Categories


THOUGHT LEADERSHIP Top

Content/Education

FIDELITY – “Be Greater: Why Being Good Enough is No Longer an Option”

Understanding that advisors want to hear from other advisors, Fidelity published a book written in collaboration with dozens of successful RIA firms and designed to tell the stories of how these firms evolved from a “good enough” practice to a “great” professional firm. The book delivers solid business building advice, actionable blueprints and plenty of inspiration all in a real-world context.

Industry/Advocacy

TD AMERITRADE INSTITUTIONAL – Advisor Advocacy Platform

More than most, TD Ameritrade Institutional has been on the front lines when it comes to advocating for RIAs in Washington D.C. and beyond. The only custodian with an Office of Advisor Advocacy and an Advocacy Summit, TDAI is making sure that the RIA industry is fully represented in policy and regulatory decisions, and is now expanding those efforts toward developing new talent and ensuring diversity in the industry.

Investing

JP MORGAN – Guide to Retirement

For thousands of advisors the 43-page Guide to Retirement is the reference book for retirement planning—an up-to-date and thorough treatment of social security, healthcare costs, inflation and spending patterns. The book dispels many myths clients believe, and provides fact and figures to guide client conversations. The guide is on track to double its distribution in 2015 to reach an estimated 140,000 wealth management professionals.


ASSET MANAGERS Top

Alternatives

PROSHARES – Morningstar ETF

ProShares’ collaboration with Morningstar created a diverse and dynamic set of alternative investment strategies packaged in one single ETF. The goal was to bring sophisticated alternative asset allocations to retail advisors and individual investors in a single sleeve to enhance risk-adjusted returns.

Equities

PAX ELLEVATE – The Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund

The Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund is a unique offering in the rapidly growing world of sustainable investing. It provides a gender-based lens on the markets, with the aim of both fostering, and benefitting from, businesses that have a significant proportion of women in leadership positions. Pax Ellevate is using the fund with advisors to demonstrate the business case for gender diversity.

ETFs

CHARLES SCHWAB ASSET MANAGEMENT – Strategic Beta ETFs

Charles Schwab’s unique take on ETFs brings commission-free trades to a suite of cap-weighted and fundamental-index funds that power not only Schwab’s OneSource ETF platform but also its recent Institutional Intelligent Portfolio offering for RIAs. Schwab’s Center for Financial Research provides strong guidance on how RIAs can implement strategic beta strategies.

Separate Accounts

ENVESTNET/PMC – Quantitative Portfolios

Envestnet’s portfolio consulting group’s Quantitative Portfolios combine the benefits of low-cost factor-enhanced index investing with the customization and control found in typical SMA structures. Portfolios are constructed quantitatively with tax management and risk assessment being the sole criteria, and are passively managed at low cost to the client.

Fixed Income

GUGGENHEIM – Research and Commentary

Global Chief Investment Officer and Chairman of Investments Scott Minerd is widely recognized as one of the reliable go-to authorities on the fixed-income markets. Along with a crack team of economists, strategists and analysts, Guggenheim puts out copious amounts of analysis for advisors. Close to 30,000 subscribe to their thought leadership, with engagement rates that double industry averages.

ETF Strategists

ENVESTNET – Fund Strategists Network

Envestnet has successfully guided advisors through the world of ETF fund strategists via its Fund Strategists Network, an open-architecture selection of over 1,000 mutual fund/ETF strategist portfolios from close to 90 firms. It uses proprietary research, benchmarking, risk-scoring and fund groupings to bring clarity to advisors when choosing third-party money managers.

Real Estate

INLAND – Advisor Education

Inland Insights is a dedicated program that educates advisors and clients on the real estate market and the macroeconomic trends driving it, most recently including commercial real estate. They provide client-cleared educational material that drills down into relevant and timely news-driven details that advisors can use in discussion with clients.


TECHNOLOGY Top

Account Aggregation

MORNINGSTAR – ByAllAccounts

ByAllAccounts now aggregates over $1 trillion of investor assets pulling from 20,000 sources, giving advisors a fuller picture of their clients’ total wealth. Through a revamped interface, ByAllAccounts makes it easier for broker-dealers to embed the new interface on client portals to provide automated investment services.

Advisor-Support Robos

JEMSTEP – Jemstep Advisor Pro

Jemstep’s automated platform is making it easier for advisors to sign up and service clients in a paperless process that embeds integration with CRMs like Salesforce and portfolio accounting systems, including Orion. The service offers the ability to segment clients, uses the RIA’s own portfolios and investing strategies, and helps with marketing via a “drip“ email campaign for prospects.

Client Portals

ADVENT – The Black Diamond Investor Experience

Black Diamond’s new client portal is customizable by the advisor to individual clients or client type. Responsively designed and mobile-friendly, the portal comes with a secure vault for document transfers and a data engine that lets advisors proactively notify clients with individualized communications, whether it be a new 1099 or a message around a portfolio-specific event to only those clients affected. Advent brought some 20 advisory firms into the process of designing the portal to ensure it met their needs.

Compliance

SMARSH – Compliance Platform

Regulations around client communications burden every advisor, but Smarsh’s platform makes it painless—or at least as close as possible. The platform supports content supervision across all electronic communications and archives everything in a searchable, cloud-based system that allows for easy reviews and safeguarding procedures.

CRM

JUNXURE – Junxure Cloud

Junxure is a CRM designed for an advisor’s individual workflow and process, from onboarding to tracking contacts for marketing and compliance purposes. The system has deep custodial integrations and is customizable to adapt to an advisor’s way of working.

Document Management

LASERFICHE – Laserfiche Platform

Laserfiche addresses many pain points advisors have in document management. The platform captures and retains all communications, provides ongoing security checks, and gives auditors instant access to the material, easing time-sucking burdens on the advisor. It automatically populates client data and streamlines review times via instant access to a digital repository. Built-in digital signatures allow e-signing documents even on mobile devices.

Financial Planning

SUNGARD – CompAct

Sitting within SunGard’s WealthStation Financial Planning suite, CompAct lets advisors produce holistic, goal-based plans with an interactive portal that more easily brings the client into a conversation around planning. It uses charts and summary tables to illustrate topics from accumulation, asset allocation, debt management, education funding, life insurance and retirement, helping to simplify complex information and make it more meaningful to the client.

Innovation

EMONEY – emX

eMoney aggregates more than $1.4 trillion in assets. Its new wealth management platform brings much more functionality to the account aggregation and management tool, helping advisors with cash-flow management, goals-based and estate planning, and client-facing tools like screen-sharing and compliance-approved messaging.

Portfolio Management

ADVENT – Black Diamond Integration Network

Moreso than other firms, Advent added flexibility and a focus on advisor preference to their wealth management platform with a suite of integrations, officially launched in 2014. The network boasts an open architecture to work with different CRMs, multicustodial rebalancing tools, portfolio analytics, and financial planning platforms, some of which compete with Black Diamond itself, all to more easily accommodate the variety of advisory business models.

Rebalancing

TD AMERITRADE INSTITUTIONAL – iRebal

TDAI unveiled a new version of iRebal in the cloud, bringing more flexibility to the popular rebalancing tool that’s freely available to some 5,000 advisors who custody with TDAI. The tool brings real sophistication to rebalancing, streamlining the process across all accounts while considering unique individual client circumstances. IRebal uses real-time valuations and positions, efficiently manages cash for reinvestment or distribution, and features straight-through trades, thus reducing cost and complexity.

Wealth Reporting

ALBRIDGE – Albridge Wealth Reporting

A recent redesign of the platform created a more user-friendly experience with what was already a robust reporting tool. Albridge provides a consolidated view of all client assets, works with over 130 financial institutions and over 80,000 advisors, collecting data on over 4 million accounts. Advisors easily drill down to household account levels, create engaging reports around numerous variables including benchmarks and fees, and calculate both time-weighted and dollar-weighted performance.


DISRUPTORS Top

Technology

BETTERMENT INSTITUTIONAL – Institutional Platform

Betterment brought its consumer-facing automated portfolios to financial advisors via a white-labeled version, and now advocates for the new “robo“ technology to complement advisors, not replace them. Paperless onboarding, automatic brokerage services, low-cost portfolios, tax-loss harvesting, and net-trades that reduce bid-ask spreads dramatically lower fees for asset management in a fiduciary offering that lets advisors concentrate on clients, not accounts.

Industry

LIVE OAK – Live Oak

Many companies facilitate growth among independent advisors, but Live Oak found a niche injecting much-needed liquidity into the space. It’s funding acquisitions, expansions and breakaways; the bank loans are backed by projected cash flow, not tangible assets, putting it on the side of entrepreneurial advisors.


BROKER/DEALERS 1,000 REPS OR MORE Top

Practice Management

RAYMOND JAMES – Practice Intelligence Model

Practice management is a spongy concept, but the offering here is different. It’s informed by the best practices of the firm’s top advisors, with processes put into actionable steps. It’s a one-stop resource for all of the firms’ material across every facet of running a practice, and includes a sophisticated benchmarking tool to help advisors find their own pain points—and then the relevant solutions on the platform.

Technology

MERRILL LYNCH – Merrill Lynch One

In August 2014 Merrill Lynch completed the rollout of this managed account platform, ending a multiyear, $100 million initiative to bring together disparate products, systems, websites and services into a single platform that supported the firm’s objective of moving to a goals-based planning and relationship-based pricing model with its clients. The development team started with a clean slate, not building off of legacy platforms, and relied on extensive advisor feedback to guide the process.

Transition Support

CETERA – 90-90 Plan

Cetera’s transition team is led by a 10-person staff dedicated only to assisting transitioning advisors bring over their books of business as seamlessly as possible. The team acts as project manager, trainer and operations personnel to the advisor’s office. Customized transition paths eliminate bad paperwork and reduce the need to repeatedly burden the client or the advisor, ensuring advisors bring over 90 percent of their book in 90 days or less.


BROKER/DEALERS 1,000 REPS OR LESS Top

Practice Management

FIRST ALLIED – Pentameter

First Allied punches above its weight when it comes to practice management resources. The Pentameter system is based on five criteria for advisor success: development, efficiency, human capital, management, and succession planning. A diagnostic tool shows the firm’s pain points, the platform assigns action steps and specific tasks, and a dedicated member from First Allied’s business consulting team helps keep advisors on track.

Technology

BETTERMENT INSTITUTIONAL – Betterment Institutional Platform

Betterment Institutional gives advisors a brokerage relationship that handles all customer onboarding and account maintenance, collects fees and distributes payments, and manages all execution, including rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting. Lower fees are aided by net trades to eliminate bid-ask spreads, and the firm does not pay for order flow on the exchanges.

Service

PROSPERA FINANCIAL SERVICES – Gold Standard Service Program

Prospera has put a laser-like focus on making sure its staff is responsive, proactive and provides the firm’s advisors with impeccable service. An initial boot camp has been followed by weekly meetings. Staff members are trained in the “gold standard“ service model across all interactions with advisors, with a mandate that there is no defensiveness in business and all complaints are a gift—“Without them we cannot get better.”

Transition Support

PROSPERA FINANCIAL SERVICES – Turnkey Transition System

Prospera’s attention to detail for transitioning advisors is reflected in the Launch Your Way protocol. It’s designed to guide a broker through every step, from finding space and negotiating leases to naming the firm, filing licenses, designing logos, and even hiring sales assistants. Every step is loaded into a digital timeline so nothing is missed, and a dedicated transition team is on hand for support.


CUSTODIANS Top

Technology

CHARLES SCHWAB – OpenView Gateway

Schwab’s OpenView Gateway seamlessly stiches together all the tools an investment advisor needs, using an open-architecture platform for flexibility in adapting to the advisor’s technology preference. More than 6,000 users from 1,400 firms use OpenView Gateway.

Practice Management

CHARLES SCHWAB – Executive Leadership Program

Recognizing that the majority of independent advisors want to create a legacy business, in 2014 Schwab introduced an executive leadership program for advisors destined to become principals in their firms. The program runs for one year and is based on curriculum from top-tier universities. Students participate in weekly group discussions and benefit from in-person meetings and on-going executive coaching.


INSURANCE Top

CUNA MUTUAL GROUP – Advisor Planning Tool

Cuna’s risk-management tool is an iPad-optimized web-based application that lets advisors visually demonstrate to clients a “zone“ of risk/reward metrics aligned with investment goals using the firm’s Members Zone annuity. The tool uses graphics to demonstrate hypothetical outcomes, thereby clarifying the retirement conversation.


NON-CUSTODIAN SUPPORT PLATFORM Top

HIGHTOWER – Blueprint For Growth

Hightower’s program highlights characteristics of top-performing financial advisory practices, based on internal studies and interviews with Hightower teams. The first benchmarking study identified key areas where top teams excel, giving firms a benchmark and a methodical approach to growth.


SOCIAL MEDIA Top

Platform for Marketing and Engagement

HEARSAY SOCIAL – Predictive Social Suite

The new platform from Hearsay Social lets advisors identify cross-channel client activity across multiple online and digital channels, including social media and websites. Through machine-learning algorithms and predictive technology, the platform recommends the right content (from its built-in Predictive Content Library), and encourages the advisor to share it with the right person at the right time.

Implementation

WADDELL & REED – Advisor Platform

The brokerage firm has one of the most sophisticated social media platforms out there, and a training component for advisors. Working with social media firm Socialware and focusing, for now, on LinkedIn, the platform helps advisors with content creation, sharing with clients, analytics and compliance.


TAMPS Top

ENVESTNET – Wealth Management Platform

Envestnet’s cloud-based wealth management platform arms advisors with access to over 14,000 investment vehicles, including 1,200 SMA strategies, over 1,000 mutual fund and ETF strategists, and a UMA program containing more than 800 SMA models, including an advisor-managed sleeve. At the end of 2014, Envestnet had $172 billion in managed account assets under management or advisement.