Advisor Tech Talk (Week of 12/11/23)

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It’s not the calm before the storm, it’s really the storm before the calm. 

Yes, it’s actually been quite a year for wealthtech news, particularly as it relates to financial advisors, but we’re coming on the noticably more quiet holiday season. 

This week, however, we have a lot to talk about, including a directorship for our friend and former Orion CEO Eric Clarke, new insurance and annuity tools for advisors, a big funding round for Pontera, a partnership for FusionIQ and Schwab finding new ways to apply the IP it acquired from the likes of TD Ameritrade and Motif Investing. 

We’ll get right into the advisor tech headlines for this week. 


FusionIQ 

FusionIQ announced a strategic partnership with Avantis Investors, a $32 billion investment offering from global asset manager American Century Investments. The newest collaboration brings together two industry pioneers with a shared vision for delivering dynamic and adaptable investment strategies that prioritize client perspectives. Advisors now gain access to solutions, including Avantis Investors’ Exchange-Traded Funds (ETF), through the FusionIQ Digital Model Marketplace. 

Avantis Investors has rapidly gained traction since its inception in 2019, amassing an impressive $27 billion in assets under management in four years. Catering to both institutional investors and Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) serving retail investors, Avantis Investors offers a wide range of investment strategies designed to provide tailored solutions. Crucial factors for FusionIQ that resulted in this partnership include Avantis’ systematic active management approach and a scalable focus on fundamentals. Avantis also is backed by American Century Investments, a $218 billion asset manager with a leading reputation. 

Jackson National 

Jackson National Life Insurance Company, the main operating subsidiary of Jackson Financial Inc., announced it has launched a proprietary tax deferral calculator available to financial professionals and their clients on Jackson.com. The new tool complements Jackson’s robust suite of online financial planning tools, including its Social Security and retirement expense and income calculators. The tax deferral calculator was developed in partnership with FinMason, Inc. (FinMason), a leading financial technology, investment data and analytics firm, to help financial professionals fully illustrate the benefit of tax-deferred growth across key financial planning lifecycle stages, including accumulation, distribution and legacy. 

Jackson’s new tax deferral calculator enables users to compare the accumulation values and after-tax withdrawals of an investment taxed annually versus deferring the tax until withdrawals occur, as is common with tax-deferred annuities. Additionally, the tool allows users to illustrate scenarios for individuals, couples and trusts based on their unique tax needs. One of the key features of the new tool is its ability to customize the components of the tax deferral journey in various life stages in a digestible, easy-to-understand plan that can help illustrate potential impacts on a client’s portfolio. 

Ledgible 

Ledgible has launched an advanced transaction table, underscoring the industry’s increased focus on digital asset tax reporting and providing streamlined digital asset reporting tools for CPAs, accountants, and tax professionals. Additionally, the team continues to develop industry-leading partnerships to support the needs of the industry and streamline the digital asset tax reporting process. 

The new transaction table provides new functionalities to users, like improved context around digital asset transactions and providing clear audit paths for organizations. Additionally, a new advanced categorization engine streamlines the process of working with large quantities of transactions in bulk. Finally, enhanced memorization functionality and cost basis assignment tools built into the transaction table enable users access to industry-leading reporting functionality, all within the Ledgible platform. These new features streamline the 1099 reporting process, enabling clients to sort, calculate, and categorize digital asset cost basis with integration into their existing tools. 

Luma 

Luma Financial Technologies and Financial Independence Group, LLC (“FIG”), a leading financial services conglomerate specializing in annuities, long-term care, and life insurance products, announced a collaboration to provide tools and make researching and purchasing annuities more streamlined. 

Luma’s open architecture technology platform emerged in 2018 to serve the structured product market, and extended into the annuity industry in February 2021. Luma has since developed additional tools for the platform, including Luma’s “Lifecyle Manager” which simplifies the process of managing in-force annuity contracts. 

Luma’s annuity technology centralizes the tracking of products and offers educational content, comprehensive training, extensive data, client-level performance reports and more. The fully customizable platform ensures that products are chosen with clients’ best interests in mind. 

Options Technology 

Options Technology, a capital markets services provider announced a new partnership with Systemathics, a solutions provider in the asset management and the algorithmic trading industry. 

The partnership is set to provide customers with historical and real-time normalized tick data alongside Systemathics’ unique, proprietary back-testing suite and automation capabilities. Options’ pre-deployed technology stack consumes, translates, and broadcasts normalized and historical tick data to clients worldwide, providing comprehensive access to multi-asset class market data. 

The announcement follows Options’ full integration with Activ Financial and subsequent amalgamation of global market data sources, alongside hosted trading infrastructure and direct connectivity to counterparts in the wider capital markets ecosystem. 

Pontera 

Pontera, the fintech company enabling 401(k) participants to receive comprehensive wealth management services by personal financial advisors, has secured $60 million in a funding round led by ICONIQ Growth. This investment raises Pontera’s total funding to $160 million, reinforcing its commitment to address the widespread neglect of workplace retirement accounts held by 85 million Americans—a critical element of the U.S. retirement crisis. 

After more than quadrupling revenue since its last fundraise announced in February 2022, Pontera welcomed ICONIQ Growth as a new investor in an up round with additional participation from prior investors Blumberg Capital, Collaborative Fund, Hanaco Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and The Founders Kitchen. 

Public 

Public, the investing platform that lets members invest in stocks, ETFs, crypto, Treasury bills, and alternative assets, announces it is rolling out access for members to invest fractionally in corporate and Treasury bonds on desktop and mobile in response to the increasing demand from investors for fixed-income products. Public continues to see tremendous growth in its 6-month Treasury bill offering, which is the most popular asset on the platform this year by AUM. Retail investors will have access to an expansive suite of treasury and corporate bonds, where they can sift through an advanced screener tool with thousands of bonds at different rates and maturities and access advanced financial metrics that allow them to evaluate. 

Bonds have traditionally been more readily available to institutional investors, but recently, with interest rates rising, they have started to become favored by modern retail investors. Nevertheless, they are still difficult to buy, as evidenced by the approximately one percent of retail investors directly owning corporate bonds. Public’s launch of bonds comes with a new layer of context to help inventors understand the lifecycle of these securities, including relevant financial metrics and reference data associated with a bond to ensure investors make educated decisions through an easy-to-use experience. 

Schwab 

Charles Schwab today announced the broad availability of Schwab Investing Themes, a comprehensive thematic investing solution that enables investors to easily research, customize, and invest in more than 40 thematic areas based on their personal passions and interests. Each theme is comprised of up to 25 stocks, and covers topics such as Artificial Intelligence, Aging U.S. Population, Electric Vehicles, Blockchain, U.S. National Defense, Renewable Energy, and Big Data. Schwab Investing Themes has a low investment minimum of just $250 and there is no fee to access the solution. Schwab initially began rolling out the solution to clients earlier this quarter. 

According to Schwab’s Q2 2023 Retail Client Sentiment Report, more than 60% of clients believe it is important to align their values and areas of interest with their investment decisions. 

Schwab Investing Themes builds on Schwab’s thematic stock lists, made available in early 2022. While the stock lists present stocks related to various ideas or trends for clients to consider, Schwab Investing Themes is a digital experience which enables them to research, customize, trade, and track a group of stocks within a theme in just a few clicks. 

SignatureFD 

SignatureFD announced the appointment of Eric Clarke, founding CEO of Orion Advisor Solutions, to its Board of Directors. Clarke’s appointment, effective January 1, 2024, represents the firm’s first Board expansion to include an external member. 

Bringing more than 25 years of management experience, Clarke founded Orion Advisor Tech in 1999 to deliver technology infrastructure to help independent financial advisors scale their businesses. Throughout his time as CEO, he oversaw the firm’s progression into Orion Advisor Solutions, growing it to one of the industry’s leading technology solutions for fiduciary advisors. Between 2018 and 2022, he guided Orion through seven major acquisitions and integrated new functionality into the firm’s ecosystem to address advisors’ critical need for unified technology systems. 

Voya 

Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), a leading health, wealth and investment company, is announcing today the launch of its new employee homepage dashboard, the latest addition to the company’s platform of employee wellness solutions. The new experience, which will be available to Voya’s Health Solutions and Wealth Solutions individual customers, provides access and visibility to all of one’s Voya workplace retirement plans and health savings accounts in one place. This includes workplace benefits, savings and retirement plans — along with the integration of external accounts — while leveraging data-driven personalized insights to help inform employees of their complete health and financial picture. 

Driven by insights derived from behavioral finance research through the Voya Behavioral Finance Institute for Innovation, the enhanced employee experience leverages digital “nudging” capabilities to help employees make more informed financial decisions related to their spending, savings and debt activity. For example, frequent personalized nudges inform employees of how much they are spending — or overspending — in certain areas, while providing insight on where and how individuals can reduce spending to be able to save more for their future. Employees can also make their homepage unique to them to best support their individual goals and needs. This — in addition to securely connecting all Voya and external financial accounts in one place to view one’s net worth, spending and budgeting — can help employees make more informed financial decisions to help them reach their goals. 

These latest enhancements build upon Voya’s ongoing investments in digital experiences that help address the health and wealth needs of individuals. This also aligns with recent Voya research that found a majority (79%) of employed Americans strongly agree or agree they are interested in receiving support to maximize their workplace benefit dollars across retirement savings, health savings accounts (HSAs), healthcare insurance and voluntary benefits at work.