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Industry Experts Weigh In on Fidelity's Latest Tech Moves

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What You Need to Know

  • Fidelity enhanced its Wealthscape advisor tech platform and Integration Xchange open architecture digital store.
  • The updates could make Fidelity more attractive for advisors looking to switch custodians, Tim Welsh says.
  • Other platforms already have similar digital account opening capabilities, Craig Iskowitz says.

Industry experts on Wednesday had positive reactions to the latest enhancements that Fidelity Institutional made to its technology for the benefit of advisors and their clients.

Fidelity announced earlier in the day that it enhanced its Wealthscape advisor tech platform and Integration Xchange open architecture digital store, while also introducing new account opening functionalities.

“These improvements are part of Fidelity’s commitment to elevate advisors’ digital experience, making it easier for firms to create technology stacks that best support their clients’ evolving needs,” the company said in a news release.

Experts’ Takes

“This is great news for our Fidelity clients,” Doug Fritz, F2 Strategy CEO and founder, told ThinkAdvisor by email. “We’ve been awaiting this type of RIA workflow automation & integration capability and are stoked it’s here. I haven’t had a sneak preview from the Fidelity team, but will certainly be getting demos and deep-dive conversations on how this update will be integrated into our RIA CRM workflows and data architectures in the coming weeks!”

Joel Bruckenstein, producer of the annual Technology Tools for Today (T3) Conference and publisher of the T3 Technology Hub, had not yet seen the new account opening process, “but if [it] is fully digital, as described, it is significant,” he told ThinkAdvisor. The new Wealthscape Analytics are “also very important,” he added.

“This is very significant in light of the Schwab/TD Ameritrade integration timeline announced recently,” said Timothy Welsh, CEO of consultancy Nexus Strategy. “Fidelity and all custodians are ramping up their new account opening capabilities to capitalize on the disruption [anticipated] from dissatisfied TDA advisors looking for a better option … . The more streamlined you can make the account transfer/opening process, the easier and quicker it will be to move those advisors.”

Pointing out that Schwab has acknowledged there may be issues as it shuts down the TDA systems and aims “to move everyone over in a bulk transfer,” Welsh added, ”Fidelity beefing up their third-party integration capabilities will also be a very strong selling point for TDA advisors” who may want to switch. In his view, this news “marks one of the first salvos fired in the big battle looming for all custodians to take market share from Schwab over the coming months.”

Craig Iskowitz, CEO and founder of Ezra Group, called the enhancements a “group of incremental, but strong, improvements in Fidelity’s technology suite for which their advisory clients have been waiting for a long time.” But he said: “At Ezra Group, we have been helping broker-dealers and RIAs build fully digital new account opening processes since 2016, so Fidelity is behind the market in this capability.”

Several other vendors, meanwhile, have been offering tools and platforms “for many years that have features such as being 100% digital, bundled, multi-account opening, and auto-fill of data from CRM and multiple ACATs in a single digital envelope,” Iskowitz noted. “I’m sure some of Fidelity’s Wealthscape clients who also use these vendors will be encouraged to migrate away from them now that this functionality is available for free.”

Iskowitz added: “The market stands still for no one. Almost all RIA custodians have a free technology platform for clients that custody assets with them, so they need to behave like software vendors and continue to improve their offerings or risk seeing clients slowly move away to alternatives. I thought Integration Xchange was terrific when it was announced, and it has only improved in usefulness over time.”

Ezra Group recently launched its Wealthtech Integration Score “to help advisors make better decisions about technology as well as encourage more transparency from vendors about their integrations,” it explains. “The Integration Xchange serves similar purposes since it makes it easier for advisors to learn about specific integrations and search across many vendor options. We applaud all ideas across the industry to reduce the time and effort required to understand the myriad of integration options available.”

Iskowitz would “like to learn more about their new API analytics, which [are] supposed to let users know the availability of specific vendor APIs,” he said, noting that “will be useful for larger firms that have built custom software that connects to vendor” application programming interfaces.

New Wealthscape Features

The new features include Wealthscape Analytics, a new dashboard with actionable, data-driven insights that Fidelity said was designed to help with client segmentation and growth opportunities, and Wealthscape Reporting, a redesigned report landing page with new filters and editing features to further customize reports leveraged by advisors and clients.

There are also new third-party integration offerings for Wealthscape users, Fidelity said.

Additional features will follow in 2023, including an integrated help experience that Fidelity said will offer seamless connectivity across virtual assistant and chat for improved resolution time.

New Integration Xchange Options

First introduced in 2018, the Integration Xchange continues to expand and now provides integration options from over 200 fintech firms that support the need for personalization, Fidelity said.

Fidelity introduced a redesigned FinTech Marketplace that it said makes it easier for advisors and operations associates to discover and evaluate new fintech offerings. The new marketplace offers users a more modern and navigable experience, according to Fidelity.

It also includes enhanced search capabilities to view, compare and quickly focus on relevant solutions on users’ own time, with additional resources to help clarify and execute on the setup process to empower implementation, the company said.

Integration Xchange also features new application programming interface (API) analytics that Fidelity said makes it easier for companies to discover, evaluate and implement integrations.

The Importance of Account Opening

Fidelity pointed to new internal research that identified advisors’ top considerations when it comes to using tech platforms for account opening, with the speed of account opening coming in at No. 1 (cited by 83% of responding advisors), followed by processes in place to minimize errors (75%), the ability to open and fund accounts digitally (74%) and the ability for straight-through processing (72%).

Fidelity’s new account opening enhancements are part of a technology ecosystem that it said prepares firms for the future.

Those enhancements provide a more streamlined, flexible and secure experience for clients, Fidelity said.

The enhancements include fully digital account opening and transfer of assets (TOA) registrations for most account types and multi-account opening bundling of all accounts into one “household” view to streamline processes and proprietary paperwork.

New features include statement householding and account access rights that Fidelity said can be initiated during account opening to save more time.

More account opening features will follow in 2023, including a new investor signing experience and a form-free capability that simplifies the investor experience with a straightforward “click-to-agree” step, Fidelity said. Advisory firms can customize and brand the new experience to match the rest of their technology offerings.

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