RIA custodian Trust Company of America in Centennial, Colo. is betting that its new tech platform for advisors and clients will set it apart from those of its larger custodian competitors. The platform, called Liberty, is designed for use on tablets across all operating systems, Apple to Android. Trust is rolling out the platform for advisors’ clients’ use this week, and plans to transition its TCAdvisor platform for advisors to Liberty by the end of next year. Top executives have been on the road for weeks promoting it, with some success; Chief Executive Frank Maiorano (left) says six of Trust’s 10 largest clients already have signed up.
With just under $11 billion in assets and about 130 clients, Trust caters largely to turnkey asset management programs and individual advisors with a taste for tactical trading and technology solutions, particularly Trust’s bundled services that rebalance, trade and reconcile accounts. Maiorano, who was named CEO almost two years ago after managing RIA responsibilities at Charles Schwab and Nuveen Investments, said Trust’s new Liberty platform isn’t aimed to get the company into different markets from those it usually plays in. But he hopes to impress some breakaway brokers whose needs dovetail with Trust’s model, and he hopes to expand the firm’s current penetration. Trust “has a better, more intuitive system,” he said during a visit to Registered Rep. this week to show off the fresh tech. “Are we going to grow and take over the world? No. Are we going to take over a bigger part of it? Absolutely.”
Making Liberty accessible to all tablets was a top priority when Trust started developing it a little more than a year ago. Investors across all demographics are using tablets; so are advisors, who are looking for the ability to manage important elements of their practice remotely. Chief Information Officer Dennis Noto, whom Maiorano recruited last year, said ease of use also was critical. “If you have to pick up the user’s manual, you’re done, because investors do not want to have to mill around in some PDF to try to figure out what’s going on,” he said. In designing the Liberty platform for investors, Trust employs the same colors, logos and images that appear on their advisors’ websites; Noto said the idea is to sell the advisor’s brand rather than the custodian’s. (Trust will create apps for each advisor’s practice.)
Liberty on an investor’s tablet resembles the layout the investor sees when checking his account on his advisor’s website, Noto says, with live data streaming throughout the tabs that access the various functions, including asset classes and portfolio models. Perhaps more importantly, an advisor can remotely access the same site as his client so both people are literally on the same page, making for easier real-time conversations about what the numbers actually mean.
At the start of the design process, advisors were asked which platform Trust should redesign first: theirs or their clients. Maiorano thought the advisors would prioritize their own, and he was surprised to learn otherwise. “The lifeblood of our business is our clients’ accounts,” he recalled hearing. He was happy to oblige, observing that unhappy clients leave advisors, and, likewise, unhappy advisors leave custodians.