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Financial Planning > Tax Planning

Tech Companies Stress Personalization With Solutions for Advisors

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At FinovateFall in New York last week, several of the technology companies exhibiting their latest solutions designed to help advisors, banks and other financial institutions stressed the importance of personalization.

Clear examples of that included BlueRush’s IndiVideo interactive personalized video technology platform for advisors and other financial institutions, the data aggregation and analytics platform for digital financial services of Envestnet and the Yodlee software company it bought in 2015, and Orion’s rebalancing platform.

BlueRush started in Toronto as a digital marketing agency, serving banks for about 30 years, before shifting its focus to become a software-as-a-service company providing personalized customer engagement solutions in 2017, after CEO Steve Taylor took the helm of the publicly traded firm, Ted Mercer, its vice president of sales, said at the conference. The company had offered several products but recently sold them off to focus on its IndiVideo platform, Mercer noted.

“Personalization for custom communications is no longer nice to have — it’s mandatory,” he told ThinkAdvisor, noting most consumers expect personalization today with just about any product or service they’re using. Meanwhile, “video is the fastest-growing medium in the world,” he said, noting: “We believe personalized video will be the predominant communication format for banks within five years.”

The IndiVideo platform regularly tracks whether viewers are still watching a particular video and checks every few seconds to see if they’ve selected a call-to-action button while viewing, he explained. “We overlay that data — those engagement metrics — with personalized data categories to help” its corporate customers “understand how their different audience segments interact,” he said. It then feeds that data back into the video dashboard to help companies “optimize” their videos based on who’s watching them, he explained.

“BlueRush is going to do for custom communications what Google did for internet ads,” he predicted, noting internet ads didn’t start gaining traction until the launch of Google Analytics in 2005, enabling video ads to be optimized for specific audience segments. “BlueRush does the same thing around personalized video,” he said.

Since the product was introduced about two years ago, more than 40 banks have started using it at 20 of the largest organizations in North America, he said. Despite starting with banks, it’s also targeting financial advisors and companies outside the financial sector, he told ThinkAdvisor.

The company intends to sell the product to large RIAs but not individual advisors because of the cost involved in developing personalized video content, he said, adding a license fee is also charged by it each time an ad runs using its technology.

“An individual advisor is probably not going to spend the money to do this unless they have a sufficient number of customers to make it worth it — and they’d need thousands of customers,” he said.

BlueRush disclosed in early September that it sold the technology and source code for its DigitalReach platform and Broadridge’s Smart Advisor application to Broadridge Financial Solutions for 2.3 million Canadian dollars. The move was designed to “enable us to heighten our focus on our core IndiVideo platform and provides us with greater financial flexibility to support our sales, marketing and product development objectives,” Taylor said in a statement at the time.

Also on the demo stage at FinovateFall, Katy Gibson, vice president of product applications at Envestnet/Yodlee, spotlighted her company’s data aggregation and analytics platform for digital financial services. The company gave a live demonstration of its vision for the wide-ranging financial experiences that it said can be built leveraging its upcoming Financial Insights application program interface. The API provides “actionable insights so financial institutions and fintech companies can create and deliver hyper-personalized tools to enable financial wellness for their consumers,” according to the company.

“Technological disruption,” including the gig economy, video games, in-app purchases and the “proliferation of subscriptions as a business model,” has had a major impact on how people earn and spend their money, as well as customer expectations, she told attendees.

Everybody’s financial planning strategy is different, she went on to say, noting: “There is no one-size-fit-all solution out there,” so “we believe financial management apps should allow consumers to create their own experiences, their own financial insights that are hyper-personalized to their needs,” like what her company’s platform offers.

Later, touting his company’s latest offering on the demo stage, Eddie Sempek, Orion Advisor Technology chief innovation officer, noted his company specializes in technology supporting financial advisors’ back-office business.

“One of the key things that’s really important around investment management is helping your clients feel connected with the underlying strategies that you are managing,” Sempek told advisors and other attendees.

He and Chris Romano, Orion quantitative portfolio risk manager, then went on to demonstrate how one component of their company’s “full end-to-end trade platform” allows advisors to “individually personalize those ethical needs for your underlying clients,” according to Sempek.

On the environmental, social and governance front, for example, an advisor helping a particular client “can select any of those ethical needs that the client has identified that they don’t want to participate in,” he explained. Whatever is identified gets included on an exclusion list of securities for that client, he said. But he noted that even if a client selects pharmaceuticals as a category he or she doesn’t feel comfortable with, as an example, if there are certain types of pharmaceutical companies he or she is OK with investing in — maybe distributors rather than drug makers — the advisor can go in and “offset those trade restrictions down to the underlying security level.”

The feature also allows advisors to set up a client’s account so that no more than a certain percentage is invested in a certain type of security, he pointed out.

The company’s Advisor Strategy and Tax Return Optimization (ASTRO) portfolio optimization tool enables users to construct tax-efficient portfolios, use direct indexing to outperform exchange-traded funds on an after-tax basis and manage legacy positions while transitioning clients to a new target strategy. Its Eclipse solution, meanwhile, provides an integrated and fully customizable trading and rebalancing platform for advisors. Combined, ASTRO and Eclipse make up an SMA optimizer and trading/rebalancing platform to unify in-house trading tools and unlock direct indexing efficiencies, according to the company.


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