The Experts Weigh in on Trends in Digital Wealth for 2021, Part 2


Last week we launched a “mini-series” on digital wealth predictions for 2021 from the top fintech minds in the industry, and really these are the entrepreneurs driving the sector forward, so there’s nobody better to ask than the CEOs of the leading fintech and wealthtech firms themselves. We were pleased to feature the following:

  • Aaron Klein of Riskalyze
  • Aaron Schumm of Vestwell
  • Andreas Roell of AlphaTrAI
  • Tom Van Horn of Magnifi &
  • Barb Provost of PurseStrings

However, we had so many responses back (truly unusual – usually we have to chase these down!) that we felt it was an injustice to feature them all in one post, and decided to break it into a 3-part series instead. This week, for Part 2, you’ll here from the following fintech leaders on their vision for the industry in 2021 and beyond:

  • Alex Sauickie of CircleBlack
  • Dara Albright of Dara Albright Media
  • Greg Cornick of Advisor Group
  • Larry Roth of RLR Strategic Partners
  • Ryan Shanks of FA Match
  • Kimberly Merriman of A3 Financial Investments

Without further ado – here’s where our next round of industry leaders see fintech and digital wealth heading for 2021 and beyond.

Alex Sauickie | President & CEO | CircleBlack, Inc.

“If we have learned nothing else this year as we navigated through the new norm of remote working, it is that advisors need to have a comprehensive technology solution that is accessible from anywhere, on any device, and that allows for seamless communication with their investors. 

As the flight to independence continues in the advisor space, newly independents need to show their investors that they have the latest open and innovative technology and can deliver on the investor’s digital expectations. Advisors need the flexibility to choose “best of breed” tools to attract, manage, and grow investor assets. For the advisor, this means a platform that is easy to understand, makes them efficient and doesn’t have them beholden to a technology company where additional services like CRM, planning, and risk & compliance, are limited to what is offered by that specific provider. The advisor should be able to put together their tech stack of Portfolio Accounting with their choice of CRM + Account Opening + Planning + Risk & Compliance + choices within a Model Marketplace, in any combination of fully integrated third-party providers that best suits their firm’s needs. Advisors also need to engage their investors with an excellent client experience and with the digital tools today’s generation of investors expect. Investors require transparency and access to their household data, and they expect to access it the same way they access other data in their daily lives, either through a browser or a native app that they would find in the app store. If their current advisor cannot provide this, the investor will seek out an advisor that can.”

Dara Albright | President | Dara Albright Media

“I’ve been saying for years that retail will rise again and assume a prevalent role in capital markets. COVID has not only underscored this trend, it has accelerated it. In 2020, as markets crashed, retail investors rushed in with buy orders. Robo-advisor Robinhood opened a jaw-dropping 3 million new accounts in the first four months of 2020, alone. According to Citadel Securities, retail investors have accounted for as much as 25% of the stock market’s activity amid coronavirus-driven volatility – up from just 10% in 2019. Instead of consuming a night on the town, tickets to a ballgame or a trip to Cancun, in 2020, consumers consumed investment products. While I realize that 2020 was an anomaly in this respect, I do believe that retail investing will accelerate in 2021 and beyond. However, fortunately for the travel & hospitality industry, retail investors will no longer be using their entertainment funds to invest. Instead, these “investumers” (short for investors / consumers) will be using their retirement dollars. Whether it is being deployed to make saving and investing more accretive to economic growth or whether it is being used to improve or create new asset classes through digitization and make diversification more equitable, fintech will begin playing a much more predominant role in retirement planning in 2021.

Ironically, as retail investors gained a newfound interest in conventional equities, institutional investors found safe haven in bitcoin, a predominantly retail driven investment. 2020 was a breakout year for bitcoin. With its fresh support from institutions and continued patronage from the global retail community, Bitcoin set record highs.  In the first quarter of 2020, Coinbase surpassed the 35 million user mark, making it the largest regulated exchange in the world. I believe that, in 2021, the cryptocurrency market will build on the momentum it established in 2020 with Bitcoin and Ethereum leading the charge and up-and-comers like Chainlink gaining significant traction.”

Larry Roth | Managing Partner | RLR Strategic Partners

“The digital wealth sector in 2021 will continue to grapple with finding the best way to help retirees decumulate – that is, the most effective, easy and convenient solutions to enable them to leverage the wealth they have accumulated to live long, fruitful, happy lives in retirement, and do so taking into account debt, inflation, taxes, Social Security income and health needs.

There are a handful of solutions on the market that tackle this growing need, but relatively few platforms that do so holistically. In 2021, I’m looking to digital wealth innovators to move the ball forward, towards developing long-term solutions that can do this important work at scale so that it can be provided affordably to a wide cross-section of everyday investors.”

Greg Cornick | President, Advice and Wealth Management | Advisor Group

The COVID pandemic and associated stay-at-home/work-from-home trend has made it crystal clear to the wealth management industry that advisors need intuitive, collaborative, digital technologies that enable them to deliver a holistic onboarding and ongoing service experience to their clients whether in person or virtually.

Over the past few years, many independent firms have been making significant strides in building the infrastructure to streamline, and in some cases automate, the operational and service aspects of the advisor-client relationship. The best of these solutions enable collaboration with the client and compliment, not replace, the critical personal touch and human aspect of the relationship. Advisor Group, for example, made significant enhancements to our industry-leading eQuipt platform, a collaborative digital-onboarding and account-management solution that enhances financial professionals’ efficiency and their clients’ experience.

Moving ahead in 2021, I expect that firms, with the help of their partners in the fintech space, will continue to make the strategic investments necessary to give financial professionals and their clients an intuitive, easy to use, digitally-enabled experience.

Ryan Shanks | Co-founder + CEO | FA Match

In 2021, I believe we’re going to see a heightened awareness of, and need for, transparency from service providers. We’ve already seen this unfold in recent years. The race to zero commissions and the wide adoption of a fee-based model are examples of this. Today, this is more prominent than ever. We’ve been forced to give clients and industry peers a view into our real lives through our computer screens, and advisors have a heightened awareness of due diligence as a spotlight shines on services providers’ value in this all-digital age. I feel so strongly this is where the industry is headed — transparent fees, all-in-one solutions that remove the complexities of multi-platform integrations — that we’ve even adopted a new model at FA Match. This year, we launched a $10,000 flat-fee model for firms that find advisors through our digital recruitment platform. No surprise fees or conflict-ridden commissions. We’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response – an indicator that this trend is not going away anytime soon.

Kimberly Merriman | Founder/Principal | A3 Financial Investments

“Digital Wealth will continue to see increased attention from investors as more people recognize the value of both alternative asset classes and the reality of distributed ledger technology.  In fact, I think we will see even more momentum and growth within the digital wealth space. This sector encompasses many areas, a few of which I think will see the biggest upward trajectory. The first being the growth in alternative sources of investments and a continued movement towards new ways to generate income (this is the focus of my firm, A3 Financial Investments.) In an income starved world, investors will be moving away from the tradition investment world of treasuries and S&P equities to investments in digital assets and funds that are investing in digital assets.  More and more investors have become knowledgeable and more comfortable with digital assets. Much of this is due to more adoption and support from big Wall Street firms (JP Morgan & Fidelity to name a few) and Fintech partnerships (think Paypal) that have occurred this past year allowing more users to be able to access the digital asset space. All these factors coming together is creating an almost “stars aligned” moment for this asset class to see enormous growth.

In addition, there is more and more access to financial and digital wealth applications that allow users to stay connected, informed and most importantly, transact right from their personal devices. There are pros and cons to this as we have seen with the rapid user growth of platforms such as Robinhood, however the overall ease and capabilities that we can access with just a few swipes of an app are getting more people engaged and curious about their financial knowledge and financial futures.  More and more firms are wanting to adopt and build out more wealth applications to grab a bigger market share of users so you will see many rollouts and improvements with current apps making this landscape one that will grow and change quickly.

I am excited to both be a part of this growth and see how others adapt and excel.  Bring on 2021!

Next week, we’ll continue with Part 3 of this series and hear from more fintech industry leaders on where THEY see the future of fintech in 2021.

Until then, wishing all our readers a Happy New Year!!! We deserve it!!