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.
To help give advisors more time back in their day, Arnold said, the firm is making investments in its ClientWorks advisor technology platform, including enhancements designed to automate, digitize and streamline workflows. Those enhancements can potentially save advisors at least an hour or more each day, he said.
For example, one new feature planned for this fall is expected to make it possible for advisors to open new accounts with 30% fewer fields and in half the time it takes today, LPL said.
Another technology enhancement designed to improve the advisor’s practice is LPL’s new texting solution, which the company plans to launch this quarter, it said. The firm will use a secure third-party vendor, MyRepChat, to “surveil and archive text messages between advisors and their clients,” it noted in an announcement.
LPL also announced that its suite of virtual services is now available to all advisors. The new Business Solutions offering includes CFO Solutions, Marketing Solutions and Admin Solutions. “All three services give advisors the choice to outsource operational and specialized functions to LPL experts, with the goal of freeing up more time in their day for higher-priority work,” LPL said.
The company also gave an update on its new advisory-centric and employee affiliation models that it said will give advisors more choice and flexibility in how they operate their business on LPL’s platform.
The advisory-centric model is designed for advisors who choose to provide only fee-based services, an increasing trend for advisors who want to eliminate the day-to-day activities required with a brokerage business, it noted. The model will “support streamlined technology and operational workflows, while offering advisors a choice in how they want to manage risk — whether by outsourcing risk management to LPL’s corporate RIA or by operating their own RIA,” LPL said.
LPL’s new employee model, meanwhile, will “preserve the principles of independence by allowing advisors to retain ownership of their book of business, while also preserving their ability to manage client portfolios as they choose,” LPL said, pointing out it will provide oversight, infrastructure and operations support, including services such as payroll, employee benefits, real estate and financial management.
“Underscoring the entire advisor experience,” LPL said, it’s also developing a new client care service model that “allows advisors to interact with LPL service teams using the channel of their choice.”
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