Trizic is making a comeback. But if you ask its new CEO, Drew Sievers, the adviser software firm never lost its edge.

"Without a doubt, compared to any of our competitors, we have the most technically advanced enterprise level software out there," Sievers says. "That's what I do; all these other guys, that's not what they do."

Bay Area-based Trizic was among the early firms catering to burgeoning demand from wealth management firms for digital advice software and infrastructure.

But it watched as competitors began getting acquired and announcing deep partnerships with some of the biggest names in wealth management — such as FutureAdvisor's acquisition by BlackRock or SigFig's tie-up with UBS.

In quick succession, FutureAdvisor announced deals with LPL, RBC Wealth Management, BBVA and U.S. Bank, while SigFig claimed Wells Fargo in addition to UBS. Other competitors also rebranded and secured additional funding, including Vanare, which became AdvisorEngine, and NextCapital.

Trizic in that time went through management changes that saw its founder Brad Matthews ceding the CEO role in October to Sievers, former chief executive of mobile banking platform mFoundry (which was acquired by FIS).

Sievers has been busy fine-tuning the firm's focus and setting its strategy. A new round of $3.3 million in funding last month, the addition of new board members and the announcement of a deal on Monday with John Hancock Financial give weight to his claim that Trizic is ready to cover lost ground in the market and compete.

In a 2016 survey of advisers, the CFA Institute found most respondents said automated advice's greatest impact would be on asset management and banking.
In a 2016 survey of advisers, the CFA Institute found most respondents said automated advice's greatest impact would be on asset management and banking.

"We are focused on RIAs, we are focused on enterprise and we are focused on banks and credit unions," he says. "We have a single platform that does all of those. We'll have 10 custodial integrations done by the year end, six custodial integrations for trust accounting systems. We are originally and historically an enterprise grade solution, and we're going to stay focused on that."

The John Hancock deal puts Trizic's automated wealth platform in the hands of its advisers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

But Sievers says more such deals are coming for Trizic, and it partly comes on the strength of the talent brought over from his former venture and the existing technology in the Trizic platform.

"We know how to integrate with any financial system, and we have the ability to talk to banks more than anyone. Everyone on my team has worked with at least 300 banks."

BANK OPPORTUNITY
Retail banks represent the biggest opportunity for scaling digital wealth management in the future, Sievers says, and that's where Trizic is aimed.

"Private banks cannot cost effectively serve clients under $250,000, so what happens between $250,000 and $5,000?

"We are focused on RIAs, we are focused on enterprise and we are focused on banks and credit unions," says Trizic CEO Drew Sievers.
"We are focused on RIAs, we are focused on enterprise and we are focused on banks and credit unions," says Trizic CEO Drew Sievers.

"The cost of acquiring those clients is brutal, but in online banking, if you can add a button you can press to put savings into a wealth account, answer some risk questions and be put into a proper mix of low-cost ETFs, that's a far better solution. I think banks will get that, and whether they make money charging for AUM or a monthly fee, that’s where we are going and that to me is a huge opportunity."

Industry observers were positive about Trizic's competitive chances, albeit with some reservations.

"You only get one chance at a first impression," says Tim Welsh, president of adviser tech consultancy Nexus Strategy. "Trizic came out strong, but everyone caught up quickly. Now they are playing from behind, which is never good in a high tech startup space."

What Trizic and other adviser tech firms vying for institutional clients should do is focus on being the best in breed in a particular function as opposed to trying to build an all-in-one solution, Welsh says.

"There are a lot of legacy systems that will need to be replaced, and that won't happen overnight," he says.

Lex Sokolin, global director of fintech strategy at Autonomous Research (and former competitor at Vanare) applauds Trizic's refocusing on the bank space.

"It requires a fairly different technology and integration infrastructure at the custody level," Sokolin says. "Their connection to FIS through the leadership suggests a distribution channel that is very promising for the company. Think about an adviser sitting in every bank branch across the country having an easy robo platform integrated into the core bank services technology."

Like Welsh, Sokolin says Trizic will have to show it can scale and execute on their technology promise.

"At first launch, Trizic signed up a lot of RIA customers that ended up waiting in line, which impacted them reputationally. Unlikely that experience will be repeated, but that's the key question."

Sievers says his track record and industry relationships will put those concerns to rest.

"I'm very different from the other guys running these companies, I'm not a wealth guy, I'm a fintech guy. Our strategy is super boring. There's no drama — this is not a startup run by a 22-year-old."

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Suleman Din

Suleman Din

Suleman Din is technology editor of American Banker and Financial Planning. Follow him on Twitter at @sulemandn.