I go to a lot conferences every year, but this was my very first time at Pershing INSITE. As the two-and-a-half day event came to a close, I came away with the strong conviction that it will now be a fixture on my calendar going forward.
In spite of the unbearably hot weather (112 degrees anyone?) outside the Phoenix Convention Center, inside was a cool agenda that was loaded with six main-stage presentations, 36 one-hour breakout sessions, four two-hour professional development workshops, 48 showcase stage presentations and over 140 vendors exhibiting their latest wares.
How to Future-Proof Your Business
In what was billed as the first all female panel ever at an INSITE conference, a group of leaders from inside and outside the industry took the stage to share hard-won intelligence on improving the resiliency of advisory firms. Many on Twitter applauded the breakthrough of having four women leading a general session, while at the same time asking why it took so many years for it to happen.
Valerie Brown, exec chair @AdvisorGroupBDs: 'Advisers need to change their value proposition or they're going to be price compressed to the point where it's hard to make a living.' #RealInsite pic.twitter.com/yxWlgZubYw
— Mark Schoeff Jr. (@MarkSchoeff) June 13, 2019
The retail wealth market is now larger than institutional because technology has democratized access to investing, reported Valerie Brown, Executive Chairman of Advisor Group. Regarding the importance of building a culture that can challenge the status quo, she stated, “You can bring in the talent and the data, but the culture needs to embrace it. The winners and the losers will be defined by which firms can create a culture that embraces change.” (See How Advisors Can Use Technology and Service to Fight Fee Compression)
Our industry is driving towards scale, noted Catherine Keating, CEO, BNY Mellon Wealth Management. The twenty largest asset managers now control 40% of assets. I’m not sure if she approved or disapproved of this, although being the CEO of one of the world’s largest banks and custodians would bias her towards scale. But is this what’s best for investors?
Other industries are way ahead of wealth management in leveraging predictive analytics and big data, Keating observed. We should be hiring more technologist from outside the industry to import new ideas, she said.
Great to hear tech guru, @smithmegan speak at #realinsite this morning! She says, “Data and digital will change the way they (#advisors) do business. It’s a whole shift” – Megan Smith. How are you leveraging data? pic.twitter.com/7zb6CX2hC7
— CION Investments (@CionInvestments) June 13, 2019
I thought that including someone from outside the industry to provide a fresh perspective. Megan Smith, CEO of technology consultancy shift7, recommended that companies should use the 70-20-10 Rule — spend 70% of your time on the core business, 20% on new ideas that are iterative to the core, and 10% on all or nothing moonshots. She mentioned they used during her time at Google (with obvious success) when she was VP of Business Development.
Smith, who left Google in 2014 to become the 3rd U.S. Chief Technology Officer, stressed that you should encourage new ideas to grow organically. She described an internal innovation program started at The National Security Agency where employees could pitch startup ideas and then compete for funding. This was somewhat similar to how private incubators and accelerator programs function and generated a number of successful programs, all of which are classified, of course.
CEO Changes & Pershing Roadmap
Jim Crowley, currently Pershing’s Chief Operating Officer and soon to be CEO, shared some statistics and encouraged the packed room of clients, partners and employees with some motivational words to, “stand on the shoulders of your past, think about the now and envision your future.”
Jim Crowley, COO of @Pershing, kicks off #realinsite here in sunny #Phoenix! pic.twitter.com/RLGmKlXicI
— Maree Moscati (@CopytalkMaree) June 12, 2019
The US wealth and advisory business is worth around $7 trillion with average 10% YoY growth, but Pershing clients are growing faster, Crowley reported. This is great news and even better marketing fodder, but what is behind this increased growth? Maybe a combination of good timing for hybrid advisors and self-selection by advisors that prioritize growth? I’d like to see additional data on this trend.
.@Pershing managing director Claire Santaniello on data collection for pending Consolidated Audit Trail: 'It comes with a very heavy lift for our industry. Don't underestimate what we have to do' #realinsite pic.twitter.com/o9dZK9Uud4
— Mark Schoeff Jr. (@MarkSchoeff) June 12, 2019
Claire Santaniello, Head of Operations at Pershing announced that managed account onboarding will finally move to completely paperless with eSignature just like retail accounts. This has been a bit of a sticky situation since partner vendors have had this capability for years. Robo-advisors like Jemstep and AdvisorEngine were among the first to build paperless onboarding for fee-based managed accounts.
Eventually the bigger players caught up and now Envestnet and Fiserv can open managed accounts without wet signatures. It’s about time that Pershing’s own Managed Investments offering had the same capabilities.
50% of Pershing financial advisors surveyed said that building a superior client experience was very important, reported Ram Nagappan, Pershing CIO. But why only half? That seems low to me.
On the roadmap for @Pershing #NetX360 is expanded funding of new accounts via #P2P services like @Zelle @venmo @PayPal — enabling clients to transfer funds instantly #RealINSITE #INSITE19 pic.twitter.com/dcstpMMPmy
— Craig Iskowitz (@craigiskowitz) June 13, 2019
To address the concerns of this wise half of advisors, Pershing is launching a set of self-service tools including Site Builder, which will enable client firms to construct their own investor-facing websites, Nagappan explained. This seems like a good idea, although there are so many free tools available for building websites and the technology changes so quickly, I’m not sure how many firms would take advantage of this.
According to Crowley, 62% of Pershing’s elite financial advisors surveyed said that technology integration was their highest priority. Pershing’s NetX360 advisor workstation has always been known for a wide variety of third party integrations, but now they’re launching an Integration Portal to consolidate all capabilities, Nagappan stated. This should help vendors that aren’t yet on the bandwagon to get connected and take advantage of the data that Pershing exposes through their APIs.
Very cool how @Pershing has built a #chatbot into #NetX360 that allows users to skip the UI & go conversational like talking to a #VirtualAssistant. "My client lost his credit card" -> takes you to the correct form & fills it in. #EasyPeasy #ActualAI #RealINSITE pic.twitter.com/ECOotyiKwO
— Craig Iskowitz (@craigiskowitz) June 20, 2019
While Pershing is not the first to add chatbot support, it will be a welcome addition to the NetX360 interface for the clients that spend a lot of time dealing with operational issues and having to wade through the many layers of menus and screens.
The chatbot can also track orders, check status as well items sent to clients via UPS/Fedex. These features are still in the proof of concept phase and were demonstrated in their Advanced Technology Lab demo area at the conference. Nagappan gave me a tour and I was impressed at some of the new functionality they are testing.
Where is Financial Advice Heading Next?
The Man in the Blue Shirt, Michael Kitces, guru of everything related to financial planning and advice, spoke about some of the trends driving the industry.
An increasingly competitive landscape is driving more and more financial advisors to go beyond giving just great financial planning advice to crafting a better all-around client experience. This is being accomplished by upgrading the technology stack and reinvesting in customer service, Kitces reports.
But the reality is that a true client experience goes beyond “just” technology and service, Kitces explained. Instead, it’s more about staging an experience for clients that guides them through a transformation, he said.
At #realinsite @MichaelKitces takes a deep dive into 5 trends reshaping financial advice, touching on the rising pressure on heightening the #UX and the shift from Baby Boomers financial planners to Gen X and Millennials. pic.twitter.com/GVq8jAfNRf
— BNY Mellon | Pershing (@Pershing) June 13, 2019
Creating effective experiences for clients and allowing them to touch the financial planning software or as Kitces put it, the build-a-plan-experience, is coming soon. In one of his previous speaking engagements earlier this year (I’m a Kitces groupie), he used the term “Build-a-Bear” planning. How do you encourage clients to become part of the process of creating the product you are selling them?
“Generation most open to paying for advice, #millenials. The generation least will to pay, Boomers. Boomers have been getting advice for free for 40 years.” @MichaelKitcesmakes the case for new biz models outside AUM for those seeking advice and paying for it. #realinsite
— Jessica Torchia (@BuffJessi) June 13, 2019
This data is counter-intuitive and needs to be read over a few times before it sinks in. The subscription model is just getting started in financial advice and we will be seeing more of it soon. Advisors have been charging asset-based fees and using the revenue to subsidize non-asset-management services since the beginning. There are already advisors that are breaking these apart and charging much lower asset fees and then separate hourly or subscription fees to cover other services.
Simon Sinek: The Infinite Game
Powerful chat about financial/wealth advice, leadership & biz growth @Pershing #realinsite with author @simonsinek & @marktibergienhttps://t.co/8SVxZRhned pic.twitter.com/G5SCrwieqy
— Investment Advisor (@InvestAdvMag) June 13, 2019
Sinek explained how life and business are marathons, not sprints — your mindset should be on the long-term and avoid being distracted by what your competitors are doing today. It’s The Infinite Game not a battle for a specific client or individual confrontation.
A good portion of his talk was around the dismal way, in general, that most companies treat their employees. We treat employees like line items on a spreadsheet rather than like human beings — in hard times, money won’t save you, but your employees will, Sinek proposed.
Mass layoffs driven by failure to meet quarterly profit projections was invented in the 1980’s and is the wrong business model — it is “finite mindedness” that prioritizes profits over people, he accused. Instead of short-term profit motives, companies should work to make their employees feel safe to ask for help and feel trusted to do their jobs. Then they will not fall into the trap of “lying, hiding & faking” which has broken many companies, Sinek observed.
We put too much weight into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) rather than measuring more valuable human traits like trustworthiness. Someone who is high on the performance scale, but low on trust is actually a toxic team member. They will destroy everyone else’s productivity, even though they are meeting or exceeding all of their KPIs.
Financial advisors should do a better job explaining their “purpose over cause” — what was your reason for getting into this industry? Sinek asked.
“I have a vision of a world in which everyone wakes up inspired,” Sinek stated optimistically. He is encouraging leaders to make safe and realistic workplace environments to provide a better future.
There was a wide range of sessions that approached RIA technology from different angles.
Advisors will need to serve more clients who have more demands for less money. Advisors need to scale #realinsite pic.twitter.com/GmLJQFsfbi
— Joel Bruckenstein (@FinTechie) June 13, 2019
“Start with the thing that matters most, and build around that,” Joel Bruckenstein stated. Joel is an industry consultant and producer of the Technology, Tools for Today (T3) Conference series. This was a terrific session chocked full of tips on creating the ultimate RIA technology ecosystem.
The client experience is getting better, but it’s nowhere near where it should be, Bruckenstein observed.
“The tech needs to fade into the background for the brilliance of the advisor to shine through.” –@AaronKlein discussing the core of the DNA of tech for advisors #realinsite
— Jessica Torchia (@BuffJessi) June 12, 2019
This is an excellent and insightful quote from Aaron Klein. Too often, we see software vendors who think the application and the functionality is the most important part of the client or advisor experience. This is not the case.
As Klein noted, the best user experience is when the technology is so intuitive and integrated into the workflow that it seems to disappear and you forget that you’re even using it.
Winning Strategies to Serve High Net Worth Investors
How do we define HNW? Marc Butler COO of Albridge: There’s not a right or wrong answer — some of it really depends on the advisor. Research buckets it in a big span of $1-$30M in investable assets, which is pretty large.
Vivacqua: "The challenge in our marketplace is technology builds to different data forms. Until there's a change in the marketplace where people are building to different platforms, the user experience is fragmented." Can present a bigger challenge for HNW clients #realinsite
— maddy perkins (@perkedit) June 12, 2019
If you’re trying to appeal to the next gen using tech, consider getting adult children and grandchildren onboarded on the same platforms their HNW parents use, recommended Emily Wirgin, Managing Director, Financial Focus Group. “They may not be HNW now, but they will be later,” she warned.
Events are a great way to build referral relationships and provide opportunities for HNW clients’ grandchildren and adult children to receive financial literacy education, noted Kathryn Swain, Pershing’s Director of Global Strategy and Product Management.
The challenge in our marketplace is technology building to different data forms, observed Jeff Vivacqua, Chief Marketing Officer, Cambridge Investment Research. Until there’s a change where people start building to standard platforms, the user experience will continue to be fragmented, he stated.
“There may be future advisors who are better users of technology, but they’re never going to be as good as people who are part of a singular solution,” Butler claimed. Advisors haven’t been strong technologists and probably won’t be, he added.
Part of differentiation is understanding your client is going to have relationships with other professionals, Butler says. “The tagline is … there’s not a person who has a patent on all the good ideas, so why not have the relationship with me as well?”
Instead of being fixated on a potential M&A deal’s value, spend the time to recognize factors that can support or undermine success. A panel of experts explored M&A trends in the advisory industry and shared their hard-fought lessons around business value drivers, preparing for potential deals, and tips on assessing the role that culture can play in these inorganic growth opportunities.
Great information on how $1b+ AUM RIAs are doing M&A from @echelon_group @DynastyFP. Deal structure is different than deals @SuccessionRG works on (sub $1b AUM) but core elements of successful deals are the same. Focus on fit & culture – the rest can be worked out #RealInsite
— David Grau Jr (@DavidGrauJr) June 12, 2019
Dakota Wealth Management founder Peter Raimondi suggested that first generation founders should share their equity more freely. Some in the audience agreed, but were cautious about who to share it with. David Grau Jr, CEO of Succession Resource Group suggested that the best and brightest on your staff should be offered the opportunity to purchase equity rather than it being given to them. His recommendation was to separate equity from compensation. Advisors who work for you get paid for that work. The opportunity to buy equity is earned by going above and beyond.
Equity has to be part of the firm’s compensation, to ensure that key employees know the story, insisted Shirl Penney, founder and CEO of Dynasty Financial Partners. Don’t ever assume your employees get it through osmosis, that they understand your thinking, he warned.
Raimondi shared some insider details about the anatomy of an acquisition. These people will be moving into your house, so you have to like them,” he warned. Cultural fit and talent is important and something to pay attention to during negotiations.
One of the firms a part of our network, @STA_Messages has had 7 transactions in the last few years. They’re going out and talking to potential suitors. Here’s what we want, here’s our deal structure. People can either opt into that or not. Shirl Penney @DynastyFP at #RealInsite
— Amelia Garland (@Garlandgoeswest) June 12, 2019
Buyers pretty commonly bite off more than they can chew, noted Daniel Seivert, CEO of ECHELON Partners. He then shared an example of a scorecard that his firm uses to evaluate deals and explained how investment bankers identify a fair deal.
“Never do anything for free, because when you do, you’re saying it has no value,” Raimondi stated.
I think I’ve heard this advice before, but in a slightly different context:
Kickstarting the Velocity of Your Wealth Management Business
Jeff Marsden, Chief Product & Strategy Officer, Xtiva Financial Systems provided details on the additional leverage and opportunities embedded in the performance data of wealth management front offices.
#financialadvisors productivity: there is an almost 300% difference between top & bottom quartiles of advisors @Jeff_Marsden @xtiva #RealINSITE #INSITE19 pic.twitter.com/iogcG9KwGt
— Craig Iskowitz (@craigiskowitz) June 13, 2019
Drawing on proprietary research, terabytes of anonymized metadata data, and a unique market perspective informed by over two decades of experience, Marsden provided examples where front-office performance could be improved. For example, operations teams must be trained to accept responsibility for edge cases (problems that are out of the ordinary) rather than pushing them off to the front-office to research and resolve.
Marsden suggested that firms should augment their financial advisors compensation processes to reward ongoing performance rather than concentrating it all at the end. This could include spot bonuses for exceptional efforts or mid-year profit sharing payments. You want to incentivize behavior, not performance, he stressed.
Few #wealthmanagement firms could survive a 20% drop in revenue w/o gutting their business, but how many other industries would fare much better? Good insights from @williamtrout @Celent_Research at @xtiva & @pershing #RealInsite pic.twitter.com/315CXBwOiM
— Craig Iskowitz (@craigiskowitz) June 13, 2019
Some useful research offered up by William Trout, Head of Wealth Management at Celent: There are three main drivers of better client experience: 1) platform consolidation, 2) process digitization and 3) data & analytics.
Digital Advice for Banks
Thinking through the options, initial target market, and implementation process to accommodate your clients, advisors and home office can be overwhelming.
Simon Roy, President and CEO of digital technology provider Jemstep, delivered some best practices and risk factors to consider when planning a digital advice offering. Recommendations for achieving strategic objectives including target markets, enhanced client journeys, and successful roll-outs both for internal users and clients.
The Do's & Don'ts of Implementing #DigitalAdvice @Jemstep @KeyBank @Pershing #RealINSITE pic.twitter.com/ckxo3APF9K
— Craig Iskowitz (@craigiskowitz) June 13, 2019
Roy was joined on stage by one of his clients, Paul Hansen, COO of Key Investment Services, the broker-dealer subsidiary of Key Bank. The average age is 66 yrs for Key Bank’s traditional customers versus 60 yrs for digital advice customers (via Jemstep), Hansen reported. Digital advice is not a Millennial play, he insisted, more Baby Boomers are attracted to it.
Hansen recommended that firms not lead with compliance or regulation when proposing a digital advice offering. Instead, create a compelling long-term vision that is aligned with corporate digital strategy and the rest will follow. Digital advice is not a revenue play, it’s about attracting new clients that would never walk into a branch, Hansen stated.
“We feel we’re in the change management business more than the technology business,” Roy opined. This is primarily due to the work they perform assisting banks with implementing digital advice strategies that fundamentally change the way they interact with their clients, he noted.
Social Media Marketing for Advisors
In a brilliant move, Pershing brought in the #1 digital influencer in wealth management, April Rudin, to share her wisdom on how advisors should be leveraging social media for marketing.
Its important to develop a plan, craft a compelling & consistent message, use the right key words, be authentic, ask – don't tell, measure your results & refine as needed, move online conversations offline. ~ @TheRudinGroup #realINSITE pic.twitter.com/IPCkdcjhzV
— Maree Moscati (@CopytalkMaree) June 14, 2019
Online branding takes time, Rudin warned, and should be part of a larger, holistic content strategy. It should cover all the bases of communicating with clients and prospects on social media. Rudin presented a number of different strategies for connecting with people that advisors could take advantage of.
Number six of her Top Ten Digital Do’s for Wealth Advisors, was “be authentic”! The more you share about yourself on social media, the more you invite sustainable connections that will last.
What does it mean to become “experience focused” when onboarding clients? What are some ideas for reimagining the client onboarding journey? This esteemed panel was comprised of:
- Tina Hollinger, Sr. Product Manager, Pershing
- Dottie Hulvey, EVP, Chief Operating Officer, BBVA Securities
- Jay Jumper, CEO, SIGNiX
- Matthew Schlueter, President, Advisor Group
Their focus was on how firms can create simpler client experiences, capture data in new ways, optimize integration, while also leveraging paperless solutions and e-signatures. (See The Secret Sauce in the Top 6 Client Onboarding Vendors)
A Powerful Beginning: How to Reimagine the Client Onboarding Experience. Great discussion between @signixplatform , @AdvisorGroupBDs , @Pershing @BBVA_USA at #RealInsite. We are proud to be a part of the onboarding transformation story! pic.twitter.com/2wQFzcGWTG
— IFSAutomation (@IFSAutomation) June 13, 2019
Streamlining Client Onboarding – Pershing is integrating a dynamic forms solution with fewer pages and signatures and increased flexibility to provide an end-to-end client onboarding experience that is simpler and more intuitive.
SignX eSignature technology is built into NetX360 and is also used by a number of their clients, including Advisor Group. (See Advisor Group’s eQuipt is a Quantum Leap in Onboarding Technology)
What trigger signaled change was needed? How did the leadership team and board align on the strategy? What guidance did Piper need to make its decision? And what is the quantifiable impact of Piper’s decision? Get a behind-the-scenes look into Piper’s courageous decision to pursue a new strategy.
James Roundtree, Director, Global Client Relationships, BNY Mellon | Pershing
This session was centered around a formerly self-clearing broker-dealer, Piper Jaffray, and their move to a fully-disclosed relationship model with their new clearing firm, Pershing. According to Shawn Quant, Piper Jaffray’s CIO, the main reasons that drove the decision were:
- The DTCC had increased the capital levels required for self-clearing firms, which translated into $125 million that wasn’t returning any value and was dragging down performance; moving to Pershing allowed $55-$60 million in capital to be returned from the depository and invested in the core business;
- Piper is the #1/#2 muni bond issuer with around 800-900 issues annually, Pershing was one of the few custodians that had a syndicate team that could support this volume;
- The commitment from Pershing’s senior leadership to maintain their client service levels and continue to invest in the institutional space.
Some best practices that Quant learned during the migration include:
- Make sure you have alignment and agreement on a project plan between client and vendor that is managed jointly;
- Ensure there is accountability on both sides;
- Don’t move forward unless there is alignment at the top of house for project goals;
- Understand where the bodies are buried on the vendor side to resolve issues.
Pershing Integration Council
Good to see Pershing making a public announcement about expanded integration and support for third-party vendors. In the past, they built an impressive array of external integrations into NetX360. But if you weren’t on their preferred vendor list, it was tough to get access to their data and processes, especially for electronic account opening.
All that has been swept away with the news that Pershing has formed a new Integration Advisory Council with 14 strategic third-party partners to build relationships and collaborate more closely on integration opportunities. They also previewed an Integration/API online resource center that will be stuffed full of documentation and tools for accessing much of Pershing’s inner core.
Had a great time at #RealInsite this week connecting and learning with the best of the best in the industry! We were honored to participate in the Integration Advisory Council: https://t.co/5GuIhJJ3i6 #digitaltransformation #tech #integration pic.twitter.com/JWCCkvwN3H
— IFSAutomation (@IFSAutomation) June 14, 2019
Delivering Data Driven Insights – to empower advisors and help them more effectively set and measure their business goals. Pershing is rolling out a new capability, Money in Motion Dashboard, which will help firms and advisors measure their overall business performance outside of the markets and identify trends in their business through net asset flows and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Adding Digital Engagement Solutions – Pershing will introduce click-to-call chat solutions for advisors, which will allow for real-time problem solving and screen sharing.
Further, the firm is building mobile alerts for cash disbursement authorization and verification. This feature will allow the advisor to send a notification to the investor’s mobile device to let them know that their request to move money is ready for approval. The investor can then log on to Pershing’s NetXInvestor® portal and approve the transaction with one click.
As the world of financial advice continues to grow and evolve, advisory firms are increasingly going through a series of challenges in the growth race. The firms that have recognized the stages and grown to over $1 billion in assets are using flexible advice delivery with sleeve level accounting to provide exceptional client value.
@NichlausThacker did an excellent job presenting how billion-dollar firms use sleeves and sharing 6 strategies to succeed at @Pershing last week! #financialadvisors #wealthmanagement #fintech #realinsite #INSITE19 pic.twitter.com/p3f4lHc1gy
— Vestmark Inc (@Vestmark) June 17, 2019
Nick Thacker, SVP Business Development at Vestmark walked the audience through a number of configurations that firms can use to leverage a sleeve-based managed accounts platform, including:
- Full Customization
- Blended Model – replacing mutual funds with models from internal or external managers
A proper wealth management platform should support account or sleeve-trading discretion that can be allocated to the advisor, Thacker noted. This would allow the advisor to customize the account with packaged products, shared allocations, custom allocations or sleeve-based or blended models.
Thacker explained that there is an Advice Construction Gap between advice-drive and packaged investment products.
As Josh Brown, CEO of Ritholz Wealth Management, famously said (on Twitter), “We don’t like Bitcoin, but we love blockchain” is the new “I read Playboy for the articles.”
Overflow audience for #technology breakout on #blockchain by Annelise Docel @WilliamBlairCo at @Pershing #RealInsite #INSITE19 pic.twitter.com/paQIY0riyO
— Craig Iskowitz (@craigiskowitz) June 13, 2019
Annelise Docel CFA presented “A Roadmap to Blockchain,” geared towards teaching what
#blockchain is, how it works and can be used, as well as the timeline and future obstacles. (See The Ghost in the Blockchain: 5 Reasons It Will Revolutionize Financial Services)
BNY Mellon’s @Pershing is giving independent advisors & broker-dealers in the U.S. more tools to grow their booming business with Latin American investors https://t.co/8NhjUqsaN4 #ThinkAdvisorTech #realinsite
— ThinkAdvisor (@ThinkAdvisor) June 13, 2019
Interesting LATAM market stats from Pershing:
- There are a total of $200 billion in managed assets in Latin America
- 80% of US advisors with non-U.S. clients are at wirehouses
- Latin American assets on Pershing’s platform have jumped over 35% since 2016 to $90 billion as of April 2019
Pershing INSITE 2019
What a surprise to see couches & comfy chairs in the breakout session at @Pershing INSITE19 — I'm heading for the front row! #realINSITE pic.twitter.com/dE8tszVfyc
— Craig Iskowitz (@craigiskowitz) June 13, 2019
This was by far the most comfortable conference panel that I ever attended.