Richard Napolitano — I started out in the burgeoning days of software, before dot coms, and Silicon Valleys, and when Route 128 was a thing! I was a restless tech guy that loved to see how things tick: software, people, businesses. So I got a job as a software engineer at Digital Equipment Corp.—and I couldn’t stop thinking about ways to make things better, to solve problems.
I still can’t stop.
With 30 years of building and delivering enterprise products to enterprise firms, my experience spans both engineering and sales. I understand that critical blend of product development and go-to-market experience. The wealth management business is evolving and embracing technology to enable their businesses. In the IT world, we call this Digital Transformation. So I wanted to be a part of that—to grow a company in the wealth management SaaS space.
That’s where Advisor360° comes in.
The big question.
Advisor360° saw a problem to solve: how can wealth management professionals and firms build better, stronger relationships with their clients? It simply cannot be done without improving productivity. The demographic trends and rise of the fiduciary is driving the need for more Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs), who need tools of technology to drive their productivity. Broker-dealers and insurance companies need back office processes to automation, and this pain point is in some respects even greater than the pain point for the advisors.
It’s a productivity problem for everybody.
But what if a team could figure this out? It would not only mean more productivity, but more client-facing time to build relationships. And build profits.
This was an intriguing challenge I wanted to help solve.
So that’s why I joined the company that is solving it: Advisor360°.
How it all started.
While a wholly independent company, Advisor360° was spun-off April of last year from Commonwealth Financial Network, the largest registered investment advisor/independent broker-dealer in the country. It turns out that Commonwealth’s tech division had developed (over two decades and thousands of pieces of feedback) their own award-winning, productivity-enhancing, relationship-building wealth management software.
And this technology finesse was proven: by using Commonwealth’s proprietary software, advisors were 20-30% more productive than other advisors in the market. It’s a classic case of using software technologies to improve overall productivity.
Advisor360° is the continuation of that productivity mission through the adoption of technology and embracing Digital Transformation.
A holistic productivity platform.
We saw early on the value of technology in the WealthTech sector. And Advisor360° is unique in that we’re positioned as a pure play SaaS company.
We’ve built the only holistic, deeply-integrated, unified wealth management SaaS platform in the industry.
We unify—not just integrate—all the systems (from CRM to a client portal) firms need to bring better productivity to their advisors.
It’s a big deal, because Advisor360° provides this holistic user experience throughout advisor workflow, home office, and broker-dealer back offices. Our platform lets you scale to your firm’s needs.
And build better relationships.
Ahead of the curve.
But how are we better aligned to the business plans of enterprises?
We’re focused on leveraging our R&D investment across a large number of customers to increase the innovation. As an independent entity, we can attract even more technical talent and focus on building the best product possible. Since more and more enterprise products are delivered as a service, Advisor360° fits right in.
We see the big picture: a trend away from captive high-end advisors to a number of independent advisors that are tied to insurance companies or independent broker-dealers.
The bottom line is the aging population of baby boomers is retiring with substantial assets, and they seek independent advisors. We’ve built a world-class platform that integrates and unifies it all for advisors—so they can spend less time on process, and more time on relationships.
Let’s keep building.
We are here to build a world-class enterprise software company, delivering our products to enterprises as a service. The need for technology in this WealthTech space is clear and present, and Advisor360° is poised for enormous growth in the next 12 months.
If you’d like more information about our platform, please contact us.
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.
Darren Tedesco — I’m often asked by co-workers or industry pundits “what’s next?” in the world of WealthTech.
My answer is usually tongue-and-cheek along the lines of “let me think about it.” In reality, no one can predict the future, yet the essence of strategy is to try to do exactly that: best understand where things are going, choose what you will do to make peoples’ lives better to solve their problems (which, when you do, people gladly give you money for doing so), and choose what you will NOT do (see Michael Porter’s “What Is Strategy?”).
The essence of our strategy is about understanding the WealthTech trends and then making a choice of what you will and won’t do to address those trends.
The Trend is Your Friend
One of the most powerful forces in this world is momentum; either in a positive or negative way, once you have momentum, it’s very hard to change it. Writing this blog in what I hope is an almost post-COVID-19 world, there is a trend that is undeniable: leveraging technology to collaborate online is here to stay. In the past, most advisors were heavily centered on meeting with their clients in person—then in March of 2020, the whole world changed in a matter of mere weeks. While the pandemic has been horrible and has led to many deaths worldwide, there are some positives that will be taken from this era.
One of these positives is that over the last 3 months, more clients and advisors have met virtually, and the feedback I’ve heard from advisors is that clients have both appreciated this new form of meeting, and now expect this to be the norm going forward.
Key takeaway: WealthTech companies need to ensure that collaboration tools are a core part of their software offerings.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is Just Getting Started
10 years ago, I wrote about voice navigation being a big trend that we will start to see in tools and apps. These days, Alexa, Siri, and a whole host of other named virtual assistants are mainstream. Three years ago, I wrote about AI being a big part of our future. In hindsight, I may have understated the importance and impact.
The world has pivoted quickly from technology complementing humans to humans complementing technology.
In 2015, I wrote an article for the Journal of Financial Planning titled “Creating the Blended Advisor Experience,” with a focus on exactly this: that technology and the advisor worlds are blending. We’re now seeing that advance rapidly.
“Next best actions” suggested we’ll pivot to actions taken by technology without human intervention.
Many model-management trading systems, including robo-advice companies, have been doing this with auto-rebalancing of portfolios for a while now; moving from investments to operations and planning functions will have an even greater impact.
Key takeaway: AI will take hold in how both broker-dealers and advisors run their businesses and serve their clients, and begin taking action without human interaction.
A Means to an End
20 years ago, the minority of financial advisors were planning-centric in their advice to clients; investments or insurance were almost always the focus. Now in reality, investments and insurance are an important part of helping any given client achieve their goals—but they’re products that are a means to an end. Fast-forward to 2020, the move towards leading with holistic financial planning is here and here to stay.
Understanding all pertinent aspects of a client’s life and helping them plan for successful outcomes of what is most important to them is now driving advisor/client conversations.
The real challenge for advisors is how to perform holistic financial planning at scale (creating a full-blown plan for a client can take upwards of 10+ hours). Enter WealthTech, and more specifically in our case, WealthGuide®. WealthGuide is an Advisor360° system created 8 years ago that allows advisors to customize myriad planning topics and create a “living agenda” that is used at every meeting with a client. This living agenda ensures that pre-existing assumptions and facts are still correct, but also reinforces the value proposition of all the elements that a financial advisor brings to the relationship. Tying this all into a client portal will allow for co-planning between advisors and clients in real-time which is the ultimate panacea.
Key takeaway: Financial planning is more important than it has ever been. Finding ways to scale that process is mission-critical for the financial advisors of the future.
Did you know there are subscription services/apps that now help you review how many subscription services/apps that you might be paying for—why is that? It’s because the masses have now embraced subscription-based models, yet it’s sometimes hard to keep track of all your subscriptions. I recently reviewed my subscriptions and realized I was paying for almost a dozen of them (TiVo, Hulu, Netflix, HBO GO, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, SHOWTIME, etc.). The downside is that if you aren’t leveraging all these services regularly, you are wasting money.
However, there is an upside to the subscription trend when it comes to WealthTech: paying for software should be subscription-based, not AUM or account-based.
From the end-user’s perspective, I’ve never understood the concept of your technology getting more expensive just because the stock market went up one day and I never will, which is why Advisor360° charges fees solely on a per user subscription model.
Key takeaway: The world has turned to subscription-based software, including wealth management software.
The Future Wealth Management is WealthTech that looks like…
In the end, your business needs to operate in an efficient and modern way. Partnering with a firm that allows your business to keep up with the macro trends—online collaboration, data and AI, co-planning, and a subscription-based software model—allows you to focus your time on what really matters: engaging with clients.
Are you ahead of the curve?
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.