Machine learning, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity were big themes at this year’s technology-focused T3 Enterprise Conference in Las Vegas. From keynotes describing what the future of financial services could look like to the demonstration of products and announcements of new partnerships, the conference took a broad swing at the way technology is shaping the advisors’ practices.
TD Ameritrade Institutional’s Dani Fava, the firm’s director of product strategy, delivered a keynote covering technology her firm is keeping a close eye on. One of her suggestions for advisors: find and familiarize yourself with a compliant text messaging solution.
Advisors interested in communicating with the next generation of wealth, millennials, need to learn how to communicate with potential clients who prefer to send messages instead of making phone calls, said Fava. She cited Domino’s Pizza as an innovative example of a multichannel communicator: taking pizza orders via phone calls, texted emojis, through its app and on its website.
Furthermore, advisors who’ve been dismissive of AI and machine learning should rethink their position, cautioned Fava. “Every single industry is thinking about this, including financial services. If the companies you’re working for, or with, are not thinking about AI, they’re not going to be viable in the future,” she said.
Trending on the messaging message, Helpshift Founder Abinash Tripathy showcased the chatbots and machine learning tools his communications company provides. An advocate of asynchronous communication, such as live chatting with consumers only after their questions become too sophisticated for chatbots, Tripathy said AI-powered digital consumer service is the future of financial services.
Portfolio management provider Vestmark is partnering with wealth management software provider Oranj, giving advisors on the platform access to more than 500 new third-party strategies. The partnership means advisors can set up a process to allocate client assets across multiple strategies in a single account.
Oranj CEO David Lyon said the relationship is about giving advisors on the platform access to more investment options, freeing up time for advisors to spend on activities like financial planning with their clients.
More options won’t mean more complexity, Vestmark President Rob Klapprodt said. The partnership will make investment management plug-and-play: advisors pick a strategy and Vestmark does the rest, he said.
Klapprodt also addressed his firm’s recent purchase of Adhesion Wealth Advisor Solutions, a unified managed account platform with portfolio construction services. He said the purchase will help the firm push the marketplace to adopt a “unified advisory platform” that leverages firm-level research and practice efficiency, while still delivering customization for individual investors.
MoneyGuidePro alluded to its integration with Asset-Map, a platform that helps clients and advisors visualize a client’s financial life. Advisors can now access MoneyGuidePro household data through Asset-Map. “We’ve been developing like crazy,” said Kevin Hughes, EVP and head of enterprise sales at the financial planning software provider’s parent company, PIEtech.
Hughes also presented the firm’s gamification and deconstruction of financial planning, called Blocks, which is available for enterprise clients. It’s an evolution of bliss, a retirement compatibility game for couples that was presented at last year’s T3. With Blocks, consumers complete financial planning modules, gradually building a behind-the-scenes financial plan that can be used by advisors. “That’s what we call stealth planning,” he said.
What to Look Out For
Digital advice platform RobustWealth is declaring 2019 the year of developing a financial planning solution and building customized indexing for social, CEO Michael Kerins said. The company, purchased by Principal Financial Group earlier this year, wants to provide their advisor and bank clients with a destination platform: the place consumers will go to manage their financial life.
The company is looking to a familiar name for its strategy. In the same way that Amazon turned buying commodities into an experience, RobustWealth wants to do something similar with buying insurance, said Kerins. “Advisor efficiency is being commoditized; now it’s about the customer experience.”
Cybersecurity provider cleverDome announced the hire of Alan Gleghorn as president of the company. A veteran of the healthcare industry, Gleghorn said his role is to build the company to a scale where it can incorporate new vendors, custodians, broker/dealers and advisors quickly and efficiently. He’s been working with the company since July.
It wasn’t just technology that generated conversation at T3. MarketCounsel Founder Brian Hamburger addressed regulation and the degree to which regulators are forward-thinking. “If you look at the rule-making that the SEC’s engaged in and, for that matter, all of the various states, they’re chasing headlines,” said Hamburger. “It’s more reactive than proactive.”
The political risk of not correcting bad acting—after the damage’s been done—is too great for regulators, said Hamburger, but that position leaves investors in potentially dangerous situations that a forward-thinking regulator might’ve proactively addressed. He criticized the SEC’s exploration of “best interest” regulations, for example, saying they “really don’t do anything to protect investors, yet the SEC continues to push on.”