Craig’s Note: I love these summary articles because they’re a great way to re-purpose content while providing you, our loyal readers, with a handy overview of the year gone by. Robo-Advisors are still a hot topic, although I believe a B2C shakeup is likely in 2017. Portfolio rebalancing tools have been a staple on this blog since it started. And our Women in FinTech was a success and will kick off a series that will run throughout 2017.
As we look back on the past twelve months, one thing we learned was that it’s impossible to predict exactly how technology will change our industry. But we know change will come and companies will find new ways to leverage old tools. While it’s true that digital advice (robo-advisors) was the most popular subject matter, the myriad of options and implementations boggles the mind. Some posts were about integrating robo technology and how it will accelerate shifts in assets (#9, #5, #2), while others were about traditional B2C platforms (#3) and alternatives (#1).
Thanks for tuning in and we’re looking forward to an equally exciting 2017!
Look around the halls of conference centers and asset management offices and you will observe that only 15% of the crowd is women. That trends seems to hold true for the FinTech world despite recruiting efforts, specialized conferences and educational initiatives. We connected with three successful women who have made their mark in the field to talk about the state of the industry and get their take on what it takes to make it.
For this article, we were fortunate to get valuable insights from Tina Powell (founder of robo-advisor SheCapital), Ramona Ortega (founder of a personal financial platform My Money My Future) and Sharon Liebowitz (CEO of Meritam Investment Advisors). All three female FinTech players that we interviewed emphasized the importance of identifying an existing service gap, building a nurturing a support network and taking risks. After all, there is no playbook for building a successful platform – but learning from the best can save you time and headaches.
Continuing with the robo theme, 2016 brought further proof that automated platforms are unlikely to eliminate the need for traditional financial advisors. As Vanguard and Charles Schwab continue to snap up AUM with their digital offerings, we seem to have an emerging winner in the DigitalPlus model. That development is not surprising: after all, only a small portion of financial advice can be fully automated. However, firms that are successful at leveraging technology to identify need and create an outstanding client experience will be well-positioned to dominate the field.
Raise your hand if you have plenty of time to generate original content that connects with your prospective clients and get it through compliance on a regular basis. You are not alone: most advisors are stumped by this task and make a half-hearted effort on the social media front just to conclude that “it does not work”. Can the situation be salvaged? You guessed it – with the right technology, advisors can now streamline content sharing, maximize their reach and even prospect more effectively. Grapevine6, Vestorly and AdvisorStream are just three platforms that deserve a good look.
Envestnet’s acquisition of Yodlee for an awe-inspiring price tag of $590M raised many eyebrows back in 2015. Some experts applauded the decision while many others were downright critical. It looks like the power couple has settled in just fine. 2016 has seen the two companies create synergies and value in ways that could revolutionize wealth management. Between advanced-capability predictive analytics and improved visibility into the holistic picture of the clients’ finances, advisors get access to a tool that can create better outcomes and forge strong bonds with client families. Yodlee’s focus on taking diverse and cross-platform data and turning it into actionable insights is impressive and Envestnet seems well-positioned to benefit from the early
Every advisor is familiar with the concept of rebalancing. Most have even moved away from cumbersome Excel spreadsheets by now. However, there is still much disagreement in the industry about just which rebalancing method yields the best results. This article is based on best practices for rebalancing as shared by Michael Kitces on stage at the 2016 IMCA conference. We reached out to other industry experts to get their take on Kitces’ analysis. The post covers the state of the industry for rebalancing software and offers some unconventional yet well-supported advice.
TD Ameritrade positioned the latest iteration of iRebal as “Intel inside”. With 6 external partners currently leveraging iRebal to boost the capabilities of their digital advice platforms, the rebalancer’s audience has seen impressive growth. We had an opportunity to test-drive iRebal and walked away impressed with the depth of trading rule customization options and tax-aware asset location. The tool is a great fit for advisors with sophisticated clients, although custodian choice is limited to TD Ameritrade.
Technology platforms are competing to become every advisor’s tool of choice. From facilitating behavioral coaching to offering beautiful client portals, adding in social media integration, data aggregation and analysis and opportunities to scale with automated processes, you have a considerable menu of choices. Our advice is to start with an overarching strategy, talk to experts and ask for advice to maximize the long-term benefit of your decision. After all, chasing after the shiniest new toy on the market will only get you so far!
2016 was off to a rocky start for Wealthfront. Five years into the game, the once-promising platform has found itself floundering as Betterment, Charles Schwab and Vanguard proceeded to snap up AUM. In an effort to revitalize Wealthfront’s appeal, the robo-advisor rolled out a host of new features including an artificial intelligence engine to analyze user behavior, an upgraded dashboard and integration capabilities for a list of financial apps. Unfortunately for Wealthfront, the efforts are likely to land a little late. Wealthfront is in a fight for its survival – not just against more disruptive and innovative robos but also against traditional advisors armed with digital platform capabilities.
Our second most-read and shared post for 2016 was on a broad trend we have seen in technology investment choices made by large RIAs. It seems like they have all received the same memo: check an automated advice platform off the list or fade into obscurity. We set our sights on Adhesion’s EFT Select which is billed as the “first open architecture digital advice platform for RIAs”. A collaboration between Adhesion Wealth Advisors, Riskalyze and TD Ameritrade, the new platform has a lot of attractive features. We liked its streamlined account opening functionality and Riskalyze-powered proposal generation engine. We think advisors will appreciate the nice addition of iRebal courtesy of TD Ameritrade. Built-in Tax Alpha tools are also attractive. We will continue to watch EFT Select to see if the appeal of the open architecture combined with a powerful engine will prove capable of creating a wave.
Drum roll please for the most read and shared post from 2016…
It began with a rumor of Snapchat developing its own roboadvisor service and became the launching pad for bigger questions. What would a social media roboadvisor look like? More importantly, what would it mean for the industry as a whole? The premise is an interesting one given the wide-spread reach and name recognition of social media platforms. Our verdict is that if a Snapchat robo were to be introduced, it would probably be similar to Acorns in focus. The under-25 users of the app are likely to flock to a savings app over a pure EFT investment one. A Snapchat robo might also discover what other automated platforms are learning now: people’s appetite for shiny new technologies wanes when markets hit a bump. With stiff competition from industry behemoths like Charles Schwab and market uncertainty, Snapchat’s ability to attract the crowds and take business away from incumbents remains to be seen.
Top 10 WMToday Posts for 2016
And that wraps up the year! As we ring in 2017, we are grateful to all the readers of WMToday. Thank you for making this one of the most popular blogs in the financial industry! Make sure to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter so that you don’t miss a post.