Just as thousands of college students gathered recently in Florida for spring break, leaders of top wealth management firms assembled in the Sunshine State for SS&C Advent’s Black Diamond Executive Forum and the Pershing Elite Advisor Summit.
Staged by technology and custodian leaders in mid-March, these two executive conferences brought together staff from growth-minded firms for networking, industry content, professional development and technology demonstrations.
One benefits of hanging out at these events is the chance to learn from visionaries, see the impact of emerging trends close up and gain powerful ideas on how to run a better business in a world of change.
Kicking off the Black Diamond Executive Forum was SVP and business unit leader Steve Leivent, who welcomed attendees by detailing the amazing growth story of the firm’s wealth management platform. “Black Diamond now serves over 1,400 firms, representing over $1 trillion in assets on the platform,” he said, describing the evolution of the technology that processes over 1.8 million end-client accounts daily.
“Because of the massive amount of data that we have, we will be able to extend Black Diamond into the world of big data, AI and machine learning to help advisors better manage their businesses and client relationships,” he added.
Some of this data is focused on peer benchmarking, he says, so advisors can see how they stack up against similar firms in terms of pricing, fees, AUM flows and more — all in real time, so they can make better decisions in managing their firms.
This talk was complemented by a demonstration of Black Diamond platform enhancements and new product launches, including an updated billing platform, new features for the rebalancer and expanded integrations with custodians and other tech partners — like a streamlined account-opening application.
Plus, Black Diamond added an environmental component that can save hundreds of trees every year; advisors share 1.5 million PDF reports on the Black Diamond Client Experience portal, and it eliminates the need for printing and mailing.
Being a tech company, Black Diamond has keen perspectives on how technology is affecting the advice business. Top among them, according to Senior Directors Eli George and Bjorn Widerstedt, is the “consumer-ification of wealth management,” such as the digital transformation that is happening across industries as people become more comfortable with a digital experience. As a result, advisors need to increase the adoption of these tools and approaches with clients across the board to remain relevant.
The duo also highlighted other trends: the growing outsourcing of investment-management services, as robos continue to commoditize investing; the declining profitability of advisory firms due to increasing regulatory costs; and an aging population of both advisors and clients.
The result, Widerstedt says, is the growing movement of advisors to seek out “one platform” that combines all of the technology apps and investing services they use to create the key efficiencies needed to manage their workflows in a more complex environment.
“These trends also explain why so many asset managers and annuity companies are now racing to become technology providers and consultants to keep up,” he wryly noted.
Future Generations Continuing the future-forward theme was Dani Fava, director of innovation at TD Ameritrade Institutional. Fava spends her days researching the latest emerging technologies to help advisors read the tea leaves on how their businesses will change, while also looking to “productize” these technologies on the TD Ameritrade platform to help advisors work better with their future clients.
According to Fava, the best place to look for future technology applications is in science fiction. “Science fiction has been extremely good at predicting the future,” she said, providing examples from sci-fi movies like the Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg classic “Minority Report.”