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Tech Survey: Where custodians fall short

Custodians don't just hold client assets. They also need to hold an advisor’s attention.

Some of them are doing just that, according to Financial Planning’s annual Tech Survey. Other custodians might need to step up their game.

When we asked advisors to share their experiences with their custodians' tech offerings, such as risk assessment software or client portals, they told us they were either overwhelmed with the number of features, or disappointed in the lack of time taken to explain how to use them.

Planners also said they wanted to go paperless, they desired more mobile tools and longed for more time-sensitive — and friendly — customer service.

Of the more than 300 advisors who took the survey, nearly 250 left comments. A review of their notes paints an honest and critical picture of what custodians are doing well — and not doing so well. Scroll through to see the highlights.

The list is not ranked as the number of reviews per custodian is disproportionate.

TD Ameritrade
Advisors told us they were happy with the tech offerings at TD Ameritrade, reporting excellent tools, open architecture and a user-friendly platform that was easy to navigate.

“We like their affinity services and iRebal,” noted one advisor. “They also have great integration with our other software platforms. I like that they are updating the advisorclient.com website.”

Said another advisor: “I've had very, very few problems working with TDAI over 15 years. Excellent service.”

Still, one advisor requested better rebalancing software. Others who left comments throughout the survey said they would have liked to have more training.
Raymond James
Raymond James
Respondents to our Tech Survey said they were largely satisfied with technology offerings and service at Raymond James.

One advisor noted that the firm was making it a point to invest in younger financial planners.

“They have invested heavily in this space compared to peers,” remarked the Raymond James advisor. “All the new updates and changes can be tough for legacy advisors, but for younger advisors, it has been refreshing.”

Some reported the financial planning software to be too basic for complex planning needs, or shared a desire for a better market data tool.
Advisors who use Fidelity were largely pleased with the firm's technology offerings, citing helpful tools and a recognized brand.

Some advisors noted the accessibility of the information and were impressed by the customer service.

“I'm happy overall. I just wish their trading software was a little more advanced,” said one advisor.

Another advisor noted that the retail side of the business is much stronger than its institutional side.
Advisors using Schwab had good things to say about its technology.

One advisor reported Schwab to be “the cream of the crop.” Another noted that the custodian had great technology, the staff was friendly and the platforms were intuitive for clients.

However, some said Schwab did not integrate well with outside offerings, and did not have enough options in the client portal.
While only three survey respondents used TradePMR as a custodian, they told us they were impressed overall with its offerings.

One advisor noted that the custodian was constantly working to improve.

Another advisor said that the firm was taking steps with a new online platform to enable easier access by tablet and phone.
Pershing’s new ETF platform is only available to its clients.
Many advisors were satisfied with the technology offerings at Pershing, reporting a sufficient, or even an “excellent platform.”

“They give me everything I need to run my business in one place,” said one advisor. “Even annuities can be bought or sold on their platform. Digging deeper, the fixed-income center is a phenomenal tool.”

However, some advisors noted a lack of training and service, “archaic levels of bureaucracy and paperwork” and expensive fees.
Advisors noted that RBC's technology met their needs, but one complained that customer service was “difficult to work with," while another said there was "no service."

“RBC is big, but they care, and do respond in a timely manner when issues arise,” wrote another advisor in our survey.

Some advisors complained of having to fill out too many forms, or that the advisor site wasn't easy to use.
Equity Advisor Solutions
Of the three Financial Planning Tech Survey respondents who reported using Equity Advisor Solutions as a custodian, all agreed its technology was suitable.

Customer service was sufficient and the custodian “serves our needs,” said one advisor.

Advisors did not specify what they considered to be lacking.
Shareholder Service Group
Advisors who shared their views of technology offered at Shareholder Service Group reported that the offerings were functional, but said little else.

Advisors noted that it “worked as advertised,” had “reliable service” and had “no issues.”

Respondents did not detail what they liked, or disliked, about the custodian’s technology.
LPL Financial
Advisors expressed disappointment in LPL Financial’s technology; however some noted that the offerings had improved over time.

Several advisors noted that there were difficulties with the new integrated advisor platform, ClientWorks. One advisor wished the custodian would make an app.

“I know they can be doing more,” said one advisor.

“LPL has good systems,” reported another.