Welcome to the September edition of the Riskalyze Fintech Report Card, where Riskalyze CEO Aaron Klein gives you the thumbs up or thumbs down on the biggest pieces of news to hit advisor technology in the last month. If you’re an advisor and you don’t read this piece, your risk number could be in the triple digits!
U.S. House Bill Would Require Regulatory Bodies to Develop ‘Sandbox’ Departments for Fintech: Thumbs Down
Copyright Alex Wong, Getty Images
What happened: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) has introduced a bill requiring federal agencies, including the Federal Reserve Board, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Treasury Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission to each create a “Financial Services Innovation Office” where fintech firms can seek help to develop new products. McHenry’s bill would require each innovation office to share data and periodically report to Congress.
Why it matters: We wouldn’t be the first to do this. The aim of the bill is to mirror government sandboxes in the U.K. in order to compete with the rise of British fintech. If anything, this may spotlight the fragmented nature of U.S. regulation, given the alphabet soup of agencies this bill covers. It’s a valiant effort, but it’s a decent bet this will be like standing in line at the DMV eight times in a row.
eMoney Announces New DOL Compliance Features: Thumbs Up
What happened: Compliance is a prominent theme surrounding fintech in 2016. eMoney flexed their muscles and announced new Department of Labor–focused, compliance-ready tools at their Advisor Summit last month. Enhancements to eMoney products include updated client onboarding tools, financial planning tools, advanced analytics and advisor marketing resources.
Why it matters: eMoney capped off September with an incredible conference in Dana Point, Calif. They’ve got plenty of new developments up their sleeve to make their products even better for advisors, but my favorite part: Advisors can use eMoney’s new marketing tools, including compliant client-facing videos narrated by Rob Lowe. I’ve seen Rob Lowe play a lawyer on TV, but actually threading the regulatory needle on behalf of advisors? Awesome.
Venus Williams and Others Invest in Sallie Krawcheck's “Ellevest” Robo Advisor: Thumbs Down
Copyright Mike Hewitt, Getty Images
What happened: After raising $10 million to launch Ellevest, Sallie Krawcheck is continuing her mission to expand her female-targeted robo advisor that takes into account factors like earlier-in-life salary peaks and longer lifespans. “The retirement savings crisis in this country is disproportionally impacting women,” she says, since women typically have invested less into the market. Tennis player Venus Williams, alongside Ariel Investments and Aspect Ventures, have now invested an additional $9 million into Ellevest.
Why it matters: I’m rooting for Sallie to succeed, but $19 million of celebrity venture capital money for a robo advisor? I’ve yet to see anything about Ellevest that leads me to believe they’ve cracked the code on either profitably acquiring clients, or delivering real fiduciary advice at scale.
XY Planning Network Announces “AdvicePay” for Retainer Billing: Thumbs Up
What happened: XY Planning Network (XYPN), an organization that has grown in the past two years to include over 300 fee-only financial advisors, launched its own payment processing solution, AdvicePay. The new product will allow financial planners to process client credit cards and ACH (automated clearing house) payments, while staying compliant with rules about custody of client funds.
Why it matters: XYPN is certainly the champion of two things: the monthly retainer fee business model, and reaching a younger generation of financial planners. Great job to the team at XYPN. Let’s face it—younger investors don’t pay for things with paper checks and cash, and that includes financial advice.
LPL Starts the ClientWorks Large-Scale Rollout: Thumbs Up
What happened: LPL has made the new ClientWorks advisor dashboard available for about 11,000 advisors (the platform had only been rolled out to 500 last year). LPL’s new tech is largely geared toward automation of certain processes including e-signatures, moving money and order entry. According to advisor Jamie Cox, “LPL has been building ClientWorks piece by piece … I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Why it matters: Riskalyze co-founder and chief investment officer Mike McDaniel spent seven years on the b/d side at LPL and he recalls the allure of LPL's technology as far back as 2005. "LPL's leadership role in the industry is arguably attributed to them leapfrogging others from a technology standpoint over 10 years ago,” Mike reminded me. “They set a high standard. Putting 11,000 advisors on ClientWorks without advisors making a bunch of noise is a sign of the project’s success.”
New Startup Raises $7.1 Million to Help International Students Establish Credit: Thumbs Up
What happened: SelfScore, a fintech startup geared at providing financial services to international college students in the U.S., has raised over $7 million in new venture funding. SelfScore is positioned to help these students establish credit despite their history being across borders, nonexistent or otherwise complex. According to CEO Kalpesh Kapadia, “We measure a borrower’s credit potential instead of their history … We also help them build a credit score through credit education.”
Why it matters: Imagine how difficult it must be to learn the nuances of establishing credit in the U.S. when you’re starting from scratch. Getting immigrants better assimilated into our credit-based economy will make it far easier for advisors to serve international investors down the line—and isn’t that what an economy based on American values is all about?
Evernote Announces Migration to Google’s Cloud Platform to Leverage Machine Learning: Thumbs Down
What happened: Evernote, the popular productivity and note-taking software, will move all of its 5 billion notes (collected from 200 million users’ data) to Google’s Cloud Platform. Previously, Evernote stored data on its own servers, but according to Evernote, the move to Google will enable them to use Google’s machine learning APIs to do more with the data they collect. The migration, which begins in October, will be complete by the end of 2016.
Why it matters: Advisors who choose to push their luck with compliance by using systems like Evernote in their practice may want to rethink the risk. Evernote and Google have agreed for now that Google cannot access Evernote data for ads or other reasons, but the ‘machine learning’ that Google will provide certainly adds layers to how and where the data is processed. It’s always best practice for an advisor to keep any professional annotations in a CRM designed specifically for this type of use.