Jeff Bezos has been in the headlines for a host of reasons lately, but it’s his role as an innovator as head of Amazon that continues to impact the advice business.
In a nod to Amazon, Apple and Netflix, Charles Schwab recently rolled out a $30-a-month plan for its newly named Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium service; it includes “unlimited” support from a certified financial planner (as well as a $25,000 investment minimum and a $300 initial planning fee.) “Wow, HUGE news,” said Michael Kitces on Twitter.
Meanwhile, TD Ameritrade has been working on voice-based online trading Amazon Alexa technology and launched a financial education platform for investors based on artificial intelligence; it aims to work like the personalized recommendations generated by Amazon and Netflix.
Other firms, of course, are looking to capitalize on Amazon-inspired innovations. Platform provider Envestnet | Yodlee, for instance, bought Abe AI earlier this year to let advisors and financial firms take advantage of conversational artificial intelligence in their interactions with clients.
While the threat of Amazon moving into the financial-advice business continues to attract attention, experts like Scott Smith of Cerulli Associates counter that “the level of nuance and regulation” makes the industry “difficult to scale.”
Keeping up with all things Amazon and beyond is IA25 newbie Dani Fava, director of institutional innovation for TD Ameritrade Institutional, whose focus is to both simplify the lives of independent RIAs and make them more competitive in a digital age. She led the launch of portfolio rebalancing technology iRebal and the Model Market Center, which brings outsourced investment management to RIAs.
“I want to help RIAs better understand these technologies and the potential areas of change and disruption, so that they don’t get left behind,” she told IA, which included her in the inaugural Top Women in Wealthtech list in February.
Fava says her favorite tech tools are Slack and Alexa: “She’s becoming my own personal assistant. I can’t wait to see where Voice-First technology is in five years.”
TD Ameritrade Chief Information Officer Vijay Sankaran heads up both investor and advisor tech programs for the company out of its innovation center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The group works on everything from devices like Pepper the robot to holograph machines.