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The New Architecture of Wealth Management Technology

The natural evolution from a headless to a faceless platform

By Sam Bellamy

The demand for efficiency and scalability in wealth management technology is increasing at warp speed, driven by the need for increased performance and digital user experience. In response, today’s wealth management technology must be scalable and secure, and deliver high-quality, high performance, and ease of use for both investors and advisors.

If you’ve worked in wealth management for more than a week, you’ve heard of automated or “robo” advising, which is becoming a high touchpoint. As investors embrace a digital user experience, a greater number will be connecting to robo advisors. Mobility use will continue to expand rapidly, and firms will need to accommodate a greater number of users on tablets and smartphones.

In addition, wealth management technology solutions now must support much a greater number of advisors and investors than in the past. Investment firms now need to process millions of investor accounts and support tens of thousands of users. However, legacy systems were designed for a smaller number of users on mid-range or mainframe computers, and only needed to scale to hundreds of advisors.

Back in the day, we leveraged several highly trained individuals who were advisors using terminals displaying in blue screens and writing macros for recurring data entry processes. They were primarily advising on high-value accounts. There was a centralized hosted platform with large processing power on the back end with a low user demand for connectivity given the relatively limited number of users processing on the system at any given time. In terms of data architecture, the system managed highly redundant information. The platform was available during market trading hours and ran tens of thousands of batch jobs nightly. After queuing up the daily trades, analysis, and portfolios, the system would update overnight with the revised information available the next day.

Today’s investors and advisory firms demand access 24/7 on a platform with a modern look and feel. They’re not looking for blue screens or cryptic function keys. They’re looking for “drag and drop” and a touch screen that allows simple and quick access and functionality. There is no time for nightly batch jobs as information needs to be available in real time, or near real time.

The greater demand of users, combined with web-based user interfaces, greatly increases the load on historical platforms. As the demand for connectivity grows, there is more emphasis on the user interface. As a result, financial institutions need to build their own User Interface and applications for branding and workflow efficiency. This type of platform is termed “headless,” meaning the client wants the connections from the platform to be exposed via web services so they can connect their own application front end or the “head.” The client builds their own UI with the look and feel and functionality they desire. This allows them to control their own branding which delivers a unique user experience.

Tomorrow’s solution architecture must scale from tens and hundreds to hundreds of thousands of advisors and investors with the ability to process tens of millions of investor accounts. It will require far more connectivity to scale while supporting mobile and wireless network digital user interfaces as defined by the user client and specific by investor type. This will require a move to what I call “faceless,” which is not just providing the connections for the application front end, but providing a highly configurable UI and workflow through the configuration that can support delivery of a unique user experience. It is the natural evolution from headless.

The advantage of a faceless platform is that the client doesn’t have to worry about building multiple application front ends. Instead, the head is provided, and the client is able to configure the face to control the branding and user experience. Faceless architecture will be fully configurable to maintain the brand and user experience by providing a dynamic, on-demand presentation of what is singularly important for each user. Going faceless allows financial institutions to leverage fully secured, private virtual cloud technologies while providing them with the ability to load the access rules, customized workflow, and user interface branding.

Moving from headless to faceless is a natural evolution of wealth management technology that will enable greater efficiency and scalability while still allowing financial institutions to maintain control over their brand and the user experience.

Sam Bellamy is Chief Information Officer, Investment Services, Fiserv

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