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Envestnet Technology: Build-a-Bear Meets Netflix

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As Envestnet wound down its Advisor Summit in Austin on Thursday, key executives shared their vision of what the office of the future is set to look like, and how that office can drive client engagement and business growth for advisors.

“This is a game changer,” said Bill Crager, head of Envestnet wealth solutions, before a crowd of 100 or more attendees in the exhibit hall.

What makes a game changer, according to wealth-tech consultant Gavin Spitzner, is the way it directly engages clients.

“It’s like what [blogger and advisor] Michael Kitces said in his talk here [on Wednesday]. It’s the  Build-a-Bear model,” Spitzner explained.

“You can charge … more and get the client to do more of the work, if you give them more experience and interaction … like playing with sliders or trackbars, for instance, talking with their family members and having more complex legacy discussions,” he added.

Got Touchscreen?

To show what such interactive tools can do, wealth-tech innovator Edmond Walters demonstrated Apprise Labs’ latest retirement, cash flow and estate planning software on a large Dell touchscreen.

“This means presentations with no more paper,” Walters explained. “No one [else] can do this.”

(Envestnet and its just-acquired partner MoneyGuide/PIETech helped form the innovative venture in January.)

With a bit of data entry, “A husband and wife can — in 30 seconds — see their income sources … over a 12-month period. All the details are there. It’s pretty amazing,” Walters said.

The tech executive reminded the audience that clients “want an engaging experience” and not one involving paperwork. Clients “want to see how good you are” as an advisor at walking them through real-life issues, he added, “not at talking about products.”

“Advisors can talk with clients about downsizing their homes, selling a business, etc. Then clients can [immediately] see the impact of such decisions on the screen. … These are the tools of the future,” Walters added.

Kevin Hughes, chief growth officer of MoneyGuide, then showed the crowd the firm’s myBlocks platform. “Most Americans do not have a financial or retirement plan,” he said. “This is how to engage with them … on a screen that is familiar to them.”

The myBlock touchscreen has topics like Social Security and college loans that dynamically illustrate what income streams or payments will look like over the next five, 10 or more years and how clients can adjust these flows.  

“This is the office of the future and the future of planning,” Hughes said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled.”

For wealth-tech consultant Craig Iskowitz, the power of these tools is that advisors can use them to improve the client experience while also expanding their client and asset base.

Rather than the advisor being the only person involved directly in the financial planning, “This is gamification — the client can play it, too. And advisors can capture a larger base with this unique Netflix-style interface,” Iskowitz explained.

“By playing with tools, clients literally are taking control and can be involved” in wealth management and decision making, he said. “The tools also give advisors more time” for other business-building activities and stronger relationships with clients overall.

Boosting clients’ trust and confidence in advisors using this technology should enable advisors to collect more share of wallet — aka assets held by clients elsewhere. “You can get more of this business by differentiating yourself,” Iskowitz explained.

To win more of clients’ wealth business, “You have to to ‘wow’ them,” he added.

By digitally illustrating how they can save clients money on taxes, for instance, advisors enhance their value to clients. “It prompts the question, why would you keep your money elsewhere? ” Iskowitz said. “ It could be a game changer for wallet share.”

What’s Next?

After the demonstration, Crager gave more details on the deployment of these new tools. The myBLOCKs technology is generally available now, with more tools expected by early June. The Apprise Labs resources should be fully rolled out by year-end, he said.

Such plans show that “Envestnet recognizes that platforms with trading technology and the like are not enough,” Spitzner said. “You have to go deeper to empower advisors to have more digitally enabled client-engagement practices.”

“This is great vision in how they are bringing together different parts of the [wealth management] ecosystem, so advisors and firms don’t have to cobble it together for themselves,” he said.

But such systems require “great execution and clarity,” the consultant added. “It has to be really connected and seamless.”

At the same time, wealth firms “want to be able to do and add some of their own elements,” Spitzner said. “That’s the industry challenge — balancing tight integration across the ecosystem with differentiation.”  


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