Commonwealth plans to expand on several of its VIP, technology and other initiatives for financial advisors in 2021 and beyond, executives from the company told reporters Thursday during a “State of Commonwealth: Connecting through Change” virtual briefing.
Over the next two years, the firm is focusing its investments on five themes: Client engagement, financial planning, advisors’ growth, ease and efficiency, and advisors’ ability to work from anywhere, according to Kol Chu Birke, managing principal of technology and corporate strategy.
Work from anywhere initiatives will include the continued use of Zoom, virtual private networks, Microsoft Office 365 options including Teams, and Shield 2.0, the latest iteration of its cybersecurity tool that he said will be a “lighter, more convenient, easier to use version” to keep advisors protected.
Client engagement enhancements, meanwhile, will include more capabilities for its Investor360 client portal for the web and mobile devices. “We are completely overhauling it” with a “new look and feel,” Birke said, adding: “We’re embedding all of our planning tools into that” and adding “true digital onboarding,” real-time functionality and additional multifactor authentication for protection.
Ease and efficiency initiatives will include a beta rollout for an enhanced version of its Client360 tool that unifies advisors’ tech tools, he said, noting the firm is “about halfway through” with that project.
Commonwealth is looking to step up its recruiting of breakaway financial advisors in 2021, especially those leaving wirehouse firms Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS, Andrew Daniels, managing principal of business development, recently told ThinkAdvisor.
As part of that push, the firm is stepping up its outsourcing efforts, Daniels said Thursday. “We believe that there are absolutely cultural, positive advisors in the wirehouse world breaking away today who would value our outsourcing model because they are in fact today almost 100% outsourcing,” he told reporters.
“We think we have a fantastic platform for them in the independent space to continue as an outsourcer but grow in an environment where they can flex their creativity, they can have a voice, they can be part of a community that has a value system that they identify with,” he explained.
So “with that in mind, we’ve made a very concerted effort starting right now and flowing into 2021 and beyond to modify some of our economics so that they have a less complicated, sort of independent matrix in which to infuse themselves to make the transition here both economically and operationally easier to do,” he said.
The initiative includes an investment by Commonwealth in “soft-landing resources to facilitate them in their transition,” as well as real estate, enhanced legal and tax guidance, and human resources services to help them establish independent practices, he said.
“Certainly, connecting in 2020 has been harder” for advisors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and most people working remotely, Trap Kloman, president and chief operating officer, noted. But the firm “gave every advisor a secure Zoom license so they can work with their clients,” he said.
Commonwealth also recently launched Commonwealth Connect, so advisors “can stay in touch with each other, which is a critical part of an advisor’s learning and growth and value when they choose who [they] work with,” Kloman pointed out.