Asset Management/Portfolio Firms
AllianceBernstein, in early 2021, collaborated with experts at Columbia University’s Earth Institute to open the Climate Change and Investment Academy, which integrates scientific and academic analysis of how climate change can affect investment risks and opportunities. The academy was deployed through a learning portal that combined recordings and live interaction between investors and faculty over a six-week period. In April, AllianceBernstein became the founding member of Columbia’s corporate affiliate program at the newly launched Columbia Climate School, the world’s first purpose-built school focused exclusively on tackling climate change and its related challenges.
BlackRock’s Emerging Leader Lab is designed to help advisor clients build a pipeline for their next generation of leaders, including CEOs, chief investment officers and senior advisors. The program, which started as a pilot with 54 RIA firms during the COVID-19 pandemic, includes peer-to-peer learning in small cohort groups, 360 feedback reviews and one-on-one conversations with thought leaders. Developers include members of BlackRock’ coaching and consulting unit of its U.S. wealth advisory business: Danielle Papandrea, the head of Affinity Partners, Meredith Smith, its program leader, Tony Svach, national sales manager; and Larry Kaye, the firm’s retired former head of learning and development.
Schwab Asset Management and Ariel Investments, which have partnered to produce the Black Investors Study since 1998, once again sought to understand the gaps that exist between white and Black investors in 2020. Most recently, they also aimed to dig deeper into timely and relevant areas, including the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on investing trends. Their latest survey yielded substantive insights about disparities in retirement investing, inherited wealth and trust in financial services. It also revealed optimistic data on growing engagement in the stock market by younger Black Americans.
Innovator Capital Management’s Defined Outcome ETFs provide investors with likely ranges of future investment outcomes prior to investing. They cover a large spectrum of domestic and international equities and bonds. Innovator’s category-creating family includes Buffer, Stacker and Floor ETFs. Each Buffer ETF, including Innovator’s flagship suite of S&P 500 ETFs, seeks to provide a defined exposure to a benchmark where the downside buffer level, upside growth potential to a cap and outcome period are known ahead of investing. Innovator wants to provide advisors with behavioral tools to help clients achieve their goals, and help advisors build portfolios.
iSectors’ Enhanced Allocation Series models have simplified an advisor’s practice by being designed to give investors and their advisors the ability to choose the portfolio allocation that meets their objectives and risk utility in a diversified manner. Every iSectors Enhanced Allocation owns ETFs. These ETF portfolios hold between 6,000 and 8,000 individual stocks and bonds. The investment team manages the asset allocation of each target risk model, using a blend of two core iSectors models and a 20% allocation to an iSectors dynamic satellite model. These three allocation strategies have a low correlation to one another.
Macquarie Asset Management developed the Sharpe Advisor to fill a gap in private markets education for the retail market and advisors throughout the wealth management sector. It provides a one-stop portal comprising practical resources and materials to help advisors better understand how private market solutions can serve their individual investor clients.The site includes explainer videos, webinars and written material curated to help advisors better understand the array of asset classes within the private markets arena. It provides content for every level. In addition, the platform’s flexibility allows Macquarie to create customized experiences for its distribution partners and offers a one-of-a-kind, best-in-class educational experience.
Northern Trust Asset Management has been on a mission to help institutional investors determine why portfolios don’t deliver a specific outcome they had in mind by providing analysis into the risks affecting their portfolios. The Risk Report, based on a study of some 200 portfolios in 1,000 investment strategies totaling more than $200 billion for 64 institutional investors around the world, reveals six key discoveries driving unexpected results, including portfolio exposure to uncompensated risks and the performance-hindering “cancellation effect.” The research demonstrates to financial advisors and their clients how underlying investments can inadvertently cause a drag on portfolios.
State Street Global Advisors, during the height of the pandemic, saw a need to support advisors and their clients as the market downturn and subsequent volatility affected individual households’ longer-term financial plans and prompted conversations around health, wealth and financial wellness. The firm provided access to relevant content and resources across multiple digital channels. Webinars proved to be the most effective medium. State Street served as subject matter expert at various forums, whether live, pre-recorded or via social media livestream sessions; and as trainer via SPDR’s Masterclass series, an interactive engagement for advisors with post-session access to coursework replays and practice techniques.
Products, Programs & Services - Broker-Dealers
Advisor Group, in October 2020, launched its Business Coaching & Consulting (BC&C) Team that helps advisors improve the profitability, efficiency and satisfaction of their practices through a suite of programs, tailored to drive growth and efficiency in a firm’s life cycle. Educational programs offered through the BC&C team include the NxG coaching and community connection track for newer advisors; the Next Level Coaching curriculum for practices in the growth stage; the Behavioral Financial Advice training program; and the Prepared Buyer program for prospective acquirors.The team also provides customized coaching and helps advisors prepare for their eventual exit via the Prepared Seller program.
American Portfolios Financial Services introduced the Going Paperless Initiative to ensure the company’s future growth and success through sustainable business practices. Part of this initiative involves improving the e-delivery of documents and helping investors avoid paying statement and confirm fee charges for paper statements and other mailings. AP also produced a guide illustrating ways affiliated firms can review client accounts and e-delivery preferences and options on how to implement a paperless environment. AP also enhanced its Advisory Platform with a single interface to access and manage third-party managed and representative-directed accounts on certain programs that default-set new accounts for going paperless.
Atria Wealth Solutions’ Unio, Latin for “unify,” is an online, interactive system for financial professionals to communicate with clients and others in the digital age. The tool includes contact management, account information, transaction processing, commissions, marketing and compliance information, a document and supervisory workflow system, and an extensive report generator. With Unio, advisors can leverage data across every tool or vendor used to activate a client’s account. Unio’s features support all aspects of a wealth management program within a flexible platform. Enhancements continually roll out as the industry, regulatory environment, and client expectations and needs continue to evolve.
Peak Reps LLC launched its Digital Partnership Program in the first quarter of 2021 to help advisors who lack the knowledge, capacity or temperament to successfully deploy social media marketing campaigns on their own. To accelerate the learning curve, Peak committed resources to create a library of customizable marketing campaigns. Now, its team deploys and manages social media campaigns for participating advisors. In addition, the firm provides training so advisors will be more knowledgeable, proactive digital marketers. This initiative equips advisors to leverage social media platforms to gain visibility and reach new prospective client opportunities.
Prospera Financial Services, a broker-dealer, has identified 28 fundamental behaviors to build on the firm’s culture of personalized service and guide employees’ everyday actions. These fundamentals describe the behaviors that its teams can do in their daily work lives — from “investing in relationships” to “practicing blameless problem-solving” to “embracing change and growth.” Prospera kicked off the initiative by gathering all home-office staff for off-site training. It created physical cards notating each of the 28 fundamental behaviors, which are kept at employees’ desks, given to its advisors at the firm’s annual conference and supplied to prospective advisors at their home office visits.
Raymond James launched Drive + Accelerate, a comprehensive onboarding solution for branch associates, in May 2020. The six-month program gives new branch associates the tools, resources and skill refinements critical to their having an integral effect on their teams’ successful growth. They start in “first gear” with Drive, a combination of interactive virtual web modules and in-person elements. After two months, they “shift” into Accelerate, a live workshop-style conference that delves into applications, processes and best practices. During the pandemic lockdown, branches across all channels onboarded new associates, using this solution to provide advisors with prepared, mission-critical team members.
The Investment Center, a broker-dealer, inaugurated its TIC Talk interactive webinar at the onset of the pandemic to foster open communication between the home office and advisors on critical updates and initiatives so they could stay informed and grow their practices. Topics included marketing initiatives and best practices, Regulation Best Interest implementation and guidance, and town hall sessions with TIC’s executive team. The webinar also focused on ways to manage an efficient and growing practice virtually through examples, such as a focus on utilizing the firm’s electronic signature tools.
Products, Programs & Services - Fintech/TAMP Platforms
Addepar, a wealth management platform, specializes in data aggregation, analytics and reporting for investment portfolios with the aim of enabling financial advisors to adapt to a constantly evolving industry, strengthen client relationships and stand out to prospective clients. In May 2020, Addepar launched Marketplace, an application offered through Acervus Securities, to help provide transparency for alternative financial products. Marketplace enables advisors to buy and sell alternative funds, secondary private company securities and cash deposit programs in one place. With Marketplace integrated into an advisor’s workflow, Addepar foresees frictionless asset allocation and security selection, proposal generation, portfolio construction and execution.
Adhesion Wealth, in September 2020, launched Personal Indexes with ESG Overlay, an investment solution for advisors that delivers customized investment options to fit a client’s individual values and investment objectives. The solution enables advisors to select a starting index; choose from a menu of environmental, social and governance screens; then select one of a series of factor modules, such as volatility dampening, income production or momentum, to create their own direct index to be used within an Adhesion unified managed account. The resulting vehicle allows for active tax management, low-cost investing, individual tax lot ownership, client personalization and high differentiation for advisors.
Advisor360° is a wealth management platform that unifies the systems and data that advisors need to run their businesses and support their clients. Its Unified Data Fabric aggregates and normalizes more than 400 data feeds into one system, giving advisors real-time updates at a household level and empowering them with the information needed to better serve clients and make effective decisions on their clients’ behalf. The platform is modular. Enterprises can gain new features without extensive integration and customization work and avoid creating future legacy systems. Recent enhancements include a new rules engine to normalize and ingest feeds for fixed insurance products to the platform.
CHIP (Changing How Individuals Prosper) is a B2B2C financial services marketplace that bridges the gap between consumers of financial products and financial professionals of color. Its mission is to close the racial wealth gap by collaborating with companies, organizations and other financial technology platforms that share this vision. Fintech founder and chief executive, Dana L. Wilson, CHIP developed the marketplace after graduating from a historically Black college and university. Wilson has been featured on more than 20 media platforms where she has shared her personal story, while also speaking on the importance of inclusion in financial services.
Envestnet | MoneyGuide surveyed 1,600 advisors in September 2020 on the state of the financial planning industry, along with their outlook on fees. The research is to educate advisors on where the industry is headed and provide them with benchmarks and guidance for how to stay one step ahead. It found that as financial planning becomes more accessible, 75% charge some type of planning fee, and about a third of these are now considering implementing a different fee model. Seven percent of advisors provide virtual services. Of these, 27% who don’t charge a fee are considering charging, while 39% charge a flat fee.
, a software development company, published an e-book, “
Lessons Learned: Ensuring Continuity, Resiliency and Growth Through Digital Transformation
,” which explores how companies can take what they learned throughout 2020 and apply it to their business practices and document management to boost operational resiliency in coming years. During the pandemic, financial services firms were forced to accelerate digital transformation and rapidly shift to remote work. The e-book identifies the challenges these advisors face and how they can design a connected digital platform, leverage cloud-native capabilities to solve for operational and compliance issues efficiently and craft the optimal client experience.
Proteus introduced in January three model portfolios to its investment platform lineup of more than 40 alternative funds based on investors’ risk preferences — conservative, moderate and aggressive. These model portfolios are available to qualified purchasers and accredited investors, and provide curated, diversified exposure to institutional-quality private equity, private credit, real assets and hedge funds. The model portfolios are constructed from up to 18 different funds and can be accessed for a minimum of $250,000 with one online subscription process. Proteus and its research partner Callan Associates source, perform due diligence and select institutional funds for each model, thereby streamlining the investment process for advisors.
Products, Program & Services - Other
Arnerich Massena’s Intentional Investing is the firm’s conceptual framework for constructing portfolios that are built for long-term success while also positioning them in ways that contribute to a greater good and support the personal values of each investor. The company has been conducting research into impact and sustainable investment strategies since 2009, and in 2019 it began offering complete multi-asset class portfolios consisting entirely of investments with an impact focus. Arnerich Massena applies its proprietary research process to identify investments that will offer the best opportunity for its clients to participate in building an intentional future.
Beacon Pointe’s allWEALTH program is executed through a newly defined and tangibly charted path across three key areas. They are 1) access to institutional quality investments and strategic portfolios, 2) life and legacy planning and 3) enhanced and expanded impact initiatives centered around values-based investing, next-generation preparation, the firm’s women’s advisory institute and supporting the military veteran community. The program’s goal is to put measurable milestones in place for clients by creating a roadmap to meeting their life and legacy goals while creating consistent messaging throughout all of Beacon Pointe’s 21 nationwide offices and advisory teams.
BNY Mellon Wealth Management has introduced Active Wealth, a framework that empowers high-net-worth and ultra-wealthy clients to build and sustain their wealth using five key practices: investing, borrowing, spending, managing taxes and fees and protecting assets and legacy. To better equip advisors, the technology, digital and advice team launched AdvicePath, whose interface and visualizations allow advisors to perform financial projections for their clients by adjusting portfolio allocations and spending habits. The presentation is designed to provide an effective way to communicate to clients their current statement, risks, success and sustainability. AdvicePath’s intuitive workflow requires minimal training and can be used by advisors immediately.
Clarity 2 Prosperity, a financial training, coaching and IP development organization, launched the Bucket Plan Certified Designation that provides a credential for advisors who have mastered the education and tools needed to deliver a holistic plan in simplified terms to clients. The certification indicates that an advisor can deliver a Best Interest Planning Process and a customized, product-agnostic financial plan, which takes into account the client’s income needs, time horizon, volatility tolerance and tax situation. This process has been incorporated into the American College of Financial Services Retirement Income Certified Professional curriculum, and has been recognized by FINRA.
CUNA Mutual Group, with its Behavioral Finance Advice program, aims to help advisors structure a practice that uses the concepts of behavioral finance to expand opportunities to connect with clients. An understanding of a client’s values provides crucial context for a financial goals conversation, and assists the advisor in educating and advising clients. The value-added educational initiative is built around the behavioral finance methodology of conversation and engagement to empower advisors to help guide and prepare clients for unplanned life events, improve client decision-making through a values-based approach and differentiate themselves as a trusted counselor and partner to those they serve.
Hightower Advisors’ Hightower Center for Leadership (HTCL), launched in 2020, is a two-year education and training certificate program designed to empower and engage soon-to-be partners, lead advisors, relationship managers, operational professionals, business managers and those involved with strategic decision-making. It provides simulation-based training on team dynamics, operations decisions, equity structures and organic growth. A subset of HTCL is the Advisor Growth Series, a 20-week program for growth-minded advisors of weekly meetings, small group lessons, and monthly check-ins and exercises that take advisors through the steps necessary to propel business growth while networking and collaborating with peers.
Schwab Advisor Services’
RIA Benchmarking Study
produces peer data that lets advisory firms see how their businesses are performing in the marketplace. with insights on key performance indicators relative to their peers that encompass asset and revenue growth, financial performance, sources of new clients, services and pricing, technology spending, staffing levels and productivity. In 2020, the study introduced the Firm Performance Index, which evaluates participating firms of all sizes and lifecycle stages according to 15 metrics that align with Schwab’s Guiding Principles for Advisory Firm Success, to arrive at a holistic assessment of each firm’s performance across key business areas.
SmartAsset’s Live Connections, a client acquisition program for advisors, was rolled out near the peak of the pandemic, and quickly picked up 400 new advisors. It is exclusively available to fiduciary financial advisors on the firm's SmartAdvisor platform. Live Connections reduces advisors’ marketing burden by eliminating the time they spend prospecting, contacting and following up with potential clients. Prospects are vetted through an online questionnaire that details critical information — financial goals, investable assets and preferences for working with an advisor — to connect them with a fiduciary who best meets their needs. SmartAsset’s in-house concierge team connects consumer prospects directly with advisors.
Succession Resource Group rolled out a four-part webinar series in 2020 to assist the growing number of advisors who are actively looking to grow inorganically, but have limited or no acquisition experience. Marketed as an “AUM Accelerator Series,” the four hour-long interactive webinars and supporting materials are designed to provide the next generation of advisors with tools and resources they need to be successful in growing their business and offering an orderly transition for advisors looking to exit the business. The firm has worked with more than a dozen companies, each of which has made it available on their intranets.