Alex Cunningham – Information security has transitioned quickly from being just a technology function to its emergence as a key driver of business value and a change agent within every company. As Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), we often think of the work we do to protect our environments and data and how we deploy strategies such as encryption, data loss prevention, and monitoring; however, to be a trusted partner to CEOs and build value from a business perspective, CISOs need to shift the discussion from bits-and-bytes to the roles people and processes play in protecting our businesses and technology.
People are the backbone
People are the most important part of any organization. In fact, without well-motivated, trained, and loyal employees, you can’t be successful. At our organization, we firmly believe that as a product company delivered as an enterprise-level service—we are nothing without our people.
People have ingenuity and curiosity. At Advisor360°, we believe by harnessing this creativity, we have built an innovative SaaS platform for the benefit of broker-dealers, their financial advisors, and investors. By creating an environment that sets employees up for success, our people feel valued and empowered to bring their best ideas to work each day.
The best information security processes are purpose-driven and strike the right balance
Process is essential in facilitating order in our day-to-day business. It can help improve productivity, replace manual tasks with automation, and reduce risk. But there’s an art to identifying where a process is needed rather than adding processes just for the sake of it. Too many processes can slow down an organization’s ability to operate, frustrate your people, stifle innovation, or worse, increase an organization’s risk posture as their people find ways to circumvent ineffective processes. Finding the right balance can make an organization more efficient, help staff, and identify new opportunities.
Information security leaders are in a unique position, as they have a far wider view of an enterprise than most. This gives CISOs an opportunity to work across the firm when designing processes, particularly when it impacts a large percentage of the organization. Engaging our managers or subject matter experts early on when designing processes helps make certain the process is fit for its purpose, increases adoption rates, and reduces friction while ensuring the firm gains the anticipated improvements.
Technology and its role in building an information security ethos
At Advisor360°, technology is our focus and our passion. Our goal is to ensure we provide our customers with not only the features and functions they need to serve their clients, but with the best user experience, too. Technology is a wonderful thing, but if it’s hard to use or the features are immediately intuitive, then it’s of little value.
Our enterprise-grade SaaS platform helps our customers power their own digital transformations as they look for opportunities to increase efficiencies in very competitive environments.
Technology obviously plays a huge role in our data protection strategy and provides us with opportunities to gain better insight into where our data is and how it’s used throughout its life cycle. It also allows us to identify and respond to threats and vulnerabilities quickly and maintain a proactive security posture.
Bringing it all together to nurture a people-centric information security ethos
The right balance of great people, efficient and value-add processes, along with great technology and experience can help create a strong platform for an organization’s success.
People are rightly at the heart of our organization, and we’ll only be successful if we create the right environment where everyone has an opportunity to make his/her voice heard, where ideas and collaboration are encouraged, and where the wide range of experiences, diversity, background, and knowledge helps create multiple perspectives that coalesce into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Likewise, I think the best companies are the ones that recognize the skills and strengths of their staff and acknowledge that they are on an ever-changing journey rather than something that has a definitive completion date. The rate at which technology changes, for example, means that we’re constantly reviewing how we can best apply new features and functions to our SaaS platform.
One of the many benefits of having a healthy company environment is it promotes a strong teamwork ethos.
Recently, Advisor360° successfully obtained SOC 2 and HIPAA accreditations for our integrated SaaS platform. One of the most satisfying parts of this accomplishment was the fact that we started with a blank piece of paper two years ago and plotted the steps and milestones necessary to meet this ambitious goal. But it wasn’t just what we did, but how we did it.
Every single person at Advisor360° was involved in making this happen. It was truly a team effort. Without the right people, with well-designed processes, focused on all aspects of our technology stack and infrastructure, we would not have met this important company goal.
From an information security perspective, we often talk about the importance of growing our internal networks and applying both direct and indirect influence across the organization. Having a strong teamwork ethos helps facilitate this, but it isn’t restricted to just within Advisor360°. We extend this approach with our customers, too, which strengthens their trust in us both as security practitioners and trusted partners.
The one constant is change. But because of our culture, we are well placed to create solutions that address our customers’ challenges and create new opportunities and competitive advantages—regardless of ever-shifting circumstances and challenges.
Alex Cunningham is Senior Vice President, Chief Information Security Officer at Advisor360°. He leads the Information Security team in protecting the Advisor360° enterprise, keeping all company and client data safe and secure.
Advisor360° Named among ThinkAdvisor’s LUMINARIES Class of 2021: A Q&A With our Head of Enterprise Data and Analytics
Jennifer Sawan – Advisor360° was recently honored among ThinkAdvisor’s inaugural LUMINARIES Class of 2021—a new award recognizing top-performing wealth management industry participants—for our FinTech and innovation with Unified Data Fabric™ (UDF). I spoke with Michele Doyle, Vice President, Enterprise Data & Analytics at Advisor360°, about what this award means for the firm, what UDF can do for broker-dealers, and the latest trends in data processing.
What does being a member of the ThinkAdvisor LUMINARIES Class of 2021 award mean for Advisor360°?
Our entire company is delighted to be among such a distinguished group who are pushing the industry forward. The team has been dedicated to developing an innovative way to create efficiencies in back-end data processing to aid digital transformation initiatives. We’re honored to be recognized.
What’s unique about the Advisor360° all-in-one wealth platform approach to data as opposed to a data warehouse?
A typical warehouse is a read-only copy of data brought together from different sources, primarily used for reporting and analytics. The Advisor360° UDF ingests data from different sources and knits it together to form a cohesive, dynamic data layer that can be augmented and interacted with as part of our overall platform. For example, if you want to change a household name in your CRM, with our dynamic UDF you make this change only once and it will be reflected across the entirety of the wealth management platform across every screen and report. It doesn’t work like this in platforms using typical data warehouses that are static and read-only.
How does this enterprise data management help financial advisors and insurance agents be more successful?
Enterprise software often doesn’t integrate or synchronize data effectively. In our platform, we have a unified system of record for all components—whether these are investor-facing, advisor-facing, or are used to support broker-dealer back-office processing. This means that advisors can access data as a cohesive whole using our two-way data integrations instead of signing into multiple applications to do their job. For instance, advisors can easily prepare for client meetings with built-in workflows and schedule a bundle of their favorite reports to run with a simple click. We’ve dramatically reduced the issues of having disconnected data, which makes practices and advisors more efficient. Advisors’ systems, advisors’ staff systems, advisors’ clients’ systems, and the broker-dealers’ back-office systems all share a common and connected view of the entire business across all applications, improving efficiency.
How do financial advisors get a holistic view of clients’ financial lives?
One of the innovations our team is so proud of is our capability for automated householding so that accounts, policies, proposals, plans, and CRM contacts are grouped in a way that makes sense for a practice and its advisors. Because our UDF is dynamic, we can save advisors time and give them a complete picture of their clients' lives. New accounts from the same household are aggregated automatically, without the need for manual data entry or intervention. A household-level dashboard displays existing and pending insurance policies, proprietary and non-proprietary, in a single view across all members of a household. It includes all types of life insurance, long-term care insurance, and fixed/indexed/variable annuities. Importantly, advisors can view not only all protection products in a household-level dashboard, but also all aspects of a household’s complete financial life, from proposals to financial plans to investments to insurance products.
To learn more, our President Darren Tedesco discusses UDF and householding on our blog here.
The Bottom Line
Our secure UDF powers our wealth platform so advisors can look at their clients by income, assets, insurance, state, category, model, and more in a single view. Whether advisors are engaged in householding, rebalancing, marketing campaigns, analytics, or client onboarding, the UDF simplifies the work life of an advisor and bridges the gaps in disconnected data.
You may also be interested in: The Realities of Build-Buy-Integrate (and Why Software Development is Hard)
Jennifer Sawan focuses on leading platform engagement inside of and outside of Advisor360°; helping employees better understand our platform and leveraging tools and data to enable those outside of Advisor360° to do the same.
Rich Napolitano – On May 24, something special happened. A big event took place quietly in the sleepy little town of Weston, outside of Boston MA. A company has been born, fully formed and ready to mature and thrive. MassMutual went live on the Advisor360° platform. This makes Advisor360° one of the biggest and well-funded FinTech software companies on the planet.
Working side-by-side with our MassMutual partners, we’ve successfully implemented our SaaS platform across their entire enterprise infrastructure.
An amazing accomplishment
Some said leveraging our SaaS technology in the insurance industry couldn’t be done. We heard the skeptics: “Their product only works for wealth management”; “Their system isn’t proven at scale”; “They don’t know what it means to be a software company.” We have proven the naysayers wrong—and have become one of the biggest companies in our industry. With 22,000 platform users, over 3 million households, and $.5 trillion in assets tracked, we’ve shown that we can succeed for our clients, their advisors, and investors. And we’re just getting started.
With the launch, MassMutual and their advisors/agents will now realize the benefits of their digital transformation: increasing revenue/advisor productivity to stimulate growth, cost savings, and easing compliance burdens with everchanging regulatory standards.
Through partnership, anything is possible
MassMutual’s unwavering commitment to our partnership has been vital. We worked together and pushed through technical challenges and a global pandemic over an 18-month journey. I’m in awe of their dedication to transforming raw ideas into a remarkable platform.
It is only because of our resolve that the platform has been a success, amassing incredible numbers in just the first two weeks, there have been 147,000 total logins; 400,000 households viewed; and 2,000 client portal logins created; just to name a few key data points.
The numbers are breathtaking but don’t tell the whole story. The team never lost sight of the real power of our platform: enabling MassMutual and its advisors to efficiently run their businesses while helping their clients make the critical decisions that have a lasting, positive impact on their goals and families.
I’m elated that platform users continue to sing our praises:
MassMutual’s advisors are super-engaged and already starting to see the benefits from a unified digital WealthTech platform, which is meeting and exceeding their expectations.
With the adoption of technology in financial services, banking and insurance is still in its infancy, our platform launch is only the beginning. The opportunity for broker-dealers to transform their businesses through technology, what we at Advisor360° call their digital transformation, is a huge opportunity that will extend well into the future.
Most banking, insurance, and independent broker-dealers still have a tremendous number of manual- and people-intensive processes. Digital transformation is the most significant opportunity for enterprise-level broker-dealers and their advisors to save time and money, increase productivity, and reduce compliance risk. I also see hypergrowth in the independent advisor market on the broker-dealer side of wealth management and believe tech advances will empower broker-dealers to address burgeoning RIA needs.
With many markets ready to embark on their digital transition, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings…
Jed Maczuba – Developing software is hard business. Despite software engineering practices being around for over fifty years, the information technology (IT) industry is still littered with projects that have failed remarkedly. It’s not hard to remember Healthcare.gov, Knight Capital Group, Boeing Dreamliner, or IBM Watson Health. Even setting aside the disastrous examples that make front page news, the typical project is far from successful by almost any measurement. Budget overruns, delayed launches, and failure to deliver promised features are some of the typical challenges faced by any IT project. According to a 2017 report from the Project Management Institute (PMI), 14% of IT projects fail; however, that number only represents the total failures. Of the projects that didn’t fail outright, 31% didn’t meet their goals, 43% exceeded their initial budgets, and 49% were late. With statistics such as this, business leaders should understand their options before embarking on any information technology effort.
Why is developing software difficult?
It’s not difficult to understand why many projects fail to meet their intended objectives—incomplete requirements, uninvolved project sponsors, shifting project objectives, inaccurate estimates, unanticipated risks, unknown dependencies, limited resources, poor project management, etc. In my experience, these are the effects of the complex system that underlies software development rather than the cause. If these are the root causes of project failures, then it would seem straightforward to remediate. But this is simply not the case.
Projects are complicated social systems with hundreds of independent variables and many feedback loops that influence development. The reality is that humans do not deal with complex systems well. Decisions are made based on incomplete or inaccurate information and are impacted by numerous variables. Take the game of Go, a board game with simple rules but immense complexity in execution. The number of legal board positions in Go is 2.1 x 10¹⁷⁰. The number of states for tic-tac-toe comparatively is 1 x 3⁹. Projects more resemble Go than tic-tac-toe. With all the possible states, it’s easy to understand why everything from estimation to execution is a challenge in projects. Even with modern tooling and agile methodologies, many organizations continue to struggle to meet the scope, time, and budget objectives of technology projects.
It's decision time for organizations.
Organizations have options for dealing with information technology needs of their business. In essence, three decision paths exist: build custom software, buy from an all-in-one vendor, or integrate independent best-of-breed solutions¹. While building or integrating may appear to offer more flexibility and independence in designing the solution, it is dependent on being able to execute on what most financial services organizations fail to achieve—successful project execution. Execution risk is very real, and studies have shown that the larger the project, the greater the execution risk.
There are several additional factors to be considered.
With any build or integration effort, organizations are ultimately responsible for the software development effort. As such, they confront the same project complexities that impact our industry. Information technology endeavors such as these rarely achieve the return on investment they intend.
The case for a comprehensive, pre-integrated SaaS solution.
Advisor360° provides a holistic solution to meet the needs of broker-dealers and their clients. As a professional SaaS company, building and delivering great software is Advisor360°’s business—and our only business. While we are not immune from the project challenges described above, as professional software engineers, our job is to ensure we embed the right processes, hire the right skills, and invest in the stability and scalability of the platform. Our “superpower” is the union of people with enterprise software and financial services backgrounds. From Product Management, to Engineering, to Customer Success and Operations, to the support staff in the firm, our teams are all aligned to a singular focus of delivering great software. For our clients, this represents a clear opportunity to shift the burden of software development and, ultimately, reduce their risk.
Advisor360°’s advantage is enterprise data.
One example of how you can shift risk from your organization to Advisor360° is with respect to data—arguably one of the most critical value-drivers of your business. Enterprise data projects are not only a high investment area in financial services, but they are also one of the most problematic areas to deliver successfully.
The most common approach organizations take to stitch together disparate systems for consumption is to build an enterprise data warehouse. A data warehouse provides a central repository for consolidating data from disparate transactional systems for analytics and business intelligence. Despite being around for almost 30 years, a data warehouse is notoriously difficult and expensive to implement. The failure rate of data warehouses and analytics projects is high; in January 2019, Gartner estimated that 80% of analytics insights will not deliver business outcomes through 2022². And data warehouses do not solve the inherent problem that many companies face: trying to integrate many different systems. Nor does a data warehouse solve the problem that users still have to work with many different tools to complete their job.
With Advisor360°, our software is built on top of your data in what we call our Unified Data Fabric™ (UDF). As its name implies, it is the integrated underpinnings upon which our platform is built. Rather than solve the problem by building an overlay technological solution that connects an amalgamation of separate and unique technological platforms at the end, our platform is constructed using UDF at its foundation. The UDF is what allows us to manage the entire data lifecycle—from ingestion of data, to the normalization, to the cleansing and enrichment, and ultimately to the consumption of data—either by our platform or yours.
Our UDF has been built over 20 years so we’ve been able to build our entire platform on top of a cross-software component data model. Because of this, our clients get the benefit of having their clean and normalized data—one of the most difficult parts of any implementation—already built and industrialized.
Some features of UDF include:
In addition to the automation we’ve built over the past two decades, Advisor360° also has a team of investment data operations professionals whose sole responsibility is to ensure that your data is clean and trustworthy. With our approach, you are not only mitigating the very likely risk that significant investment will not deliver the value promised, but also reducing the constraints put on your data by the limitations of the multi-vendor solution approach.
It's all about the business value.
The financial services industry, like many others, is dependent on technology to run their business. Our posture, however, is that while this is certainly the case, the value of financial service professionals lies in the business expertise and experience that they provide to their clients. Software is an extension of how financial professionals interact with and serve their clients, with integrated software being a critical part of driving productivity through efficiency, and ultimately, creating a better client experience.
Developing and maintaining software is both expensive and fraught with challenges. This is complicated by the fact that projects are composed of people who, in general, do not process complex systems well. As a professional SaaS company, Advisor360°’s focus is on designing and delivering a comprehensive yet modular solution that removes the risks and complexities of software development and data warehousing and allows you to focus on what matters: your clients.
Jed Maczuba is Chief Technology Officer at Advisor360°, overseeing global technology to ensure our long-term mission, vision, and objectives align with the technologies of our business partners and clients.
¹Best-of-breed integration is the notion of selecting multiple “best in class” software solutions that operated independently but when integrated together fulfill amore holistic need of the business.
Richard Napolitano – Many of you know that Advisor360° is an independent company building software for wealth management, but you may not know how our company started. We were born inside the technology division of an independent broker-dealer called Commonwealth Financial Network, then spun out of Commonwealth to form an independent company. We have several investors including the parent company of Commonwealth, and while we proudly hail Commonwealth as our first client, they are not an investor in Advisor360°. Our charter as an independent company is to build an amazing WealthTech company for our shareholders, clients, and employees.
We have built out a comprehensive and modular suite of wealth management software, driving productivity, profits, and compliance for broker-dealers and their advisors. In other words, Advisor360° enables digital transformation for your wealth management business.
So, as we think about forward momentum and building this SaaS company, we ask the question: what are the keys to getting there?
The 3 Principles.
Anyone who has worked with me before knows these three principles have served me well as the essence of how I think about my work every day in an early stage company.
This all comes down to Capital, Product, and Sales:
Capital is energy.
The first investor in my first company was a seasoned entrepreneur named Haim, a tremendous businessman and friend; tough as nails Israeli fighter pilot. One time he said to me, “Rich, you are running out of capital—you’re running out of energy.” I never forgot that.
Product. It's always about the product.
Why is it so important? The product supports the company’s value proposition to our clients. It is the thing or service that takes away the client’s pain or enables the aspirations of the client’s business or service.
Now to the last and often the most overlooked principle, monetizing what you built. Remember we are in a commercial business. We are a .com, not a .edu or a .org, business…
The fine art of selling.
Understanding what you have built and what it brings to the market is fundamental to any business. Depending on the nature of your business, the way you sell and reach clients might be very different.
For decades now I have been building products and technology that targets the largest and mid-sized enterprises in the world. It’s especially important to understand that enterprise sales engagements are actually not about selling, which brings me to this next key principle.
We must remember (especially as founders or technologists) that because we have been entrusted with investors’ capital and employees’ life energy, we need to create value for all. This boils down not to ideas or being right but monetizing what we have built. This is called “Product Market Fit.”
The Big Questions.
So, in the context of these three principles—Capital, Product, and Sales—here are the questions we ask every day to advance the ball for each principle:
We understand these three principles here at Advisor360°. The wonderful, prolific mixture of capital and people's ideas can be incredibly valuable. As we build Advisor360° as an independent WealthTech company, we are applying and refining these principles to create value for our clients, our shareholders, and our company.
Richard Napolitano is Advisor360°’s Chief Executive Officer, ensuring every team in the company is focused on a simple strategic vision: create outstanding WealthTech products for our clients’ success.
Suzanne Bohs – Registered principals of financial institutions hold a very important job in the financial industry: oversee the two processes of account opening and trade approval.
Broker-dealers open hundreds of accounts each day, processing thousands of trades. The manual approval of account openings and trades can lead to increased risk of missing key issues as well as the practice’s inefficiency. As representatives of their firms, registered principals are legally liable for any oversight problems that occur. And events like bringing on a new large office or quarterly/year-end trading can lead to backups which firms could never recover from without engaging additional resources.
What’s the solution to this operational challenge?
When you have the ability to automate the principal approval of both of these workflows, allowing for straight-through processing, this not only reduces risk but also optimizes your processes and practices so your team can focus on the outlier tasks that matter. At Advisor360°, we have an experienced team which focuses on the tools dedicated to scaling and improving the efficiency of home office functions like automating routine workflows. This means employees can focus on more critical functions like working with their advisors to help them grow and scale their business.
So how does the Advisor360° platform not only reduce compliance risk but also make principal approvals more efficient?
For principal approval of accounts:
For principal approval of trades:
Automation is centered around efficiency and productivity, so we give our clients total control of the automated processes. They can configure our platform with specific rules to fit both the firm’s needs and the needs of advisors. The foundational key to this is our Unified Data Fabric™ which integrates all the compliance data required to achieve your principal approvals seamlessly in one holistic user experience.
With Advisor360°, your firm can improve the efficiency of current workflows by reducing costs from the time employees spend on routine tasks, creating more straight-through processing, and enabling employees to focus on the riskier items—so they can dedicate more time to helping their advisors.
Suzanne Bohs is a Director of Product Strategy at Advisor360°, overseeing the Home Office Experience teams, a dedicated group of people that help our enterprise clients become even more efficient, productive, and compliant.
Andrew Baizen – What do the most successful products have in common?
They are designed around the needs of the people that use them, delighting people with how easy and intuitive these products are. All too often companies will develop a product by building something that they believe people want or need. The problem is, many companies won’t take the time to test it, to see if they were right.
The most important part of turning any idea into a reality is focusing on “the how.” In the world of software: how will you create an application that meets the needs of all your clients? Here at Advisor360°, we do this by first understanding who our users are, why they need our software, and what their goals, challenges, and circumstances are.
Without the ability to empathize with users or understand how they work—and how your software helps them run their business--you are merely guessing.
At Advisor360°, crafting the best experience possible is part of our DNA. Our WealthTech company is comprised of thirteen designers and other team members that are certified in human factors and usability. They know that our applications are what firms rely upon to run their practices, because the easier and more efficiently they can do their work, the more successful they will be.
That’s why we take the time to understand and engage with our users at various points during our user-centered design (UCD) process. Our UCD process includes user research, task analysis, personas, information architecture, journey mapping, flow diagrams, wireframes, prototypes, and usability testing.
“User-centered design (UCD) is an iterative design process in which designers focus on the users and their needs in each phase of the design process. In UCD, design teams involve users throughout the design process via a variety of research and design techniques to create highly usable and accessible products for them” (Interaction Design Foundation).
Our UCD process will be used whether we are designing a feature within a page, an entire page, or a flow of pages. Some steps may be shortened depending on time frame, but it’s critical to always be testing with your users. According to Jakob Nielsen, the world's leading expert on web usability, “testing with just 5 users can find 85% of your product’s problems.”
There are 3 major phases that we go through in our design process:
The Research phase is where we conduct user research to learn as much as we can about our users and the tasks they need to complete. We do competitive analyses to ensure that at the very minimum, we can match what other WealthTech software does. We strive to not just match but to lead the industry with our best-in-class user experience. Tracking user behavior and flows through the applications using analytics allows us to monitor and learn what features people are using the most/least, as well as the technology they are using. Through our development of personas, we can better define the different types of users, such as advisors, staff, investors, and home office operations. Each user may use our applications in different ways and the more we understand that, the better we can design them to meet varying needs.
The Analysis phase is where we start to ideate information architecture, navigation, and user flows as they pertain to our various personas and their user scenarios. Creating a consistent experience is very important because it allows users to understand how to use features that appear throughout the application, allowing them to learn and use our entire platform more. These features may include editing, bulk actions, filtering, or something as simple as the placement of buttons and links.
The Design phase is where all of the research and analysis feeds in to the creation of the wireframes. The wireframes are initial layouts put together with all of the content but none of the branding. Depending on the feature, we will also develop our wireframes into interactive prototypes so that we can validate that our designs, content, and interactions are all intuitive for the user to complete their tasks easily and efficiently. There are many types of user tests, and depending on time and resources you can choose the method that makes the most sense. During this phase, we will iterate on the designs as needed until we have reached the optimal experience. The end of this phase marks the point at which our requirements will be clearly defined and we can move into our visual design phase where engineers can start coding.
As you can see, designing an application includes many pieces to this iterative process, but one of the most important things you can do is conduct user research to understand and empathize with your users. When asked if “user research improves the quality of our products/services,” 86% of executives agreed or strongly agreed (2017 UX and User Research Industry Survey Report).
At one of our company meetings, our CEO Rich Napolitano told us that he wanted us to all be craftsmen. The definition of craftsmanship is “the quality of design and work shown in something made by hand; artistry” (Oxford Languages). Rich was telling us that we needed to take pride in our work and pay attention to the details.
We are not just looking to design software that gets the job done. We want to “Wow!” people. Milton Glaser, an American graphic designer and creator of the “I❤️ NY” logo, once said, “There are three responses to a piece of design—yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”
We are all striving to be craftsmen here at Advisor360°. Our goal is to always design around the needs of our users.
To not only meet their expectations, but to WOW! them as well.
Andrew Baizen is a user experience (UX) design manager at Advisor360°, overseeing a team of designers who focus on providing outstanding user experiences for our clients and their investors.
Richard Napolitano – Phew, what a year.
There’s nothing like a time of adversity to forge a new company. Many thanks to our clients, investors, and especially our employees for their commitment to our mission of building a great WealthTech company that does well as a business and does good in the world.
One year into my tenure here, there were lots of learnings, building and growing in a pandemic. We made it through, and we are positioned well for the future, helping clients achieve Digital Transformation.
Digital Transformation of wealth management—what does that mean?
Digital Transformation WealthTech means leveraging technology to:
In my discussions with broker-dealers, these benefits have emerged. But what does Advisor360° bring to the table?
Today, many wealth management companies have been using homebrewed systems or manual processes to operate their businesses. While these systems and processes have brought companies to this point, what about the future?
The paradox of choice
Some companies have chosen to assemble their own solution stacks from the parts bin that is the WealthTech industry. There are so many parts to choose from.
Choice is good, until it is not.
The implication of too much choice is that an advisor’s/user’s experience is more complex than it needs to be. Each choice of a technology component is often narrowly optimized, without consideration for overall user experience.
Lastly, companies are often required to do their own integration work between and among dozens of software components and data sources.
The productivity dilemma
Even if the front-end interface is done well, the user experience is complicated because the challenge is that there is no common underlying data set (no architectural plans) for the workflows from trading, reporting, portfolio rebalancing, customer household information, document management, planning, proposal generation, etc. As the “arms race” in technology continues to accelerate, the investment to be a competitive broker-dealer with amazing advisor and client portals becomes a major expense.
However, it’s not just about cost, it’s about the user (home office employee, advisor, client) experience. Our focus at Advisor360° is all about producing productivity for the advisor and the win-win of advisors and broker-dealers growing their sales and assets under management (AUM).
At Advisor360°, our development team has a dual skill set: deep enterprise software experience and financial services backgrounds inside a broker-dealer. Our Advisor360° team is tuned to the mission of being a premier WealthTech software company. Our advisor users are some of the most productive advisors in the world. Our platform is proven at scale and services thousands of advisors each day, and soon millions of households.
Dealing with data
With integrated technology, advisors, IBDs, and RIAs experience:
So, how do we produce this value?
It’s all about the data. It’s all about how we gather, collect, cleanse, and present the data. We have over 400 direct data feeds that we ingest daily; this data is reconciled, scrubbed, and enriched using automation, AI, and in some cases human intervention. Further, this cleansed data set is stored in what we call our Unified Data Fabric™ (UDF). The UDF includes all customer information, such as trades, books and records, products (aggregation), documents, compliance information, goals and objectives, workflow, etc.
This data is not organized by account, rather it is organized by household.
This allows for a holistic view of the client between and among all the software components of the Advisor360° platform, beyond what other WealthTechs describe as a “unified experience.”
Advisor360° is not just a common UI with single sign-on. We offer a seamless experience because the UDF presents a common household data view from the home office, through the advisor portal to the client portal. And you cannot buy your way into this experience or UDF, it must be built.
Further, this experience is delivered as an enterprise-class SaaS offering to broker-dealers and their advisors and advisors’ clients. “Enterprise-class” means hardened, secure, and highly available. The Advisor360° system is a hardened enterprise-class solution that has been delivered at scale for years and meets various SOC, FINRA, and SEC regulations.
What have I learned?
The wealth management business is ripe for modernization through technology (a.k.a. digital transformation). Wealth managers (broker-dealers and advisors) are under pressure from:
The market needs a full-featured AND easy-to-use deeply integrated platform for broker-dealers, their advisors, and clients. This software must be delivered as a service (SaaS). This WealthTech (Advisor360°) must be delivered as an enterprise-class solution at scale to be the trusted platform for broker-dealers to: 1) grow their business; 2) reduce their costs; and 3) reduce their risks.
The benefits to broker-dealers and their advisors and clients are significant—unlocked with the Advisor360° suite of software that can be taken in their entirety or as bundled components. Born inside of a broker-dealer, we have now evolved into an enterprise software company that is delivering our software as a service to other broker-dealers.
That’s our digital transformation.
Richard Napolitano is Advisor360°’s Chief Executive Officer, ensuring every team in the company is focused on a simple strategic vision: creating outstanding WealthTech products for our clients’ success.
Choosing a Vendor, a Supplier, or a True Partner to Digitally Transform Your Wealth Management Workflow.
Doug Wood – When a wealth management company makes a decision to “bank” on core, supplier-provided, business critical software or services that plug in to the heart of the company’s day-to-day workflow, they aren’t looking for a vendor/customer relationship.
Wealth management companies are looking for more: a true, deep, and total partnership they can rely on over the long term.
For a supplier in this kind of partnership, this calls for a shared understanding of every aspect of the client’s relevant business and ongoing requirements. This calls for responding to and anticipating a client’s needs with consistent, predictable execution and market-leading capabilities that equal or surpass the competition.
In addition to all of that, a true partnership calls for unwavering, quantifiable, excellent service and support. At Advisor360°, we refer to this level of support as Extraordinary Systematic Care.
“Extraordinary” in the way we respond to and exceed the needs of our clients. “Systematic” in the way we proactively leverage state-of-the-art tools and practices while measuring everything we do. “Care” in the way our people deeply commit to serving our clients, ensuring they succeed.
Our clients are at the top of their games. Earning the initial right to partner with them at that level, and then re-earning that right every day, is our primary focus.
Are your vendors true, deep partners? Are your vendors up to the challenge your mission-critical business represents to them?
Last month, Rich Hart asked if your wealth management platform was up to this kind of challenge—and then showed that Advisor360°’s platform is uniquely constructed for this role in your business. Jenn Sawan followed up by emphasizing the service component of an adaptive and responsive SaaS offering, and referenced real-world examples that show how we’ve responded and why that is so critical.
My role at Advisor360° targets Customer Success & Operations. My team’s responsibilities include supplying a trustworthy, enterprise-class infrastructure for our SaaS platform. Also, as that platform is delivered and improved, my team ensures that our customers are immensely successful as they come online and use our offerings effectively. In those roles, we can never be satisfied, and instead must show clients we are constantly improving.
What’s the difference between a “Supplier/Client” and a “Partner/Partner” relationship?
Client expectations of a partner related to service and support go very deep. Partners align and collaborate at every stage of the product lifecycle. That alignment is necessary during the sales, customization, onboarding, go-live, and road mapping phases. It is also central to every aspect of ongoing use, as well as service and support.
If you’re my partner, and you care about my business, then you understand that I don’t want to need your service or support.
Partnered clients expect that you have taken every opportunity to deliver on a platform and its surrounding infrastructure with an eye toward avoiding the need to resolve issues and to ensure continuous operation indefinitely.
To meet these client expectations, the supplier must:
Even with all of these, problems may be encountered. At these times, the strength of a partnership will be most thoroughly tested.
Clients demand a partner that:
No supplier meets all of these objectives all the time. But a supplier partner needs to achieve at a very high level and continuously improve.
At Advisor360°, our partners are our business. Their success is our mission.
Douglas A. Wood is Senior Vice President for Customer Success & Operations at Advisor360°, ensuring clients have a true partner, and the service and support they need to achieve anything.
Darren Tedesco – 2020 was a year like no other. And many of us are looking forward to turning the calendar page to 1/1/2021 and to a fresh start of a new year…one with vaccines on the way! In year-ends of past, I’ve often written reflections of the previous 12 months. This year, I’ve decided to take a different approach and let petabytes of data that we store at Advisor360° on our clients’ behalf tell the story from a different lens.
With more than 400 direct data feeds being scrubbed daily by us spanning investments, insurance, banking, security masters, and more, Advisor360°’s Unified Data Fabric™ (UDF) and comprehensive software platform allows us (and our clients) to look at data patterns (buzzword: analytics) and software usage across home office users, advisors, and clients in multiple software sleeves. We looked at the data 9 months prior to the major COVID outbreak (pre-March 2020) and the 9 months since. Here are the data trends we saw:
These were the most popular reports run in the Advisor360° platform over the last year:
What enables our understanding of these data insights and software sleeves usage across 3 personas is our UDF. And the combination of that UDF, the seamless user experience, and enterprise-class technology is what allows advisors—and broker-dealers—on our platform to be some of the most productive advisors in the industry.
On behalf of all of us at Advisor360°, I wish you—and your data—a prosperous and safe journey in 2021!
Darren Tedesco is President of Advisor360°, and has been part of our software development since its inception, bringing together the thinkers, the creators, and the visionaries that help power our clients’ productivity, profitability, and growth.