3 Advisor Conference, which took place Jan. 29-Feb 1 near Dallas.
Held annually for the last 16 years by technology guru Joel Bruckenstein, T3 (Technology Tools for Today) is the milestone event where members of the advisor technology community gather for sneak previews of the latest innovations. This year, there were more than ever as wealthtech continues to be a red-hot sector.
Kicking off the conference was charismatic entrepreneur, technologist and innovator Oleg Tishkevich. Fresh out of Envestnet after selling his Finance Logix financial-planning software company to the mega-turnkey asset management program provider several years ago, Tishkevich took center stage to reveal his latest venture: Invent.us.
Invent.us is a new consulting venture launched by Tishkevich to help financial institutions modernize their legacy systems into the cloud.
“Just like when the industry migrated from DOS to Windows and had to re-architect everything, the time is now for firms to move to the cloud in order to take advantage of all of the benefits that the cloud delivers in terms of efficiencies, scale, cost savings, integrations, security and flexibility,” he said in his keynote address.
By the cloud, Tishkevich means not just throwing your existing applications and systems into a hosted environment — a “cloud-based” approach — but completely reconfiguring complex systems to become “cloud-native,” which is a much more robust and nimble way to take advantage of the latest innovations in cloud technology.
Otherwise, financial services firms will be hindered by a lack of ability to create integrations with the latest CRM, financial planning, reporting, risk analysis and data aggregation applications that advisors want — due to the limitations of their legacy systems.
To overcome this challenge, Tishkevich has assembled a global army of more than 30 cloud-development professionals in six countries and 13 time zones. Early results of Tishkevich’s efforts are more than promising, as he is now working with five of the industry’s largest independent broker-dealers, representing more than 14,000 users.
Also appearing at T3 was legendary eMoney founder Edmond Walters with his new venture, Apprise Labs. Walters gained instant advisor technology fame by selling eMoney to Fidelity for hundreds of millions of dollars, only to then quickly walk away from Fidelity, leaving millions of dollars on the table, unable to manage the corporate bureaucracy as a dyed-in-the-wool entrepreneur.
Walters’ new bold venture is a mashup/joint venture with industry leaders Envestnet and PIETech (makers of MoneyGuidePro) focused on legacy and estate planning.
This new startup, focused on building software to address estate planning, lifetime cash flow and client retirement needs, will add detailed short-term cash flow and tax information to the financial planning platforms of Envestnet Logix (Tishkevich’s former firm) and MoneyGuidePro.
These new add-ons will help advisors collaborate with clients to build financial plans that address unique legacy needs through an interactive and hardware-based user interface. Fresh out of the gate for Envestnet, the new estate and legacy planning software product will be called MoneyLogixPro and will be available later this summer.
Continuing the “financial planning technology is the future” theme, Advicent announced several new enhancements, including a new user interface for its NaviPlan product along with a new retirement-assessment tool. The new UI is a “top-to-bottom modernization, promising ease of use without sacrificing the robust planning functionality,” said Advicent CEO Angela Pecoraro.
According to Pecoraro, there is a new “third wave of financial planning, which is defined by three attributes: a greater synthesis between the cash flow and goals-based models that had defined the prior two waves of planning; increased adoption of planning software that provides greater autonomy and configurability to advisors in regards to how they plan; and a proliferation of planning experiences that manifest themselves across numerous digital touchpoints without sacrificing plan comprehension.”
Not lost on the big asset custodians, such as Fidelity, Schwab, TD Ameritrade and Pershing, is the importance of both the technology they provide to keep their RIAs profitably humming along and also the custodians’ ability to seamlessly integrate that technology with the hundreds of applications advisors use from the third-party vendor community.
Leading that custodian charge in a keynote address was Tricia Haskins, vice president of Digital Strategy & Platform Consulting for Fidelity Institutional. Haskins opened her talk with a provocative quote: “Fidelity is really a technology company that happens to be in financial services.” She then described the many innovations Fidelity has led throughout its multi-decade existence to keep up with the exponential changes that technology is driving.
“There are no longer any more barriers to entry when it comes to technology. Digitization will be ubiquitous,” she said, before introducing the concept of “DQ” — or digital quotient — as a new element advisors will need when working with clients in the future. As proof of her conclusions, Haskins cited this compelling statistic: “Focusing on the right digital strategies helps digital leaders drive five times more revenue growth than their peers.”
To help advisors enhance their DQ, Haskins showcased some of the cool new things coming out of Fidelity’s Center for Applied Technology, including Virtual Reality applications, AI, biometric user interfaces and more. Also, Haskins stressed Fidelity’s commitment to technology integration with the vendor community, a welcome message to complement its recent launch of Integration Exchange.
There were announcements from just about all of T3’s 80-plus technology exhibitors, including industry leaders Orion, Riskalyze, Laserfiche and others.
Orion took advantage of the T3 spotlight to launch new compliance upgrades with MarketCounsel; event-based notifications to alert advisors to key life moments of clients, so they can take action; an identity-theft protection program with Experian to enable advisors to provide credit monitoring and identity-theft protection to clients; and integration with BizEquity to help firms optimize the value of their firms.
Riskalyze also has been busy enhancing its platform and has a new feature called Timeline, which can optimize clients’ risk budgets using multiple goals. Continuing the robo-automation theme, Laserfiche introduced robotic process automation to its document-management and workflow-automation platform. RPA is designed to automate the many manual data-entry steps that now plague advisors.
Rounding out the conference was a presentation from conference host Bruckenstein and industry watcher Bob Veres. The duo presented the findings of their annual software survey, which aims to identify usage of and satisfaction with the third-party vendor and custodian technology offerings, as well as key trends.
Based on over 5,500 responses, the key takeaways this year are that the industry continues to evolve and that the landscape is changing rapidly as it moves aggressively from being centered around investment management to having a focus on service and advice.
Of particular concern to Bruckenstein is the lack of adoption of cybersecurity-protection technology and the CFP Board’s continued refuse to provide continuing education credits for technology content.
“It is … hypocritical of the CFP Board to require advisors to know how the calculations are done in their financial planning software, yet … [to] not recognize that technology itself needs to be a CE area for CFP professionals in this digital age where technology is now the way advice is delivered,” he explained.
The industry seems to agree. More than 85% of survey respondents say they support CE credit for technology content.
Timothy D. Welsh, CFP, is president, CEO and founder of Nexus Strategy LLC, a leading consulting firm to the wealth management industry, and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NexusStrategy.