Advisor Tech Talk (Week of 1/29/24)

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This week in advisor tech news, we have several big tech-oriented studies and research projects publishing, including T3’s annual advisor tech survey that publishes in tandem with their national conference. 

The findings all tend to point to an industry becoming more comfortable with the rapidly advancing technology that surrounds it, which indicates to us that the rate of technological change in the financial services industry will continue to accelerate in the near term. T3’s study found, interestingly enough, that advisors are increasingly embracing point solutions to serve their clients with specialized services, particularly in the realm of tax planning and advice. 

This week we also have multiple announcements, driven by the big conference, from comprehensive wealth tech giants Orion and Envestnet, new offerings in AI and digital assets for financial advisors and an interesting announcement from consumer-oriented fintech SoFi that it is now offering its users alternative investments. 

Now, financial advisors don’t use SoFi, it is a consumer-oriented app. It’s certainly not the first to jump into alternatives, with many apps available for investing in real estate, art, collectibles or even liquid alternatives now widely available for the end investor.  That said, SoFi represents a well-established, well-regarded brand that consumers might be more comfortable investing in alternatives with than a smaller startup.  

The point is that here’s another fintech offering to the end investor services that were once thought of as the realm of traditional financial advisors and their ultra-wealthy clients. Technology has broken down those barriers. Access to alternatives is no longer a serious differentiator for human financial advisors. 

Let’s get you to your advisor tech headlines: 


Advisor360 

The latest research from Advisor360°, a leading provider of integrated technology for enterprise wealth management firms, reveals that 92% of advisors would jump ship over bad technology. In fact, 44% say they already have. 

The findings make it clear that the next generation of wealth managers expects more from their tech stack. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of survey respondents believe their technology setup needs improvement. They cite bad data as the most pressing problem, though a lack of automation and AI-enabled tools for improving workflows ranked a close second. 

The latest edition of Advisor360°’s Connected Wealth Report series explores the views of financial advisors and how technology impacts their work. The report is based on the company’s survey of 300 wealth managers, aged 36.5 years old on average, managing an average of $40 million in client assets. 

The research findings point to growing advisor dissatisfaction over the tools they have for working with clients and winning new ones. Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents say they lost business over the last year because of bad technology, while 92% have lost business over the past two years. 

Conversely, great technology has advantages. Ninety-three percent of respondents who ranked their technology as state-of-the-art report gaining new clients as a result of a competitor’s bad technology. 

Advisors also recognize technology’s role in the client experience—more than half (58%) consider their end client capabilities to be a weakness. Indeed, they call out new client onboarding as the area of highest priority for improved efficiency. 

AdvisorEngine 

The leaders of AdvisorEngine, the financial experience company, and Ritholtz Wealth Management, a national RIA which is home to some of the financial world’s most engaging podcasts, took center stage at The Technology Tools for Today (T3) Conference 2024 to speak publicly for the first time about the success of their strategic partnership. This collaboration emerged following Ritholtz Wealth’s acquisition of BlackRock’s digital advice service, FutureAdvisor, in 2023 and the selection of AdvisorEngine’s Wealth Management Platform as the foundation for its brand-new Good Advice offering. 

The two organizations worked together to design and roll out the offering, extending Ritholtz Wealth’s value proposition to a new segment of underserved clients. Under the leadership of CEO Rich Cancro, AdvisorEngine provided crucial support in the technological integration while also overseeing the transition of thousands of accounts onto the new platform. This process involved comprehensive data validation and migration, including historical performance, transactions, billing schedules and investment models. 

The collaboration between Ritholtz Wealth and AdvisorEngine represents a powerful combination of human-driven financial planning and cutting-edge technology, aimed at serving the ‘mass affluent’ segment – households with $250,000 to $1,000,000 in assets. This historically underserved demographic is set to benefit significantly from Ritholtz Wealth’s distinctive approach, which blends technological innovation with the expertise of CFPs and a robust operational infrastructure. 

Anchorage Digital 

Today, Anchorage Digital Bank National Association and Onramp Invest, a Securitize company, are proud to announce their industry-first offering of digital asset block trading for financial advisors. Combining Anchorage Digital’s industry-first solution for crypto block trading with Onramp’s advisor-first alternatives access tools marks a critical step forward in fair pricing and efficient execution for RIAs. The partnership provides safe, secure, and seamless access to digital assets through Anchorage Digital Bank—the only federally regulated qualified custodian for crypto with trading through Anchorage Hold.         

By allowing for the execution of large crypto trades in a single transaction, our industry-first solution to block trading can unlock significant efficiency and cost savings for financial advisors and their end clients. In addition, this purpose-built solution conducted through Anchorage Digital affiliate, Anchorage Hold, helps to mitigate the market impact of large crypto trades. The new feature is available to financial advisors using Onramp, which serves a community of RIAs representing over $40 billion in cumulative AUM.   

The new block trading feature is part of Anchorage Digital’s recently launched comprehensive custody and trading offering for RIAs. The offering serves the full spectrum of the advisor ecosystem—including turnkey asset management programs (TAMPs), third-party technology platforms, and direct integrations with RIAs.  

Apex Advisor Solutions 

Apex Advisor Solutions (“Apex”), a branch of Apex Fintech Solutions Inc. (“Apex”), the fintech for fintechs powering innovation and the future of digital wealth management, unveiled today at the T3 Technology Conference Apex Astra, a modern, operationally efficient UI that puts power back into the hands of advisors. Made possible with Apex’s flexible APIs and institutional-grade advisor platform, Apex Astra enables advisors to take control of their innovation and client onboarding, data, and service.

With clients demanding faster and better experiences, Apex Astra is designed to streamline the account opening process and provide faster access to decision-making data while offering a superior digital support experience for advisors. In conjunction with Apex’s API and advisor tech integrations, such as Orion and AdvisorArch, Apex Astra modernizes the advisor experience, unlocking the combined power of Apex and the third-party tech ecosystem. Innovative integrations include rebalancing with fractional trading, digital client onboarding with automated account opening, and AI enablement through advanced third-party overlays. 
 
“Apex Astra is designed to be the industry’s strongest operational growth engine,” said Olivia Eisinger, GM of Advisory at Apex Advisor Solutions. “We believe Apex Astra’s capabilities will enhance advisory firms’ organic growth efforts by driving scale and efficiency. Our enhanced UI experience frees advisors up to focus on what they do best, working with clients without being held back by slow and outdated processes. It’s modern custody technology for the modern advisory firm.” 
 
Advisors using Apex Astra will be able to drive efficiency through intuitive navigation and custom views that remember where they are in their various workflows, eliminating the need to recreate the process each time in the system. The dashboard is customizable to filter data, provide custom reports, and see holistic views of clients and accounts, allowing advisory firms to tackle their day-to-day tasks faster while gaining key business insights. For RMDs and other withdrawals, Apex Astra will enable users to auto-calculate tax withholdings by state and free up funds and initiate trading with a tap, all on the same screen.

CFP Board 

CFP Board has published the Guide to CFP Board’s Technology Standard, a comprehensive resource to assist CFP® professionals in selecting, using and recommending technology for client service, including advanced artificial intelligence (AI) tools. The guide is part of an ongoing series of resources to help CFP® professionals with their practice.  

Developed in close collaboration with CFP Board’s Standards Resource Commission, this guide is a valuable resource that will aid CFP® professionals in complying with the Duties When Selecting, Using, and Recommending Technology, outlined in Section A.14 of CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct (Code and Standards).  

In addition to the guide, CFP Board also developed sample questionnaires that address core financial planning technologies, common features and capabilities, technology and the vendor relationship, plus assumptions and outcomes. CFP Board also published a checklist for CFP® professionals to use when evaluating their technology platforms, determining whether to add or replace technology or selecting vendors. 

Envestnet 

Envestnet announced the launch of its new RIA consulting capability, the RIA Growth Lab. This innovative offering aims to enable the growth and productivity of RIAs by providing comprehensive practice valuation consulting services, leveraging cutting-edge technology to deliver actionable insights. 

With the wealth management landscape constantly evolving, Envestnet recognizes the need for RIAs to stay competitive and optimize their practices. The newly formed RIA consulting group at Envestnet is poised to address these challenges by offering peer benchmark grades on essential metrics, including revenue, client satisfaction, and business stability. 

Dani Fava, a well-respected figure in the wealth management industry, leads this initiative. Fava brings a wealth of experience, making her the ideal leader for this innovative consulting group. Her commitment to helping RIAs succeed aligns seamlessly with Envestnet’s mission to empower advisors to achieve their full potential. 

At T3, Envestnet highlighted its delivery roadmap for 2024 and demonstrations, including: 

Envestnet Payments – a Stripe-enabled billing solution for financial advisors that empowers them to bill and invoice for planning services via credit card or ACH. Envestnet Payments comes to market with a direct integration to MoneyGuide. Advisors drafting financial plans for their clients can single sign-on to Envestnet Payments to generate fees for planning, retainer, subscription, ad-hoc, one-time, and more. 

MoneyGuide Single Page Plan – MoneyGuide is showcasing an updated digital snapshot with the ability to print a single page summary, that provides a single page view of a client’s financial life and objectives. MoneyGuide is also announcing an integration with Ladder which allows advisors to access digital term life insurance for their clients. 

New Client Workflow demonstrations – beginning with a seamless planning integration through MoneyGuide, then launching into proposal and moving through portfolio customization capabilities such as tax management services and High Net Worth Consulting, Insurance Exchange and structured investments – to digital account servicing offering proposal integration and multi-custodial capabilities. A demonstration of Envestnet’s fully connected plan-to-execution workflow. 

RIA Growth Lab – a new comprehensive practice valuation consulting service capability for RIAs, leveraging cutting-edge technology to deliver actionable insights. 

Income Lab 

Income Laboratory, Inc. (Income Lab), maker of award-winning retirement income planning software, announced the launch of Life Hub, as a stand-alone app for financial advisors and their clients. Life Hub is a financial planning tool that helps advisors take their clients to and through retirement in a clear and interactive way. The announcement comes on the heels of Income Lab’s recent brand refresh and aligns with their mission of revolutionizing how people navigate retirement so they can live with confidence. The goal of this launch is to make planning clearer and more accessible, not only for advisors but more importantly for the clients they serve. 

Life Hub is a game changer for financial advisors who are looking to drive clearer conversations with clients and build stronger rapport. Advisors can build, present, and update retirement plans for their clients and prospects in minutes, all on one screen. Plan construction and presentations are visual, and advisors can customize exactly which pieces of the plan to show so they can guide fruitful conversations with each client. 

Key features of Life Hub include: 

Visual financial planning that clients can understand 

Withdrawal sourcing down to the account level 

Timeline with Milestones 

Social Security Planner 

Multiple tax strategies, including Roth conversion planning 

Longevity planning 

Scenario planning and comparisons 

“Quick Create” option for fast plan builds 

Client Portal 

Custom 1-page plan reporting 

Integrations and account aggregation 

Knowledge Base, self-paced onboard, and live support 

Jump 

The financial advisory and wealth management sector has an exciting and ready-to-use new AI tool with the launch of Jump, artificial intelligence software designed to redefine how wealth advisors manage their client interactions and compliance tasks. Created to turn conversations into comprehensive notes, actionable tasks, and compliance records, Jump offers a cutting-edge solution for advisors seeking efficiency and accuracy in their daily operations. 

Traditionally, wealth advisors have spent considerable time on manual note-taking and administrative tasks following client meetings. Jump dramatically reduces this time by automating the process. The AI-driven platform can generate detailed notes, identify tasks, write precise follow-up emails, and seamlessly update Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems with just a click. By integrating with popular platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Salesforce, and Wealthbox (with Redtail CRM coming soon), Jump can take the 20-60 minutes most advisors spend on admin work after each meeting to less than five minutes. 

Marstone 

Marstone, Inc. announced it has raised an $8M Series B financing round led by Mendon Venture Partners and South Rose Capital, alongside new investors including the Castle Creek Launchpad Fund. The round also includes existing investor Equity Bank (NYSE: EQBK). Marstone enables financial institutions to retain and generate deposits, increase non-interest income, and improve client servicing and satisfaction by launching a wealth practice for less cost than an average full-time hire. 

Marstone’s platform has recently been adopted by Woodforest National Bank, Equity Bank, and Red River Credit Union to deliver a modern user interface, paperless account opening, flexible goal planning, performance reporting, data aggregation, portfolio trading and rebalancing, asset allocation, risk assessment, and more. Marstone solves many of the key issues facing financial institutions today: the shift in consumer preferences to digital engagement, the need for a harmonious customer experience, the rise in digitally-savvy investors in the generational wealth transfer, the desire for integrated financial planning capabilities, and the need for diverse revenue streams that don’t feed into fee and margin pressure. Banks have shuttered over 20 percent of their branches in the last 15 years. By adopting affordable technologies and platforms such as Marstone these institutions are able to better meet their customers’ needs via digital channels that broaden both geographic reach and hours of availability. 

Orion Advisor Solutions 

Orion Advisor Solutions announced powerful enhancements and integrations showcasing the unstoppable combination of Orion and Redtail Technology. The improvements – spanning email and calendar management and generative artificial intelligence (AI) – aim to streamline operations for advisors and free up time they need to effectively engage with clients. 

Orion’s latest enhancements leverage proprietary technology and assistive AI to save advisors time when it comes to client communication, compliance and document management – addressing some of the primary tasks on their agendas. 

Client communication technology at Orion is taking a quantum leap forward with Redtail Suite Sync – a seamless email, calendar, and contact syncing tool. Email and calendar syncing ranks as the top-requested feature by Redtail advisors. Developed for Microsoft 365 at launch with Google suite soon to follow, advisors and operational employees can now easily share calendars and instantly schedule meetings. Calendar events and appointment reminders are synced through Redtail CRM, including mobile functionality for must-have email and calendar access on-the-go. 

Orion also announced that AllianceBernstein Municipal Fixed Income separately managed accounts (SMAs) will be added to the Orion Portfolio Solutions (OPS) platform. 

AB’s Municipal Fixed Income SMAs actively manage over $41 billion, as of Jan 3, 2024, and are now available through the Orion Portfolio Solutions platform. This includes: 

AB Tax Aware SMA 

AB Municipal Income SMA 

AB Municipal Impact SMA 

AB High Quality Municipal SMA 

AB Municipal Ladders SMA 

Orion also announced the theme for Orion Ascent 2024: “Unstoppable.” Set against the scenic vistas of San Diego Bay at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina from March 12-15, this premier event will celebrate the resilience, innovation and leadership that financial advisors bring to their clients every day. 

This year’s “Unstoppable” theme embodies the tenacity and adaptability of modern financial advisors. It signifies a commitment to overcoming the dynamic challenges of today’s economic environment and a dedication to guiding clients with confidence and foresight. “It’s more than a motto; it’s the pulse of our industry,” says Ryan Beach, President of Orion Wealth Management. 

Snappy Kraken 

Snappy Kraken, the marketing technology (martech) innovator serving financial advisors, previewed the results of its “State of Digital 2024” report. Based on an extensive analysis of some 250 million data points from campaigns sent by 10,000 advisors, the report offers unprecedented insights into the most effective digital marketing strategies for this cohort. In particular, the findings underscore the impact of search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing and video content on advisors’ growth trajectories.   

Snappy Kraken last conducted this analysis in 2021. Since then, the firm has expanded its dataset through enhancements like the Convos compliant text messaging platform and the acquisition of Advisor Websites. These enhancements have contributed to a more robust and detailed report, which offers key findings such as:  

SEO sets advisors’ websites apart. The report highlights the integral role of SEO in attracting new website visitors. The report’s data reveals that advisors investing in SEO experienced a 94 percent uptick in unique new visitors to their websites. Additionally, there was a notable 93 percent increase in the number of visitors who initiated sessions, denoting enhanced engagement and interaction with the site on a monthly basis. Effective strategies include the use of long-tail keywords, maintaining an up-to-date Google Business profile, and adding a “text me” widget to drive email opt-ins.   

Email reigns supreme, but quality matters. Email remains the top-performing marketing channel. According to Snappy Kraken’s data, advisors utilizing their services report that 55 percent of traffic to their websites and landing pages is driven by email marketing. However, its success is heavily dependent on the quality of subject lines. An unopened email equates to an unread message, making open rates crucial. These rates are determined by three main factors: the caliber of the email list, the effectiveness of the subject lines, and a consistent emailing frequency, ideally at least once a week.   

SoFi 

SoFi, the all-in-one digital personal finance company, announced that SoFi Invest members will now be able to invest in select alternative investment funds, mutual funds, and money market funds. With the launch of alternative investments, SoFi is granting everyday investors access to the power to build and protect their wealth through investment opportunities traditionally reserved for the ultra wealthy. 

Initially, SoFi will offer over 6,000 different mutual funds to members on the SoFi Invest platform, as well as access to invest in the ARK Venture Fund, Carlyle Tactical Credit Fund (CTAC), KKR Credit Opportunities Portfolio (KCOP), as well as Franklin Templeton’s Clarion Partners Real Estate Income Fund (CPREX) and Franklin BSP Private Credit Fund (FBSPX). These funds feature a unique lineup of assets, including private credit, real estate and pre-IPO companies offering a diverse mix of investing opportunities. SoFi will roll out access to alternative investments, mutual funds and money market funds to all SoFi Invest members over the coming days. 

T3 

Joel Bruckenstein of Technology Tools for Today (T3) and Bob Veres of Inside Information presented their initial findings from the 2024 T3/Inside Information Software Survey. 

The survey provides key insights into the ever-evolving fintech marketplace. The 2,917 survey participants, comprised exclusively of members of the financial planning and investment advisory community, provided answers to questions about 38 categories of fintech solutions. The results are a robust data set determining the most popular programs in each category, market share for each solution, and ratings for how well users like, or don’t like, the solutions they are using. 

In all, more than 800 different programs, services and solutions are covered on the 78-page report. The data is provided through 139 charts and graphs, each organized to deliver what they believe to be helpful information in every relevant category. This year, three new categories: healthcare planning tools, portfolio design, and data warehouse solutions. 

Bruckenstein, president of Technology Tools for Today (T3), during a special lunchtime presentation at the T3 Technology Tools for Today Conference, called on three award winners to join him on stage to accept the following 2023 technology awards: The T3 Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation in Wealth Technology went to Eric Clarke, Board Member, Orion. Sora Finance and Syntax Data both won T3 Emerging Technology Awards. 

TIFIN 

TIFIN announced the spin-off of TIFIN AG and the appointment of industry veterans Rajini Kodialam and Brian Carlin as board members. Rajini is Founder and Co-CEO at E-3 Tech and the Co-Founder Emeritus of Focus Financial Partners while Brian was the former CEO of J.P. Morgan Private Capital and CEO of J.P. Morgan Wealth Management Solutions. 

TIFIN AG, formed within TIFIN and founded by Dr. Vinay Nair, employs state-of-the-art supervised trained algorithms to drive asset growth for wealth management firms. The platform provides several AI modules for client acquisition, expansion, and retention that include prioritizing prospect lists, identifying referral opportunities, scoring existing clients for asset consolidation, and assessing client and asset retention risk. Firms can use these customizable algos in conjunction with marketing automation capabilities, fostering a robust feedback loop to change how wealth managers engage clients and prospects. In addition, the platform streamlines wealth data sources by collaborating with clients, enhancing the reliability and depth of information with TIFIN’s data lake and 3rd-party vendors. 

The company has appointed a group of executives with deep experience in building new ventures and driving growth across the fintech, wealth, and asset management industries. The board will include TIFIN’s Founder and CEO Dr. Vinay Nair, Rajini Kodialam, Founder and Co-CEO at E-3 Tech and Co-Founder Emeritus at Focus Financial Partners, and Brian Carlin, former CEO of J.P. Morgan Private Capital and CEO of J.P. Morgan Wealth Management Solutions. 

Vanilla 

Vanilla, a provider of innovative estate planning software, announced new additions to its platform, including VAI Chat, Collaborative Onboarding, and the expanded availability of Vanilla Document Builder™. 

VAI Chat is an AI-powered assistant designed to simplify the estate planning experience for wealth planners, advisors, and their clients. Currently in beta, VAI Chat offers an intuitive chat experience in the Vanilla platform, answering practical estate planning questions sourced from a curated corpus of estate planning content. Its capabilities extend beyond traditional support, providing real-time responses to complex queries such as, “What happens to a SLAT if a couple gets divorced?” or “What are the best ways to figure out if my client has used any of their exemption?” VAI Chat is built off of VAITM, Vanilla’s AI engine for estate planning. Last year, Vanilla previewed how VAI can be used to transform static estate planning documents into visual diagrams inside of the Vanilla Estate Builder.  

Vanilla has also introduced a new Collaborative Onboarding feature, allowing advisors to partner more effectively with clients in conducting comprehensive estate reviews. Advisors can now invite clients to initiate their estate profile, enabling a collaborative environment where clients input their information and securely upload existing documents for review and visualization. This innovative process culminates in either the advisor’s planner or Vanilla transforming these documents into easy-to-understand estate visualizations. 

WealthBox 

Wealthbox announced a new firmwide CRM agreement with Accurate Advisory Group, a Florida firm with 30 CRM users and over 5,000 customers served. 

Wealthbox, having recently announced several new agreements with large advisory firms, is positioned for significant growth in 2024 and beyond, with new features and partnerships being announced regularly. Accurate Advisory Group’s selection of Wealthbox as its firmwide CRM shows that the firm is motivated to provide best-in-class, modern technology to advisors.