Demonstrating the intensifying race to dominate adviser technology, Pershing broadened the scope of its B2B digital advice offerings, announcing on Wednesday it was bringing startups SigFig, Vanare and Invesco's Jemstep Advisor Pro onto its platform that also includes the still-developing robo Marstone.

As rapid digital change affects wealth management practices, an open API, multiple-solution approach allows for quick innovation and is the smartest strategy to serve different orders of adviser business, says Mark Tibergien, CEO of Pershing Advisor Solutions. He adds that Pershing may add other providers to its custody platform in the future.

Quote
Pershing may add other providers to its custody platform in the future.

"We don’t think a proprietary or single product-oriented approach is adequate for each of the clients we have," Tibergien says. "Each of our clients has different needs. There is no one single killer app."

The variable approach and allowing access to its application programming interface is a savvy business move, the firm’s new partners said.

"What they're doing is very smart,” says Richard Cancro, co-founder and CEO of New York-based Vanare. “They're offering choice to clients and letting clients having multiple options. Choice is always great.

"From a marketplace perspective, TD Ameritrade and Pershing have raised the bar in terms of working with third-party digital providers versus their competitors, for sure."

Mark Tibergien, chief executive officer of Pershing Advisor Solutions. Image: Bloomberg
Mark Tibergien, chief executive officer of Pershing Advisor Solutions. Image: Bloomberg

Estimating that his firm’s reach to advisers will expand “five-fold” by being on Pershing’s custody platform, Cancro says such partnerships are an industry acknowledgment that "the entire ecosystem of wealth management can now be digitized and scalable."

Tibergien acknowledged that other asset managers and custodians have different approaches toward offering digital solutions for advisers. Some examples include BlackRock's recent sweep of deals with large institutions for its robo platform, or the all-in-one, closed architecture systems coupled with in-house robo solutions created by Schwab and Fidelity.

"I think each of our competitors have proven, successful businesses, it's just our philosophies are different," Tibergien says. "The way which we view the marketplace, it's far too dynamic to hitch your wagon to one star. It's not unlike investment advisers recommending a diversified portfolio. Having a diversified approach creates flexibility and leverages the power of multiple solutions. I wouldn't say they're wrong. We're quite comfortable in our approach."

Quote
The entire ecosystem of wealth management can now be digitized and scalable.

Simon Roy, president of Jemstep, added the partnership would help create efficiencies for clients and the advisers that serve them.

"We believe that Jemstep Advisor Pro will help [advisers] expand their business, as well as provide objective advice to their clients,” Roy said in a statement.

Having made the shift from B2C to a B2B model, the Pershing alliance provides sustenance for five-year-old San Francisco-based SigFig, notes its CEO Mike Sha. (In April SigFig partnered with Boston-based Cambridge Savings Bank to provide its customers with digital advice.)

"We're obviously excited to be working with large provider," Sha says.

The addition of the three platforms doesn’t diminish the existing Marstone robo offering, Tibergien notes. "It's in fact our first priority. It is the very first one, followed by the others. Ultimately it's the consumer's choice. We're not selling a product; we're making options available to them."