The nation's largest custodian previewed its new self-service developer portal and discussed its ongoing efforts at combining the best pieces of platforms and technology from TD Ameritrade with its own during a two-day online event this week.
Schwab Advisor Services began its first virtual technology forum for third-party technology partners on Wednesday, with more than 150 third-party technololgy vendor personnel participating in the event that is likely to continue on a regular basis, according to Kartik Srinivasan, senior managing director of Digital Advisor Solutions at Charles Schwab.
While the virtual part may be new, the event will continue the tradition of both the Schwab Integration Forum and gatherings of third-party technology vendors during TD Ameritrade Institutional’s annual LINC conference.
Held via the WebEx platform, the two-day event started with presentations by Schwab and TD Ameritrade executives for the third-party vendors discussing points of progress in the company’s own internal integration efforts. This was followed with a the second day of more intimate and interactive breakout sessions between 10 to 12 individuals from the vendor community and moderated by staff from Schwab and/or TD Ameritrade.
"The way they presented is that they [Schwab] had conducted a gap analysis and were trying to make sure all the gaps were filled between the two [platform] offerings," said Mary Ferguson, president of Concenter Services LLC, which owns XLR8, a customizable CRM system designed for advisors and wealth managers available as an overlay on the Salesforce platform.
“This was a great opportunity to raise specific concerns we had as a vendor about the conversion,” wrote Charlie Fargo, vice president of product management with Advyzon, a cloud-based performance reporting, billing, CRM and document management platform provider to advisors.
Among the major things showcased was Schwab’s new self-service developer portal, which will provide technology partners and potential partners with tools, sample data and other resources for API development. In addition, developers will have access to what is referred to in the industry as a sandbox for testing integrations prior to them going live. This is very reminiscent of the approach TDAI first took a decade ago in terms of appliation interface development.
”Schwab seems committed to maintaining an open architecture approach when it comes to vendor integrations utilizing the best of both TD Ameritrade and Schwab technology,” wrote Fargo.
Something Srinivasan reinforced in an interview with WealthManagement.com was that the Schwab and TD Ameritrade teams are working closely on new integrations that start to bring the two custody platforms together. He said this will initially include new trading APIs, as well as integrations to the iRebal portfolio rebalancing software from TDAI, and new ones to support money movement and related workflows.
“One of the many other things we looked at and discussed is how engaged advisors have been,” said Srinivasan.
“We have seen a 40% increase in digital, specifically in our APIs,” he said, referring to 2020 usage over the course of the pandemic. This includes engagement by advisors through both third-party vendors connecting to Schwab’s systems and some advisors whose own systems directly connect to Schwab’s features.
When asked to elaborate on this and a reference to “more than 250 active points of integration” with partners referenced in a press release about the forum, he responded that these points can refer to a relatively simple API that is pulling rea- time client account data to deeper integrations that are more complex, for example account opening or change of address or many others.
Even so, development on the TDAI broker/dealer platform continues in parallel with that of Schwab’s own broker/dealer, according to Srinivasan.
“Many advisors and firms continue to rely on each for their day-to-day business needs,” he said, explaining that until those two platforms have been consolidated, still expected to take up to 18 to 36 months, the dual development will be a necessity.
Among the attendees Wealthmanagement.com tracked down, all were impressed with the sense of openess and collaboration conveyed during the event.
“They seem to be taking a very thoughtful approach to ensure this process is as smooth as possible on the advisor/end-investor, and wanted to hear from vendor partners about potential pitfalls we might see that they don’t,” wrote Advyzon Chief Product Officer Dirk Pearson.
Jennifer Thomas, business development manager at Concenter Services, reiterated the sense of openness conveyed by staff from both companies.
"Its apparent they are trying to make as much information available upfront as it becomes available and make it easy to find and making people available to walk us [vendors] through and highlighting the needed documentation for those looking to build or rebuild an integration," she said.
While the announcements and discussions at the tech forum do not directly relate, in January, Schwab acknowledged ongoing backlogs and advisor servicing issues unrelated to the merger, adding personnel to begin addressing the problems a week later.