Future Shock: When Amazon Launches a Robo Advisor

Couple with a financial advisor.

One of the legacy assumptions underlying the wealth management industry these past many decades is that due to its regulated nature, conservative approach and existence of big brands, the cost to getting started make it extremely difficult for outsiders to gain a foothold and create new businesses.

With the advent of robo advisors, however, we are now seeing Silicon Valley easily jump over these historical barriers to entry, opening the flood gates for just about anyone to be able to leverage technology to set up shop in a multi-trillion dollar space.

So the question becomes, what is the end game for financial services and technology? Many other industries and successful companies have been turned upside down by the inevitable onset of technology disruption, despite their best attempts.  For proof, just go ask your neighborhood travel agent, taxi driver, book seller, video rental operator, music store proprietor, newspaper publisher – even your former fortune 500 company CEOs from Kodak and Blockbuster.

The big Internet giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon have created tremendous value for their shareholders by identifying opportunities to wield their technology and innovative delivery models to transform industry structures from the ground up.

Particularly when they can find new ways to monetize their massive user bases by taking out the middleman, they most certainly will. Thus, it becomes incumbent upon the wealth management industry to truly take this technology threat to heart and begin planning for the “advisor of the future.”

The very good news story for advisors is that people remain emotional about their money and will always want to talk to a human about their hopes, dreams, goals and what they want to accomplish with their financial resources. The ability to have a financial professional listen to them and provide solutions in context of their goals will create the environment for a premium service, rather than becoming commoditized by transactions.  Multiple studies and the advent of an entire new branch of economics have confirmed that behavioral finance will be key to differentiating the delivery of financial services from the robots in the future.

So, what can you do to prepare for the inevitable changes that lie ahead? The first is to take a page out of the playbook of the early robo advisors by providing them with an enhanced experience online. Account aggregation, graphical reporting, anytime, anywhere access to account information on all mobile devices, paper-less account opening – are all of the powerful innovations that are raising the bar for what advisors need to provide. The second action step is to focus on working with clients on a goals-based approach. The financial planning process provides a great framework to identify the client’s top issues and facilitate the solutions necessary to help them meet their goals.

The challenge, then, is to re-articulate the value add that human advisors provide so that clients truly understand the differences when the inevitable entry by the Internet giants happens on a large scale.

So, as Google continues to experiment with driver-less cars and Amazon is pondering drone-based delivery, the window is open for the wealth management industry to start planning now and making the necessary technology investments to re-build those barriers to entry.  Otherwise, don’t be surprised when Apple’s Siri becomes one of the contenders for advisor of the future – you heard it hear first.


Posted in Uncategorized

Building Trust to Drive Referrals – Part 2

Planning ahead for peace of mind

Four Skills to Build Client Trust

In our previous blog post, we outlined research from the latest whitepaper in our ongoing series of industry content designed to help advisors succeed in a more complex wealth management environment.

The “Building Trust to Drive Referrals” whitepaper identified client loyalty as critical for the health and sustainability of client relationships, which industry research has shown is the number one driver for client referrals.
Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized

The State of M&A for RIAs in 2016

Business people on a meeting at the office

Fresh off a record year for mergers and acquisitions for RIA firms in 2015, 2016 is shaping up to be an even bigger year for firm ownership transitions. There are a number of factors driving this trend, most notably the continued aging of the advisor population as the median age of advisor-owners is in their late 50’s and the urgency for succession planning is catching up with these aging principals.

Another key reason attracting attention RIAs way is that the demand for personal financial advice has increased dramatically, while the number of advisers has fallen.  According to a recent Pershing report on the state of the high net worth market, a 40% increase in millionaires in the US is projected over the next 5 years.

In order to create capacity and scale, opportunistic firms are using M&A to grow inorganically to create larger firms that can absorb the excess demand, while having more efficient infrastructure to manage increasing compliance and technology costs.

“There’s a continued interest from very sophisticated buyers who are entering the RIA marketplace,” noted Mike Papedis, manging director of HighTower at a recent industry conference at a session that was standing room only[1]. Private equity money is investing in RIAs, while banks are returning to the marketplace to resume their acquisition strategies.

According to Papedis, the number of reported RIA firm transactions jumped from about 60 in 2013, to 90 in 2014 and over 130 plus last year. In that same session, investment banker, Dan Seivert of ECHELON Partners noted that due to many deals being private, the actual number of transactions was 3 to 4 times higher than the actual number reported.

Other issues driving M&A range from the technical to the psychological. For many advisors, after successful careers, they have hit their wealth targets and don’t need to continue to work anymore and are ready to exit. For others, they are simply nearing their later years and are getting tired of working. Their firms have grown in complexity and the new industry environment with changing compliance requirements, technology-enabled competition and increasing client demands will be substantially more challenging to navigate.

Others see an opportunity to take advantage of higher valuations as market cycles hit their peak, while others see a downturn in the markets around the corner and want to exit on top.

Regardless of the reasons, industry experts all recommend that before beginning any M&A strategies, it is imperative to have a solid technology and infrastructure in place, for both buyers and sellers. For buyers, the ability to onboard the new firm efficiently and have the scale to absorb the client base with minimal disruption is critical to harness the synergies they are often paying a premium multiple to acquire.

For sellers, having an efficient business, and solid technology footprint drive increased profitability, a key metric that firm valuations are based on. So, for advisors looking to transition out of their firms, having an efficient, cutting edge back office pays off both ways, whether that is an external sale in the form of a higher valuation or an internal sale in terms of a smoother management and ownership transition.

Thus, for all RIAs interested in M&A, the clear message is to focus on your technology.  A timely investment today can result in an excellent ROI from M&A tomorrow.


[1] http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20160609/FREE/160609901/already-sizzling-market-for-advisory-firms-could-be-stoked-by-dol

Bob Conchiglia is Vice President of Sales for the Advisory Market Unit within SS&C Advent. Bob leads advisory sales, solutions consulting and the channel management program. He was an early employee at Black Diamond and has been with the firm for almost 10 years. 

Posted in Advisors, Asset Managers, Technology

SS&C Advent Black Diamond Named Awards Finalist by WealthManagement.com (Again!)

Cheerful group of businesspeople winning the cup.

As products throughout the SS&C portfolio continue to receive industry recognition, SS&C is pleased to announce that once again, SS&C Advent’s Black Diamond wealth platform has been named a finalist in multiple categories by wealthmanagement.com for their prestigious Industry Awards Program for 2016.

Black Diamond’s “True Client-Ready Data” initiative was named as a Finalist in the Technology Providers – Account Aggregation category, while the Black Diamond Investor Experience “Boundary-Bending Client Portal” initiative was named as a Finalist in the Technology Providers – Client Portal category.

The wealthmanagement.com Industry Awards Program recognizes firms that are contributing to advisor success in various categories, including the two mentioned above. Building upon last year’s multiple winning initiatives for the Black Diamond Investor Experience (BDIX) and the Black Diamond Integration Network (BDIN), this marks the second year in a row that SS&C has been a multiple-finalist in the wealthmanagement.com Industry Awards Program.

The enhanced Client Portal initiative was recognized for its new capabilities to help advisors tell their story through reporting and content that encompasses total net worth, income generation, planning and goal setting. New client reporting and communication tools will transform how advisors communicate with clients for a better cumulative experience using BDIX.

The True Client-Ready Data initiative was recognized for its cutting-edge client reporting capabilities based on accurate, aggregated custodial data from major custodians, including new technologies, partnerships and services to create the highest quality aggregated and reconciled data in the industry.

Data is reconciled to the asset level, providing the most accurate information possible and is displayed in the client portal, advisor presentations, document vault and printed reports. End-investors can also add their own assets to the platform to further improve the data experience, while new Data Mining capabilities enables advisors to slice and dice rich data to extract, review, export or save for audits, internal reporting or ongoing maintenance.

A judging panel of industry luminaries selected SS&C’s Black Diamond wealth platform among a number of companies as a Finalist in the two categories for “industry leadership, innovation, and creativity to facilitate advisor success.”

“We’ve had a great response from the industry for our data and client portal initiatives,” said Dave Welling, Co-General Manager of SS&C Advent. “It is a true honor to be recognized by wealthmanagement.com as a leader in these categories and we look forward to the gala event in New York City on September 29, 2016, where the industry will gather to celebrate the winners.”


Kendall Reischl manages Advent’s external communications program through public relations and social media.


Posted in Advent News, Advent Software, Advisors, Black Diamond Performance Reporting, Product News

SS&C Advent Receives Top Honors for Portfolio Management in “Systems in the City” 2016 Awards

SITC Award winner 2016

Last week, UK securities industry consultancy Goodacre announced its “Systems in the City” awards for 2016 – and SS&C Advent made the winners’ circle with the number-one portfolio management system, Advent Portfolio Exchange®.

Goodacre, which evaluates and advises UK market participants on systems and technology (among other things), established the awards to recognize the leading providers of solutions for regulated City of London firms. As Goodacre Managing Director Stephen Pinner put it, “Firms providing technology and support to the regulated financial sector are vital to the sector. These awards provide deserved recognition both to companies and to individuals who work in the background and are not always recognised for the quality, ingenuity and levels of service they provide.”

APX proved itself deserving of the honor on several counts. First, it’s a comprehensive, integrated solution that does the work of several systems in a single platform, including portfolio accounting, reporting, performance analytics, and client relationship management. It’s also a highly scalable platform that enables firms to take on more clients and asset volume without straining system capacity. Moreover, it supports global investing with true multi-currency and multi-asset class accounting capabilities. From the regulatory perspective, it enables firms to demonstrate rigorous controls and transparency, both internally (with a patented audit trail) and externally by organizing data for compliance reporting.

Used by some 900 asset and wealth management firms around the world, APX can be deployed either as an on-premise software installation or as a hosted platform through Advent Outsourcing Services. More and more firms are looking at the outsourcing option as a way to take advantage of APX’s award-winning functionality without the responsibility for system maintenance and upgrades.

Thanks to Goodacre and our good clients in the City. We truly value this recognition in an international forum from experts in the field.

Shana Bruner, Director, Solutions Marketing has been with SS&C Advent for 8 years. She has responsibility for marketing our portfolio accounting, trading, compliance, and additional solutions to clients, prospects and other industry participants.  Prior to joining Advent, Ms. Bruner led a sales team at Bloomberg and held various positions at J.P. Morgan, including fixed income sales with J.P. Morgan Securities.


Posted in Advent News, Advisors, Traditional and Alternative Asset Management, Wealth Management


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