As The Tech Revolution Sizzles, Advisors Look For Simplicity

Technology

By Raymond Fazzi – FA-mag.com – Cutting-edge issues like blockchain, bitcoin and cybersecurity are getting all the headlines, but one longtime fintech watcher said financial advisors have something a little more basic in mind when shopping for technology: financial planning.

Advisors are looking for the “sweet spot” when it comes to integrating expensive technologies into their practices, and for many advisors that means adopting more sophisticated tools to provide financial planning for clients, said Joel Bruckenstein, a consultant and author who closely follows the fintech industry.

Much of it has to do with the commoditization of investment management, he added.
“A lot of the things advisors used to be able to charge for they can’t charge for anymore,” Bruckenstein said during an interview with Financial Advisor at the opening day of the Technology Tools for Today (T3) conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Tuesday.
“They’re looking for something that brings a lot of value” to clients, he said.

This is the 15th year that the T3 conference has been held. Bruckenstein, one of the event’s organizers, said attendance has gone up every year, with an all-time high of 700 advisors signed up for this year’s event. The first event had 175 attendees, he said.
Preliminary surveys of attendees have shown that the area of fintech they feel holds the most value for advisors and clients is the area of financial planning.

It’s a broad market, and also a competitive one, he noted. Among the latest products that would fall into that category are MoneyGuidePro, eMoney Advisor, RightCapital, Whealthcare Planning, NaviPlan, Advizr and Covisum’s Tax Clarity and Social Security Timing, he said.

The products attempt to bring a higher level of sophistication to investment and retirement planning, with an added focus, particularly in the case of Whealthcare, on bringing burgeoning health-care costs into the planning process, he said. “Nobody is getting advice on that now,” Bruckenstein said.

Another key to these products, he said, is that they’re not set-and-forget “robo-advisors” that leave human advisors out of the process. Instead, he said, they allow advisors to use the software as a foundation on which they can “build their own unique intellectual property.”

This is particularly important for millennial clients, he added.

The conference will also be addressing areas that have been getting a lot of attention lately, including blockchain technology and cybersecurity, Bruckenstein said.

Blockchain, which maintains global, encrypted ledgers, such as the ones that provide the foundation for cryptocurrencies, is something many advisors are still trying to get a handle on, Bruckenstein said. But he speculated that the technology’s impact on the financial advice industry could be “revolutionary” in a variety of ways. He predicted, for example, that the technology will soon enable advisors and their clients to conduct transactions on their smartphones and “be immediately reconciled.”

Cybersecurity also continues to be a focus of software solutions, but Bruckenstein said product providers and advisors still struggle with the fact that many security risks are the result of human carelessness rather than software flaws.

“The real weakness in the chain is the end client,” he said. “People continue to write their password on a sticky note and put it on their computer.”