Top Trends in Wealthtech: From API-ization to Virtual Engagement

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Wealth management technology provider eMoney Advisor, pictured here at FinovateFall, was acquired by Fidelity Investments in 2015 for $250 million.

With 2017 just around the corner, what trends are likely to drive innovations in wealth management technology, aka wealth tech?

The biggest potential regulatory change is the Department of Labor rule that financial planners must act as fiduciaries. The Trump election victory, accompanied by Republican control over both houses of Congress, may make this rule irrelevant. But most in the wealth management industry are nevertheless making preparations in the event the rule (announced this past spring and to be rolled out next spring) is kept. One concern with regard to the fiduciary rule specifically related to wealth tech is how fiduciary responsibility would work with robo-advisories. Can an automated investment platform determine conflicts of interest between the planner and client? What technological tools will be needed to give robo-advisory platforms this capacity? Maintaining fiduciary responsibility with a robotic investment platform suggests two potential scenarios: increasing use of human advisers in combination with automated technology, and deploying sentiment analysis technologies to better interpret nonverbal communication between planners and clients. Interestingly, both of these solutions are connected to other trends in wealth management, such as virtual meetings/conferences.

Use of virtual meetings

Virtual meetings will help wealth managers respond to a variety of issues, including better engagement and multichannel/channel-of-choice engagement. Virtual meetings could even help managers deal with greater fiduciary responsibilities. The channels can include everything from the use of Skype calls and video conferencing to more elaborate virtual meeting platforms such as those from Finovate alums like SuiteBox (F16) and SaleMove (F16). Both PwC and Deloitte have noticed the trend. “Multichannel delivery will become a strategy for delivering advice to clients in the most convenient, most efficient way possible based on each client’s particular needs at particular moments,” said PwC, in a recent look at wealth management technology trends. Deloitte noted that “new combinations of digital and human-based channels” are not just for millennials, saying that some gen-Xers and boomers “want to engage in new ways” as well.

According to a study conducted by Investment News/Cambridge, only 4% of advisers who responded currently list video conferencing as one of their communication methods, but 32% expect to rely on it more within five years. Douglas Boneparth, partner at Life and Wealth Planning, told Investment News, “I am seeing advisers, especially younger advisers, adapt to a more virtual and technologically savvy way of doing business. Advisers are focused on the level of service we provide and being accessible in more ways … virtual meetings is a great example of that.”

API-driven platform-ization

The ability to integrate financial data using APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) has been a huge boon for finance in general and wealth tech in specific. API use and adoption within wealth tech is especially strong where brokerage services are involved, (e.g., order-management system APIs). At a fundamental level, APIs enable linking multiple apps (portfolio management, document management, pricing systems); eliminate manual data entry; and limit mistakes during data transfer and update.

Marion Asnes of Broadridge Financial Solutions emphasized this last point. “Platforms must aggregate performance data across various institutions, and then, integrate planning, portfolio accounting, trading, reporting, and communications functions,” Asnes wrote for Investment News. “A wealth manager would need to aggregate performance data from all the various accounts in one place and base recommendations on that complete picture.” Writing in Quovo, John Horneff presented APIs also as an opportunity for managers to differentiate themselves, “leveraging new, innovative technology to break away from the pack and provide unique offerings.”

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Stephane Dubois, CEO of Xignite, during his company’s demo at FinovateAsia 2016. Xignite serves more than one one trillion market data API calls a year.

Xignite (F16) founder and CEO Stephane Dubois says the most salient factors of robo-advisory are: “ETFs, Trading APIs, and Market Data APIs.” Dubois’ firm is an acknowledged leader in the latter. With clients that are a who’s who of wealth management innovators—think Betterment (F11); Motif Investing (F14); Personal Capital (F14); and TipRanks (F13)—Xignite launched its FintechRevolution API Ecosystem in 2015 in an effort to make financial APIs more available to startups.

Growing importance of platforms

Both digital storage and ensuring ready accessibility of data are two trends in wealth management that point to the growing importance of advisor platforms to help wealth managers to their work. This is clearly one area where technology is playing a major role, especially for those focusing on the “accessibility of data” issue. Quoted in Investment News, Overplays co-founder Abby Schneiderman said, “Having data all in one place is one more way advisers can serve their clients’ needs … . I think one thing advisers are looking for is singular places to house all of their client’s information: wishes, documents, investment accounts, etc. in one place.”

Innovations in wealth management and financial advice platforms enable better engagement. Innovative platforms can give advisers more “surface area” for conversation and engagement with their clients. A good example is Polly Portfolio (F16) that uses natural language technology to ask customers about their financial goals and economic outlook to personalize and, importantly, explain portfolio construction. Combined with API-delivery and the inclusion of functionality like video, innovations in platform design will be key to help managers and advisors take advantage of industry trends.

HNW clients and robo-advisory

As robo-advisory becomes both more sophisticated and more accepted, an increasing number of high net worth (HNW) individuals are taking the automated investment route for some part of their finances. Betterment’s Jon Stein says their largest customer has $10 million invested with the company. He adds that many HNW people are already investors, but are now upping their investment from 5% two years ago to 20% (Stein defines HNW as having assets above $500,000).

Catering to high net worth clients, according to some, involves both greater technological sophistication on the part of robo-advisors as well as more extensive customer service. Writing in the CBInsights Blog, the analysts noted that one criticism of robo-advisors is that the very wealthy might have “more complex investment needs and higher customer service expectations.”

Specifically, high net worth clients may require access to more complex investment vehicles, including non-equity investments, as well as more advanced rebalancing and tax harvesting than the average investor. Other services, such as helping HNW clients manage sizable amounts of cash a la MaxMyInterest (F14), would also help encourage more wealthy investors to allocate a portion of their assets to robo-advisors.

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Herbert Moore and Jennifer Chin of WiseBanyan during their FinDEVr Silicon Valley debut. WiseBanyan is an independent robo-advisor that caters to millennials.

“Small data”

One large trend wherever clients and customers are involved is the role of small data, the kind of basic client data—demographics, for example—that can be very informative for the financial planner or wealth manager. In terms of increasing engagement, providing more accurate and personalized financial guidance, a little information about a client’s personal circumstances can go a long way.

In addition to providing better service to customers, small data can be the key to making a wealth management or financial planning business more efficient. Knowing which revenues are coming from new versus existing clients, for example, can help managers get the right products and services to the right customers. This is another area where innovators have produced platforms and software to help analyze client data and provide insights, often leveraging visualization technologies.

Robo-advisories: build or buy?

For financial institutions looking to provide wealth management services via robo-advisor, the question is whether to build or buy. While each approach has advantages and disadvantages, many FIs and brokerage firms have already decided:

Examples of firms that have gone the “roll your own” route include Fidelity with its Fidelity Go; Schwab with its Schwab Intelligent Portfolios; Vanguard with its Vanguard Personal Advisors Services; and E-Trade with its E-Trade Adaptive Portfolio.

But acquisitions have been a way for FIs to get up and running with robo-advisory service in a hurry. Some of the more notable recent acquisitions include Legg Mason’s purchase of Financial Guard (F13); Invesco PowerShares acquisition of Jemstep (F13); and Blackrock’s taking on FutureAdvisor (F13).

Other FIs are splitting the difference and instead seek partnerships with robo-advisors. The recent agreement and investment between Citizens Bank and SigFig to help the former build out a robo-advisory platform is an example of this approach.

Changing nature of advice

The growing capacity of robo-advisors to help manage other aspects of personal finance supports a more expansive view of wealth management and financial planning. This includes everything from health care planning, insurance, even real estate, education and leisure. The ability of technology to aggregate financial information is a major catalyst here, giving managers the ability to provide guidance beyond traditional boundaries.

Much of what is driving the changing nature of advice has to do with those being advised. The myriad and interconnected financial concerns affecting millennials—from managing student loan debt to starting a family—mean that financial planning beyond how to invest in a 401(k) is increasingly relevant and necessary. At the other end of the spectrum, active older adults in the “longevity economy” have financial issues that differ from those of seniors a generation ago who often had pensions and other financial support later in life.

This is where companies like iQuantifi (F14)—a self-described “proud robo-advisor” and virtual financial advisor—come in, with a platform that provides planning and guidance over a wide variety of topics, including insurance. Millennials are being catered to by wealth tech firms like WiseBanyan (FD16) while near and recent retirees can look to a company like True Link (F14), which specializes in financial planning for seniors.

Financial Guard Acquired By Legg Mason

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Legg Mason has acquired a majority stake in online investment adviser Financial Guard. Terms were not disclosed. Financial Guard will become a part of Legg Mason’s alternative distribution strategies business which specializes in helping the global asset manager’s investment affiliates leverage financial technology to serve customers better.

Global Head of Distribution for Legg Mason, Terence Johnson, highlighted this point, saying that technology has played a major role in “redefining consumer expectations” and that financial services companies “need a comprehensive, accessible, secure technology solution to serve their clients in this dynamic environment.” Johnson praised Financial Guard’s “simple and scalable platform” for both active and passive investing, saying the combination of the online technology platform and Legg Mason’s investment offerings would be a boon for its partners and their customers.

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Left to right: Business Development Director A.J. Remlinger and President Kevin Pohmer demonstrated Financial Guard at FinovateFall 2013 in New York.

“We are excited to combine our intuitive, wide-ranging technology solution with Legg Mason’s diverse investment capabilities, scale and global reach,” said Cary Jenkins, chief innovation officer for Financial Guard. “As adoption of technology-enabled advice grows, we believe we will be well-positioned to serve the adviser channel.”

Jenkins also highlighted the retirement market in particular as an area where Financial Guard may be especially helpful to plan sponsors and “the smaller segment of the market that will continue to need advice.” As part of the acquisition, Legg Mason will also be adding to the Financial Guard platform with other investment solutions from its nine independent investment advisers, including from QS Investors.

Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, Financial Guard demonstrated its technology at FinovateFall 2013. The company, which has been profiled in Barron’sBloomberg.com, Employee Benefit Newslaunched its enhanced fee-transparency service in May of last year.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Experian and Neustar Partner to Empower Marketers with More Data
  • Financial Guard Acquired by Legg Mason

Around the web

  • FIS wins “Most Disruptive” award at 2016 PYMNTS.com/Alexa Challenge.
  • Corezoid’s Alexander Vityaz talks chatbots and the mobile OS market in Venture Beat.
  • iSignthis to provide automated, digital KYC solution for TRADOLOGIC.
  • Cachet Financial launches two new enhancements to its Select Business Merchant Capture Solution.
  • Dwolla hints at a new dashboard for white-label integrations.
  • Entrepreneur interviews Josh Reeves, Gusto co-founder and CEO.
  • Jwaala now powers mobile banking for Avadian CU.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • “Straight Outta Beta: Flex Credit from BlueVine Now Available for SMEs

Around the web

  • CAN Capital reaches $6 billion milestone in working capital provided to small businesses.
  • Bloomberg Quick Take features FutureAdvisor, Wealthfront, Betterment, and Financial Guard in a look at robo-advisers.
  • Misys adds Mourad Ayachi and Bob Kubala to its investment management division.
  • “CardFlight Releases New Data Showing Trends on EMV Chip Card Usage in the United States”
  • The NYT ranks top fintech companies, including multiple Finovate & FinDEVr alums.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • “Fintech Developers, Lock in Presale Savings for the Very First FinDEVr in NYC”
  • “Q2 Acquires Social Money in $10 Million Deal”
  • Check out the latest developer news in this week’s edition of “FinDEVr APIntelligence”

Around the web

  • Employee Benefit News features Financial Guard in a discussion on the rise of robo-advisers.
  • Misys unveils its next-generation capital markets trading platform in the cloud, Misys FusionCapital.
  • CO-OP Financial Services to help credit unions deploy MasterPass from MasterCard.
  • ING expands its host card emulation (HCE) mobile payment service to all of its customers in the Netherlands. Join ING in London for FinovateEurope 2016.
  • Intuit partners with Fundbox to provide invoice financing for SMEs.
  • Technical.ly Delaware profiles Global Debt Registry.
  • Nostrum Group urges personalization in digital lending in new report on digital finance. See Nostrum at FinovateEurope 2016 in February.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • “FinovateFall 2015 Presenting Companies Announced

Around the web

  • Pymnts interviews Karmic Labs CEO Ryan Weidenmiller.
  • Kony Announces Asia Pacific and Japan Expansion.
  • Bankless Times features Cloud Lending Solutions.
  • Let’s Talk Payments names multiple FinDEVr alums in its list of 29 APIs to Consider Before Building Any Fintech Product.
  • Betterment, Financial Guard, Personal Capital, Vanguard, and Wealthfront are featured in a Bloomberg Business column on options for new investors.
  • Samsung introduces its Loop-equipped Samsung Pay app in South Korea.
  • Tamebay interviews Peter Plewman, CurrencyTransfer.com director, on the volatility of the euro.
  • Trulioo taps identity and fraud specialist, Jon Jones, as new company president.
  • Business Insider looks at “transformative” fintech leadership at companies like Braintree, Coinbase, PayPal, SamsungPay (with Loop), and Venmo.
  • Forbes highlights Zopa in its review of the growth of P2P lending in the United Kingdom.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Finovate Debuts: Bento Builds Banking Solutions for Small Businesses
  • EverSafe and MaxMyInterest Present at Innovation Lab Demo Day in New York

Around the web

  • Bloomberg Business highlights Betterment, Financial Guard, Personal Capital, Vanguard, and Wealthfront in its look at robo-advisers.
  • Nomis Solutions teams up with BRG to help FIs improve their mortgage-retention strategies and provide more transparent pricing.
  • Success Story profiles WePay and its co-founder and CEO, Bill Clerico.
  • Global Debt Registry wins Stevie Award in the banking category of the American Business Awards.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Feedzai Announces More than $17 Million in New Funding
  • Friction is Good: Social Network for Credit Innovator, Vouch Raises $6 Million

Around the web

  • Financial Guard launches its enhanced, fee-transparency service.
  • defi SOLUTIONS acquires OpenRule Systems APM.
  • Benzinga interviews Andy Swan, LikeFolio co-founder.
  • Wizzio by Novabase featured at IBM World of Watson event.
  • CNBC talks about P2P currency transfer with TransferWise CEO Kristo Kaarmann.
  • Motif Investing earns spot on CNBC’s Disruptor list.
  • Xero ranked #1 Forbes Most Innovative Growth Company 2015.
  • Lending Club receives Entrepreneurial Company of the Year Award from Harvard Business School Association of Northern California.
  • Xero scoops Company of the Year at annual Hi-Tech Awards.
  • Payments Source looks at how Taulia speeds up payments for businesses.
  • Google drops cloud computing prices by up to 30%.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

Around the web

  • Financial-Planning provides an in-depth profile of Motif Investing.
  • Rippleshot to join SixThirty accelerator’s Spring 2015 cohort.
  • The Globe and Mail highlights Nymi’s take on wearable security.
  • Bluefin Payment Systems partners with Paydunk to offer an all-in-one mobile security and integrated e-commerce payment solution.
  • ThreatMetrix wins Best Anti-Malware Product and Hot Company in MFA at 2015 Cyber Defense Magazine Awards.
  • Orion Advisor Services partners with Jemstep to bring independent advisers who use Orion’s platform the benefits of robo-adviser automation.
  • PayNearMe enables Philadelphia bike-share program-members to pay their fees using cash.
  • TickSmith adds Book Replay Module to Its TickVault Platform.
  • Barron’s feature on robo-advisers quotes Kevin Pohmer, president of Financial Guard.
  • Global Debt Registry names Kathy Simmermon as EVP of business development.
  • Fox Business interviews Lending Tree CEO Doug Lebda.
  • Feature on card controls highlights solutions developed by Malauzai Software. See Malauzai at FinovateSpring 2015 in May.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

 

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com:

  • Lendio Raises $20 Million in New Funding to Help Finance Small Businesses
  • Motif Investing Partners with Pacific Life to Offer Cause-Based Investing.
  • Bank Innovation’s Coolest Brands of 2015 Features Finovate Alums.
  • Printer Giant Lexmark to Acquire Kofax for $1 Billion.

Around the Web:

  • ShopKeep POS acquires payment processing startup, Payment Revolution.
  • Financial Guard and FutureAdvisor are featured as alternatives in a Bloomberg column on “breaking up with your expensive adviser.”
  • Bank Innovation column on “InsuranceTech” and Fintech 1,000 lists Insuritas.
  • Opentabs integrates with PayPal to power its mobile app order-ahead services.
  • PYMNTS: Monitise takes itself off the market. CEO steps down.
  • Billhighway awarded Silver Stevie Award for Innovation in Customer Service in the Financial Services Industry category. It is the second win for Billhighway since 2013.
  • Dexterity Ventures (Place2Give) bolsters team with new CMO, Product Manager, Developer, and Office Assistant.
  • The FinTech Blog interviews Eli Broverman, Co-Founder and COO of Betterment.
  • Fiserv, TD Bank Group, Intuit, and PayPal rank among Forbes’ list of Americas’ Best employers.
  • SocietyOne appoints former Investec Group chief lending officer, Simon Schwarz, as new COO.
  • Ad Age highlights how BancVue seeks to level the playing field for community banks.
  • Rippleshot joined fellow winners of the Chicago Innovation Awards in ringing the closing bell at the Nasdaq on Monday.
  • BankNXT looks at the rise of marketplace lending platforms including Finovate alums Lending Club and OnDeck.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.