Advisor Tech Talk (Week of 10/02/23)

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There was a lot of news in the advisor tech world this week, but what was perhaps the biggest story of the week does not have a place in our advisor tech headlines this time around. 

AssetMark was fined a whopping $18 million by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, including a $9.5 million civil penalty, for failing to disclose conflicts of interest around its cash sweeps and revenue sharing programs. 

Why is this relevant? Because AssetMark’s CEO at the time of the conduct, Natalie Wolfsen, has recently been hired as CEO by one of the biggest and most influential advisor technology firms operating today, Orion. While there’s no reason to believe that Wolfsen was directly responsible for AssetMark’s alleged compliance violations, it’s still not a great look for Orion right now. 

We typically don’t cover compliance and regulatory news in this newsletter, that’s why AssetMark’s huge fine is relegated to these brief comments. We do, however, have a couple of huge hires and appointments for Envestsnet, Wealth.com and Advisor360, a couple of news items out of the retirement space (including one from Alight) and even an interesting piece from the asset management world (from Franklin Templeton).  

Without further ado, here are this week’s advisor tech headlines: 


Advisor360 

Advisor360°, a provider of integrated software and technology for enterprise wealth management firms, is pleased to announce the appointment of Mike Fanning, former Head of MassMutual U.S., to its Board of Directors. Throughout his 37-year career, Fanning held pivotal roles shaping technology strategies, driving digital transformation, and championing innovation in wealth management. 

Fanning recently concluded a distinguished 17-year career at MassMutual. As head of the company’s domestic insurance business, he led an unprecedented period of growth and change for the company. Known as a trailblazer in the insurance industry, Fanning expanded MassMutual’s suite of protection and wealth management solutions and was a leading force in enhancing the company’s technology platform to meet advisor and customer needs. 

Fanning’s appointment follows a series of strategic initiatives, partnerships, senior executive hires, and platform enhancements that reinforce Advisor360°’s position as a preeminent player in the wealth management technology space. 

Alight 

Alight, a cloud-based human capital and technology services provider, and Socially Determined, a social risk data and analytics company that empowers organizations to manage risk and improve outcomes, announced a new partnership aimed at reshaping the landscape of employee wellbeing. 

This collaboration further expands Alight’s ability to help employers provide personalized employee support through the Alight Worklife platform and the Alight services ecosystem with exclusive access to Socially Determined’s predictive metrics focused on social determinants of health (SDOH). Additionally, Alight and Socially Determined’s agreement will help bolster the Alight Worklife platform as an advanced employee engagement platform powered by AI and a growing set of internal and external data assets to empower clients to achieve their HR and wellbeing goals. 

Apex Fintech Solutions

Apex Fintech Solutions has announced the pending launch of a fractionalized fixed income product for retail investors.  The platform is planned to avail fractional corporate bonds and treasuries.  According to the announcement…”This is the industry’s first fractional fixed-income investing platform. Historically, retail investors have not had easy access to the fixed-income markets which have largely been the domain of institutional investors. Previously, the fixed-income markets were dominated by large market participants, which meant large trade sizes, higher minimum investments, pricing opacity, and dealer-to-dealer relationships. Now, any retail investor can easily add fixed-income into their portfolios through fractional corporate bonds in a modern, equity-like experience.”

Broadridge Financial Solutions 

Broadridge Financial Solutions announced that UBS successfully went live on Broadridge’s newly launched sponsored repo solution built on the DLT enabled Distributed Ledger Repo (DLR) platform. This sponsored repo solution marks the launch of the next phase in the rollout of Broadridge’s DLR platform. Continuing to build on the initial success of the platform and leveraging the growing expansion of the network across the global repo community, this is a major step forward to providing clients with significant settlement cost savings, process simplification, scalability, and reduction of operational risks via distributed ledger technology and smart contracts. 

The global expansion of the DLR platform across both sell-side and buy-side firms enables a network effect of increased benefits and additional transaction types. Broadridge is a leader in bringing the benefits of distributed ledger capabilities to transform the global repo market, capturing $1 trillion dollars in monthly volume. 

eMoney Advisor 

Cutting-edge research conducted by eMoney Advisor, provider of technology solutions and services that help people talk about money, and the Financial Planning Association, a membership organization and trade association for Certified Financial Planners, reveals the profound impact of financial technology – especially client portals –on financial planners and their clients. This comprehensive study emphasizes that access to technology alone is not enough to make a meaningful impact; it is how financial planners utilize client portals that drives transformative outcomes for their clients and businesses.  

The study, which surveyed 849 financial planners of diverse backgrounds and business models, demonstrates that the value of a client portal extends far beyond mere operational efficiency. While many financial planners utilize technology for streamlining processes, those who leverage client portals effectively realize a range of benefits that significantly impacts their clients’ financial well-being and drives better outcomes related to client trust, anxiety, motivation, referrals, and loyalty. 

 The use of client portals among “Portal Power Users” – defined as planners using a client portal, believing technology is important, and having more than 40% of clients actively using the portal – reveals reduced financial anxiety and increased client trust, motivation, loyalty, referrals and satisfaction. 

The research underscores the pivotal role that client portals and other technologies will play in transforming the delivery of financial planning advice in the years to come. It further illustrates that technology and, more specifically, client portals are table stakes for financial planners. The study found that 64% of planners expect to increase technology spending within the next two years, and 34% expect to increase spending by more than 11%, focusing on achieving higher client satisfaction, increasing client engagement, and realizing improved workflow automation. 

Envestnet 

Envestnet announced that Joshua B. Warren is joining the company as Chief Financial Officer. Warren is an accomplished financial executive who served most recently as Managing Director and Global Head of Business Strategy for iShares and Index Investments for BlackRock. Warren will succeed Peter H. D’Arrigo who served as Chief Financial Officer since 2008. 

Warren will initially serve as a senior advisor to the Company’s Chief Executive Officer and will transition to become the Company’s Chief Financial Officer effective November 15, 2023. After the transition of Chief Financial Officer responsibilities, D’Arrigo will serve as a senior advisor to the Company’s Chief Executive Officer through March 31, 2024. Warren will work with D’Arrigo, in the interim, to assure a smooth transition. 

Franklin Templeton 

Franklin Templeton announced an expanded partnership with Janney Montgomery Scott LLC to deliver a suite of tax-managed S&P based-index strategies through its Custom Indexing capabilities. The eight tax-managed Separately Managed Accounts (SMA) will give Janney financial advisors access to Canvas, Franklin Templeton’s leading Custom Indexing platform developed by its O’Shaughnessy Asset Management team. The tax-managed strategies seek to deliver similar pre-tax returns as their tracked index while outperforming on an after-tax basis. The initial SMA product lineup includes: 

Franklin Templeton S&P 500 – Tax Managed 

Franklin Templeton S&P 500 Growth – Tax Managed 

Franklin Templeton S&P 500 Value – Tax Managed 

Franklin Templeton Dow Jones US Select Dividend – Tax Managed 

Franklin Templeton S&P 400 – Tax Managed 

Franklin Templeton S&P 600 – Tax Managed 

Franklin Templeton S&P 1500 – Tax Managed 

Franklin Templeton S&P ADR – Tax Managed 

After selecting a base index, advisors can shape portfolios according to client values by leveraging Canvas’ 50+ values-based tilts and exclusions. Furthermore, individual positions, sectors, industries, and countries can be restricted to adjust for client risk profile, private-market exposure, and/or additional values. 

FusionIQ 

The Wealth Advisor, a Santa Monica-based subscription publication has announced a partnership between FusionIQ, a leader in the delivery of cloud-based wealth management solutions with their all-in-one digital platform for financial advisors and institutions – and 1-ClickTrade. 

The partnership introduces cutting-edge FusionIQ technology that boosts Exchange-Traded Funds (ETF) marketing and asset management. It aims to simplify the lives of advisors, empower fund managers, and enhance the effectiveness of promotional efforts. Investment portfolios are offered by IQvestment, an algorithmic portfolio management creation software and research tool. 

ETFs in the United States alone command an impressive sum exceeding $10 trillion in assets, meticulously distributed among a staggering 3,200 ETF offerings. Market observers have said there is boundless potential for expansion and pioneering advancements within this dynamic sector. 

Marstone 

Marstone announced its collaboration with Jack Henry™ (Nasdaq: JKHY). The partnership allows bank customers who use Jack Henry’s Banno digital banking platform to also access Marstone’s digital wealth platform via a single sign-on (SSO). Marstone leveraged the Banno Digital Toolkit™, the same set of APIs the Banno Digital Platform is built on, to embed its technology into the digital experiences offered by community and regional financial institutions. Access to Jack Henry’s API, design and authenticated frameworks has enabled Marstone to directly integrate into the digital banking platform, providing a seamless banking experience. This integration has contributed to Jack Henry’s growing ecosystem of more than 850 fintechs, providing nearly 8,000 financial institutions with relevant financial products and services for their account holders. 

Marstone’s partnership is the latest in a stream of continued innovation for the company, including the expansion to community banks like Equity Bank, Amerant, American Bank & Trust, and Bank of Oak Ridge, as well as international growth such as Bancolombia. Introduced last year, Marstone Maps™ has been a game changer for wealth managers, as a fully integrated financial planning tool for institutions where end-clients can set and evolve their financial goals in a playful, shopper-like user experience. 

SEI 

SEI announced the launch of enhanced technology capabilities in its Investor Portal, a white-labeled solution within SEI Connect that enables advisors to provide clients a full picture of their financial lives. 

According to Cerulli Associates’ “State of Wealth Management Technology 2023” report, e-signature and client portal are most frequently cited as positively impacting the client experience. Providing access to deeper insights and improving digital collaboration between an advisor and their clients, the Investor Portal and mobile app now feature a document vault to seamlessly upload personal documents, secure messaging to facilitate better collaboration, and account aggregation to connect investment, banking, and real estate accounts directly from other financial institutions.  

From accessibility, electronic delivery, and account aggregation to performance reporting, customization, and digital collaboration, SEI Connect provides a suite of front-office technology solutions—in addition to the Investor Portal—that help advisors scale their businesses, increase efficiency, and better serve their clients through a platform-based interactive hub on the SEI Wealth PlatformSM.  

SMArtX Advisory Solutions 

SMArtX Advisory Solutions launched SMArtY, the highly anticipated manager-sponsored strategist platform. The platform is built utilizing SMArtX’s award-winning managed accounts technology. SMArtY is designed to deliver a turnkey, cost-effective managed accounts platform focused on world-class asset managers, automated investment management workflows, and tax efficient account administration with asset managers offsetting the platform fee. 

The SMArtY platform is another demonstration of SMArtX Advisory Solutions’ innovative managed accounts technology that powers several investment solutions throughout the industry.  This multi-custodial, advisor-facing platform enables advisors to easily source strategies, build portfolios, and administrate client accounts with tax-efficiency, knowing portfolios are rebalanced and updated with continuous intraday trading. As a result of its manager-sponsored structure, SMArtY opens the door to a multitude of capabilities that were once unaffordable for some financial planners, wrap-fee providers, and independent RIAs. 

Vestwell 

Vestwell announced New Jersey has selected the company as its program administrator for the Secure Choice Savings Program. The partnership will provide New Jersey residents access to modern retirement plans through their employers and marks Vestwell’s seventh state-facilitated retirement program.  

According to the Georgetown University Center for Retirement Initiatives, there is nearly a 50% gap in access to retirement savings at work in New Jersey today. This program will close this gap by providing access to over 800,000 employees without a retirement savings plan. New Jersey is the latest to join the growing number of states to launch savings programs. Starting with OregonSaves in 2017, these programs have helped add $1 billion in retirement savings to those who would not otherwise have had an opportunity to save at work. 

The Secure Choice Savings Program is a state-facilitated retirement plan to help more private-sector employees save for the future. In 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Secure Choice Act (P.L. 2019 c. 56), which created this program for the state’s residents. The Secure Choice Savings Board independently administers the program. 

Wealth.com 

Wealth.com announced Brian Hamburger, JD, CRCP, as a strategic advisor. Hamburger is the founder, president and chief executive officer of MarketCounsel, the leading business and regulatory compliance consulting firm to the country’s preeminent entrepreneurial independent investment advisers. With an unmatched expertise in the compliance and regulatory space, Hamburger’s insightful perspective on advisors’ needs, combined with the trust he has earned within the advisory community, stands to significantly advance the Wealth.com vision. This vision emphasizes equipping advisors to better serve their clients with best-in-class technology and human expertise.  With a unique understanding of the wealth management industry, Hamburger is also set to play an active role in educating advisors on the advantages of tech-enabled estate planning. As the ‘advisors’ advisor’, Hamburger has, over the past two decades, consistently championed solutions that address the challenges advisors face in a fast-growing and highly regulated industry.   

Wells Fargo 

Wells Fargo & Company enhanced its Fargo virtual assistant with a Spanish-language capability, improving access to a large portion of its customer base. The new feature enables Spanish-speaking customers to take advantage of the solution that is already providing a more personalized, convenient, and simple banking experience to customers using the Wells Fargo Mobile® app on their smartphones. 

Between 2010 and 2020, the U.S. Latino population grew by 23%, now making up 20% of the national population and continuing to grow1. In addition, income and wealth among Latinos are growing faster than the broader population, with median family wealth growing nearly three times faster than the typical U.S. household over the last decade2. Offering a Spanish-language capability that can provide details and context about a customer’s financial journey – to the same extent the English-language solution can – improves accessibility to our growing Latino customer base. To ensure the Spanish-language capability is as comprehensive as possible, Wells Fargo leveraged the knowledge of its Spanish-speaking employees representing over a dozen Spanish-speaking countries to test, train, and fine-tune Fargo to understand a number of different regional language differences and dialects. 

Now, customers who set their language preference to Spanish can input requests to Fargo and receive instant access to their banking details. Just by talking or typing into their smartphone in Spanish, customers can request Fargo to complete a multitude of tasks including checking their spending insights and credit score, viewing rates and fees, managing their spending limits, and transferring money.