Advisor Tech Talk (Week of 2/6/24)

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It was another busy week in advisor-facing wealth tech, with a few big names dropping interesting announcements. 

In this week’s Advisor Tech Talk, we have announcements from the likes of BlackRock, Pontera, CAIS, iCapital and Wealthbox—while none are particularly earth-shattering, they’re the kinds of announcements that mark measured progress in digitizing wealth management and the move of most—or perhaps eventually all—of financial services towards greater automation and fewer human touchpoints. 

As we have mentioned before in this column—and dozens of other advisors have noted elsewhere—change comes slowly to wealth management. The industry is so hampered by regulation and by some pervasive antiquated thinking that it will never win the technological arms race with consumers or with other industries. The end user will always have better financial technology at their fingertips at home than the financial advisor does in their office. 

This arrangement of technological fortunes is nothing new—it is a fact of life in the financial services industry. The question now is what happens when end users have all of the power of the technologies emerging today—including blockchains and generative AI—when financial advisors still have very little of it. Will the human touch being offered by traditional financial advisors be enough to keep clients whose demands are being shaped by technologies unavailable to the industry?

The industry is gambling that at least the very wealthy, think those with $5 million or more in investible assets, will seek to retain their human advisors and traditional financial relationships. In our experience, these investors are the most cost-conscious of all, and may be among the most likely to abandon their pricey human advisors in the future for technological solutions.

Let’s get to your advisor tech headlines. 


BlackRock 

BlackRock launched the Defined Contribution Practice Management Program, providing robust tools and resources for retirement plan advisors of all sizes. It is the latest addition to BlackRock’s growing value-add program, developed to meet the needs of the 62% of retirement specialist advisors who want more support in building their DC business and the 39% of plan advisors who would value support growing their wealth business1. BlackRock sees the convergence of wealth and defined contribution as a new frontier for the DC Advisor channel. 

These announcements come at a time when advisors are playing an increasingly vital role in helping individuals plan a more secure retirement. The amount of corporate DC assets managed by retirement plan advisors grew by 14% CAGR between 2018 and 2022 versus 6% for the market overall.2 

At launch, BlackRock’s Defined Contribution Practice Management Program includes digital resources for both seasoned retirement plan advisors as well as those who are newer to the DC space. Looking ahead, the firm plans to spearhead additional research, content, initiatives, and technology solutions to support advisors navigating the complex needs of DC plans and participants. 

CAIS 

CAIS, the leading alternative investment platform for independent financial advisors, announced today that David Canter has joined the firm as a Strategic Advisor to support the company’s ongoing commitment to the RIA community. 

Canter brings more than 20 years of experience serving the independent advisor community, including more than a decade at Fidelity Investments. At Fidelity, Canter led the RIA and Family Office Segments and spearheaded the Practice Management and Consulting practice for Fidelity Institutional. Earlier in his career, David held a senior leadership role at Charles Schwab and currently serves as trustee to Accordant Investments family of mutual funds, a board member of Invest in Others, and a prior board member of the Foundation for Financial Planning. 

Canter’s appointment follows the announcement of CAIS Live, a nationwide alternative investment education program for independent financial advisors that features one-day events focused on combining CAIS’ best-in-class technology with in-person educational experiences. 

CRC 

Compliance Risk Concepts (“CRC”), through its parent company, Re-Sourcing Group, has received a significant investment from MidOcean Partners to advance its position as a valued compliance partner to the financial services industry. This investment will support the continued growth of CRC’s unique brand of business-focused compliance and risk management advisory services. 

The compliance and risk management industry has evolved in recent years, amid new regulations, rule modifications and heightened government oversight. These changes come amid consolidation in the outsourced compliance space, resulting in fewer options for clients seeking expertise coupled with exceptional service. 

CRC has thrived as a provider of senior-level compliance advisory services for financial organizations. The firm delivers expert-driven advice and strategy for its clients, which include broker-dealers, investment advisers, fintech and digital asset firms, banks and credit unions, in helping them navigate the ever-changing regulatory landscape. Recognizing CRC’s strong position in the market, MidOcean Partners, a premier middle-market private equity firm focused on the business services and consumer sectors, anticipates CRC’s continued success in delivering compliance solutions to a diverse clientele. 

The confluence of talent shortages and increasingly complex requirements for managing businesses on the legal and compliance front has led to a continued surge in demand for outsourced solutions. For example, in the investment adviser sector, an estimated 59%1 of firms outsourced some or all of their compliance and legal work. Avnet and his partners at MidOcean see this as an opportunity for further growth. 

Elements 

Elements, a financial vitals system that helps financial advisors serve clients faster, today announced the launch of its complimentary service offering. This initiative aims to further empower registered investment advisors (RIAs) and broker-dealers (BDs), with a focus on those that have fewer than four planning clients as recorded on their Form ADV.  

Elements’ innovative financial vitals system streamlines the process of gathering client data,  pre-planning, preparing for client interactions, and creating marketing content. This enables advisors to guide more clients toward making well-informed financial decisions in a significantly reduced timeframe. The firm’s latest move exemplifies Elements’ commitment to helping advisors streamline their practices by providing a seamless, state-of-the-art client experience, ensuring that advisors can offer a sophisticated and scalable planning practice from day one. 

Elements enables advisors to rapidly build trust with clients and prospects. Its platform facilitates quick financial assessments using 11 financial vitals, including burn and tax rates, ensuring advisors can present a comprehensive financial picture to their clients. This combination of speed, efficiency, and modernization positions startup advisors for success right from the start. 

Elements’ platform is now accessible free of charge to eligible firms under its “three for free” program. This offers startup advisors a competitive edge in the early stages of their careers. 

HubSync 

HubSync announced an innovative new Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit product to streamline the complex process of collecting, organizing, and submitting R&D tax credit data supporting taxpayer claims sent to the IRS for processing. 

By consolidating and automating cumbersome manual processes, the R&D Tax Credit product reduces the time and resources required to compile supporting data and documentation for these claims.  

HubSync developed this new platform in close collaboration with Plante Moran, one of the nation’s largest audit, tax, consulting, and wealth management firms and a leader in the R&D Tax Credit market. Having firsthand experience with the challenges clients face when gathering tax credit documentation, Plante Moran identified the need for this type of end-to-end automation tool and understands the efficiencies and streamlined experience it offers clients.   

iCapital 

iCapital announced that Magdalena Pandiloska has been appointed Chief Marketing Officer and joins the firm’s management committee reporting into iCapital’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Lawrence Calcano; while Christine Dusek assumes the position of Senior Vice President, Global Head of Communications reporting to Pandiloska. 

As Chief Marketing Officer, Pandiloska will oversee worldwide marketing and communications, including branding, advertising, content, digital strategy, events, market intelligence, and marketing operations. With more than two decades of global marketing leadership, she joins iCapital from Microsoft Canada where she served as the Chief Marketing Officer responsible for the modern marketing transformation that propelled the brand to the top commercial spot in Canada. In addition, she served in executive marketing leadership roles at Dyson, TORLYS, Seavus, and Ein-Sof. 

Nitrogen 

Nitrogen announced that RFG Advisory (‘RFG’), a fast-growing platform for innovative and entrepreneurial independent advisors, has deployed Nitrogen as its enterprise growth and client engagement platform. Nitrogen is the latest addition to RFG’s technology stack, which was thoughtfully assembled to provide growth-minded advisors with a comprehensive suite of best-in-class solutions. The award-winning platform includes technology, talent, investment management, operations, compliance, marketing and coaching required to empower advisors to build their business without compromise.    

At the heart of the partnership is a shared vision: to empower independent advisors with the technology and services for breakthrough innovation and growth. With Nitrogen, RFG’s more than 100 advisors can harness the industry-leading platform for client-facing risk alignment, portfolio comparison, proposal generation, client check in and customized portfolio management tools and concierge-level trading services. Nitrogen’s suite of analytics and client engagement solutions provide a new dimension of insight and functionality, energizing the firm’s advisors to deliver an engaging, highly personalized client experience at scale across the firm.  

This collaboration also marks a fusion of Nitrogen’s state-of-the-art front-end proposal delivery with RFG’s acclaimed Blumonte Investment Platform, offering a new era of compliance-aligned, creative asset management solutions with concierge level trading services. This merger of technology and service excellence opens up new avenues for advisors to craft bespoke investment strategies for clients using modern, tech-enabled workflows.   

Pontera 

Pontera and Steward Partners announced a new partnership. Now overseeing more than $32 billion in client assets, Steward Partners is paving a path for its advisors to manage retirement plan accounts securely through its Advised Retirement Plan Account platform, powered by Pontera. 

As projections show that 40% of retirement income for U.S. workers will stem from their 401(k) savings, clients increasingly demand that these assets not be left outside of their overall financial plans. It is estimated that more than 70% of plan participants want personalized investment advice on their employer-sponsored retirement plan assets.¹ 

Pontera is here to help. Pontera provides a secure, client-permissioned platform for financial advisors to manage 401(k)s, 403(b)s and other held-away retirement plan assets. Leveraging Pontera’s SOC 2 Type II- and ISO 27001-certified platform, advisors can analyze fund options, review historical fund performance and set target-fund allocations in alignment with their custom, portfolio-level tax and investment strategies. Pontera directly integrates with portfolio reporting, billing and other technology solutions to provide seamless account management. 

Steward Partners celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2023 and has remained one of the industry’s fastest-growing RIA firms since its launch. The firm now has a national presence with more than 250 advisors across 59 offices in 26 states. Ranked #19 on Barron’s 2023 list of top 100 RIAs, Steward Partners recently acquired Freedom Street Partners, adding over $3 billion to its client assets under management. 

Last month, Pontera announced a $60 million funding round led by ICONIQ Growth. This round increased the company’s total funding to date to $160 million, enabling Pontera to execute on its mission to help millions of U.S. workers retire better. 

Savvy Wealth 

Savvy Wealth announced the launch of Savvy Wealth Investment Management (SWIM). An in-house investment management solution replete with diversified and low-cost investment strategies, SWIM enables the creation and management of personalized investment portfolios tailored to the firm’s high-net-worth (HNW) client base.  

SWIM is the newest addition to Savvy Wealth’s fully integrated platform aimed at revolutionizing the way advisors manage, operate and scale their businesses. With SWIM, Savvy’s advisors can build flexible, customizable portfolios to help clients reach their unique financial goals. 

SWIM builds upon last year’s launch of Savvy Direct Indexing, which was introduced to allow Savvy’s advisors to offer tax-optimized, risk-adjusted and personalized portfolios. By continuing to add to its “all-in-one” technology platform built for modern advisors, Savvy Wealth is eliminating wasted time spent shuffling between several disparate technology solutions. Its platform also offers back-office, operations, marketing and compliance support teams, which enable advisors to spend more time serving clients and engaging with prospects. 

TIFIN 

TIFIN announced that its philanthropy platform TIFIN Give has acquired Giving Place, the tech solution for family office giving programs and private foundations. The newly combined company now has increased scale and resources to service families through advisors, the workplace, and family offices. The firm now helps oversee $670 million in philanthropy assets and helped facilitate $40 million in charitable donations in 2023. 

The donor-advised fund (DAF) space has seen rapid growth in recent years. DAF assets nearly doubled between 2018 and 2022 and stand today at ~$230 billion; total DAF assets are estimated to grow to $1 trillion by 2030. Private foundation assets reached $1.25 trillion last year. The ability of TIFIN Give to serve these charitable structures, among others, continues to unlock substantial opportunities and value for wealth enterprises and their clients.  

TIFIN Give’s next-generation DAF platform provides a multi-custodial platform, SOC-2 security compliance, and expanded investment options including custom model portfolios. It is now deployed at leading wealth enterprises and employers through their recent partnership to power an employee DAF solution with Morgan Stanley at Work. 

UPTIQ 

UPTIQ, a pioneer in holistic wealth management solutions for the financial services industry, announced that it has completed the acquisition of Focus Treasury and Credit Solutions, LLC (“FTCS”), which was a wholly owned subsidiary of Focus Financial Partners Inc. (Focus), a leading partnership of independent, fiduciary wealth management firms. This acquisition significantly enhances UPTIQ’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled technology by combining automation and digital/intuitive self-service with FTCS’s client-centric approach to delivering tailored cash and credit solutions to financial advisors. Following the closing of this transaction, FTCS will be renamed and rebranded as UPTIQ Treasury and Credit Solutions, LLC (“UTCS”), and Focus will become a shareholder in UPTIQ. 

The leadership teams of both companies are committed to a smooth transition that provides continuity of service for all existing clients. Furthermore, clients of FTCS can look forward to accessing a broader range of financial and technology solutions through UPTIQ. 

Wealthbox 

Wealthbox announced a new enterprise CRM agreement with Heartland Bank and Trust Company. Through this agreement, the wealth management professionals at Heartland Bank and Trust Company will begin using Wealthbox as their CRM. 

This partnership underscores Wealthbox’s commitment to delivering cutting-edge client relationship management solutions tailored to the unique needs of banks and credit unions. Heartland Bank and Trust Company, widely recognized for its commitment to excellence and client-centric approach, has chosen Wealthbox to enhance operational efficiency, streamline communication, and elevate the overall client experience.