Executives, advisors and others across the financial services industry have reacted in shock and sadness to the news that Envestnet founder, Chairman and CEO Judson Bergman, 62, and his wife, Mary Miller, 57, died Oct. 3 in a car crash in San Francisco.
Many industry leaders say Bergman was a much-admired tech pioneer, supportive mentor and more. “I knew Jud when he first started [the RIA platform provider] Envestnet in 1999, and I thought he was crazy,” Carson Group CEO Ron Carson said on Twitter. “It turns out he was just a visionary well ahead of his time. Our profession had a major loss — my thoughts go out to his family, his partners, and his investors.”
“The industry lost a great one today,” tweeted Tom Bradley, the former head of TD Ameritrade Institutional. “Early 2000s, I told Jud Bergman, ‘We really like your platform but we need assurances that you’ll make it.’ Jud responded with complete confidence, ‘Oh we’ll make it Tom, take my word for it we’ll make it.’ We signed, and they sure made it.”
Riskalyze Chair Lori Hardwick said in a statement: “Jud Bergman was a visionary and trailblazer whose impact is seen and felt in every facet of the wealth management community.
“He inspired one of the most influential and successful fintech platforms to date because he wasn’t afraid to imagine what could be. My thoughts and prayers are with his children and his family as we mourn with the Envestnet community. He will be truly missed,” Hardwick added. Riskalyze held a moment of silence for Bergman and his wife Friday during its Fearless Investing Summit held in Boston in early October.
Popular blogger Michael Kitces tweeted: “I’m just stunned. What a tragedy. … You will be missed, Jud … .”
After Bergman’s death, Envestnet appointed Bill Crager, president of Envestnet and head of Envestnet Wealth Solutions, as its interim CEO. Crager has served as Envestnet’s president since 2002. The company’s board also appointed Ross Chapin, its lead independent director, as interim chairman.
“We have all experienced a great loss at Envestnet,” according to Chapin. “While it is difficult to imagine anyone replacing Jud’s vision and presence, we have the utmost confidence in the ability of his colleague, co-founder and dear friend, Bill Crager, to carry on in Jud’s place.”
“Bill and Jud worked closely over the last 20 years and have built a resilient team that will see us through these dark days,” Chapin added. “Jud was a giant as a businessman and human being. We will miss him immensely.”
The company said in a statement, “On behalf of our board of directors, management team and employees, we extend our deepest sympathies to Jud and Mary’s family. As Envestnet’s founder, Jud was a remarkable leader whose vision, brilliance and drive built the foundation for Envestnet’s success.”
Bergman — a native Minnesotan — studied English at Wheaton College and then got an MBA from Columbia University. Earlier in his professional life, he led Nuveen Investments’ product and corporate development work, focusing on its closed-end fund business, and its separately managed accounts business before serving as Nuveen’s managing director for mutual funds and on its Investment Management Committee.
Bergman received and Entrepreneur of the Year award from Ernst and Young. He also was on the Field Museum’s board of trustees.
According to “Chicago Crain’s Business,” Bergman had four children with his first wife Susan, who died of brain cancer in 2006; they were married 27 years. His second wife, Miller, had three children from an earlier marriage.
Today, Envestnet’s technology is used by over 88,000 advisors working with $2.6 trillion in assets. In February, the firm went public with plans to purchase PortfolioCenter management and reporting technology from Charles Schwab.
This news was followed by the March announcement that it would buy PIETech, which includes the popular MoneyGuidePro financial planning tools, for about $500 million.
“Envestnet’s acquisition of MoneyGuidePro is a textbook bold move from Jud Bergman,” said Gavin Spitzner, head of Wealth Consulting Partners, at the time.
“From the strategic perspective, the MoneyGuidePro deal makes a ton of sense for Envestnet,” said Kitces on Twitter in March. “MGP has a massive client base, including a huge overlap with Envestnet’s own broker-dealer enterprises. It lets Envestnet expand market share and wallet share where it already is.”
In a series of interviews in 2017, Bergman told Investment Advisor that while Envestnet started out as a TAMP (turnkey asset management program) provider, “we’re trying to put into place something that shifts the paradigm.”
“There was the digital hardware age, all bits and bytes,” before “we moved to the desktop with installed software,” he explained. From the desktop, he continued, the industry moved to cloud-based software, and “we’re nearing the end of installed software; in three to five years, it will be all cloud.”
The next digital wave, Bergman noted, is all about “data and data analytics,” that provide “all sorts of nuggets to the equipped advisor,” leading to “better intelligence within an expert-centric smart system” that in turn will deliver “better outcomes” for clients.
The use of those smart systems “will eliminate a lot of mistakes humans make and free up advisors to use their wisdom and creativity” on more complex tasks for clients like tax and estate planning, he said. This means advisor are being “freed up to do the things that really add value, producing better outcomes for the end client, the advisor and the enterprise — better lives for everyone.”
Plus, clients have become more active participants in the financial planning process, according to the late executive. “It’s what millennials want,” Bergman said.
“From the start,” he explained, Envestnet has been a wealth management software and services provider that “when you include, intentionally, the end client, giving them capabilities like budgeting apps and cash flow forecasting apps, you create this network effect where the end client is more” engaged in financial wellness.
Bergman’s legacy as a thought leader in financial services and fintech seems assured. “Jud’s vision and innovation forever changed the face of the financial services industry, and will continue to do so for years to come,” according to Riskalyze CEO Aaron Klein. “Our community will always remember him as a warm, caring individual whose genius lives on in the company he founded and the lives he influenced. Our hearts go out to the 3,000-plus members of the Envestnet community and the beloved family he leaves behind.”
Cheryl Nash, president of Investment Services for Fiserv, shared on Twitter in early October: “Such shocking, sad and devastating news. My thoughts and prayers to the entire @ENVintel family. His brilliant vision helped shape our industry.”
During the Commonwealth Financial Network yearly conference in Denver on Oct. 4, President and Chief Operating Officer Trap Kloman said: “Clearly what he built with his team over the years at Envestnet was revolutionary in the industry. They’ve built an impressive company that … has raised the competition and helped a lot of advisors and their clients. It’s very sad and unfortunate.”
United Capital CEO Joe Duran took to Twitter and said: “This is one of the saddest things to happen for our industry. I love this man and admire him as a friend and aspiration. I will miss my lovely long dinners with him. A genuine renaissance man for the ages. God bless you and your amazing wife.”
Janet Levaux is editor-in-chief of Investment Advisor. She can be reached at email@example.com.—James J. Green contributed to this report.