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.
Jennifer Sawan – Our ability to adapt. It’s critical, especially in times like these when we’re faced with a pandemic, political instability, and social challenges. Our lives have been turned upside down, and individuals, families—and companies—are faced with a whole new set of challenges and problems to tackle.
Through all this uncertainty, how is your business adapting to make things work?
To answer that question, we must look around us at our enterprise support systems and assess whether these systems (platforms) can deliver the level of support your company requires (this has never been more vital than for the advisor-client relationship). If you have the right support systems in place, you can quickly rally for your clients’ urgent needs.
Never forgetting the 2nd “s” in SaaS
The key to support during uncertainty is communication. Here at Advisor360°, we want to be the partner you can always count on and trust, especially now. To get there, our foundation is built upon an obsession with service. This flows through our entire organization, and we continue to refine our methods of providing high-value extraordinary systematic care to clients and employees alike.
We have worked hard to cultivate true partnerships with our clients so that we can understand their paths—their needs—and adapt right along with them. The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on this mission.
Urgency gets it done
Behind the scenes, we made sure a strong foundation of communication and delivery was in place for our clients. Work from home (WFH) protocols—which were already deeply tested prior to COVID times—efficiently set our employees up for success so they could be of the highest value to clients; most of our staff already worked from home either occasionally or weekly, and therefore our support was more about making refinements. Plans were implemented to provide all employees with the necessary equipment to ensure longer-term WFH productivity.
We adapted immediately—because our clients’ businesses depend on our technology.
Our networking team instantly jumped into action, partnering with our clients’ engineering teams to make sure they were prepared for high volumes of VPN use. We adjusted our processes to ensure that our operations continued to progress with zero impact.
Innovation: adapting and evolving
The configurability of the Advisor360° wealth management platform is most important when it comes to supporting our clients’ businesses. We must be able to respond when our clients have a need that impacts any part of our platform. Not only is the technology itself constantly improving to support our clients’ evolving needs, but our team and processes behind the platform are as well.
We were able to see this value earlier this month, when Commonwealth Financial Network (CFN) approached us regarding their rebranding effort which recently went live. Having built our platform with the flexibility to adjust to client-specific configurations, we were ready to update the platform to reflect CFN’s new brand in the advisor and client experience. Recognizing the importance of key configurations, we were easily able to swap out logos, mobile apps, brand names, disclosures, and DBAs.
This “bespoke” approach to our software is what our clients require, so we keep tailoring to the enterprise’s needs.
Our responsiveness helps clients succeed, and I’m grateful the efforts of the team were recognized by our partners at Commonwealth. Hilary Soltz Short, VP of Brand Development and Experience at Commonwealth, talked about our partnership:
“Orchestrating this launch was no small feat, and the effort everyone (at Advisor360°) put in to create this successful launch is seen, appreciated, and applauded. Thanks also for the Saturday effort and the amazing communication. This team rocks.”
Compliance (Reg BI) support
Another component of the ongoing advisor and broker-dealer support is the regulatory environment, a constantly changing behemoth. When the DOL fiduciary rule and ultimately Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) were first introduced, Advisor360° was ready to help keep clients compliant. Teams were quickly spun up, both internally and engaged with existing and prospective clients, to ensure that our platform could help broker-dealers be compliant with the new regulations. We adapted our platform for compliance adherence by:
All these features were built flexibly—so they can adapt to your firm’s own business model and rule interpretation.
Feedback: our DNA
What hasn’t changed through these challenging times is our focus on the needs of our business partners. To best understand advisors and home office staff, we have always kept a close eye and ear to feedback. While many companies say they listen to customers, we put our listening where our technology is: with our Feedback tool for advisors.
In July, we announced the availability of our newest version of the Advisor360° Feedback tool, which is an enhanced platform that allows us to hear directly from end users of each broker-dealer/RIA leveraging our software. Our Feedback tool slices and dices that feedback so that we can keep aware of what new pains advisors are facing, and find opportunities to help relieve some of those pressures. Advisors can also vote on peer suggestions, and broker-dealers can now more efficiently respond to advisor feedback.
Feedback is how you make the product better. At the end of the day, it’s all about the product and making sure it works for the users and not against them.
The bottom line for Advisor360° is helping broker-dealers and advisors run efficient businesses and have outstanding client relationships. Not only do we support you with the power of our platform, but it’s the power of our people that make it all work.
Jennifer Sawan is Director of Product Strategy at Advisor360°, helping our product teams define a client’s vision—and then build great products.
Richard N. Hart III – This technology project is going to change everything! Through deep integration we can create an amazing client experience, increase our Net Promoter Score (NPS), gain new revenue, and cut costs. The project has a positive rate of return—it’s really a no-brainer!
As a technology decision-maker of a wealth management firm, how many times have you heard someone say this?
Who in the financial or insurance industries (or any industry for that matter) presenting to stakeholders or in a sales meeting to a prospect talking about “integration” has heard this?
Has this technology vision ever really been achieved?
Systems integration: easier said than done
For a long time, wealth management firms have struggled with taking their core transactional platform (such as the clearing firm’s processing system, their own self-clearing platform, or a portfolio accounting engine) and integrating that “core” system with ALL the other systems required to run a wealth management enterprise. This includes books and records, compliance, commission management, advisor desktop, SMA/UMA model marketplace, enterprise workflow, document imaging, and the list seems to get bigger every year.
This technology struggle was and still is: how do you make all the systems work together?
Over the course of my career, I have been both a user and a provider of wealth management technology. I used to think the ability to “single sign-on” (SSO) from the core system onto another system was “integration.” Integration was supposed to be the Holy Grail.
But I soon learned that to achieve true integration there needed to be contextual passing of data from one system to another through a single sign-on connection. This created efficiencies in the workflow, reduced errors, and generally made the most sense.
Why integration isn’t always integrated
Over time, as I continue to see more wealth management technology projects fail to reach their full potential, I keep coming back to the integration and how it never seems good enough.
We would spend a lot of time and money developing the ability to pass a few data elements over from one system to another, feeling proud of our ourselves, and then inevitably the client would ask, “Why can’t you pass everything? This still does not really do much for me, I want it all!” The engineers would laugh and tell me, “Rich, we can do anything: how much time and money do you have? But you must first prioritize what data elements you want. We can’t just send them everything.” We would then prioritize the data elements to pass over, gain buy-in from the client, and continue the journey.
Then something would be changed.
An integration partner would change a screen or a data field, or even worse, entirely alter the user interface without us knowing, causing nothing to work as it was meant to—and certainly not the definition of true integration. I would bang my head against the wall and say: there must be a better way.
Come to find out there is a better way…and it’s pretty simple in hindsight!...
Building a better wealth management platform
For a WealthTech/FinTech firm to do software right, first start with the data and build a household client-centric data model. Next, build the core systems that a wealth management firm needs to run the day-to-day business. And then integrate with the best third-party partners that complement your core. You’ll see the productivity magic that occurs.
Here at Advisor360°®, we believe we have solved the integration and single sign-on challenges that have plagued wealth management firms. We have built portfolio accounting, compliance tools, an advisor desktop, account opening/maintenance/operational processing tools, performance reporting, trading/models, an investor portal, CRM, enterprise workflow, document storage, and mobile—to all sit within your client-centric household data model.
Vendors changing data elements or the user interfaces leads to business disruption. These can be efficiency-blockers of your past. We help enterprises make all those integration problems go away because all the product components and associated workflows required to be efficient and productive are now all under one “roof” (a.k.a. the all-in-one platform).
The one thing they’re missing
I have been in the financial services business for over 30 years, and I think that with the benefit of hindsight, everyone would have started like Advisor360° did. Yet, the financial services industry is saddled with legacy account-centric platforms that are too cumbersome to replace and too hard to contemplate ever leaving, as there really was no good alternative in the marketplace.
Everyone has tried (the custodians, the clearing firms, other SaaS technology providers), and they all lack one thing: the Unified Data Fabric™ that weaves together everything. (They did not start with the end in mind; they built over time).
5 benefits of an integrated wealth management platform
If you are a Chief Compliance Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and/or the Head of Advisor recruiting, the benefits of the all-in-one platform are enormous:
1.Supervision. By aggregating all the assets and all the relevant systems that leverage the same data under one roof, there is only one place you need to go to supervise. Further, branch audits in post-COVID times are streamlined, since much of the audit can happen via that centralized system of record.
2.Operational Processing. Having dashboards at your fingertips lets you see how your staff is doing and where the bottlenecks are. Operational metrics can show where you have high rates of straight-through processing (STP) and where additional opportunities are for greater efficiency. NIGO rates are easily tracked, showing training and performance opportunities.
3.Recruiting. Showing an advisor how easy it is to run their practice with everything in one unified system generally makes a recruiter’s life easier, enabling the firm to grow—and retain—top advisors.
4.Cost and Scale Efficiencies. Creating scale is the lifeblood of any wealth management firm, and by reducing the number of vendor partners you are using, it gets easier to manage and results in cost synergies.
5.Productivity. We are all asked to do more with less, and the “all-in-one system” creates significant productivity for your field force, so that they can either sell more or better service clients.
The benefits and payback of the “all-in-one” platform are real. It is never easy changing enterprise systems, but once you have made the switch, the payoff is more than worth it. I used to have a boss who would say, “Rich, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it!” He was so right, because what we have done has not been easy. In fact, Advisor360°’s platform has been 20 years in the making.
Digital transformation: it’s all about productivity
Never in my career has it been so clear to me that the “all-in-one” wealth management platform is the only way to get to digital transformation. If you are in the wealth management business, we can help you: (1) deliver significant productivity benefits to your advisors and (2) achieve true efficiency gains for your back office. If this resonates with you, feel free to reach out to us.
Change is not easy. But we believe the benefits of the “all-in-one platform” will enable enterprise firms to achieve their digital transformation goals.
Richard N. Hart III is Head of Product Client Experience at Advisor360°, responsible for product development of the Advisor360° platform and ensuring our clients have a great experience using our technology.