How I Built My RIA Tech Stack, with Derek Notman

Craig’s Note: To run a 100% remote RIA sounded ludicrous back in 2013 when Derek Notman decided to take his entire practice virtual.  But in a post-COVID world, it looks more like the move of a visionary who was willing to take a chance to provide a better work-life balance while still delivering outstanding service to his clients.  The formula has also given him more time to launch not one, but two other businesses: Conneqtor, which provides online courses to help financial advisors to grow their practices in a virtual model and Couplr, a lead generation tool which Notman describes as “eHarmony for advisors”.

When Derek asked me if he could write a guest post for WealthTech Today, I jumped at the opportunity.  If you follow Derek on LinkedIn, you know that he is a prolific writer and sharer of terrific information about life, work, clients, the universe and everything. In this article, Derek writes about the tech stack he put together to run his virtual RIA with details on why he chose each application and how he’s using them. We also get a peek into his future plans. If you’re an advisor, you’d be wise to learn from Derek and look into his choices and see if they would work for you as well.

 

Derek Notman, CFP is the founder of Couplr, Conneqtor, and host of Rethink – The Financial Advisor Podcast. In his 15 years of industry experience Derek has accumulated a number of accolades including 40 Under 40 Class of 2019 and Riskalyze Advisor Appreciation Award in 2022. 

 

How is a financial advisor supposed to pick the right tech stack given all the options to choose from?

Although potentially overwhelming, what I’ve found as a former insurance BD advisor recently turned independent RIA, is that we can learn a lot from those that came before us AND by paying close attention to what we actually do for our clients.

The following is my current core wealthtech stack.  I will share why I chose each application, ways that I’m using them, and some of my future plans.

Before we jump in, it’s important to understand the steps I followed to build the right wealthtech stack.  The first step was spending time to gain clarity on who my ideal clients were and how best to serve them.

The second step was getting to know myself as an advisor. Such as the type of advisor I am (CFP®), how I wanted to work with my clients, and what tech I was comfortable using.  The magic happens when I put all of this together and got crystal clear on it.  I teach advisors how to do this in my financial advisor course & training provided through one of my companies, Conneqtor.  

Let’s take a look at my RIA tech stack.

My current wealthtech stack and why I chose each component

Finding & implementing the right wealthtech stack should be a slow and thoughtful process.  Don’t bring on a lot of new tech all at once thinking it will be easy to learn and “solve all of your problems” by simply buying them.

I spent over 6 months looking at my existing and new tech as I made the transition from insurance BD advisor to RIA, here’s what I ended up with and why.

Altruist

They’re a custodial solution that uses Apex Clearing on the backend and have been the easiest and best experience I’ve had with this type of tech since starting as an advisor in 2006.

Why I chose Altruist:

I wanted a solution that was cutting edge, simple, intuitive, fast, had great user experience, and was fun to use.

How I’m using Altruist:

I use them to open accounts, manage investments, take care of billing, and provide a streamlined experience for me and my clients.

From being able to open new accounts in 2 minutes via fully digital onboarding (no more DocuSign), initiate ACAT transfers in 30 seconds, to providing a great client experience I was totally hooked after demoing their tech and worked with them to be the sole vendor I use for my RIA.  If you’re in the market for something like this I would encourage you to learn more and at least demo their tech.

Asset Map

Asset Map is a visual advice engagement &  financial planning solution that helps advisors and their clients make better financial decisions by being able to visualize their entire financial life in one place thus allowing real life insights from advisors to be applied for actionable planning outcomes.

Why I chose Asset Map:

Previous to Asset Map I had used eMoney for years.  Although eMoney is a great tool it tended to be too much for me and my clients.  We used only a small portion of its capabilities and struggled to have a clear visual representation of a client’s entire financial situation.

Asset Map was not only pretty easy to learn while bringing it online for my practice but the ultimate test for any tech is how my clients felt about it.  They all love it!  Clean, easy to use, easy to understand, and technical enough for those of us who like to get into the weeds a bit.

How I’m using Asset Map:

I’m using Asset Map as my financial planning solution for my clients.  From getting organized to cash flow planning and anything from retirement planning to acting on their Signals this is how I interact with my clients to help them figure out where they are and where they want to go.  I also use it as my client onboarding and initial fact finding tool by sending them a Discovery link thus making my data collection process faster and easier.

Redtail CRM with Bento Engine bolt on

Redtail CRM is the first cloud based CRM for financial advisors.  Sometimes being the first means you’re just a flash in the plan but in this case Redtail crushed it and was even recently acquired as a strategic value add by Orion.

Bento Engine is a newer wealthtech solution that helps us help our clients with what matters most, helping them plan for and navigate life events.  As they say people need more than just investment advice, people need help in everything from getting their first job to transitioning to retirement.  Bento Engine plugs right into Redtail.

Why I’m using Redtail:

I’ve used a number of CRMs over the years and was always left feeling something was missing.  When looking for a new CRM for my RIA I considered a couple of solid players in the space but ultimately chose Redtail.  They were easy to onboard and upload my clients into and are equally easy to navigate and use.  They have a variety of basic and add on features to make for a comprehensive and robust platform.

How I’m using Redtail:

Redtail is my goto CRM.  I use them for all client data and retention while also adding updates.  Although they can be also used for things like email marketing, texting, etc. I am not currently using these additional features.

Why I’m using Bento Engine:

I got lucky with this one, they contacted me!  As advisors most of us manually reach out to clients to discuss life events like planning for Social Security but we’ve been doing it manually and we all know what happens when we do things this way….Bento Engine is the only tech out there that helps not only automate but give us actionable insights and suggestions to help our clients with a variety of age & life events.

How I’m using Bento Engine:

Bento Engine is like a ninja, it works in the background of my Redtail CRM (they do have other CRM integrations) and simply pushes alerts to me on when my clients have any age or life related events.  The alerts are proactive, coming to me BEFORE I the event happens so I can proactively reach out to my clients to educate them.  These alerts have directly led to me bringing on more AUM to my RIA.

Riskalyze

Riskalyze did to investment risk assessment what Robert Parker did to wine, invented the Risk Number, which powers the world’s first Risk Alignment Platform by giving portfolios a simple yet powerful score to help us understand how much risk an investor has and what it means.  Riskalyze helps advisors and their clients understand risk in a fresh and easy to comprehend way that ultimately can help accomplish better outcomes.

Why I’m using Riskalyze:

I’ve actually been trying to use Riskalyze since back in 2014 but was never allowed to because the corporate RIA I was associated with didn’t offer it to us.  So when I had the chance to use them I was all in!  Since I started as an advisor I have always best helped my clients through concept versus getting too technical.  The Riskalyze Risk Score helps combine a lot of data into some very easy to understand concepts that are easy to discuss with a client.  They help me breakdown the complex and communicate it in a way that my clients understand.  Risk is top of mind for virtually all investors so having a tool to articulate and educate on it is priceless.

How I’m Using Riskalyze:

I’m using Riskalyze as an integration with Altruist & Asset Map.  Whether I am reviewing an existing client portfolio or discussing making allocation changes we use Riskalyze to analyze current risk, what the risk actually means in terms of percentage & dollar figures, and how the client feels about it all.  Using this data now empowers us both to manage investments in a manner that is rooted in more than just gut feeling.

Other Wealthtech I’m Using

I just covered the core techstack I’m using but wanted to touch on some other wealthtech tools I also use to give you an idea of what you may want to add to your own tech stack.

  • ActiveCampaign – Robust & affordable email nurturing tech, think Hubspot but at a much better price.  I use this for both my RIA, Intrepid Wealth Partners, and my company Conneqtor.
  • Presults – I use this tech for all of my email, website, and social media archiving & monitoring.  Very easy to use and affordable.  
  • PreciseFP – This is a great tech for data gathering and form filling.  Ditch your yellow pads and leverage a ton of options with this great tool.
  • Rubex – I use this tech as my encrypted file storage vault.  I got rid of all my paper files and filing cabinets and now maintain all of my client files digitally using their tool.
  • FMG – Although I am not a current user of them I recently partnered with them for my company Conneqtor BUT am in the process of moving my websites over to their platform and leveraging their great solution.

My Future WealthTech Plans

For the time being I really do like my current tech stack and am not planning on changing any of it but rather giving them feedback on what I like and what I think they may be to able to add as additional features.  

Each tech vendor has been very open to feedback and trying to accommodate the requests of advisors.  All of these companies are run by amazing people who truly love what they do.  Definitely check them out.

One tech I didn’t cover is LeadGen.  I didn’t cover it since I don’t use any of the current solutions out there since I rarely hear positive experiences from the advisors using them.  LeadGen is arguably the most important thing advisors need to focus on, no clients, no revenue, but the existing vendors appear to be leaving something to be desired.

I’m actively working on creating a solution for the leadgen space and if you want you can learn more about it over at the Couplr website.  It’s a passion project of mine and it appears we are onto something so stay tuned for more.

At the end of the day a financial advisor’s WealthTech stack should be something they love to use, know how to use, and that their clients love to engage with.  The right tech stack is one you and your clients will use.  Take your time vetting your tech and bring on one solution at a time.  A good place to see a lot of tech in one place is to attend AdviceTechLive, an annual virtual tech conference where you get to demo a ton of tech in one place and hear from tech experts.

Thanks for taking the time to read my WealthTech experience, I hope you learned a thing or two!

Best Regards,

Derek Notman

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ABOUT ME

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

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