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Live from T3—Wednesday’s Hot Takes

A consultant’s on-the-ground roundup of the scene at the T3 technology conference in San Diego, day two.

The Technology Tools for Today (T3) conference continued Wednesday in a similar fashion to Tuesday—a heavy dose of tech demos, product presentations, high-profile keynote talks and ample networking opportunities.

Known as “moving day” in T3 conference parlance, Wednesday is the final full day of the conference, where the main stage is split into thirds to accommodate even more technology content and product kickoffs running simultaneously, creating gobs of FOMO (fear of missing out) and making it very difficult for advisors to decide which session to choose from in order to find out the latest in how advisor tech will improve their businesses—and their bottom lines.

The morning session was led by the product team from Black Diamond, Kyle Fleming and John Milne. Opening up with a very provocative narrative, Milne asked advisors, “What does trust look like in today’s digital world?” His point was that our use of technology can lead to very different outcomes, citing examples of popular apps such as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and Tinder. If we have a good experience using these technologies, we tend to trust them. If we don’t, it’s too easy for us to immediately delete them from our phones and never go back. For a firm, providing clients with a bad tech experience is like getting a bad reputation—it can be hard to walk it back.

The takeaway for advisors is does their technology hinder or help in building trust, the true currency of client-advisor relationships? 

Accordingly, Black Diamond is rolling out enhancements to its Client View dashboard, enabling advisors, through multiple technology integrations, to have an at-a-glance view into all of the clients’ information, planning results, performance, money moves, balances and positions, and more. “If you are able to quickly respond to clients in an expert fashion with all of the information at your fingertips, then you will build and enhance trust,” said Fleming.

Laserfiche followed the Black Diamond presentation with a first-person case study presentation by Vibhaw Arya, COO of New York City-based RIA Shufro Rose. Arya demonstrated how he had automated many of the workflows in his back office using the Laserfiche Forms workflow automation platform, while Linda Ding, director of strategy for Laserfiche, introduced the new Laserfiche Vault—a compliant-ready, designated third-party platform that solves the records management mandates from the SEC’s broad-reaching 17-a-4 rule requirements.

In a nod to the future of the profession, and to spur interest and innovation in advisor technology at the university level, the third-annual Student Competition featured college CFP programs from around the country competing for recognition in developing RIA technology. The demos were sandwiched onto the main stage right before lunch. The annual competition brings a mix of CFP and IT programming students together to work with well-known technology firms. This year the teams were Orion working with Utah Valley University, Robust Wealth working with Winthrop University, eMoney paired up with University of Georgia, TD Ameritrade partnering with San Diego State and ultimate winner AdvicePay partnering with BYU Idaho.

The students from BYU Idaho built a public-facing version of AdvicePay’s retainer fee calculator that drew rave reviews from the judges. Each team will receive at least $1,000 in scholarships. (Donations to the scholarship fund can be made at T3Mashup.com, with all donated funds shared equally with the five participating teams.)  

Rounding out the afternoon sessions was the anticipated T3/Inside Information Advisor Software Survey. T3 host Joel Bruckenstein and long-time collaborator Bob Veres partnered together to gauge the health and growth of the software industry for advisors.

Over 5,000 advisors weighed in on over 500 different applications as to their popularity, usage levels and overall advisor satisfaction. These results often form the basis of marketing claims for the advisor tech industry for the year to come, so it was no surprise that the room was packed and standing room only to find out who was winning share, losing share, delighting advisors or disappointing them.

For the most part, incumbents maintained their leadership advantage across the categories: Firms like CRM Redtail dominated their categories—63% market share versus 7% for the next-level player, Wealthbox. 

MoneyGuide and eMoney took the top spots in the financial planning category, continuing their run as the most popular platforms. Riskalyze is another example of a platform that towers over its competition in the risk category, with a 32% market share versus 6% for FinaMetrica and no other risk competitor breaking 1%.

As for the custodians, it was more of a mixed bag. Despite being the largest custodian, Schwab came in second to TD Ameritrade in both market share and advisor satisfaction, which will again bring up cries of angst over whether TDAI’s award-winning Veo platform will be sunset as that firm gets absorbed into its larger competitor Schwab after the closing of the proposed acquisition. 

But not all hope is lost. Although Shareholders Service Group (SSG) is one of the industry’s smaller custodians, it came in tops in terms of advisor satisfaction, perhaps providing solace and a potential new home for the thousands of soon-to-be disenfranchised RIAs on the TDA platform.

Ultimately what concerned Bruckenstein is the low use of Cybersecurity applications (7%) among advisors. “This is the biggest threat to the industry by far, yet advisors are more than complacent, they actually have their heads in the sand,” he lamented.

Thursday wraps up the 2020 T3 Advisor conference, with a half day of product demonstrations from 40 newer and emerging companies running simultaneously in 12-minute flash demos, three at a time. This frenetic pace perfectly sums up the state of affairs in advisor tech as more and more innovation is being attracted by the fastest-growing segment in the financial services industry—the independent RIA.

To learn more about what went on at T3 on Wednesday, check out the many tweets on the #T32020 hashtag on Twitter.

Timothy D. Welsh, CFP® is president, CEO and founder of Nexus Strategy LLC, a leading consulting firm to the wealth management industry, and can be reached at tim@nexus-strategy.com or on Twitter @NexusStrategy. 

 

 

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