Advisor Tech Talk (Week of 3/25/24)

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There’s a lot of money in motion in 2024, and it’s not just in mergers and acquisitions or retirement rollovers. 

No, this year financial advisors and wealth management firms may be witnessing an accelerating client exodus, if recent research from investment analytics provider YCharts is to be believed. In a survey of advisor clients, the firm found that 75% had left their financial advisor or had considered leaving their financial advisor in 2023. This represents a significant year-over year increase after the firm found last year that nearly half of wealth management clients—an eye-opening 47$–had considered leaving their current financial advice provider in 2022. 

So what’s happening here—are all these clients suddenly dissatisfied with their wealth management provider? Maybe not. A recent JD Power study of financial advisors’ clients actually found rising satisfaction with advisors, a sentiment shift the research firm mostly credits to rising markets. 

In fact, I think that attempting to hang a simple explanation on the willingness of wealth management clients to change advisors does a disservice to the complexities of the financial services industry and client behaviors and demographics. It’s like explaining why one family becomes wealthy while another does not. In some cases, a simple explanation suffices—someone bought a lot of Amazon stock in the early 00’s, for example. In most cases, the reasons are multiple and contribute to or compound each other—different educational and career outcomes, as well as different spending and investing patterns over time, ultimately lead to differing levels of wealth. 

There are a lot of things happening that may or may not contribute to a tide turning against traditional wealth management. A big one, of course, is wealth transfer. We’ve heard a lot about a pending or ongoing intergenerational wealth transfer to the tune of tens of trillions of dollars—but what about wealth transfer between spouses? Surviving spouses often fire their late spouse’s financial advisor.  

Then there’s wealth transfer caused by consolidation within the industry itself—firms are changing brands and identities, advisors are changing affiliations and business models, and clients don’t always follow these shifts—some clients may see their advisor repapering accounts and see it as a reason to explore other options. 

But another legitimate cause of client moves might be technology. This is suggested by YCharts in its research, which argues that many advisors aren’t communicating enough to satisfy client demands. Clients may want more frequent interactions with their advisors, interactions that can be facilitated by technology.  

Technology has also created new competition for human financial advisors in the form of artificial intelligence and robo-advisors. 

Younger clients in particular may desire to have more of their financial services bundled—to have app-like access to a holistic view of their finances and a dashboard that empowers them to make changes in any area of their financial lives. Few wealth management firms are prepared to offer clients bundled services or consolidated access to their finances. 

With the failure of traditional robo-advisors to take significant market share from incumbent advisors, prominent commentators in the wealth management industry have written of technology’s ability to disrupt the industry—but YCharts’ research suggests that all of the issues that make financial advisors susceptible to disruption remain.

Today’s practitioners should be watching the growing influence of artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies with a wary eye. 

Today we have news items from Apex, Betterment, iPipeline and Voyant. 

Let’s get to it…  


Alai Studios 

Alai Studios and Shaping Wealth today the launch of Lydia. Leveraging AI technology and capabilities combined with behavioral finance content and coaching, Lydia will revolutionize how financial advisors engage their clients and build their practices. Lydia is a bulwark against industry trends toward commoditization by augmenting advisors’ human skills in emotional intelligence, decision-making, collaboration, and coaching. Best-in-class financial guidance channels technical expertise alongside wisdom and insight into the financial underpinnings of a meaningful life. As an always-on, meticulously trained companion, Lydia is the missing piece for advisors striving toward even deeper client engagement. 

Alai and Shaping Wealth are jointly committed to a “human first” approach to financial guidance, ensuring that AI’s implementation into wealth management amplifies human brilliance. As a result, Lydia is a significant departure from traditional “fintech” applications, which prioritize automation over augmentation. Lydia brings out the best in advisors to help their clients achieve financial well-being. Lydia understands that AI, in its best expression, elevates humanity. 

Lydia currently engages advisors through three “conversational agents” with emergent intelligence in three separate themes: 1) Navigating hard conversations, 2) Behavioral marketing, and 3) Funded contentment (money and happiness). Financial advisors who leverage Lydia benefit from tailored, practical content designed to enhance their effectiveness. Lydia meets advisors where they are in their day-to-day of navigating complex markets, overwhelming client obligations, and an ever-changing financial planning landscape. 

Apex Fintech Solutions 

Apex Fintech Solutions announced new patent approvals that fortify its stock rewards API. These patent approvals recognize the unique technology, workflows, and expertise powering Apex’s stock rewards API. 

Through embedded finance, Apex’s stock rewards program enables publicly traded consumer brands and credit card businesses to provide additional rewards that can transform consumers into loyal stockholders. Instead of cashback and points, brands can confidently offer stock-back rewards as well as special deals to the consumers who are also shareholders. Apex’s stock rewards API also provides an entry point for those starting their investment journey to start accruing equity in the brands they frequent. 

Through Apex’s stock rewards API, brands can offer meaningful rewards that not only give value but enable the opportunity for wealth accrual – which can provide compounded value versus airline points or cash back. The rewards have the ability to earn and grow, helping more consumers start investing without having to change their daily behavior, which is a win for the individual and a win for the brand. 

Bank of America 

Bank of America has launched a massive update to its mobile app, reimagining how clients interact with their finances. As digital engagement continues to soar, 57 million digital clients can now view and manage their full financial lives through a new, unified digital platform that consolidates five apps – Bank of America, Merrill Edge, MyMerrill, Bank of America Private Bank and Benefits OnLine – into one personalized experience. 

The Bank of America mobile app is one of the first in the industry to combine banking, investing and retirement within one simplified mobile experience.   

Bank of America’s mobile banking app has long been recognized for its user-friendly design and experience. This week, the company’s new unified mobile app experience was recognized with the 2024 Celent Model Bank award for Customer-Centered Innovation. 

Betterment 

Betterment, the largest independent digital financial advisor, announced that Betterment for Advisors, its RIA custody division, is adding thousands of mutual funds to its custom portfolio construction menu for the first time. 

This launch coincides with the 100th anniversary of the mutual fund and provides advisors more control in meeting growing client demand for personalization in portfolio construction. 

Roughly $20 trillion in assets are held in mutual funds in the United States today, according to Federal Reserve Statistics. Offering advisors a custodial platform that can manage those funds for clients is essential.  

Binah Capital Group 

Kingswood Acquisition Corp. (OTCE: KWAC) (“KWAC”), announced the successful completion of its merger with Wentworth Management Services LLC (“Wentworth”).  Wentworth has merged with KWAC to create Binah Capital Group (“Binah Capital”), a leading independent wealth management enterprise that will become a publicly traded company. The newly launched entity will be listed on the NASDAQ Global Market, trading under the tickerNASDAQ: BCG and the warrants are expected to begin trading under the new ticker symbol “BCGWW” on the Nasdaq Capital Market. 

The transaction’s completion enables Wentworth, a broker-dealer aggregator, to go public, with KWAC and Wentworth becoming wholly owned subsidiaries of Binah Capital Group, Inc.  The company has a pro forma enterprise value of $208 million, encompasses approximately 1,900 individuals working within the financial services industries, and approximately $23 billion in assets under management.   

Craig Gould, who served as President of Wentworth, has been named CEO of Binah Capital and David Shane has been named CFO. The company’s executive management team, which will report to Mr. Gould and Mr. Shane, is comprised of Wentworth’s C-suite team. 

Capco 

Wipro announced that Anne-Marie (“Annie”) Rowland has been appointed to the role of Capco’s Chief Executive Officer. Rowland is currently Managing Partner of Capco’s business in the United Kingdom and Ireland and a member of Capco’s Global Leadership Team. She will take on the CEO role effective April 1, 2024. 

As CEO of Capco, Rowland will report to Wipro CEO and Managing Director Thierry Delaporte and will become a member of Wipro’s Executive Committee (WEC). 

Lance Levy, who has led Capco as CEO for close to a decade, will take on a new role as Strategic Advisor and continue to support Capco’s strategic direction and Wipro’s overall Consulting strategy. 

Capitalize 

Capitalize released its new 401(k) Statistics Tracker in collaboration with the Center for Retirement Research (CRR). The collaboration stems from shared missions: to facilitate data-driven discussion in the retirement savings market and empower workers to grow their retirement savings. 

The new Capitalize 401(k) Statistics Tracker provides and analyzes data from a range of sources, including public, proprietary, and institutional data, in order to surface insights representative of the broader retirement savings landscape in one place. This broad, cross-institutional tracker fills an important gap in the market and highlights key trends among all 401(k) account holders to complement existing research offered by financial institutions derived from their own users. 

To date, the Capitalize 401(k) Statistics Tracker has highlighted a range of metrics that underscore ongoing progress in 401(k) access, balances, and contributions. Some of the key findings include a new estimate that nearly 6 in 10 U.S. workers now have access to 401(k) plans, equivalent to over 70 million private sector workers. Additional findings include new national estimates of 401(k) contributions and 401(k) account balances as of the end of 2023. 

Empower 

Empower announced a comprehensive suite of new partnerships with asset management and insurance providers to offer a market-leading range of in-plan and out-of-plan guaranteed retirement income solutions for investors saving through workplace plans. 

The new offerings, to be launched in the coming weeks, will offer retirement plans multiple options designed to convert participant retirement savings into an income stream customized to their individual needs to support them in their post-working years. 

Empower believes that by offering multiple options with several providers, employers and advisors will have choices to suit the individual needs of various plan participants across segments and industries. 

First Rate 

First Rate has added global marketing strategist April Rudin, CEO of The Rudin Group, to its Board of Advisors. 

As founder and CEO of The Rudin Group, Rudin leads a national team of industry communications experts who design marketing campaigns for some of the world’s leading wealth-management firms, fintechs, and family offices. The Rudin Group recently celebrated 15 years of successful service. 

Rudin has been disrupting the financial services marketing landscape since 2008 with the founding of The Rudin Group. She and her team specialize in creating customized and compliant marketing solutions for multi-family offices, wealth management firms, private banks, RIAs, wealthtechs/fintechs, and other financial services firms that want to be visible in the UHNW/HNW space. In addition, she/her firm has been recognized globally with awards for her multi-generational strategy, messaging, content creation, social/digital media, PR/media marketing, and UHNW/HNW inbound lead generation talents. 

FundGuard 

FundGuard, the industry’s first fully cloud-native, AI-powered, multi-asset class investment accounting platform for asset managers, asset owners, custodian banks and fund administrators announced the successful closure of its Series C funding round, amounting to $100 million. This latest round of investment – led by Key1 Capital and new investors including Euclidean Capital and funds managed by Hamilton Lane (Nasdaq: HLNE) – marks another significant milestone on FundGuard’s path towards becoming the industry’s new era investment accounting utility. 

The round also saw strong participation from existing strategic investors, plus the company’s earliest financial investors: Blumberg Capital and Team8. 

Honey Badger 

Risk and authentication specialist Honey Badger HQ, Inc. has launched a new Pre-KYC product that automates instant risk assessment and verification processes when onboarding. 

Used by companies to onboard new customers or perform due diligence on users, the typical ‘Know-Your-Customer’ (KYC) process involves tasks such as verifying documents, performing liveness checks, and conducting proof of address verification. The average KYC process is expensive and time-consuming—leading to frustration among customers and delays in onboarding. In addition, it struggles to expose all the potential risks that users may present. 

Honey Badger’s Pre-KYC insights are designed to run before traditional KYC checks begin. To save organizations time, money, and customer friction, this new product uses alternative data sources to add the kind of context and risk insights traditional KYC processes don’t deliver. 

Integrity Marketing Group 

Integrity Marketing Group, LLC (“Integrity”), a distributor of life and health insurance, and provider of wealth management and retirement planning solutions, announced it has partnered with Solid Financial Plan, an independent marketing organization based in Houston, Texas, and led by Juan Franco. Financial details of the partnership were not disclosed. 

Born in Colombia, Franco brought his signature traits of courage, perseverance and discipline to America as a college student. He founded Solid Financial Plan to offer retirement solutions and life insurance products to seniors across the South. As a former successful direct sales leader, Franco has particular affinities for staying ahead of industry trends and shaping prospective agents into top producers. Today, Solid Financial Plan operates completely virtually and is known for its experienced and knowledgeable team, which brings maturity and perspective to client solutions. 

The team at Solid Financial Plan can better serve consumers with technology-driven solutions by utilizing Integrity’s comprehensive insurtech suite. Partners receive access to invaluable resources such as insightful data and analytics, strategic leadership guidance and ongoing innovation and product development. The Integrity suite also encompasses products to drive significant business growth. They include LifeCENTER, which streamlines tasks and processes for life agents to help them better serve clients; LeadCENTER, which offers compliant, high-quality leads across any location; and MarketingCENTER, which provides a wide range of customized marketing assets in a fully compliant environment. 

iPipeline 

iPipeline, a global provider of comprehensive and integrated digital solutions for the life insurance and financial services industry, announced the launch of OneView, a breakthrough solution that seamlessly tracks the progress and status of clients’ annuity orders–in real time. 

Annuities have developed a reputation in the industry as a complex investment product. The process of tracking an annuity only compounds that complexity, especially when working with multiple insurance carriers. Once orders are submitted to a carrier, broker-dealers, financial institutions, and wealth management firms have traditionally been unable to successfully and confidently monitor their annuity orders. 

iPipeline designed OneView to simplify the application process across multiple insurance carriers. With its innovative and streamlined dashboard, OneView can easily and efficiently track pending orders with carriers–from start to finish–and make any necessary changes while drastically minimizing calls and emails with carrier support staff. 

Longshore Labs 

Longshore Labs announced the launch of its ALPINE Suite of Products. This suite, consisting of ALPINE | GRC, ALPINE | AXIA, and ALPINE | OMEGA, is set to redefine customer lifecycle management in the financial service industry. 

ALPINE | GRC™, a cloud-native, API-first platform, is specifically designed to meet the dynamic needs of global financial institutions. Integrating advanced CRM with Customer Lifecycle Management solutions promises unparalleled efficiency in data handling, process optimization, and client services. This tool is a game-changer for governance, risk management, and regulatory compliance. ALPINE | AXIA is at the forefront of modernizing investor communications, fostering transparency and adherence to regulatory standards. This platform is essential for fund managers and service providers, ensuring investors receive clear, up-to-date information about complex investments. 

ALPINE | OMEGA, tailored for administrators, institutional asset managers, and asset owners, brings automation and scalability to fund accounting. This next-generation software simplifies back-office operations, making it an indispensable tool for managing investment funds. 

Mintos 

Following its successful entrance in Germany, Italy and Spain, Mintos, the multi-asset platform offering a unique mix of alternative and traditional investment options, continues its European rollout by making its official debut in the French and Dutch investment markets. Since its founding in 2015, the platform has attracted over 500,000 users across Europe. Authorised by MiFID, the company currently manages over 600 million euros in assets under administration. 

Mintos already holds a prominent position as the leading European platform for investing in loans, offering investors the opportunity to invest in consumer and small business credit for potentially attractive long-term returns. 

Another recent addition to Mintos’ offerings is Fractional Bonds which allow customers to invest in high-yield bonds from as little as €50 and zero commissions and enjoy regular, fixed returns. Mintos distinguishes itself by offering managed ETF portfolios with a minimum investment of €50 and completely free of charge, a significant advantage compared to other players in the market. These include bond and equity ETFs from renowned providers such as Amundi, iShares, JP Morgan, Vanguard, and others. 

QDeck 

Keebeck Wealth Management, a boutique, independent advisory firm dedicated to empowering entrepreneurs and multi-generational families with strategic wealth management, announced its partnership with Qdeck to provide Keebeck’s clients with highly personalized and seamless access to information and insights on potential investment strategies. 

Qdeck, the fintech company that harnesses the power of generative AI and investment technology for registered investment advisors (RIAs), will empower Keebeck to efficiently collaborate with clients on the Qadvisor platform. 

Qadvisor enables Keebeck Wealth Management to provide its clients with enhanced digital experiences, including real-time financial insights and streamlined communication. These empower Keebeck’s advisors to analyze vast amounts of data to deliver tailored advice and insights based on comprehensive market analyses and individual financial goals. 

SEI 

SEI announced that U.S. wealth managers utilizing the SEI Wealth Platform (SWP) can view and manage assets custodied with third parties through an advanced integration with SWP’s proprietary core accounting engine. SEI’s enhanced technology combined with the strength of its operational processing and reconciliation services enables the enhanced aggregation of high-fidelity data. 

By maintaining robust, accurate data at the core accounting level, SEI’s transformational multi-custody capability enables a seamless experience across internal and third-party custody accounts and helps ensure data consistency across any front- and middle-office solution integrated into SWP. Benefits include greater transparency of a customer’s total assets, regardless of where they’re custodied, tailored advice based on a complete financial picture, the ability to manage both custodied and held-away assets through a single process and experience and centralized governance of acquired books of business without a custody migration. 

SUBSCRIBE 

SUBSCRIBE, the operating system for alternative investments serving institutional investors, wealth management firms, and fund managers, announced that AllianceBernstein has joined the SUBSCRIBE platform — with the goal of providing an innovative digital experience for investor onboarding, electronic subscription documents, and order workflows to their investors. 

SUBSCRIBE has created a simpler, more efficient alternative investing experience for wealth management firms and their financial advisors by empowering them to transact, manage, and monitor all their alternative funds in one place, regardless of where they may have been sourced. The platform centralizes all investor data, any fund, and makes digital fund investment operational workflows that financial advisors need to scale their allocations the private markets. 

ViewTrade 

ViewTrade Holding Corporation (“ViewTrade”), the force that fuels digital finance, announced through its technology subsidiary the official launch of NextGen, the B2B2C retail trading platform that enables financial institutions around the world to deliver differentiated investing experiences while complementing their existing offerings. ViewTrade also unveiled details for its 2024 product roadmap, which includes increased support across all asset classes, including more robust offerings for fixed income and options, and expansion into additional global markets to offer a full and flexible suite of solutions for retail brokers and investors worldwide. 

Designed to reduce time to market and the cost of delivering a fuller portfolio of financial services to retail customers, NextGen is built on a comprehensive and modern technology stack that can connect with any broker, custodian or third-party technology. NextGen is tailored to the needs of firms anywhere in the world in search of a white-labeled investment platform – from banks and brokers to providers of embedded investing, retirement planning, alternative investing, foreign exchange trading, research and content, as well as multinational financial institutions and financial advisors. 

Alongside enhancements to ViewTrade’s premier solution for advisors, OneView, the launch of NextGen represents a powerful combination for wealth management, retail brokerage, and related markets. As part of ViewTrade’s holistic suite of technology, brokerage and global market access services, NextGen is a turnkey solution for firms who wish to introduce or enhance their retail investing and wealth management offerings. 

Voyant 

Voyant, a global provider of SaaS-based wealth management, wellness and client digital engagement solutions, announced the launch of several new wealth management solutions to assist advisors as they help clients make the right choices for their money and financial futures. Voyant’s new wealth management solutions cover an array of needs and scenarios including: 

Voyant’s Social Security Optimization model helps individuals estimate when the best time is to tap into their Social Security and begin collecting benefits based on a multitude of information, such as retirement age, projected life expectancy and income. 

Voyant’s new Roth Conversion tool, individuals receive insights that help them decide if and when to convert their Roth IRA. It estimates the amount of potential money one could save on income taxes and the benefits of paying taxes on the converted amount in the moment or in the future.