TD Ameritrade Institutional's Dani Fava and Shark Tank's Robert Herjavec present Innovation Quest winner's check to Derrick Wesley of iMar Learning Solutions at the LINC 2019 conference TD Ameritrade Institutional’s Dani Fava (left) and Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec (right) present Innovation Quest winner’s check to Derrick Wesley of iMar Learning Solutions at the LINC 2019 conference in San Diego. (Photo Credit. © LILA PHOTO for TD Ameritrade Institutional)

At its LINC 2019 conference for RIAs, TD Ameritrade Institutional revealed enhancements to its existing tech tools and platforms for advisors and their clients and introduced a new “virtual agent” designed to improve advisor efficiency. Employing the unique input of attendees and celebrity judges, during the conference the custodian also awarded $100,000 to three entrepreneurs whose ideas might change advisors’ business lives in the future and—dare we say it—improve society.

Jon Patullo, managing director, institutional technology solutions, related the changes to its Veo platform, a “built from scratch” remake of its AdvisorClient site for end clients and the introduction of the AI-powered virtual agent in an interview during LINC, which ran from Feb. 6-8 in San Diego.

AdvisorClient, which was built in only six months using TDAI’s agile software, has a cleaner interface and streamlined navigation, Patullo said, which makes it easier for end clients to quickly and easily access the information they want when using the site. The site prominently features three tabs that should provide “everything clients” normally look for, he said, will provide better authentication for clients, and will more easily allow them to opt into electronic versions of standard documents like statements and confirms. Taking advantage of the agile architecture of the site will also allow TDAI to update the site more frequently—even weekly—to better meet the evolving information and security needs of advisors and clients, Patullo said.

TD Ameritrade’s Veo One platform is coming of age, with Patullo saying that all advisors new to TDAI are automatically placed on the now four-year-old platform, while all advisors who have been using the legacy Veo platform will be moved to Veo Open Access over the next year. In addition to the 28 third-party tech vendors integrated into the platform, Veo One also includes now industry-wide practice management data provided by FA Insight, the advisor research and analysis firm led by Dan Inveen and Eliza De Pardo that TDAI acquired in 2016. That data, presented as a dashboard, will allow individual advisory firms to see how well they “stack up” with other firms across the industry; the platform will also provide complementary educational resources to help firms improve their performance.

The TD Ameritrade Virtual Agent demoed at LINC is being launched in March, Patullo said, helped by the experiences of a “couple thousand” current testers of the tool. That process is making the tool “smarter over time,” Patullo says, as those beta testers seek answers from the online-chat-like tool. So if an advisor user asks the agent “How do I open a trust account?” for the first time and the virtual agent doesn’t “know” the answer, Patullo explains, a human chat agent would provide the answer. But the next time an advisor asks that question, the virtual agent would provide the answer, and could do so 24/7 in a chat format. Patullo is quick to point out, however, that an advisor could always request a human service agent.

As ThinkAdvisor previously reported (TD Ameritrade Launches Tech Awards With a Twist), TDAI tried something new this year at LINC to both reflect its open-architecture, collaborative approach to technology and to encourage tech innovations that could benefit advisors and their clients. For the Innovation Quest competition, TDAI solicited advisors and the fintech community to present tech tool ideas, and 135 eligible submissions were made.

In a live TV Shark Tank-like event, the three finalists for the $50,000 grand prize made their cases to a celebrity panel of judges—including Joel Bruckenstein, TD Ameritrade Chief Information Officer Vijay Sankaran and actual Shark Tank judge, Robert Herjavec—and LINC attendees. The judges and the attendees (via the LINC conference app) voted for the winner, which turned out to be an interactive financial literacy app called Plan-It suitable for children as young as five years old and for adults through retirement created by Derrick Wesley of iMar Learning Solutions. Wesley, a sixth-grade reading teacher, made a passionate plea for the importance of financial literacy, and while several of the judges fretted that his laudable idea was too impractical to solve such a big problem, he nevertheless won the competition with the majority support of the attendees.

All three finalists—including runners up Patrick Beaudan, CEO of Emotomy, and advisors Timothy Hooker and Brian Smith of RIA firm Dynamic Wealth Solutions, were awarded $25,000 each and given a trip to the conference to present their ideas. As winner, Wesley was presented with a $25,000 check to continue development of his app.