With every bank, custodian and brokerage investing in a technology platform for advisors, the pressure is on fintech companies to offer advisors something they can’t get elsewhere.
Or as Envestnet CEO Jud Bergman put it, “go a step beyond” other technology options. Over three days at the annual Envestnet Advisor Summit in Dallas, the Chicago-based technology company laid out how it plans to do that with a tightly integrated ecosystem bringing together the acquisitions its made over recent years.
“Imagine a system where you and a client are at the center of a network — an intelligent network,” Bergman said. “This is a network where smart technology enhances the human dimension that makes you truly essential as an advisor.”
Envestnet’s vision is built upon the data aggregation and analytics it acquired two years ago with the $590 million purchase of Yodlee. Chief Executive Anil Arora said the aggregator pulls data from hundreds of thousands of accounts at more than 15,000 financial institutions, sifting though billions of transactions per day. Yodlee is using that data to power the FinApps it debuted last year, as well as the Envestnet Analytics suite, a newly designed client portal, a revamped financial planning tool and business intelligence within Tamarac.
Beyond letting advisors see held-away assets, Yodlee’s data pipelines let advisors know about a client’s spending habits, credit card debt or mortgage, which Arora said helps financial advisors provide more than just investment advice.
“There is a lot more to our financial lives that consumers (your clients) are struggling with, and you are in the best position as trusted advisors to address this,” Arora said.
Yodlee is also employing machine learning on its data set to develop new artificial intelligence tools. Arora demonstrated some new apps it plans to release in 2018 that allow for a client to check her balance, get advice on what to do with her savings, move money and schedule a meeting with her advisor all through a chatbot. Arora added that this is just the beginning, and the company is already looking to add in voice functionality via Siri, Alexa or Google.
To further expand the functionality it provides advisors, Yodlee now offers a tech incubator where startups can access Yodlee’s infrastructure, data and APIs to develop their products. For example, Genivity, which was voted by advisors as the best fintech innovation at the Advisor Summit, pulls in health data to help advisors know about clients’ health risks and incorporate health care costs into financial plans.
“The world is changing and advisors see an opportunity,” Arora told WealthMangaement.com. “They are smart enough to know that if they do innovative smart things, they can grow their business.”
Tamarac president Stuart DePina showed more about what this all means for the 7,000 independent RIAs using the Advisor Xi platform. DePina said Tamarac made major improvements to the speed of its rebalancing tools and is working to move its entire CRM system to the cloud using Microsoft Dynamics 365.
Tamarac is also offering a new integration with Salesforce, and is developing relationships with custodians like Schwab and Apex to support automated investment management. DePina said that because Tamarac generally works with larger RIAs, the vast majority being custody accounts with more than one custodian.
“A lot of the pain advisors have to endure is when an investor opens a new account – it’s a lot of paperwork,” DePina said, adding that his group’s strategy is focused on making advisors be better business people. “The lens we use to determine whether or not we’re going to incorporate [a feature] is, ‘does it make the advisor’s life simpler?’”
Many advisors in attendance said the direction Yodlee is heading put to rest concerns about the company after Envestnet spent half a billion dollars for data aggregation. Others, like Ann Lander, an advisor from Portfolio Resources Advisor Group focused on socially responsible investing, said she was “very impressed with the technological advances” Envestnet demonstrated.
“I’m going to be incorporating a lot of what I learned into our practice with vigor,” Lander said. “The ability to aggregate assets in one place — I’ve been looking for this for decades.”
Antonio Camejo, the CEO of Portfolio Resources, added that the new functionality can be “a game changer” for the advisors in his firm and how they engage with both current clients and prospects.
Envestnet President Bill Crager said data underpins everything the company is doing and that the goal is to continually help advisors adapt to a changing industry.
“We don’t know what the future looks like. We know that it will change. We know that transformation is on the horizon,” Crager said. “Envestnet is thinking about that and building a roadmap for you to deliver a value proposition that matters to your clients and helps you grow, compete and thrive.”