Ask any advisor and they’ll tell you the No. 1 complaint they have about their technology solutions is that they don’t work well together and, as a result, require manual intervention throughout their processes and workflows. Because of this, many firms are running out of capacity, can’t scale and are leaving growth opportunities on the table.
This is not a new phenomenon—and it continues to plague the wealth management space, as it has for decades—despite the many advancements in technology and the efforts by industry leaders to create unified integration environments.
The closest the industry has come to solving this problem was the award-winning efforts from TD Ameritrade Institutional in building its Veo open-architecture system, the first iteration of which launched more than a decade ago. Veo held much promise in sharing APIs directly with advisor technology third-party software vendors to create integrations to the underlying accounts and data needed by the core systems advisors use to process business and service clients. However, due to the continuing consolidation of advisor technology, it looks as if Veo will be phased out with some portions of the platform moved onto Schwab’s systems by 2023.
What TDAI had created with Veo is what is known in other industries as a “digital ecosystem.” A digital ecosystem is a group of interconnected information technology resources that can function as a unit. Digital ecosystems are made up of suppliers, customers, trading partners, applications, third-party data service providers and all their respective technologies. Interoperability is the key to the ecosystem's success.
Digital ecosystems are frequently created and controlled by market share leaders and are quickly influencing change in many industries. The integration of business-to-business practices, enterprise applications and data within an ecosystem allows an organization to control new and old technologies, while building automated processes around them in order to consistently grow their businesses and box out competitors.
This approach is a strategy that TDAI was not alone in pursuing. Following that firm, Schwab, Fidelity and Pershing each launched their own initiatives. And Pershing, with its recent announcement of “Pershing X,” has announced another. Others, including technology-fueled TAMPs such as Orion, Envestnet and SS&C, have all attempted through different methods to control the advisor technology ecosystem via acquisitions, strategic partnerships and sales bundles.
The problem with these custodian- and TAMP-led projects is that they are all competitive in nature and proprietary to that platform, designed to aggregate an advisor’s business—which is why they work only with that platform’s accounts and data. It is a popular strategy for attempting to lure business through their technology pipes, build a competitive wedge and attempt to control the advisor desktop. The reality for advisors, however, is that they are independent for a reason and want their technology to be as well—and not dependent on any third party. Advisors also use multiple custodians and TAMPs, have existing technology they have already invested in, and don’t always want or are unable to use the preferred technology partnerships the platforms have preselected for their integrated bundles.
What is needed is a new approach to creating digital ecosystems that advisors can design and host themselves, so that they can own their own data and integrate the systems and tools that best fit their value proposition, customized to their needs. In other words, an independent version of TDAI’s Veo that advisors can own and create for themselves, not dependent on anyone else.
This is what the big institutions do in creating their own technologies that run their businesses and historically have been available only to the mega-firms due to the enormous costs and infrastructure needed to develop and run them. The good news for advisors today, however, is that with new advancements in technology through cloud-native platforms, the ability to create your own digital ecosystem is now feasible at affordable price points, with far greater speed to market and more ability to scale than ever before.
The concept of “integrated digital ecosystems as a service” is a new approach to customizing an advisor’s technology that holds great promise to bring any third-party application into your own ecosystem and customize it to fit your needs.
Through an integrated digital ecosystem, advisors and financial institutions can digitally transform their legacy proprietary applications, antiquated third-party integrations and complex business processes by avoiding costly pitfalls related to failed digital transformation projects and by enabling these firms with a robust technology framework and developer tool set to quickly scale, customize and build a unique and unified cloud-native user experience across the entire wealth management value chain.
Essentially, firms are able to build their own “app stores” that they control, select and can seamlessly bring together in an integrated framework and environment.
Just think of how this can transform your business, enabling you to finally have automated workflows, seamless integrations with your various software solutions, TAMPs and custodians, all customized, owned and controlled by you, the business owner.
You will gain the scale and capacity to grow your firm and ultimately digitally transform your business. Particularly as the industry is becoming more complex, competitive and is consolidating on a daily basis through M&A leaving you with fewer and fewer options. Now is the time to finally own your independent technology destiny.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series where I will provide more detail on the underlying methodologies and technology that powers an integrated digital ecosystem and how you can deploy this powerful technology in your business.
Oleg Tishkevich is CEO and founder of INVENT, a cloud-native technology platform focused on the wealth management industry.