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Orion and Schwab Build API-Level Account-Opening Tool

Schwab and Orion have partnered to provide advisors with a fully digital client account-opening process—no PDFs required.

Opening a new account—a process that can still take some advisors days to complete—is seen by some as a stubborn hold-out on the move toward an end-to-end digital solution for clients.

Advisors using Orion Advisor Services and Charles Schwab will now be able to open new accounts in the same time it takes to have a brief call with a client.

Schwab Advisor Services’ new Digital Account Open tool, announced at Orion’s Ascent conference and unveiled at the fintech firm’s FUSE technology competition, utilizes APIs developed by the two firms, allowing advisors to open a client brokerage or retirement account, end-to-end, in roughly seven minutes.

The tool works by taking client data already in Orion and populating it to Schwab’s system with the click of a button. The advisor is then able to select one of Schwab’s Intelligent Portfolios, which are already integrated into the tool, upload any additional documents, review and sign off on the digital packet and send it over to the client. Advisors will see that the packet is pending approval with the client, and can send email reminders to the client, if necessary.

After receiving the notification of a pending account from the advisor, the client is able to review the information submitted by the advisor and update anything that is missing or outdated. Behind the scenes, the process is paperless for Schwab too, speeding up what was once a more involved, transactional and low-value-add process. The advisor’s recommended portfolio allocations, via Intelligent Portfolios, are displayed for the client and the client is able to e-sign the necessary agreements. Advisors are able to submit the digital packet to compliance or legal, if necessary, before finalizing the account-opening process.

After approving the account for the final time, the advisor creates the account and an account number is generated, information that is inputted into Orion. The digital packet is stored in Orion as Schwab documents and advisor documents, which can be downloaded individually or in-bulk.

“Our key objective is to get the friction out of the end-to-end process,” said William Pearson, who was part of the team at Schwab introducing the product at FUSE. “This, we hope, will almost eliminate NIGO from existing.”

The straight-through processing and full integration with Orion and Schwab is in pilot mode. The goal is to roll out the product to all advisors with Orion’s November release, according to Orion CEO Eric Clarke. Increasingly, complex accounts will be added over time.

For Schwab’s part, the integration is the mini-culmination of a push to streamline account openings and moving money, said John Connor, VP of the firm’s digital advisor solutions. On a larger level, it’s a response to market forces that have increasingly demanded third-party integrations as firms move out of proprietary wirehouse environments and open their practices in the independent RIA space.

“The focus has shifted,” said Connor of the emphasis on making different advisor tools work together. “RIA firms are growing immensely, and as RIA firms have grown in the last few years, there’s been a lot of attention from fintech, and financial technology firms, that was never there before.”

The fact that Schwab developed and unveiled a new integration at Orion’s hackathon-style FUSE event is a great example of how firms are appealing to advisors, working to make their lives easier. Advisors have a myriad of tools at their disposal and the expectation is that those tools will work with each other.

“It’s such a courageous and great strategic decision that Schwab made. We’re very excited about it,” said Clarke. “It was definitely a collaborative effort. They do a very, very good job of not only investing in the technology, but also [putting forth] the development resources to back that up so that we can actually implement those efficiencies for firms.”

The new technology makes for a better, and immediately effective, client experience, which is vital to advisor growth, said Clarke. “There’s just a lot of great opportunities, as custodians open up their API structures, of things that we can do together to solve advisor problems.”

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