LPL Financial kicked off its annual Focus conference Monday in Boston by officially announcing plans for an automated investment service.
LPL said it is adopting the digital hybrid approach that is increasingly popular among advisors. The independent broker/dealer didn’t provide many specifics, but said, “it has begun working with a third-party to develop a robo-enabled solution that is intended to complement its advisors’ core business.”
LPL will integrate the robo advisor into its custodial platform and said it will be supported by its centrally managed portfolios platform. Before a company-wide launch, LPL will run a pilot program with a handful of advisor practices in 2016.
During his opening speech, LPL chairman and CEO Mark Casady championed the necessity for advisors to embrace technology to remain relevant.
Casady said LPL invested more than $100 million in technology – with a focus on simplicity and fundamentals – and has doubled its risk management and compliance staff. He emphasized that technology is intended to support, rather than replace, the work advisors do.
Dan Arnold, LPL Financial’s president, echoed Casady’s sentiments, saying the robo advisor is meant to complement an advisor’s core business by expanding relationships with clients, one part of LPL’s four-point plan.
Arnold also announced that LPL would eliminate the strategist fee charged for research models on its Model Wealth Portfolios platform, reducing costs to advisors by 15 to 20 basis points, in early 2016. LPL will also eventually remove IRA maintenance fees from MWP and Optimum Market Portfolios.
Another of the company’s four points was to improve operational efficiency. Arnold said currently, only 15 percent of LPL’s operations are automated; the goal is 85 percent.
The company also wants to improve its client service center and provide a modern and easy-to-use client interface on ClientWorks, the cloud-based advisor workstation that LPL revealed at last year’s Focus conference as a replacement to the 14-year-old BranchNet software.
Arnold revealed a new Vendor Affinity Program to help advisors access third-party technology providers. LPL will create a centralized repository of at least 50 vendors providing more than 125 products at discount prices to LPL advisors.
LPL will release more information about its robo service and other technology initiatives throughout the conference, which will conclude June 29. LPL said the 25th Focus conference is its largest yet, attracting 7,000 attendees.