Advisor Tech Talk (Week of 4/22/24)

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The biggest advisor tech news this week is not among our list of headlines. 

Because this news did not come from a company announcement—in fact, it came from a report in another publication, Reuters (citing unnamed sources, so take it with a grain of salt)—we are not including it in the rundown of wealth tech news that begins below, but we’ll certainly talk about it a little bit here. 

Envestnet, a publicly traded company and one of the biggest pure-play wealth tech companies on the planet, is looking for a buyer to take it private, according to Reuters. 

Let’s step back five years into the past. Envestnet is a juggernaut, having bolted on different wealth tech acquisitions to create offerings throughout the typical wealth management technology stack. The company left behind it’s legacy as an asset management platform as it added companies like Tamarac, Yodlee and MoneyGuidePro creator PIETech. 

Then, in 2019, disaster struck. Founder and CEO Judson Bergman was tragically killed with his spouse, Mary Miller, on a California highway. At that time, Bill Crager stepped into the CEO role, a position he’s held ever since. The company has explored going private via a sale at least once during Crager’s tenure, in 2022. This year, Crager announced that he would vacate the CEO role, touching off an ongoing executive search. 

According to Reuters, the wealth tech company is currently fielding interest from potential private equity buyers. 

Over the years, Envestnet has also expanded its portfolio with smaller acquisitions, like those of Upside, Finance Logix, Redi2, Trulytics, FolioDynamix, 401kPlans.com, Harvest Savings & Wealth Technologies, Wheelhouse Analytics, and many others. It also made investments in firms like Ellevest and Dynasty Financial Partners. It’s one of the few wealthtechs whose reach across the industry is almost universally felt. 

Of course, questions about Envestnet’s future ownership have been swirling ever since Bergman’s tragic death five years ago. If Envestnet does at long last find a private equity buyer, the transaction could help change the future face of wealth tech—for one thing, a private company has a lot more freedom to grow and innovate than one beholden to public markets. 

Today we have announcements from TIFIN, Wealthbox, iCapital and F2 Strategy.

Let’s get to it…  


Abra 

Abra, a global platform for digital asset prime services and wealth management, today announced the launch of its integrated offering for institutions, Abra Prime, and private clients, Abra Private, following approval from the SEC for its subsidiary, Abra Capital Management LP (ACM), to operate as a registered investment advisor (RIA). As an SEC-registered investment advisor, ACM will offer bespoke crypto investment solutions through a separately managed accounts model (SMA). 

Abra’s platform integrates OTC trading (both spot and options), borrowing, lending, staking and yield services and asset management into one offering, underpinned by institutional risk management and powered by DeFi expertise. Abra Private provides bespoke solutions for private clients, family offices and trusts, while Abra Prime’s client base includes hedge funds, venture capital, crypto infrastructure firms and other institutional investors. 

As an SEC RIA, ACM will now operate as a fiduciary and allow clients to get exposure to the digital asset ecosystem under a separate account structure built on-chain, where clients retain title and ownership over their assets and their assets will be independently verifiable on-chain. 

Conquest Planning 

Conquest Planning announced a partnership with Desjardins Financial Security Investments, a leading mutual fund dealer in Canada. Through this collaboration, Conquest’s intuitively designed financial planning platform has become available to nearly 1,400 independent advisors affiliated with the Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network (DFSIN), Desjardins Financial Security Investments (DFSI) and SFL Wealth Management distribution networks across Canada. 

With access to Conquest’s artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform, advisors can leverage its strategic advice manager (SAM) to help their clients easily understand the impact of decisions on their holistic financial plans. SAM’s proprietary algorithm uses clients’ specific plan data to suggest a variety of ranked and prioritized strategies specific to their financial situations. Designed to make the financial planning process more interactive, SAM offers easy-to-understand recommendations that outline the impact a decision could have on each goal and the overall financial plan. 

In addition to tailored plan recommendations, Conquest’s software is built to evolve in line with clients’ changing life circumstances, objectives, priorities and risk tolerances. Using Conquest, advisors can provide ‘smart’ advice directly to clients by simplifying the interface and embedding in-context financial literacy information. 

F2 Strategy 

F2 Strategy announced the hiring of Jay Halbert to the newly created chief financial officer (CFO) position. Halbert will assume a pivotal role in overseeing the entirety of the rapidly growing company’s financial operations, including accounting; financial reporting, planning and analysis; and budgeting and banking relationships. 

Halbert brings a wealth of leadership experience, amassed over 20 years in various industries. Most recently, as executive vice president at global media company Alkemy X, he honed his skills in strategic management and financial oversight. Previously, he was senior vice president at Northeast Building Products, president and owner of MedX Operating Company, and CFO at Comcast Spectacor. His extensive and diverse background renders him a significant asset to F2 Strategy as it diversifies its services within the financial services industry, particularly with its latest foray into marketing consulting. 

Halbert’s appointment is concurrent with the promotion of Martha Blenkush to chief of staff. Since joining F2 Strategy in August 2023 as senior manager of its integration management office, Blenkush has leveraged her deep industry expertise to successfully incorporate F2’s acquisitions into the organization and to build cross-organizational connective tissue. In her expanded role, she will serve as a vital communication conduit for the firm, overseeing critical areas such as technology map strategy, acquisition integrations and organizational alignment to ensure companywide efficiency. 

Foundation Source 

Foundation Source, the nation’s largest provider of cloud-based solutions for private foundations and planned giving, announced the appointment of Lou D’Addario to Chief Revenue Officer and Warren Bailey to Chief Information Security Officer. As Foundation Source embarks on its next stage of growth, both Mr. D’Addario and Mr. Bailey bring in-depth fintech expertise and will help lead the firm’s expansion into enterprise relationships. 

With over 30 years of experience, Mr. D’Addario is a fintech pioneer with a depth of expertise applying innovative technologies to complex financial services businesses, and building high-growth sales teams. His extensive relationships will help drive growth and connectivity across the wealth management industry. Most recently, he served as Managing Director and Head of Sales for the Americas at Charles River Development, a State Street company. Mr. D’Addario previously held leadership roles at Envestnet and FolioDynamix. Earlier in his career, he held roles with Vestmark, CheckFree Investment Services (now Fiserv), Citi Asset Management, and Prudential Investments. Mr. D’Addario assumes the role from Michael Belville. He reports to Mr. Mrak and is a member of the firm’s executive leadership team. 

Mr. Bailey has more than 25 years of experience in technology and brings extensive software development and process design expertise to Foundation Source. Previously, he served a 13-year tenure as Chief Technology Officer of PG Calc, recently acquired by Foundation Source, where he helped strengthen the company’s cybersecurity policies and procedures as it grew through partnerships with large financial institutions. Before that, he worked for Gryphon AI and Granitar. The Chief Information Security Officer role is newly created, and Mr. Bailey reports to Pascal Vincent, Chief Technology Officer. 

Gainbridge 

Gainbridge, a Group 1001 company, and Save Advisers, a technology and wealth management company, announced the launch of Market+ to address the needs of savers who want market participation with a minimum guaranteed return. 

Market+ offers a hybrid yield structure, featuring a 3% guaranteed annual yield (returned in the form of an annual payment) alongside a market-linked yield with a variable APY of 5.41%*. The investment program has a three-year term and is principal guaranteed only when held to maturity. 

When an investor opens a Market+ account, Save® allocates a portion of their deposit to a guaranteed interest rate product available through the Gainbridge® platform, while the remainder of the deposit is invested in the customer’s chosen investment portfolio, which is typically Save’s S&P Risk Controlled Portfolio. 

iCapital 

iCapital announced the launch of its interview series, The 19th Hole: Beyond the Green, hosted by Lawrence Calcano, Chairman and CEO. The program features today’s distinguished leaders and entrepreneurs who are transforming their industry, driving change, and making a significant impact on the world. 

In each episode, Mr. Calcano engages in casual conversations with today’s most distinguished leaders and entrepreneurs on what we can learn about human nature, success, and failure. Inspired by the connections made after a great game of golf, The 19th Hole: Beyond the Green program provides an intimate look into each leader’s personal story, revealing how they overcame challenges and what it takes to lead with purpose and impact.   

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus will be the first guest on the program. 

Objectway 

Objectway has partnered with Kinsted Wealth, a Calgary (CAN) based independent wealth manager serving private individuals and institutional investors. Objectway will help Kinsted Wealth manage their business in a fully integrated and centralised manner, ultimately accelerating the growth of its discretionary business and external advisor network. 

This new client partnership follows the recent addition of leading digital wealth solutions provider Nest Wealth to Objectway, building on the momentum of the Group’s active expansion and operational capability in Canada. 

Objectway’s digital front-end will deliver improved client experience for Kinsted Wealth by providing investors with omnichannel interaction, client engagement and front-office productivity, supported by an online portal and mobile apps for investors. 

Salt Labs 

Salt Labs announced that Ted Benna, the widely regarded “Father of the 401(k)” is joining the team as a Strategic Advisor. Benna invented the 401(k) to be used as a savings tool by employees, and it has become the industry standard for financial wellness offerings among employers. He believes that Salt Labs has created an innovative, non-cash rewards and incentives plan that can help frontline workers build for the future. 

Originally called the “salary reduction plan,” the 401(k) was never intended to be a savings mechanism for the hourly worker. This employee population needs all of their pay for necessities like rent, food and bills, with nothing remaining for designated savings. 

According to Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, the personal savings rate for the low-to-moderate-income segment is negative 2%, meaning 70% of the population consistently spends 102% of every paycheck, leaving them with nothing substantial to show for their hard work. It’s also true that 63% of this population does not have $500 in emergency savings, according to CNBC in August 2023. These circumstances have severe repercussions for families, communities and employers alike. 

Summit Financial Holdings 

Summit Financial Holdings announced enhancements to its private markets offering. The augmented approach is now fully set to equip advisors with institutional-quality resources, combining the bespoke service of a boutique firm with the breadth and depth of larger institutional offerings. Its completion is timely, coming at a time when financial advisors and their high-net-worth (HNW) clients are increasingly turning to alternative investments in search of diversification and higher returns. 

Summit has strategically addressed this opportunity by introducing a robust open-architecture platform for private markets, enabling advisors to seamlessly access a broad array of alternative investments on behalf of their clients. Led by co-CIO Noreen Brown, CFA, this initiative aims to further differentiate client portfolios with the potential for higher returns and reduced exposure to market volatility while also empowering advisors with a competitive edge. By integrating access to leading platforms like Opto Investments and Arch, Summit positions advisors to confidently navigate the complexities of private markets, enabling them to increase wallet share among existing clients and attract new HNW clientele. 

The newly launched platform empowers Summit advisors with access to private equity, private credit, real estate and venture capital opportunities. In addition to platform offerings, Summit can also offer certain deals directly, providing clients with institutional share classes at lower minimums and fees. Despite the administrative challenges often associated with private markets, including inconsistent data and reporting, the digital infrastructure provided by Arch helps to ensure that Summit advisors can enjoy security, efficiency and standardization when allocating to alternatives. 

TIFIN 

TIFIN announced the appointment of Rob Pettman as its Chief Revenue Officer and President. In his new role, Pettman will report directly to TIFIN’s Founder and CEO, Dr. Vinay Nair. 

With a proven track record of leadership and success in the financial services sector, Pettman brings a wealth of experience and expertise to TIFIN. He joins the company from LPL Financial, where he was Executive Vice President of Wealth Management Solutions. In this role, he was responsible for managing LPL’s wealth management platform, including overseeing investment product distribution, advisory platforms, research, retirement plan business, and relationships with product and technology companies. Throughout his 19 years at LPL, Mr. Pettman worked in various roles across product management and wealth management strategy. 

In his role as Chief Revenue Officer and President, Pettman will oversee revenue generation strategies, forge strategic partnerships, and drive the company’s growth initiatives across TIFIN’s companies. His leadership adds to TIFIN’s market presence and its position as a leader in AI-powered financial technology in the wealth management industry. 

Total Expert 

Total Expert has reached a new development milestone in its insurance offerings through a partnership with Cogneesol. The partnership positions users to multiply the efficacy of their customer engagement strategies through their tech stack and integrations with solutions. 

In the last 12 months alone, Total Expert has experienced 300 percent growth in new customers in the insurance space. Now, these independent insurance agencies, brokers and managing general agencies (MGAs) have an accelerated path to connecting the Total Expert customer engagement platform with Applied Epic and other core systems. 

The partnership with Cogneesol, a leading business process optimizer (BPO) in the insurance space, enables integrations with powerhouse insurance tools like Applied Epic that, in turn, empower Total Expert users to extend and strengthen their ability to anticipate their customers’ needs. 

Wealthbox 

Wealthbox announced a new firmwide CRM agreement with NHTrust. With $1.4B in AUM, NHTrust advises individuals, trusts, and nonprofits, and operates offices throughout New Hampshire. 

Wealthbox’s CRM platform is uniquely designed to meet the complex needs of large firms like NHTrust, providing a comprehensive suite of features including multi-workspace configurations, sophisticated reporting capabilities, enterprise security features, and integrations with leading custodians and wealthtech partners. With an intuitive interface and a focus on user experience, Wealthbox will enable NHTrust’s advisors to spend more time building relationships and less time managing data.