On last week’s earnings call, Envestnet CEO Bill Crager introduced shareholders and advisors to the firm’s latest feature, Envestnet Connect. It was the first public mention of a project the wealthtech firm has been working on since last November, when Crager sketched out what is shaping up to be the firm’s latest predictive analytics tool—and Crager’s first major product launch as CEO.
Originally slated to be introduced and demonstrated at the firm’s advisor conference in late April, Envestnet Connect’s debut has been somewhat in flux after the conference was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. What’s been certain, however, is that Connect, which is meant to bring bespoke content and engaging information relevant to a client's specific goals alongside performance reports, represents not only the latest product launch but also another opportunity for Edmond Walters, the CEO of Apprise Labs and founder of eMoney, to make his mark at Envestnet.
That’s because Connect represents a melding of Crager’s vision, Walters’ innovation and familiarity with technology, Envestnet’s performance reporting, and AdvisorStream’s content curation and network.
The tool, which is now in pilot with Envestnet employees and a handful of advisors, is the “future of performance reporting,” said Crager. A client and his or her family members answer a few text-messaged or emailed questions about their cares and concerns. Their responses to aspirations, like second homes or money for heirs, the importance they place on charities and other factors like education-funding goals, are converted into data points used by Connect.
Connect then mixes weekly performance reporting with media content centered around those data points, said Crager. Moreover, the content isn’t just staid investment-related articles. Connect is designed to provide videos, infographics and podcasts, alongside written articles, which are meant to be more engaging and a way for advisors to show both their knowledge of and their concern for their clients’ interests.
A partnership with AdvisorStream means there are no ads, paywalls or logins, he added. "We want to present neutral, objective media sources that don't have polarized points-of-view.”
Advisors will appreciate a jazzier performance reporting presentation, said Crager. All too often performance reporting is dull and lifeless. “There’s no context or story,” he said. “It’s really dense and practically useless pieces of information.”
“It’s one area that has not been innovated,” he added.
Advisors have minimal control over the questions asked of clients. The goal is not necessarily to plaster clients with economic indicators; rather it’s to get the client to think about bringing together the household goals and finances around a single financial advice provider, said Crager. Using Envestnet Connect, advisors will be at the top of a client’s mind when making plans and decisions, Crager says, and will be more likely to turn to that particular advisor in a time of need—perhaps moving all of the client’s business, and the family members’ business, to that single individual or group.
With in-person meetings challenged, if not impossible, in the midst of the pandemic, remote touchstones are proving more valuable. Envestnet’s timeline for developing Connect didn’t change because of the coronavirus, but its value is perhaps better seen in light of it.
Advisors will get a chance to look at Connect in detail during Envestnet’s upcoming “Summit On-Demand” virtual advisor conferences, expected to occur this summer. Envestnet expects the new feature to be ready for the broader market in the second half of 2020.