Note: Marie Swift is currently providing marketing and communication services to the companies mentioned in this article.
For many financial advisors, 2014 was a whirlwind of activity – serving clients, managing business resources, and sifting an onslaught of data for useable information. The most important conversations of the year can probably all be categorized using two big buckets: technology and demographics. I’ll hit on some of the big technology issues in this piece.
Stress Testing Becomes More Important
In 2014, the Federal Reserve released their stress scenarios: Base, Severe and Adverse. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to conduct an annual supervisory stress test of bank holding companies (BHCs) with $50 billion or greater in total consolidated assets (large BHCs), and to require BHCs and state member banks with total consolidated assets of more than $10 billion to conduct company-run stress tests at least once a year.
Why is this important to financial advisors? Daniel Satchkov, CFA, president of RiXtrema has a good answer: “While the Fed may not explicitly regulate financial advisors, the role this organization plays in the financial markets cannot be underestimated. The specifics of their analysis are useful as the Fed has lots of up-to-date information at their disposal. But it may be even more important to consider what the Fed left out -- either accidentally or intentionally," Satchkov said.
While at the T3 conference last fall, Satchov also spoke about RetireRisk, RiXtrema’s innovative new solution that combines portfolio crash testing with the financial planning process while at the fall 2014 T3 Technology Conference for large RIAs and independent broker/dealers. He believes advisors need to redefine their value to clients to compete with cheaper online advice offerings.
Cybersecurity Issues Come to Light
Cybersecurity was a big topic of discussion at industry conferences in 2014. According to Wes Stillman, founder and CEO of Right Size Solutions, advisors who fail to produce a written cybersecurity policy could find themselves with a deficiency noted during their next routine exam based on guidelines issued in 2014 from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations.
Rising to the challenge in 2014, Right Size Solutions, a firm that provides intelligent cloud technology and IT systems management to the financial services sector, teamed with prominent industry law firm Stark & Stark to ensure advisory firms’ cybersecurity policies can stand up to regulatory scrutiny. Stillman and other industry experts say it’s also important for advisors to be able to prove to regulators that their written policies are actually being implemented.
Wondering how you stack up? A free cybersecurity report card is available by clicking here.
Data Science Comes of Age
Because we live in the age of Big Data, complex math, powerful analytics, and high-volume data transmissions are all possible at breakneck speeds, delivered virtually through cloud computing. As a result, data science has become an increasingly important discipline. “Data management, advanced modeling, pattern recognition, analytics, and visualizations – the data science toolkit is getting more powerful all the time,” said Lowell Putnam, co-founder and CEO of Quovo (a data science company), while at the T3 conference last fall. “At Quovo, we utilize this toolkit, every day: our platform aggregates, validates, analyzes, and communicates complex data across different investment portfolios and asset types.”
While many fintech companies are in the midst of doing integrations and building strategic partnerships with one another (this is very apparent when walking the hallways at the T3 conferences), Quovo is quietly embedding its solutions into many of the financial planning software, portfolio management and reporting systems used by today’s leading financial planners and institutions. In the wake of Morningstar buying ByAllAccounts in April 2014, a number of industry insightfuls watching the space say the industry may well lean toward the newer more innovative data science firms.
Words to the wise in 2015: Make sure you attend the 10th annual T3 Technology Tools for Today conference being held February 12-14, 2015 in Dallas (http://www.technologytoolsfortoday.com/conferences). In addition to offering a great formal agenda, the exhibit hall will provide a dizzying array of options for financial advisors. Save $50 with code 2015T3IMPACT. And if it all this new technology feels a little overwhelming, you can always call on Neal Quon and Blane Warrene, co-founders of financial advisor tech consulting firm QuonWarrene, for guidance and support.
What big technology ah-ha’s did you have in 2014? What are your plans to improved your business in 2015? Post your comments here and we can chat on this thread.
Marie Swift is President and CEO of Impact Communications, a full-service marketing communications firm serving a select group of independent financial advisors and allied institutions.