Customer service and advanced technology are key factors in the deals that have taken place over the past few months, according to a new report by Echelon Partners. Deals such as InvestCloud’s acquisition of Advicent, the provider of financial planning service NaviPlan, and JPMorgan’s purchase of OpenInvest are key indicators of “strong interest in the wealthtech industry” and “a sign of positive investor expectations about the increasing prominence of digital solutions in wealth management,” according to the report.
The characteristics of acquisitions have been wide-ranging. Broadridge is taking a closer look at marketing and CRM capabilities, evidenced by its acquisition of AdvisorStream. Meanwhile, Envestnet is looking down market at microsavings tools and digital account opening with its purchase of Harvest Savings & Wealth Technologies as it seeks to define “financial wellness” for advisors and end investors. Both are prototypical examples of “the increased notion of ‘buying’ versus ‘building’ of advisor-focused technology,” according to the report.
Here are some wealthtech deal highlights from the past three months:
Envestnet Buys Harvest Savings & Wealth Technologies
Terms of this deal were not disclosed, but on the firm’s most recent quarterly earnings call, Envestnet CEO Bill Crager said this deal was about getting into the bank market at a “not very significant” price. The acquisition gives Envestnet the ability to provide an account opening platform to end investors, where they can open accounts themselves, as well as provide “a planning mechanism that helps a smaller saver kind of begin to plan for long-term goals within their savings account and connect that seamlessly to investment account,” he said.
“Harvest gives banks the ability to use savings accounts as launch points for people to plan for their future, enabling micro savings which can connect to investment accounts, again, intelligently connecting people's financial lives, offering answers and the ability to take action,” he explained. “Harvest will approach breakeven in early 2023 on a stand-alone basis.”
Envestnet's deal is a prime example of its strategy, said Barnaby Audsley, vice president at Echelon Partners. "Envestnet is arguably the most influential advisor technology strategic acquirer and has made public its intentions on enhancing its suite of products and services offered through its network of related digital solutions and automated financial tools," he said, adding that it "optimizes the API-based financial wellness ecosystem within the Envestnet platform and helps to strengthen [its] foothold to enable embedded finance."
Broadridge Acquires AdvisorStream
While terms of the deal were undisclosed at the time of purchase, Broadridge Financial Solutions’ investment will bring licensed content from major media companies to advisors and their end clients—without hitting a paywall and free of advertisements.
For Broadridge, the deal is about putting more resources into its wealth management business. It's also an example of how important it is to be integration-ready, said Audsley, if acquisition is a long- or short-term exit strategy.
“How content is delivered makes a world of difference post-pandemic,” added William Trout, director of wealth management at Javelin Strategy & Research. “People are consuming more of it, and they want it on the device of their choice, whether mobile, desktop [or] wearable.”
“The real value of these content marketing platforms [is that] they break the trade-off between bespoke outreach and scale,” he added.
JPMorgan Purchases OpenInvest
JPMorgan’s purchase of values-based investing firm OpenInvest for an undisclosed sum will give the bank an opportunity to bridge ESG investing and tax management provided by 55ip, which it acquired in December. The deal provides JPMorgan's asset management division with talent, thought leadership, and experience in ESG, said Audsley.
Initially, OpenInvest targeted retail investors for its services, but broadened its market as demand for services increased at the request of financial planning-focused advisors. Surveys have confirmed that ESG funds are increasingly sought after, with a 2020 report noting that nearly one-third (29%) of advisors plan to increase their use and recommendation of ESG funds over the next 12 months, up from 19% in 2019. About 40% of advisors surveyed said that clients have asked about investing in such funds in the past six months.
Nevertheless, concerns over performance linger, which is where JPMorgan is hoping 55ip can help assuage worried advisors and investors.
InvestCloud Buys Advicent
Terms of this deal, first reported by WealthManagement.com, were not disclosed, but it will have a broad impact on advisors. Some 140,000 financial professionals across 3,000 firms worldwide use the goals- and cash flow-based financial planning offered by Advicent.
"This deal is highly comparable to the AssetMark acquisition of Voyant, another financial planning SaaS company," said Audsley.
Financial planning was the “missing link” for InvestCloud, according to Trout. He saw InvestCloud competing with State Street following the closure of the deal.
Trout wasn’t the only analyst offering big league comparisons. InvestCloud and Envestnet are now the “powerhouses of wealthtech,” according to Alois Pirker, research director at Aite Group. Advicent was widely seen as the last major stand-alone financial planning software of a generation that includes eMoney Advisor and MoneyGuidePro, now Envestnet | MoneyGuide.
InvestCloud also partners with JPMorgan’s Self-Directed Investing, formerly You Invest, which saw account growth skyrocket in 2020, compared with the year prior. With the acquisition of NaviPlan, InvestCloud now has financial planning capabilities it can add to its business relationships, both new and old.