T3 Enterprise Conference

#ItzOnWealthTech Ep. 32: Speed Podcasting at the T3 Enterprise Conference

“I think too often in our industry it’s too “one size fits all”, treating clients like a number or just finding out what their financial capacity is but not really digging any deeper.”

–Ryan Beach, COO, Orion Advisor

The T3 Enterprise Conference is an annual gathering of CEOs, CTOs, COOs, CCOs (and direct support staff) from broker/dealers, OSJ branch offices, large RIA firms, advisor networks and other financial services firms interested in discovering the best technology and enterprise solutions for their firms.

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This episode of Wealth Management Today is brought to you by Ezra Group Consulting. If your firm is evaluating new technology or looking to improve your current wealth platform, you need to contact Ezra Group. Don’t spend another day using technology that doesn’t offer an elegant user experience. Your advisors and clients deserve better and you can deliver it to them with the help of Ezra Group.

Topics Covered in this Episode

  • Technology Integration at Cambridge
  • Board Member Onboarding & Marketing Automation at Snappy Kraken
  • Envestnet Acquisition of Money Guide
  • Content Management System & Data at InvestmentNews
  • AI & Automation at TradePMR
  • Goal Bridge by Morningstar
  • Hyland Software & Blue Prism Partnership and Automation
  • Supernova Products Filling the Gap for Advisors
  • Orion Advisor Acquisition of Advizr
  • T3 Cyber University

Companies & People Mentioned:

Other Resources

If you are interested in more information about some of the topics Michael and I discussed, these blog posts would be useful:

wealth management consulting

Complete Episode Transcript:

Nick Graham, CTO, Cambridge

Craig: I’m here with Nick Graham, the chief technology officer for Cambridge. So one of the things I wanted to talk to you about is your role in overarching technology and everything that goes on with the advisor technology and client technology. So one of the things you’re working on diligently is your approach to how you integrate all this technology. Can you talk a little about how it’s different for Cambridge?

Nick: Cambridge has a mandate to be as flexible as we can to the demands of the incoming advisor. And the way we do that from a technology standpoint is we don’t fixate on a closed technology stack. I build from a systems engineering standpoint, an architecture that allows me to have a multitude of offerings that I can support from the advisor that’s looking to transition to us. So I have a good-better-best type philosophy that I take with potential third party products or solutions that I’m crafting for our business owners. And much of the design work is around trying to achieve real time data synchronization. Much of the architecture that we historically have had in this industry has been a lot of batch where a lot of static APIs. I’ve been driving our infrastructure, our relationship with partners, with their own ecosystems to try to expand on what we can do with a data synchronization that happens wherever data is being updated. So you’ll see this with many vendors like eMoney, one of our partners, they have a model where you make a change for something as simple as a CRM type in event with a name and an address that populates all that I have with inside of our product called Click. It also goes out to the rest of my integrations simultaneously. Vice versa whatever we would do naturally as part of our updates and maintenance or any administrative actions that we do inside of our system of service goes out to all of those partners. Reducing the burden of dual entry for the adviser, improving the consistency of data across all the systems. And from a standpoint of having consistent information correctly represented, we’re trying to improve the quality of what the advisor has to interact.

Craig: So for someone like myself with a background in computer science, my ears perk up when I hear a “systems engineering standpoint”. Can you talk about, in layman’s terms, I don’t want to get too deep in the technology weeds here, about how you build your architecture and thinking about different innovative ways advisors are going to view the technology.

Nick: So there’s two big tenants to be able to achieve that goal. One is we have a strong data governance model that we’re instituting at Cambridge. We consolidate and curate a lot of that data. So it gives me the widest possibility for how I would integrate to a new system or a new service. Then the method of integration is now taking the publisher-subscriber type model. You know, the DDD type environment where you have domain-driven designs. And that is something where, I’m able to do event based updates to whatever the systems that I’m integrating to or take event based changes and populate them to all subscribers to make sure everyone’s aware of a change. that reduces the big bulky static API approaches. This makes it much more timely as a delivery and it also generates a good log history so I have good abilities to manage any error corrections or be able to replay activities if you have system outages and things of that nature with my partner.

Robert Sofia, CEO, Snappy Kraken

Craig: My guest now is Robert Sofia, co-founder and CEO of marketing automation firm Snappy Kraken. Lots of exciting news. I saw you guys had a press release, you have some new board members in your company. Can you tell me about these unknown people you brought onto your board?

Robert: Hardly unknown and that’s really much to our benefit. We have three board members, two that are very well known in our space, and one who’s not so well known in this space but has a tremendous wealth of experience. We’ve got Aaron Klein, CEO of Riskalyze who most people know well, his experience in growing and scaling an SAS business serves advisors uniquely well. It’s going to be invaluable for us. Also, we have Marty Bicknell of Mariner Holdings who has personally invested substantially into our company, his experience of course in the RIA world.

Craig: I didn’t know that he invested.

Robert: He did, our last round, Marty led that round through the Bicknell Family Holding Company and also through a venture capital fund that he is a majority shareholder in. So, Marty has been a big supporter behind the scenes and now he’s going to be an even greater player on our board. Then third we have Thad Langford who is from Flyover Capital. They invest in technology companies outside of the major tech hubs, and Thad sold his former business to Google. He’s a very seasoned investor and software guy. So the three of them together are going to round us out beautifully.

Craig: So I find that this type of money guys don’t really understand our industry, how did he find you?

Robert: Thad is an associate of Marty’s, so they jointly own the Flyover Capital Technology Fund, and that’s how I got introduced. It actually all started with the ScratchWorks Investment Program, which you might have heard of. It was launched at Barron’s in 2017 or 2018. We participated in that, we got a small investment from a number of well known RIAs all in the top 100. And those are RIAs, Marty was one of them, and as they learned more about our company, their confidence grew in we were doing and as did their desire to help us.

Craig: That’s not just a benefit, but it’s an endorsement by people who aren’t just money people, but who know the industry.

Robert: I would be reluctant to say that they’ve endorsed us. I would let them say that.

Craig: Well putting money on the line is an endorsement.

Robert: It’s definitely an endorsement. So they know they’ve been tremendous in both the money and the strategy, and the doors they’ve opened and the contacts they’ve helped us make. They’re just good partners.

Craig: I do a lot of reading and research on funding and startups and you hear these startups getting money from people who can’t benefit except with money. But you really want to have the combination of money and not just influence but connections and advice.

Robert: Oh, absolutely. And especially when you’re focused uniquely on one niche and you have a depth of understanding, the last thing you want is somebody coming into your business, with any type of interest that has any control and then promoting ideas that really won’t fly in our industry because well, it worked for dentists. Well that doesn’t mean it’s gonna work for financial advisors. So you better make sure you have partners that understand.

Craig: One of the areas I wanted to talk to you about, I’m really interested in your marketing automation platform and your technology. And you were mentioning how you are expanding your enterprise offering. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Robert: We have expanded it substantially and there will be some releases soon with some very well known large RIAs and other firms that are using our enterprise platform now. The vision for that platform is to really empower enterprises to help all of the advisers they support market uniquely. So Craig, you know this, the majority of the marketing platforms out there, they have one base of content and that base of content gets used by tens of thousands of advisors and it really undermines differentiation. So Snappy Kraken’s retail model has been based on the fact that we sell individual advisor territories to make sure that they’re not overlapping each other with the same advertising in the same markets, and instead they can be unique in their market.

Craig: That could be a major turnoff for a client to get the same email, the same article from two of them.

Robert: Big time. It’s like, Hey, I worked with this advisor, now I get this from another advisor. Do you guys work together? Are you in the same office? Well no, we just use the same marketing company. It really undermines credibility. So that’s been our retail model. What we’re doing now is we’re translating that to the enterprise model. Here’s how we do it. We set up a version of our platform exclusively for an enterprise. We white label it for them and then we both create custom content for them and we allow them to create their own content, put it on the platform. And what that does is you can imagine if a company has a certain value proposition, a certain approach to planning a certain philosophy, they can include that in their materials and only their advisors in their network who are captive can use that content. And so in that way it becomes a one-to-many approach. So an advisor who they’re supporting can just log into his platform that they’ve provided to him and they can launch whatever campaigns that have been provided with their personal firm branding, their personal firm contact information and so forth. Then at an enterprise level, you have all the data, all the analytics on all your advisors, what’s working in what markets, which email subject lines are getting the most opens and which landing page headlines are getting the most clicks. Now you become a smarter enterprise and you can say, okay, we market this way for our advisors. Here’s our platform. We control it. As long as you’re with us, it becomes a recruiting advantage and retention advantage because the advisors that are looking to them for that support come to rely on it and then they don’t want to leave.

Aaron Bauer, Head of Strategy, Envestnet

Craig: I’m here with Aaron Bauer, head of strategy for Envestnet. One of the things that was I was excited about early in the year, and I wrote about it on my blog, was the Money Guide acquisition. Huge deal, and one of the things I wrote in my blog was that it’s all about data. So tell me about the data behind the acquisition, how you’re leveraging that.

Aaron: That’s a great question, Craig. I think that we’ve recognized the need for and usefulness of dat and how that can be leveraged within an advisor’s practice. The combination of the Envestnet platform being able to bring information from various investment strategists into the fold to help inform better investment decisions coupled with all of the data that comes from Money Guide that helps inform and helps align the conversation between an investor and advisor. That’s all kind of brought together by the Yodlee data. So client permission information that helps drive better outcomes for investors. It helps give a balance between the immediate client needs. Things like budgeting, balances, a personal balance sheet. The immediate kind of needs that are day to day versus the longterm goals and outcomes that investors are trying to achieve. And so historically those two things have been fairly bifurcated, two different ends of the spectrum. We think that the combination of the planning through Money Guide and Yodlee for client permission data helps bridge that gap and allows for a better experience for the investor and an aligned conversation with the advisor. We think that a lot of times what ends up happening is, what is missed between an advisor and investor are the things that are unsaid. So this helps bring to the forefront those things that might create conflicts. We’ve talked about fact-finders and having an investor participate in the process and help drive the process themselves through Yodlee on the permissioning and then also through the blocks through MoneyGuide.

Craig: Sure.

Aaron: I think will be really impactful and help drive meaningful conversations.

Craig: I was going to use the word conversations. It’s all about how to help facilitate those conversations. Cause some advisors just aren’t good at that.

Aaron: Well you know, and it’s also a really sensitive topic. The clients coming to the advisor, the advisors coming to the client talking about finances. Those are very personal conversations. They’re personal, they’re private, they’re things that many people don’t like to speak about out loud. So, providing tools that help enable those conversations in a more engaging, gamified way. I think all of those things help, the more transparent and the fewer barriers to having an open dialogue that can be provided, the better, and the more likely that you’ll come up with a good end result.

Craig: I agree, a lot of advisors need that kind of help and they don’t even know they need it.

Christine Shaw, CEO, InvestmentNews

Craig: My next guest is Christine Shaw, CEO of InvestmentNews. So Christine, the new CEO of InvestmentNews, what are some of your biggest challenges?

Christine: I like to look at it as what are the biggest opportunities. And so InvestmentNews is known for its ability to deliver cutting edge, accurate, trusted journalism. The challenge and opportunity is to continue doing that in the way we’re doing it, but to also use technology as an enabler to get more effective engagement with our audience and have better conversations, more in depth conversations, and to continue to deliver the content. Not just in the way we’re used to doing it, but to have more strategic insights that we believe we can have through technology enablement.

Craig: So give me an example of some technologies you think would enable deeper conversations.

Christine: Sure. So a lot of what we do is we publish our content on a CMS system, content management system, excuse me. That’s how we produce our content online. And a lot of times what we want to do is figure out what the reader is really interested in and wants to hear more of. So we have technology stacks available to us that are what we call CMS neutral. That, but depending on the stack of technology and some of that is proprietary as in it’s our secret sauce, right? It provides us audience insights, audit audience identity. And by having those types of technology stocks, we can have better decision making on the content, what we do, more of the depth of content, how we’re paginating that.

Craig: And the output of that would be a better experience for the readers.

Christine: Better experience for the readers and better insights into behaviors and also for our advertisers.

Craig: Which is good for everyone.

Christine: It is.

Craig: One thing I like about InvestmentNews is the that you’ve got great data on broker dealers. I know I use it all the time when I’m doing reports or doing analytical work. So tell me about the data and how important that is to InvestmentNews.

Christine: Thank you for that. The data is critical. In fact, if you look strategically both from an industry and a media standpoint and from the advisor’s, data and analytics has to be at the core of what we all do. So we have developed a data dashboard and through our technology stack that we’re building, it’s better insights and also access to that data. We consider that to be our premium content, but it’s also the insights of that data. It’s one thing to have data and to collect data and to report it. It’s a whole other proposition to be able to use that data and be forward looking, and trend based so we can deliver insights and trends to our customers as well from having that sort of data.

Craig: Super important to have that.

Christine: Absolutely.

Craig: Because otherwise you’re kind of flying blind.

Christine: Exactly.

Craig: So what’s one of the biggest reasons you’ve come to T3 this year?

Christine: So it’s interesting because this industry is going through a similar navigation of the tools required. One to make advisers be more effective at their jobs and using technology to help. But also there’s a lot of talk about the CRMs being used here, Redtail being one of them, a few others that you see. And the idea is that you’re making a CRM specific to their audience needs, which in this case is the advisors, and you’re creating a better customer relationship with those people, and your ability to understand their unique needs and how to communicate more effectively with them. So for me, coming here one is about meeting the people and learning some of the challenges and pain points that the industry is going through and also participating in some of the key conversations. One of our top journalists that covers technology, Ryan Neal is here, he hosted a round table with a lot of the CTOs and CEOs that are here from the exhibiting companies this week.

Scott Victoria, COO, TradePMR

Craig: I’m here with Scott Victoria COO of TradePMR. So what are some of the new technologies you’re seeing advisory firms adopting these days?

Scott: So we’re really focusing on automation internally. We’re taking two systems, specifically the TradePMR, and connecting them through through automation, specifically screen scraping. So taking those processes, we’re estimating that when we launch it here in the next month or so to save about 20% of manual processing time internally. I think that’ll definitely be a value add for our client firms, and I think it’s something that they can take away, and look at and embed within their own firms for onboarding, data entry, etc. So that’s, that’s one. And then we also have what’s actually a little gimmicky at first, but I think does have some weight, looking in the future that we’re having as a prototype for our developers and engage in, and that’s voice AI. So, Siri, Alexa, those virtual assistants, we’re looking at that. We actually have a working prototype to give account value and things of that nature. When we do launch next year, our new generation APIs, we can actually embed that within them and offer it to our client firms using our application as well as the client facing a client portals of the future, more retail application.

Craig: That’s excellent. So those are the voice AI is that for advisors to use or clients to use?

Scott: So we envision actually both. Right now we’re seeing it more in a retail base, with over a hundred million devices, that Alexa alone has sold, by Amazon. We really think it’s going to take off. We don’t think it’s actually resonated in the business world yet, that’s obviously to come. And so we’re definitely investing heavily in that.

Craig: That’s great. That’s the kind of stuff that could set you apart from other custodians.

Scott: We think so we’re actually consciously focusing on developing code and feature sets to ingest voice commands. So that’s something, again, that’s not going live in the very near future, but something that we’re setting ourselves up to do when that becomes more mainstream.

Craig: So let’s go back to your other comment where you said you think you can save your clients 20% of their processing time by reducing manual processes that they’d normally do now?

Scott: So that was internal, correct. And I think the comment that I made was that if we apply those same principles of automation to our customer firms, they can take that away. So that was a practical application that we saw internally and I think advisors can leverage whether it be onboarding or otherwise.

Craig: That’s great. You can take your own experiences, your own best practices and push them out to the field.

Scott: Correct, exactly. And that’s what tomorrow’s session is going to be about. Obviously going over what we’ve done, but also displaying different areas where they can focus and then see if automation really resonates with them as an industry. We’re seeing a lot more integrations, we heard it in sessions earlier today, in fact. The more easily you are able to integrate with, whether it be established participants in the market or those emerging technologies out there, the quicker you’re able to bring those in safely, securely, and reliably, the better. You’re not going to fall behind the curve. And so it’s a must for us. But also for us to deliver to our client firms the solutions that they want.

Craig: It’s table stakes.

Scott: It is, it is. And if it wasn’t before, it definitely is now.

Craig: Indeed.

Jason Stipp, Director of Project Management, Morningstar

Craig: My guest now is Jason Stipp, director of product management for Morningstar. I love some of the stuff that you guys announced at the conference. Big announcement, this new product called Goal Bridge. Can you tell us about it?

Jason: Yeah, so GoldBridges, new software that we just launched, it’s in Morningstar Advisor Workstation, but it’ll also be available to be connected to other enterprise portfolio accounting systems. It’s very simple what it does. It allows advisors and clients to sit down together, create goals, fund those goals, then create an investment plan for each goal based on a suggested asset allocation and get a proposal out. So it’s connecting investment planning to goal planning, and ending in a proposal in about 30 minutes or so.

Craig: I love that idea, and it’s bothered me for years, why is financial planning data in a silo, kept separate and everyone just seems to accept that. Right? And why isn’t it integrated with the end to end advisor experience, which includes investing?

Jason: So one of the things that we’ve heard is there are a lot of financial planning software out there. There are integrations and Morningstar has integrations with a lot of the financial planning software providers. That’s great. But we do know that there’s a lot of use cases where someone doesn’t need a full financial plan, but they still have goals. So we want it to be able to extend our investment planning capabilities, which advisors have used for years and years, and put it in a goal context. Let’s collect some goal details and then move right to the investment plan in one workflow.

Craig: Hmm. And do you see that as a game changer?

Jason: We like it because the integration of the two is straightforward, it’s simple. The investment planning piece is what advisors are already familiar with from Morningstar and now they can do that with additional goal context. So, you know, game changer, I hope that it changes the game day to day for advisors.

Craig: I hope it changes the way they think about planning.

Jason: I hope so too. Because the fact is that their clients are asking for this stronger connection, right? It’s not just about did we beat the benchmark or what is our investment objective? It’s are you on track for your goal. And we think that setting up clients and advisors with this workflow, we’ll set up those later conversations, make them more meaningful.

Craig: And also they need to monitor the goals.

Jason: That’s right.

Craig: It’s not just a one time plan and put it on the shelf and never look at it again.

Jason: That’s right. So we don’t have that piece yet, that’s what we’re working on right now. So what we debuted here at T3 is the goal planning and investment planning and proposal workflow. But we are hard at work on what does that goal progress dashboard look like. And because advisors and clients set goals together make tradeoffs together, we think the client’s really going to be set up with the right expectations to stay in a plan and be successful, have a great outcome. And that’s really what we want because that’s our mission.

Craig: Indeed. And advisers are used to the Advisor Workstation product, which has got proposal built in, and to all the great Morningstar research. So now it’s sort of built into one end to end process.

Jason: That’s right. So I think when you look at how we see the advisor industry changing, advisers in the early days offered just access to markets. Well, suddenly that was commodified.

Craig: They were just distributors.

Jason: Right. And then it was investment picks, I’ll get you in the best investments, or I’ll get you extra alpha. But then indexing came along, and then investing for different needs came along, and asset allocation models came along, and robos came along. So increasingly these parts of the value that advisors used to set out there as differentiators started to become somewhat commodified. Now advisors need to add more value in other ways, and we think planning and keeping clients on track to reach their goals is one of the big areas where advisors can prove their value and add a lot of value, and this workflow is helping with that. So we’re hoping that this helps advisors carry it forward and add more and more value for clients.

Craig: Indeed. And one thing you mentioned on stage during your presentation was how you believe that we all know the advice industry is changing. So how will this software help them?

Jason: If you think about in the past when advisors would make investment plans, they’re going to put you in suitable portfolios, but it might be aggressive growth, it might be preservation, but that doesn’t mean anything to clients, right? So if clients want to have confidence that what they’re doing, and why would I be in that and how would it get me to my goal? And then the performance reports are all what happened in the last quarter, right against the benchmark for this kind of portfolio. Again, not particularly meaningful for clients. And then at the first moment that markets take a tumble, it’s hard to keep clients focused and engaged on what they need to do. So we think that this workflow will set up the right expectations. Clients take risk deliberately because they can for different types of goals or they can’t for other types of goals. So we think that this will set them up better for success and also prove the extra value that advisors can add, and behavioral coaching.

Bryan Boynar, Global Solution Marketing Manager, Hyland Software

Craig: And I’m here with Bryan Boynar, the Global Solution Marketing Manager at Hyland Software. So one thing I’m interested in, you guys are big into robotic process automation and I see that really sweeping the industry and becoming a differentiator for a lot of firms. How do you guys approach that and what’s the advantage of your software in the RPA space?

Bryan: Yeah, the awesome thing is we just came into a partnership with Blue Prism, which has been doing RPA for a while now. So we’re going to integrate with their solutions and provide solution offerings that help our customers automate many of the, some might say, mindless tasks that many wealth management firms have to do. Whether it’s part of the client onboarding, whether it’s a part of data aggregation or file updating, or client repapering. We’re going to be able to use the RPA solution offerings to be able to automate those tasks. So then customers, employees can focus on much more strategic activities instead of those mindless tasks like I mentioned.

Craig: Well, everyone needs onboarding.

Bryan: Definitely everyone does across the board.

Craig: So with onboarding, how does your solution help with onboarding to make it more efficient?

Bryan: So we boast a very robust and advanced capture functionality. Obviously in the financial services industry, specifically wealth management, there’s tons of documentation, whether it’s guided by regulations or just knowing your customer. We’re able to take all that documentation and we’re able to capture it through an automated process and then bring it through a case management workflow type of solution that provides this aggravated view of the key data points that our customers tell us about into one view so they can understand who their customer is very quickly. And it also helps when their end user calls them and they have to work with their customer, they can view this data and understand who they’re speaking with and how to help them out much more quickly than if it was manual or in a file cabinet.

Craig: Awesome. Is this mainly for RIAs or can broker dealers use it too?

Bryan: No, our customers span the complete wealth management industry. So RIAs definitely, private equity firms, institutional firms, a variety of different groups within wealth management do use this today. We have been in the space for about 10-ish years and we have a good amount of customers using our product.

Craig: Excellent. And repapering is something that every firm has to do. So how do you handle that and why is it easier to do it with this kind of software?

Bryan: So in the repapering process when brokers switch firms, they go through this transition where there’s a lot of difficulty because there’s sensitivity. So in helping them repaper themselves, we’re able to provide these automated processes that speed up the time spent capturing the broker’s information, but also who that broker has worked with in the past.

Craig: And what do you do with that? Knowing who the brokers worked with in the past, how does that help you?

Bryan: Again, it goes back to that data aggregation. Something that we’re very good at is aggregating this data through our restful API. So our product OnBase is able to integrate with a variety of CRM systems as well as core applications through a restful API. And in doing so, the OnBase platform speaks with these systems back and forth, and we’re able to show this information. We scan the documents that come with the broker, we scrape the data off the documents, and then we compile it into one view for not only the internal company, but external customers as well.

Craig: So that sounds like a very difficult job if you’re having to go through all this different documentation, all the paperwork and pulling the data off that.

Bryan: Thankfully our solution offerings do it automatically. So all we do in the beginning and implementation, we speak with our customers on what data points they care about the most, what data points are going to provide them the most benefit, the most value. And then we code it and there’s a way where it will pull only those data points into the screen that they’re viewing.

Linda Gu, Head of Sales and Marketing, Supernova

Craig: And we’re here with Linda Gu, Head of Sales and Marketing for Supernova Technology. It’s great to have you. And I’m really excited to talk to you, because I’m interested in your products, the products of Supernova. And what I find that’s unique about you, very different than most of the vendors at the conferences I go to is you focus on the liquidity and credit side. So tell me more about how you guys do that.

Linda: Sure, yeah, absolutely. So Supernova is a financial technology company. We’re headquartered in Chicago, with about a hundred people. What we do is we provide wealth management as a solution, encompassing an end to end digital lending solution, a full loan servicing capability, as well as a consulting services that help companies educate and train and drive FA adoption. So through our cloud based digital technology solution, we connect the banks, wealth management practices such as broker dealers and investors, to democratize access to SBO, to a broader group of investors, enabling financial advisors to deliver a holistic, goal-based advice, encompassing both sides of our balance sheet and building a deeper relationship with the customers. And in that process, allowing financial institutions to capture bigger economics.

Craig: I really find that fascinating because it’s really a gap in the market. There’s not a lot there. And well there isn’t a gap, it’s very common on the wirehouse side or the really higher net worth side. But are you bringing that down to say, the mass affluent or are the other net worths available to most advisors?

Linda: Exactly, yeah. If you look at the history as we are, the wirehouses have done an amazing job in advocating their FAs and making the product accessible to their ultra high net worth individuals, and they’ve invested millions and millions of dollars to build that in-house technology platform to deliver that digital experience.
However, if you look beyond the wirehouses, SBO is accessible to very few investors beyond or those relationships with the wirehouses who are as large as the broker dealers. Because it is extremely complicated, when you want to offer something like SBO, if you are a broker dealer, A) you first of all have to find a capital provider to fund the SBO product itself, and B) you need a technology capable of integrating with other third party institutions. Very few broker dealers have that type of in-house capability. And beyond that, you also need to have a very robust digital technology platform to really allow the digitization of other process, right?
We know some companies who offer SBO today go by a very manual, cumbersome process, which sometimes can take three weeks for an application to get approved. And if you think of yourself as an investor, when you need the cash, can you wait three weeks before you get access to the cash? The answer oftentimes is no. So our digital platform really accelerates the speed of taking applications through the underwriting process, getting the application approved on the same day. We actually have a customer who can approve an application in as little as 10 minutes. Think about this cycle time reduction and speed, and access to cash from an investor perspective.
On top of that, Supernova has defined a proprietary risk and methodology to add those data analytics on top of other data we capture as part of our data warehouse. We visualize that, and then surface them through dashboards to the FAs and to the individual investors as well as a variety of other types of roads within financial institutions such as loan officers who typically need to review the application then approve application, and risk officers will need to be aware of what’s going on across my loan book. Are people using the product responsibly, and giving people early warnings if they are borrowing too much and the actions I should be taking to mitigate any potential collateral.

Ryan Beach, COO, Orion Advisor

Craig: I’m interviewing Ryan Beach, Chief Operating Officer of Orion Advisor Services. Let’s talk about some stuff here. We’re excited about Orion being here, you guys have such success bringing a lot of advisors into the 21st century or even beyond. So what do you see as the biggest challenges facing advisors today and how is Orion helping them overcome them?

Ryan: I think one of the biggest challenges in our industry today is the ability and the need to treat clients like individuals. I think too often in our industry it’s too “one size fits all”, treating clients like a risk number, or finding out what their financial capacity to bear risk is, but not really digging any deeper. But I think financial capacity to bear risk is really, really important, and the underpinning of any successful investment advisory relationship. I also start to think it’s one dimensional, and I think that we’re very much focused on giving advisors the tools to treat clients like individuals, and using technology to scale that. Historically the challenge has always been, it’s possible to treat my client like an individual, but you know, it’s very time intensive and takes a lot of effort on behalf of the advisor. We’re very focused on giving advisors the technology to do that at scale.

Craig: So you’re talking about financial capacity to bear risk. Does that lean into your recent acquisition of the Advizr software?

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. One of the reasons that we were very interested in Advizr was because we think Advizr does a great job of taking all the complexity out of financial planning. The time investment, and shortening that time investment considerably. It’s a great, intuitive system for both advisors and clients to use, and it allows the advisor and client to end at that financial plan much faster and much more intuitively than some of the other solutions on the market today. And so we think that finding out what the advisor’s goals are, what the client’s goals are is critical to that individual. So that’s one of the things that we’re doing.

Craig: That’s great. And I was impressed with the Advizr purchase. I’ve been following them for quite some time and I’m excited to see what you guys do with that, how you integrate it. You guys have so many different modules that are so well integrated but can also be bought separately. Why did you guys see that as a need? Every advisor has access to these tools, no matter which financial planning tool it is, why did you see it as necessary to buy this, to integrate it, and why is that going to be a better experience for advisors?

Ryan: You know, I still think that even though there are lots of financial planning tools out there and available, um, I still think that there’s a lot of advisors who aren’t using them. Some of our research indicates that 30% of firms have no planning technology in place today, and out of those firms that do have financial planning in place, over 70% of them aren’t actually delivering financial plans to clients. So we think that there’s definitely a need for that financial plan to be integrated into the technology that we provide, and we think that the tighter we get that with the overall Orion experience, the more adoption financial advisors will drive inside Advizr. So we’re pretty excited about that.

Joel Bruckenstein, Founder, Technology Tools for Today Conferences

Craig: And my next guest is Joel Bruckenstein, founder of Technology Tools for Today Conferences. Hey Joel. Mike Ragunas, the CIO at Cetera, had a great comment on the panel today, said, “What I’m looking for is new technology that can fill in the gaps in our infrastructure”, which reminds me of how asset managers sell. They’re looking for complementary investments for portfolios. You need to look for complimentary technology for infrastructure.

Joel: I don’t disagree with that. I do think there are gaps, and I think there are actually some products and services here that can fill some of those gaps. So for example, WealthCare is not core financial planning, but it supplements financial planning. It’s about the intersection of health and wealth. I think there are a lot of reasons that that’s important, aside from the obvious one of trying to take care of your clients. There’s also a monetary aspect to it. If you have clients who start having diminished capacity, mental capacity, they can make big mistakes, and assets can dissipate, hurting the next generation. Legally if you don’t have the right paperwork in place, you can’t even talk to their relatives and tell them because of privacy laws. So there’s a lot of work to be done in this area and I think it’s really important work, and I don’t think it’s been addressed very well in the industry historically. Advisors who want to get into the 401k space have been challenged because the technology is not integrated, and quite frankly, it’s manual and clunky in many cases. So, you know, we have Fiduciary Shield, which is a new product here.

Craig: That was really interesting, I’m glad I attended that.

Joel: So it’s a turnkey 401k system that covers everything from marketing right through to maintenance. Once you’ve put the plan in place. And it does a great job of documenting everything.

Craig: It shows you all the TPAs and the record-keepers in the area, it’s fascinating, and it shows you all the ERISA plans by geography.

Joel: I think it’s great technology and I think that’s the kind of thing that we need more of in this industry. Things that really fill a need and automate.

Craig: Speaking of things we really need, tell me about this new idea you’ve got for the T3 Cyber University.

Joel: Well I talked to a number of vendors in the industry and other people who are prominent in the industry. I said, you know, there’s really a lack of knowledge about cyber within the industry, particularly in the independent space. There’s a few vendors I think that are advertising themselves as full turnkey solutions that are only one piece of the puzzle. So a lot of advisors are making not well-informed, misinformed decisions when they make purchases, where they’re trying to fill cyber gaps. I’ve set out to change that and they’re going to make a change. We are going to make a change. And so starting on March 3rd of 2020 we’re holding the first ever independent university to educate people in this industry about cyber and we’re calling a T3 Cyber University. We’ll cover everything from how to talk to your employees about cyber risks, how to talk to your clients, how to evaluate vendors, how to evaluate cyber insurance policies, where the breaches are coming from in the industry, where the claims are coming from on cyber policies, what claims are getting paid and what aren’t, and a lot more.

Craig: That’s pretty comprehensive.

Joel: It’s going to be very comprehensive and we’re in negotiations with the CFP board. We hope to offer a CFP CE credit for this. And that’ll also be an industry first.

Craig: Indeed. So there’ll be CE credit, will there be a certificate?

Joel: There will be certificate as well of completion so you can show it to the regulators and say you have an education requirement. SEC requires at least annual education on this topic, this will more than fulfill that requirement.

Craig: That’s a great idea. I think that’s something we definitely need more of in the industry. So this is the T3 enterprise conference. Fantastic conference, everyone seems to be getting a lot out of it. But now this is over, and what’s coming up is the T3 Advisor Conference again. So what’s planned for that?

Joel: Well, T3 Advisor Conference is our flagship conference. We call it “advisor” because it’s specifically designed, originally, for the needs of advisors, but it’s grown in scope over the years. We get everybody there from banks to broker dealers, anybody who’s involved in financial services. It’s also become the place where leading firms in the industry either announce new products or new versions of existing products. So I can guarantee you there’ll be some major product announcements from firms you know, in love. And we have a really good roster of brand new companies that are looking to launch at T3.

Craig: Oh, excellent.

Joel: I can’t say a lot about them yet.

Craig: Give us hint, Joel! Give us a hint!

Joel: Well I’ll give you a couple of hints. Because there’s very few independent financial planning firms left now, they’re almost all with one or two exceptions part of larger firms, there’s a couple of new financial planning products I think you’ll see launch at T3. There’s another innovative product that unfortunately, I can’t say much more than that about, but it’s going to be, I think, a game changer and they’ll be launching for the first time at T3 as well.

Craig: That’s excellent. Now I’m even more excited than I normally am going to T3 Advisor, getting ready for that. Joel, thank you so much. I appreciate your time. And just so you know, on my WM Today podcast, you were my first guest last year, earlier this year.

Joel: Well, thank you. It’s an honor and it’s an honor to be back.

Craig: It comes full circle.

Joel: There we go.

Craig: Thanks, Joel.

Joel: Thank you.



The Wealth Tech Today blog is published by Craig Iskowitz, founder and CEO of Ezra Group, a boutique consulting firm that caters to banks, broker-dealers, RIA’s, asset managers and the leading vendors in the surrounding #fintech space. He can be reached at craig@ezragroupllc.com