The new Incentive financial planning and wellness app launched a week ago by Fidelity Investment’s eMoney is raising questions about how it will impact advisors overall, according to several wealth management and technology experts.
Although eMoney plans to address its “initial efforts on working with advisors and advisory firms that focus on the employer retirement plan market, we see it reaching much, much further in the future,” said Jess Liberi, the firm’s head of product, while unveiling the app during the recent online eMoney Summit.
Despite the firm’s initial focus, Gavin Spitzner, president of Wealth Consulting Partners, says it seems as though the app could indeed “just as easily be leveraged by” traditional wealth management advisors, too.
If advisors are able to “harness” the app’s various solutions to “become more embedded in the day-to-day financial lives of their clients in a meaningful way, then these solutions have value,” he told ThinkAdvisor Monday.
However, “more broadly and looking out to the long-term impact, there is a threat in the sense that advisors not involved in workplace solutions will see more competition, as the firms powering those solutions are looking for ways to capture rollovers and provide other types of advisory relationships,” Spitzner said.
But, “regardless of how it’s distributed and by whom, the challenge remains to power these solutions with sufficient data and personalization so as to make them useful over an extended period of time,” he noted.
“If not, we know client engagement levels wane, and the app collects dust,” Spitzner warned. Still, “given eMoney’s history of compelling client portals, they should be well-positioned to deliver engaging tools,” he added.
Basic Financial Planning
Although some may see Incentive as “a threat to advisors … , it could be a positive as well,” according to Joel Bruckenstein, head of Technology Tools for Today (T3).
“To the extent that it gets underserved populations engaged in planning, it may be a good thing,” he told ThinkAdvisor. “There are a lot of consumers that need basic financial planning advice but who are not prepared, for whatever reason, to engage with a planner just yet.”
In addition, “as people become engaged with the app, they will often find that they uncover more complex needs that require the assistance of an advisor,” he said.
“If the app puts them on the right path and they are able to build some wealth, they may eventually want to outsource financial planning to a professional,” explained Bruckenstein
Extending Advisors’ Reach
Calling Incentive a “brilliant extension of an advisor through the digital world,” Tim Welsh, head of the consultancy Nexus Strategy and a former Schwab executive, predicted it “will save advisors hours of time educating clients on the need for financial planning, budgeting and getting organized.”
And “once people get a taste for it and how it can impact their lives, their next step is to reach out for professional help, creating a solid pipeline for advisors,” he said.
Welsh doubts the app will compete with advisors: “Various forms of this exist online and are free to use. So now that it is packaged and integrated into an advisors business, it becomes a great lead generation and conversion tool.”
Advizr, prior to being acquired by Orion, offered a “very similar offering a few years ago aimed at the retirement plan industry,” so Incentive definitely represents a “competitive response by eMoney to emulate that approach,” he added.
The App’s Timing
Ever since Personal Capital consumer software arrived several years ago, “There has been pressure for a similar solution that advisors can offer to clients and prospective clients with similar functionality,” according to Tommy Marshall, a fintech advisor and consultant.
“It seems that with Incentive, eMoney has finally provided that solution,” he said.
The firm understood that its app needed to have a retirement planning capability at launch and that, “along with the ability to set and measure progress to other financial goals (e.g., college; emergency fund) provided meaningful value to the client while providing a conduit of communication to the advisor,” Marshall explained.
Incentive is “only beneficial to advisors” as “it allows the advisor to provide market relevant capabilities to clients and improve overall client intimacy,” he said, adding: “Better late than never.”