In January 2020, Broadridge embarked on a strategy to bring its wealth management and wealth “solutions” businesses closer together. Tom Carey, president of global technology and operations at the firm, named industry veteran Mike Alexander president of the newly unified wealth business. This proved a timely transition, as within just a few months the coronavirus pandemic had upended the global economy and transformed the way advisors worked. Since his appointment less than two years ago, Alexander has guided the wealth business through acquisitions and investments. WealthManagement.com interviewed Alexander to get his perspective on the direction of Broadridge and how technology is transforming the wealth management industry.
WealthManagement.com: What tech transformations have taken place since your appointment in January 2020 and what do you view as the highlights of the past 18 months?
Mike Alexander: The leading thing that we've been doing is putting assets together. We’ve enhanced our go-to-market capabilities and broadened our product suite. We're really modernizing our technology. We're going to market with our next generation platform. This is an open architecture platform that can enable firms to use us across the entire ecosystem of the wealth office. By that, I mean the front, the middle and the back office. Or you could think about it in another way as the client experience, the advisor experience and the enterprise experience.
Our technology is all in one container. Clients can use the entire end-to-end ecosystem, or they can put components of it in there, under a single sign-on and create a best-in-class solution. That's what we're creating: a single unified experience that can easily connect into new and emerging capabilities through our APIs.
A good example is our recent acquisition, AdvisorStream. We integrated that into our other content business, and we did that in a matter of days.
We've made substantial progress in delivering the next-generation platform, creating really modern capabilities that allowed firms to quickly take advantage of emerging capabilities and create best-in-class solutions. We've used acquisitions and partners to enhance that offering over the last 18 months.
WM: How will you know when you've arrived at the “next-gen” phase of being the “next-generation platform?”
MA: It's a never-ending journey to continue to help clients. Our strategy is very simple. We want to reduce friction in the marketplace between advisors and clients. We want to help advisors improve outcomes for investors. We want to help investors increase their financial literacy. We want to do that in a highly digitized and personalized manner.
WM: One of your innovation strategies is positioning Broadridge as a board member within firms that are of interest to Broadridge. I'm wondering, what areas of the wealth management tech ecosystem are well positioned for the future?
MA: I'd say it a little bit differently. That's an outcome of what we're doing: being on advisory boards. It helps us have a seat at the table with cutting edge innovation and an early perspective of what's going on. But it's really part of a larger strategy, which is what we call the Broadridge Partnership Network.
These are key firms that we work with—that we want to deeply integrate with and have in conjunction with our own products. We will selectively add things, or attach to things, that make our products more robust and give the client a better experience and improve their outcomes.
We had a recent announcement on Ninth Wave, a data aggregation provider, joining as a Broadridge strategic partner. We’ve also invested in TIFIN Group.
These are firms that we think are on the cutting edge. We think that they have capabilities that complement and enhance our existing capabilities and create new marketplaces that don't exist today.
It's not necessarily that we're looking to be on boards. If that comes out of it, that's great. But if not, we're working closely with these partners to help enhance our offering and create best-in-class solutions in the marketplace.
WM: A year ago, Broadridge released a survey pointing out that technology, particularly technology around communication, was falling short for advisors. What is Broadridge doing to provide advisors with better communication technology?
MA: We’re doing a lot. A year ago, we saw several things. First, digital capabilities and communicating with clients in a digital way—through Facebook, LinkedIn and any of those kinds of social media channels—is really in the early stages. COVID-19 accelerated that process.
You've had the emergence, since a year ago, of millions of new investors that have come into the marketplace for a variety of reasons. You've seen the rise of the millennial. It’s now clear how they're going to interact with us: they embrace technology, but they also embrace high-touch high tech.
Increasingly, people are going to want video. The next generation is about video and voice, not so much content, but content can be delivered in video. And that’s what we’re working on.
WM: What do advisors need to do to become better marketers?
MA: It's really important for advisors to connect with the next generation investors, who have largely been ignored. When they inherit money or are able to do more with their investments, they will walk away from their parents' advisors.
If these advisors want to stay relevant, they're going to need to communicate in ways that reach millennials and next-generation investors. They need to do it in the ways that investors want, whether it's texting, emailing, videos, you name it. It's not going to be the same thing all the time. It's going to be about relevance: right time, the right way, the right method.
WM: Do you think they're going to find their next advisor on TikTok or Instagram?
MA: Potentially. But we have capabilities that enable advisors to search out leads and to locate an advisor that matches them. We help locate advisors for clients.
One of the things that we're building is what we call a values-based survey. (We're doing this with TIFIN.) What we can do is give a questionnaire to somebody and then we can use our technology to identify an advisor that matches you, in terms of values, so that you have a shared mindset.
WM: How do you avoid bias-type situations where a risk averse investor and a risk averse advisor may be working together, when the investor really needs an advisor who will pull them out of their comfort zone?
MA: This is the beauty of a high-tech, high-touch solution. An investor in any given situation can adjust their preferences and as the advisor and investor get to know each other better—and they have regular checkups—our algorithms are giving insights that we could detect that bias and create an opportunity for the investor. I think it can lead to richer conversations and better dialogue.
WM: What area within wealth management is ripe for technological disruption?
MA: The digital experience. There's still a lot of manual, paper-driven processes throughout the financial service industry. Automating those and creating less friction between the client and the advisor is really where the transformation is happening. That will continue for the next couple of years.
This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.