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Joel Bruckenstein

Technology > Investment Platforms

An Inside Look at the Technology Advisors Like

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What You Need to Know

  • More than 800 applications, services, platforms and software tools were listed, showing just how big the advisor technology industry has grown.
  • The backers of investment platforms continue to expand capabilities with new features, functionality, and by acquisition.
  • The authors conclude that the industry may be falling victim to its own success due to too many choices.

Every year, the industry gets an in-depth look at all of the software tools, platforms, applications and innovation that is driving the growth in the independent wealth space. Its form? The annual T3/Inside Information Advisor Technology survey

The survey polls the advisory community to see what tools and applications they are using, how satisfied they are with them, and what they are looking to invest in as their businesses continue to expand and grow. The survey, done by Joel Bruckenstein and Bob Veres, this year had 4,500 respondents who answered nearly 100 questions, making it one of the most robust in the industry. Over 800 applications, services, platforms and software tools were listed, showing just how big and diverse the advisor technology industry has grown.

The survey has basically become the “buyers guide” for advisors to see how the tools they are using are being adopted as well as how satisfied other advisors are with them. The survey also tracks what tools, applications and platforms are emerging based on the general sentiment of advisors looking to switch to or adopt various platforms. This is a leading indicator of what new technologies are gaining traction in an extremely fragmented industry.

“The goal of this annual survey is, and has always been, to help advisors and members of the fintech community answer the most basic questions about technology in the financial advisory space,” Bruckenstein and Veres say in the introduction.

For the software vendor community, the survey provides an important look at where they stand versus their competitors and how their users feel about their products. And for newer advisor tech companies, the pressure to lobby Bruckenstein and Veres to be listed on the survey is immense so that they can gain visibility in the industry, even if they have tiny market shares. 

This year, the survey covered 36 different categories showing the tremendous growth in the technology space, as newer technologies are being adopted to support myriad business models that advisors are deploying to best serve their target clients.

Key Takeaways

  1. Rise of Oligopoly

One of the key takeaways from the survey is that an oligopoly is forming around the most popular application categories (CRM, financial planning). In other words, the top three vendors in each make up the majority of market share as consolidation is happening and the backers of these platforms continue to expand capabilities with new features, functionality and, of course, by acquisition.

For example, in the financial planning category, eMoney and MoneyGuidePro each have roughly 33% market share (when you add up their various versions), with RightCapital around 12%. The remaining 22% of the market is made up of 17 other products, with most of those having less than 1% market share.

The leaders beyond the big three here are Orion (which acquired Advizr three years ago) and Asset-Map. Interestingly, the survey found that nearly 70% of Asset-Map users also use another planning application as well, again showing how the financial planning software industry is trending toward an oligopolistic structure.

In addition, when looking at the CRM category, we see a similar top-heavy concentration with Redtail by far the market leader at 59%, followed by the various iterations of Salesforce, including overlay vendors, at a combined 11%, and Wealthbox at 9%. After these big three, no one else has a market share over 5%.

  1. Growth of All-in-One Solutions

Another key trend is the growth of the “all-in-one” solution or a “unified platform” that has multiple components and functionality (CRM, reporting, rebalancing, planning, etc.) embedded into one application versus stand-alone components that need to be integrated to minimize data entry and simplify workflows.

According to the authors, 20% of the industry is now using an all-in-one solution. The authors hedge this growth analysis, however, by pointing out that many firms using a unified solution also bring in additional third-party technologies to supplement functionality. 

Traditionally, the industry had moved to a “best in breed” approach so that firms could better tailor their tech stacks to the services and business models they were using. While this approach provides more flexibility for advisors, it does require more work and expense to integrate the various stand-alone components and manage a more complex back office. Thus, we are starting to see a movement of advisors to simplify their vendor relationships by purchasing more components from one provider and also the rise in adoption by advisors of a unified solution. 

  1. Acquisitions Galore

Driving this movement has been the unprecedented number of acquisitions by leading platforms to provide a comprehensive offering. A great example is Orion, which has been super busy on the M&A front by acquiring multiple TAMPs, Advizr financial planning, the risk modeling platform HiddenLevers, and of course the megadeal of the year, the acquisition of Redtail CRM

Envestnet has been making similar deals. Over the last decade it has acquired industry-leading platforms such as Tamarac portfolio management, the financial planning systems MoneyGuidePro and Finance Logix, Yodlee data aggregation, and multiple TAMPs as well. 

At the same time, SS&C has been busy buying the portfolio management innovator Black Diamond via its Advent Software acquisition, Salentica CRM, the trust platform Innovest and many others. Morningstar has also been looking to supplement its advisor workstation by acquiring PlanPlus financial planning, TRX rebalancing, ByAllAccounts account aggregation and more.

Clearly these megavendors see the opportunity in attempting to control the advisor desktop to aggregate an advisor’s business through their solutions, enabling them to not only earn licensing revenue from software sales, but also to direct asset flows to their investment management operations and charge lucrative basis points.

And based on the survey data, this strategy is alive and well, and even looks to accelerate, particularly with the precedent-setting acquisition of the dominant CRM player Redtail, with 59% market share, by Orion.

  1. Doorway to Advisor Satisfaction

Rounding out the survey is a showcase of advisor satisfaction with various tools, applications and platforms, enabling advisors to immediately see how useful a particular solution is based on peer feedback.

Interestingly, it is often the smaller players that have the highest user satisfaction. For example, performance reporting and billing platform Panoramix had the highest user rating in the entire survey, with 9.5 on a 10-point scale. According to the authors, anything above an 8 is outstanding, so Panoramix’s results tell a very compelling story for their continued growth and success.

In the survey’s conclusion, however, the authors highlight the point that perhaps the industry is falling victim to its own success. 

“With 36 categories featuring over 800 technologies, advisors are faced with an ‘Overchoice’ dilemma, not just in terms of the number of fintech categories, and not just in terms of the number of fintech categories to choose from, but overchoice within categories as well. Keeping up with all the different possible service-enhancing and time-saving options is a nontrivial challenge, and there is perhaps no more effective demonstration of the scope of the challenge than the 67 pages of this report.”

To read the full report online, visit

Pictured: Joel Bruckenstein

Timothy D. Welsh, CFP is president, CEO and founder of Nexus Strategy LLC, a consulting firm to the wealth management industry and can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NexusStrategy.


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