Advisor Tech Talk (7/27/22)


By Christopher Robbins

“Never count your chickens before they hatch” should be a maxim for writers and investors both.

Put another way, consider Mark Twain’s cable to newspapers in the United States after many had mistakenly run his obituary: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

As a veteran journalist, I recognize the value of bad news. People hate receiving bad news, but they sure seem to love reading it. In the old days, stories about death and disaster sent papers flying off the racks. Today, mayhem, financial and otherwise, gets the most clicks.

So it should come as no surprise that journalists have been eager to write obituaries for asset classes and investment styles and companies that are still with us. Seven months into 2022, no financial concept has been as heavily maligned as digital assets and cryptocurrencies, and as a result, many journalists whose footprint is squarely in the universe of traditional finance have been quick to create their own eulogies for digital assets.

I wouldn’t call it hype—there have been some huge failures in the digital assets space and billions of dollars of wealth evaporated in this year’s volatility—but there is certainly a bias towards the negative that exposes readers to more gloom and doom than actually exists.

I believe opportunities exist for those who are willing to put in the time to research and invest in digital assets in spite of the negativity.

Let’s look at some advisor tech news:

Orion — Orion Advisor Solutions, a provider of wealthtech solutions for fiduciary advisors, and the Texas Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Board (“Board”) announced new enhancements to the LoneStar 529 Plan, which is managed by Orion and administered by the Board. Among the updates, new Class RIA units were introduced and are designed to be sold through fee-based advisors with no plan-level sales charges or distribution fees.

Other key changes include reduced plan-level fees, replacing age-based portfolios with target enrollment year portfolios, and the reduction of sales charges from 5.75% to 2.75% for Class A units. Additionally, individual asset class portfolio options were significantly expanded with the addition of several new asset classes, including a Guaranteed Interest Account.

Envestnet — Envestnet announced it has appointed Ron Ransom to be Group Head of its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) office, a newly created role bringing a centralized focus to ESG activities across Envestnet. Mr. Ransom will report directly to Dawn Newsome, Chief Business Operations Officer for Envestnet. As Group Head of ESG, Mr. Ransom will lead firm-wide efforts developing programs and policies to support Envestnet’s corporate ESG efforts. The ESG office will focus on building strong relationships in the communities in which Envestnet operates and seek opportunities in which Envestnet can lead the industry.

Edelman Financial Engines — Edelman Financial Engines, an independent wealth planning and investment advisory firm, announced the launch of Momentum by Edelman Financial EnginesTM, a new holistic financial wellness platform for the workplace. Momentum builds on Edelman Financial Engine’s 401(k) advice and management services with a dynamic set of expanded financial wellness, counseling and planning resources.

FMG – The marketing software and services firm for insurance agents and FAs has announced its acquisition of AI-based Vestorly, a content curation for wealth management firms. The acquisition represents the firm’s seventh in a six year period.

“Vestorly pioneered the use of artificial intelligence to help financial advisors create an engaging and personalized content experience for their clients and prospects,” said Scott White, CEO of FMG. “We’re excited to enhance our AI capabilities through this acquisition and look forward to expanding the functionality available to Vestorly’s customers by leveraging the full FMG platform. With the integration of this technology, we can apply AI to every aspect of advisor marketing.”

FNZ — FNZ, the global wealth management platform, has acquired New Access, a specialized private banking technology firm primarily active in the markets of Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. These markets are key to serving and administering client wealth globally and will support FNZ in delivering on its promise to open up wealth and serve the US$240 trillion global wealth market.

The strategic acquisition of New Access represents a further investment by FNZ into the growing private banking and cross-border wealth sector after a number of customer successes and the acquisition of the Swiss tech innovator Appway in February 2022.

Citizen Mint — Investment and product development executives Josh Hile and Marshall Dunford announced today the formation of Citizen Mint, a new impact investing platform designed to help investors generate both financial returns and positive societal and environmental impacts.

The new company enters the market at a time when interest in impact investing is at an all-time high. The Global Impact Investing Network, a leading nonprofit dedicated to increasing the scale and effectiveness of impact investing, estimated in 2020 that the total impact marketplace was greater than $715 billion, a ten-fold increase over the preceding seven years, and projected continued growth.