Executives of LPL Financial used the firm’s Focus conference in San Diego Monday and Tuesday to spotlight the various expanded technology initiatives the firm is offering advisors, including improvements to the ClientWorks platform that they said could save advisors more than an hour a day.
They stressed that they’re not just interested in new technology for technology’s sake but to benefit advisors.
“You have to resist the urge to just pick the next bright, shiny object technology,” Greg Gates, executive vice president and CIO of Service Transformation and Data for the independent broker-dealer, told attendees during an LPL Live conference session that was webcast Tuesday. “They’re always going to be there and it’s wonderful,” he said, but stressed: “You have to start with what are the problems we’re trying to solve.”
To that end, LPL isn’t just spending a ton of money to invest in its own technology, he noted, pointing out: “We always are partnered with venture capitalists’ companies [and] we have great relationships with the major tech companies in the world; we use much of their software” and LPL has an “open ecosystem mindset.”
The company is “constantly assessing what are the technologies that are available to us, but we’re only going to apply them when we think that there’s a clear business objective to be met or a problem to solve,” he said.
LPL is “looking outside of our kind of core industry as well because, as we know from what investors are expecting, that’s not necessarily being influenced by Bank of America as much as it is by Amazon,” according to Kirby Horan-Adams, executive vice president of Investor and Investment Solutions. Therefore, as LPL looks at technology solutions, it’s trying to figure out how new technologies can apply to its business and “enable something different” for advisors, she said.
“Making sure that we’re thinking big enough” is crucial, she said, pointing to the fact that robo-advisors met a need that was out there and adding: “We need to make sure that we’re trying to see what those needs that are being met maybe outside of what we’re doing [are] before all of a sudden it bites us.”
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are “buzzwords in the industry,” Gates said. But he said “they’re very real concepts” that can be very useful — as long as they’re used in conjunction with “quality data that you can mine for actionable insights” that advisors can use to help their businesses.
ML, for example, can be used to handle “some of the mundane work and it really allows our team at LPL” and advisors to “focus on the value-driving things” that are part of their businesses, Horan-Adams said.
Citing data from Cerulli Associates, LPL noted that advisors spend more than 40% of their time on administrative and office tasks. LPL President and CEO Dan Arnold on Monday opened his remarks at Focus by acknowledging that time — or the lack of it, anyway — is one of the biggest challenges facing advisors today.