Advisor Tech Talk (Week of 3/18/24)

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Yes, AI might be responsible for the hottest news in the advisor tech universe, but blockchain, cloud and conventional roboadvisors still have plenty to say. 

Take the blockchain and crypto space, for example. We really haven’t had a lot of public news to break regarding the implementation of blockchain technology in the wealth space over the last few months, other than some investment management-related items. 

But the advent of U.S.-domiciled bitcoin ETFs has touched off a wave of traditional wealth management firms eagerly signaling to clients and prospects that they are indeed up to the challenge of working with cryptocurrencies and more broadly digital assets. 

Hence, this week, we have more than a few announcements regarding the approval of bitcoin ETFs for advisors by firms like Cetera, or the use of separately managed account solutions, like the kind offered by Eaglebrook, to offer advisors the ability to invest in crypto assets on behalf of their clients and manage those assets like any other. I think this snowball is still near the top of the hill—there will be more wealth management firms jumping into cryptocurrencies this year and choosing between SMAs and ETFs as their vehicles of choice. 

Given advisors’ affinity for the managed account solution for other asset classes, I would expect SMAs to win out despite the continued hype around bitcoin ETFs. 

This week, we have items from Envestnet, Flourish, TIFIN and Apex to keep us more firmly grounded in the conventional wealthtech realm. 

We also have a smattering of news from major industry conferences that occurred last week, most notably Orion’s Ascent conference, where the hosting company made at least a trio of big announcements. Wealthtech conferences continue to grow and diversify, perhaps taking a larger chunk out of traditional financial industry conferences hosted by custodians and publications. Nonetheless, it seems that Barron’s Independent Advisor Summit and Ric Edelman’s Wealth Management Convergence conference also went off without a hitch. 

Let’s get to our advisor tech headlines…


AdvisorEngine 

AdvisorEngine announced its integration with Charles Schwab Trust Bank, providing its wealth management platform the ability to digitally serve advisory firms with client accounts at the bank. 

Charles Schwab Trust Bank is a fiduciary-oriented bank that provides trust and custody services to more than 20,000 employee benefit plans, many of which are 401(k) plans managed by registered investment advisors who provide investment fiduciary services. 

The direct feed brings in comprehensive portfolio data across numerous points used by advisory firms to manage client accounts, including daily positions and transactions, realized gain/loss data, required minimum distributions and account demographics. 

This integration is the latest in a series completed by AdvisorEngine with the Charles Schwab Corporation. In January, AdvisorEngine also announced an integration with Schwab Advisor Services’ new Schwab iRebal platform and expanded digital onboarding capabilities for advisory firms with Schwab clients. 

Apex Fintech Solutions 

Apex Fintech Solutions Inc. (“Apex”), the fintech for fintechs powering innovation and the future of digital wealth management, announced that it has acquired AdvisorArch, a portfolio management company and modern rebalancer for financial advisors. With this acquisition, Apex will strengthen its RIA Custody & Execution Platform with a suite of digital advice tools that enable wealth management firms to build remarkable client experiences at scale. AdvisorArch automates previously time-consuming processes that are crucial to providing excellent service to our clients. 

Namely, AdvisorArch standardizes investment allocations through model management and helps increase efficiency by automating rebalancing for financial advisors, fintechs, and retail investors alike. This automated rebalancer supports tax loss harvesting, direct indexing, fractional share trading, concentrated position management and more with seamless connectivity to advisors’ portfolio management tools. 

This acquisition will also unlock several additional benefits, including the industry-leading ability for financial advisors to access direct indexing without minimum account sizes or transaction amounts. 

Bitwise 

Bitwise Asset Management, the largest crypto index fund manager in America,2 announced today that the Bitwise Bitcoin ETF (BITB) surpassed $2 billion in assets under management two months after the fund’s launch. 

Since the historic debut of spot bitcoin ETFs in the U.S. on January 11, BITB has generated the largest net inflows among crypto specialist bitcoin ETF providers.3 In February, BITB became one of the top 25 fastest ETFs in history to reach the $1 billion AUM milestone. 

The Bitwise Bitcoin ETF has attracted investors for a variety of reasons, ranging from its low cost and high volume to its transparency and commitment to the crypto ecosystem. 

Cetera Financial Group 

Cetera Financial Group announced that it has introduced a new policy regarding the usage of bitcoin ETFs in brokerage accounts. The policy includes education and resources designed to help affiliated financial professionals guide their clients in incorporating bitcoin ETFs into their investment portfolios. Cetera is among the first wealth management firms to roll out a formal policy on bitcoin ETFs as exponentially more investors are exploring the products and investing in bitcoin. 

Cetera has approved usage of the following spot bitcoin ETFs: Invesco Galaxy Bitcoin ETF (BTCO), Franklin Bitcoin ETF (EZBC), Fidelity Wise Origin Bitcoin Fund (FBTC), and Blackrock iShares Bitcoin Trust (IBIT). The selected funds are sponsored by leading ETF providers with track records of successfully launching new product strategies, and are well positioned with established resources, tools and knowledge. Training will be available for financial professionals on Cetera’s award-winning AdviceWorks portal starting on March 25. 

Cetera’s new program follows exponential growth of bitcoin ETFs among investors. Approximately 50 million people own bitcoin, as of February 2024, according to the number of unique addresses with non-zero balances of bitcoin. This represents an increase of 20 million users compared to 2023. 

Couplr AI 

Couplr AI announced the launch of its groundbreaking solution designed to address the escalating challenge of orphaned accounts in wealth management. As the industry grapples with the complexities of managing these neglected accounts, Couplr offers a scalable and efficient solution that will transform the landscape for firms and orphaned clients alike. 
 
Orphaned accounts emerge when clients become incapacitated, pass away, or simply lose contact with their financial advisors, often due to the high attrition rate within the industry. This phenomenon poses significant challenges, including regulatory scrutiny, potential lawsuits, and financial losses for wealth management firms. Orphaned accounts, long recognized as a latent risk within the financial services industry, have come under increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies. 
 
Recognizing the severity of the problem, which is projected to grow by 50% over the next five years according to Cerulli Associates, Couplr has introduced a solution that seamlessly integrates into existing client-facing platforms. This solution empowers clients by providing a tool to match them with the right advisors for their needs at the existing firm, whether through logging into their account, receiving a proactive email, or engaging with a direct mail campaign. This approach not only addresses the immediate need for reconnection but also provides an opportunity for wealth management firms to help next-gen advisors grow their businesses by properly matching them up with orphaned clients in need. 

Crystal Capital Partners 

Thirty years ago, Crystal Capital Partners (Crystal) began investing in what are some of today’s largest and most established alternative investment managers. In the years since Crystal has evolved into a fintech company offering a comprehensive suite of tools that simplify alternative investments for advisors and their QP clients. Today, it continues its development with the launch of a new website and improved user experience.   

Strategic and/or Thematic Portfolio Construction: Advisors now begin their due diligence process by filtering the platform’s third-party funds with various inputs, ranging from risk tolerance and strategies to specific sectors and industries. For example, advisors can filter private market funds investing in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and healthcare (to name a few sectors) across different company stages and geographic focuses. For hedge funds, advisors can filter by strategy, correlation, risk profile, and size. The result is a customized and diversified, institutional-quality portfolio. 

New Portfolio Builder: Crystal’s updated, more intuitive portfolio builder allows advisors to instantly visualize the potential risk/return of adding/subtracting a fund to their portfolio. Additionally, through new digitized portfolio fact sheets, advisors can better understand performance details at both the portfolio and underlying investment levels. Finally, through the creation of “advanced analytics,” advisors can compare the impact an alts portfolio can have on clients’ traditional holdings, as well as benchmark multiple portfolios comprised of different underlying investments against each other. 

Eaglebrook 

Eaglebrook, a crypto investment platform that provides registered investment advisors (“RIAs”) with direct access to bitcoin and digital assets, announced the addition of its crypto separately managed accounts (SMAs) to the RIA investment platform of Geneos Wealth Management (“Geneos”). Based in Denver, Geneos is a hybrid RIA overseeing over $10 billion in assets. Its RIA platform has $5 billion in regulatory assets under management (RAUM) and $2 billion in assets under administration. Partnering with Eaglebrook expands Geneos’ selection of Bitcoin and digital asset investment strategies available to its advisors and clients. 

This strategic partnership comes at an important moment. The market’s infrastructure for digital assets is stronger than ever and has reduced risks and maximized advantages for early adopters. Eaglebrook’s provision of crypto SMAs to Geneos’ advisors enables them to offer clients direct ownership of digital assets, held at a qualified custodian with institutional-grade security. This feature, combined with the ability to automate tax-loss harvesting and create diversified, multi-asset portfolios, simplifies the investment process and potentially increases the appeal of digital asset portfolios for clients. 

Further, Eaglebrook’s digital asset strategies are now integrated with Geneos’ existing portfolio management systems, streamlining everything from client onboarding and trade execution to portfolio rebalancing. Additionally, the partnership emphasizes the importance of digital asset education, offering both advisors and clients resources to deepen their understanding of this emerging asset class. Through this educational support, Eaglebrook and Geneos aim to demystify digital assets, providing a strong foundation for informed, strategic investment decisions. 

Ellevest 

Ellevest, the investing and wealth management company built by and for women, announced a new milestone reached: $2 billion in client assets under management (AUM). 

Ellevest was founded as an alternative to a male-dominated industry, with the mission to get more money in the hands of women. 

This AUM milestone comes on the heels of being named by InvestmentNews as one of the fastest-growing registered investment advisors (RIAs) in the country, and #8 among fee-only RIAs with assets under management of $1 billion or more. 

Envestnet 

Independent Financial Group, LLC (IFG), a San Diego-based independent broker-dealer, in keeping with its mission to provide best-in-class resources and support for unrivaled service, has strengthened its ongoing partnership with Envestnet empowering its network of more than 600 independent financial professionals with increased access to Envestnet’s ecosystem of wealth management solutions. 

IFG also recently implemented the Envestnet Credit Exchange, powered by the Advisor Credit Exchange (ACE), into its network. IFG’s affiliated professionals now have access to high-quality banking and lending solution providers, enabling them to holistically service their clients. 

Since 2020, IFG has leveraged its partnership with Envestnet to provide solutions including Envestnet’s Wealth Management Platform, PMC investment solutions including tax overlay — and financial planning services through Envestnet | MoneyGuide. Going forward, IFG has integrated individual blocks from MyBlocks™ enabling clients and prospects to engage on demand throughout MoneyGuideElite, including distribution planning to help clients navigate distribution options during retirement. 

Firstrade 

Firstrade, the leading online brokerage firm nearing its 40th anniversary, announced a partnership with Trading Central, one of the leaders in investment decision support tools and analysis. The new partnership connects Firstrade investors with Trading Central’s powerful suite of tools, bringing state-of-the-art resources to the platform. 

The latest integration will incorporate Trading Central’s powerful solutions, including Technical Insight, which uses best practices of Technical Analysis to identify trends, patterns, and historical price changes. Clients can gain valuable insights swiftly by examining each stock’s performance in just a brief moment. 

Market & News (Market Buzz) enhances news interaction, utilizing AI to amalgamate updates from diverse sources and applying advanced sentiment analysis, providing traders with a comprehensive and interactive news experience, delivering in-depth market sentiment insights through Sentiment Scores, Signals, and Confidence Indexes, facilitating more informed and strategic investment decisions. 

Flourish 

Aspida Life Insurance Company (“Aspida”), a life insurance and annuity company, and Flourish, a platform that provides innovative access to financial products that help registered investment advisors (RIAs) improve their clients’ financial outcomes, announced their partnership to distribute the Aspida Advisory Multi-Year Guaranteed Annuity (MYGA). Flourish is offering this product through the Flourish Annuities platform, which provides RIAs and their clients with an innovative digital experience that features improved efficiencies and reduced complexities to access annuities. 

The Aspida Advisory MYGA is a fixed-income solution that provides guaranteed growth free from market risk. It is a single premium deferred fixed multi-year guaranteed annuity, offering durations of two-, three-, five-, and seven-years that enables advisors to address the individual needs of their clients. 

The partnership widens access to Aspida’s annuities in the RIA community and equips Flourish Annuities with a top annuity product to offer its clients. Both companies are focused on tech-forward, innovative solutions in an industry typically reliant on pen and paper, transforming the annuities landscape into a more efficient and user-friendly experience. 

FusionIQ 

FusionIQ announced the appointment of John Phillips as Senior Strategic Advisor. With nearly three decades of experience in the financial services industry, Mr. Phillips brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his new role. 

Prior to joining FusionIQ, Mr. Phillips served as Executive Vice President and Head of Platform Sales for Fidelity Institutional, a division of Fidelity Investments. In this capacity, he played a pivotal role in driving growth and strategic sales efforts for Fidelity’s clearing, custody, and wealth management services. His extensive background also includes serving as Chief Operating Officer for Gomez Advisors, where he managed global expansion initiatives. 

FusionIQ’s platform FusionIQ One is a comprehensive, all-in-one digital wealth management platform that connects the front, middle, and back offices through a seamless digital workflow. The platform integrates with leading custodians, broker-dealers, and wealthtech providers, expanding its capabilities. By integrating additional tools through its API Integration Suite and partnering with top firms, FusionIQ One delivers a user experience that is unmatched. 

Heron Finance 

Heron Finance, an SEC-registered investment advisor (“RIA”), announced it has completed its rollout, and has begun accepting investments to build automated private credit portfolios via digital wallets and, for the first time, standard bank accounts. 

Heron Finance is the first and only automated investing platform offering accredited US investors access to the rapidly growing private credit asset class. Its launch has coincided with a private credit boom, as both macroeconomic and regulatory tailwinds are currently benefiting the sector. Morgan Stanley predicts that the size of the private credit market will grow from $1.4 trillion in 2023 to $2.3 trillion in 2027.1 

Through Heron Finance, clients choose a private credit strategy based on their risk tolerance and investment objectives, then begin investing. The platform builds each client a diversified portfolio of private credit investments to small and medium sized businesses and automatically rebalances their portfolio over time. The investments typically pay interest monthly, which are automatically reinvested, and can create a steady stream of payments back to clients. 

OneVest 

OneVest, an award-winning wealth management technology company, announced a strategic partnership with TrueNorth, a professional services organization renowned for its expertise in advising, implementing, integrating, and engineering digital solutions tailored for the financial services sector. This collaboration marks a leap forward in delivering next-gen wealth management technology solutions to banks and financial institutions across North America. 

As a highly integrated implementation partner, TrueNorth clients will benefit from OneVest’s innovative technology, empowering them with comprehensive wealth management solutions tailored to their unique needs. With OneVest’s fully configurable platform, TrueNorth clients can streamline their wealth management processes, provide personalized advisor and client experiences, and achieve operational efficiency. 

Similarly, OneVest will benefit from TrueNorth’s specialized services in implementation and development, ensuring that OneVest’s solutions are seamlessly integrated into clients’ existing digital ecosystems. This synergy between OneVest’s technology and TrueNorth’s expertise will deliver unparalleled support and solutions to drive growth and modernization within the banking sector. 

Orion 

Orion launched “PulseCheck,” live from its flagship event Orion Ascent, in San Diego. This sophisticated behavioral finance tool, developed by Orion’s Chief Behavioral Officer Dr. Daniel Crosby and his team, considers investors’ personal well-being and fulfillment as part of the financial planning process. It embodies Orion’s commitment to empowering advisors, helping them to attract new clients, align planning goals with investment strategies, and prioritize advisor-client engagement. 

The introduction of PulseCheck comes at a time when advisors are increasingly recognizing the potential of behavioral finance to differentiate their practice and drive growth. As highlighted by Orion’s 2024 Wealthtech Survey, one-third (33%) of advisors have already integrated BeFi into their practice, with an additional 43% planning to do so within three years. This same group of advisors believes the primary benefits of behavioral finance techniques to be strengthened client relationships (83%), deepened client trust (79%) and enhanced client confidence during periods of market volatility (74%). Notably, firms anticipating 10% or higher growth in 2024 are more likely to employ behavioral finance techniques. 

As a workflow within Orion Planning, PulseCheck guides users through a reflective and actionable journey. Starting with the identification and prioritization of six wellness categories that represent the pillars of a fulfilling life — Happiness, Engagement, Advancement, Relationships, Truth, and Strength — the tool facilitates an individualized and introspective planning experience. Investors rank these categories, gauge their current level of satisfaction in each, and then focus on the category with the largest gap between importance and fulfillment. 

Orion 

Orion also announced groundbreaking enhancements to its top-ranked Orion Compliance offering. The new Post-Trade Supervision feature strengthens Orion’s industry-leading Client Oversight module, offering an end-to-end workflow solution that provides eye-in-the-sky post-trade compliance of client activity. 

As revealed by Orion’s second annual Wealthtech Survey, nearly half (46%) of advisors are currently outsourcing aspects of compliance and regulatory reporting, with advisor interest in these services expected to increase by another 19% over the next three years. Moreover, 44% of advisors would rather avoid these tasks altogether. In response, Orion has expanded its Client Oversight tool with key features to simplify Post-Trade Supervision. 

Orion Compliance’s Client Oversight tool complements its Firm and Employee Oversight components by delivering unparalleled automation that enables comprehensive oversight via a centralized, secure dashboard. This innovation not only streamlines regulatory reviews with customizable alerts and easy document access but also seamlessly integrates with Orion Advisor Tech’s broader ecosystem. Orion Compliance is available on its own and via the Orion Advantage Stack, which seamlessly connects all the tools advisors need to propel productivity, delight clients, and grow their firms. 

Orion 

Orion also unveiled a state-of-the-art, highly visual Estate Planning tool at Orion Ascent, the firm’s flagship financial advisor event in San Diego. 

This timely addition to the Orion Planning platform seeks to empower financial advisors to take a lead role in guiding families through the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in history. The financial landscape is set to undergo a monumental transformation as the baby boomers and the silent generation prepare to pass down an astonishing $72.6 trillion in assets to their heirs through 20451. As revealed in Orion’s second annual Wealthtech Survey, 57% of advisors are currently focused on generational wealth transfer as a growth opportunity, with another 36% expected to do so over the next three years. 

The Estate Planning tool was shaped by advisor feedback and is notable for its intuitive and user-friendly interface. It is designed to significantly streamline the estate planning process and highlight critical estate planning outcomes, enhancing the experience for both advisors and clients. 

Othis 

European wealth tech company Othis unveils its initial product on the path to become a full-service wealth management company directly servicing individuals and families.  

With the initial product, Othis targets individuals and families with portfolios of diverse assets. The company’s clients no longer need to face the chaos of having to juggle multiple bank and brokerage portals because their data is automatically aggregated from all connected accounts. Alternative assets that are not handled by traditional financial firms, such as venture capital, can be processed by Othis.  

All this data is neatly organized and presented in a single intuitive dashboard, available on both mobile and web. In the future, clients will be able to share the account access with their tax advisors to simplify the flow of information.   

Savvy 

Savvy Advisors Inc. (“Savvy” or “Savvy Advisors”), a federally registered investment advisor (RIA) affiliated with Savvy Wealth Inc., today announced the addition of three new wealth managers. This latest expansion brings the firm’s total to 15 wealth managers, all focused on serving its high-net-worth client base. Leveraging Savvy Wealth’s proprietary platform, Savvy’s wealth managers have access to comprehensive, artificial intelligence-powered technology solutions, supplemented by back-office, operations, marketing and compliance support, designed to deliver a tech-forward, personalized client experience. 

Earlier this year, Savvy Wealth introduced its in-house investment management program, the newest addition to its fully integrated platform aimed at revolutionizing the way wealth managers manage, operate and scale their businesses. Further, with the recent introduction of multicustodial capabilities through its partnership with Fidelity, the firm demonstrates its commitment to providing its wealth managers with greater flexibility, enabling them to better meet clients’ unique preferences and needs. As Savvy Wealth continues to roll out new innovations, Savvy’s wealth managers can leverage solutions that are intentionally built to help supercharge organic growth. 

Since its founding in 2021, Savvy has been actively recruiting wealth managers to its ranks and has scaled to several hundreds of millions of dollars in assets under management nationally. Wealth managers who are interested in joining Savvy can view the firm’s open roles. 

Skience 

Skience, a leading fintech platform that helps financial advisors and wealth management organizations digitally transform their operations and enable business growth, announced the awarding of Patent No. 11,900,462 B2 from the United States Patent and Trademark Office for its proprietary systems and methods that automate and improve the creation and maintenance of financial accounts, including the related integrations. 

The challenges advisors face today include capturing the appropriate level of information about the client and the account being opened and the ability to share that information with the required systems and platforms without the need to capture it multiple times. 

The central differentiator of Skience’s solution starts with a user entering client information into a system configured to initiate a series of steps that analyzes the data, identifies a custodian to process client information (out of several custodian options), and automates the establishment of a new client account. Based on the data entered, the system can generate and complete the forms required by the designated custodian, communicate with the external form service to create a signable version, and then submit it for signature. Based on that signed form, the system can then open and even fund a new account with the selected custodian. 

TIFIN 

TIFIN, a leading AI and innovation platform for wealth, announced the appointment of Brooke Juniper as the Chief Executive Officer of Sage, its AI-driven investment platform that acts as a personalized CIO, helping advisors through quick ideation and actionability for each client and prospect portfolio. 

With an extensive background in finance and technology, Brooke Juniper brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her new role at Sage. Before joining Sage, Brooke spent 16 years at BlackRock, where most recently she was Head of Digital Engagement, and set the vision, commercial strategy, and roadmap for Advisor Center, BlackRock’s digital ecosystem and portfolio toolkit serving 100,000+ wealth advisors in the US. In addition, she co-founded and led BlackRock’s US Wealth Portfolio Solutions group, bringing Aladdin analytics to the wealth market and helping to drive an industry-wide shift towards more portfolio-centric engagement. 

Sage is an advanced AI-powered investment platform that empowers financial advisors with intelligent portfolio insights and personalized and actionable recommendations. For more information about Sage, please visit https://tifinsage.ai/ or follow the company on LinkedIn. 

WealthFeed 

WealthFeed , the AI-powered organic growth platform for Financial Advisors, proudly announces the successful closure of a $2 million funding round. Strategic investors include Thicket Ventures and executives from the Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), Investment Banking and Private Equity sectors. Concurrent with the investment, Justin Wisz and Joe Jolson will join WealthFeed’s Board of Directors. The round reflects the confidence that industry leaders have placed in WealthFeed’s distinctive value proposition, and is poised to drive the platform’s growth initiatives, further enhancing its use of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to assist Financial Advisors in expanding their market footprint. 

WealthFeed, the financial services spin-off of Catalyze AI which has served over 1,700 real estate and financial services customers, provides an AI-powered Money-in-Motion platform empowering Financial Advisors to grow their book of business, increase client retention and grow wallet-share with current clients. The platform boasts a dynamic money-in-motion prospect database, offering Advisors extensive filtering capabilities to identify high-converting prospect opportunities, in real time. Additionally, the WealthFeed platform enables Advisors to enrich their current client/prospect database with financial data, contact information, and other impactful insights, allowing them to prioritize and convert prospects at a higher rate. Lastly, the AI-powered platform provides Advisors with real-time alerts of money-in-motion taking place within their current client base, enhancing client retention and asset aggregation opportunities.