eMoney's newest competitor is ... its founder?
DENTON, Texas — Edmond Walters started eMoney less than 20 years ago. Now, he’s offering high-net-worth advisors a new estate planning product that he says is more sophisticated. Is Walters going toe-to-toe with the company he sold four years ago?
Walters’ tool is backed by Envestnet and PIEtech and will be featured exclusively on Envestnet’s Logix and MoneyGuidePro platforms, putting it within arm’s reach of more than 100,000 advisors.
Several software add-ons will be available that break down client assets in one portfolio dashboard, according to firm. Another aspect of Walters' software tool, which was showcased at the T3 conference, enables advisors to compartmentalize cash flow through a strategy or focus area, such as retirement savings, inheritance gifts or endowment contributions.
Walters' new firm is called Apprise Labs and his tool bears different names depending on the platform. It’ll be labeled MoneyLogixPro on Envestnet, which will charge advisors using the software on a subscription model basis, although the firm would not comment on the exact pricing.
But is there room in the marketplace for another financial planning software product?
“It’s a big market,” Envestnet CEO Jud Bergman says. So big, in fact, that Envestnet will still offer an integration with eMoney on its platform and advisors using the software will be able to keep their planning tools. “We’re not trying to take a satisfied user of eMoney and get them to switch over. The problem is some of advisors using Logix and MoneyGuidePro needed more sophisticated tools.”
Estates with more than $25 million in assets will be the biggest beneficiaries, says Bergman.
“I’m not sure we see this as a switch,” Bergman says of eMoney and MoneyLogixPro. “If you take a step back, the problem we are all trying to solve for is a need for a high-end tool that can manage tax and estate planning that our software just didn’t do.”
The same software will be featured on the MoneyGuidePro platform, but has not yet been named, according to the company.
A spokeswoman at eMoney declined to comment on the new venture. Walters sold eMoney to Fidelity in 2015.
The Envestnet-PIEtech-Apprise partnership is taking some people in the industry by surprise. Estate planning is complex — it includes things like legal documents, tax innovation strategies and complex trusts that hold money.
Jim Starcev from Nexa Insights, who saw the product release at the conference, says the user interface was simple and clean. “Edmond Walters is great at making the really complex very interactive and simple.”
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Others agreed. “He’s polarizing,” says Scott Hunter, vice president of the software provider Docupace. “Walters is a showman. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. He presents extremely well and follows through.”
For Hunter, Walters could be the one to tackle the complexities of estate planning technology. Taking complex processes and making them simple to use is what sets Walters apart from his contemporaries. “The most complex parts of the industry — the parts that you just ignore because there are too many questions and too much paperwork — are turned into a slick solution that solves the problem,” Hunter says.
For the most part, venturing into estate planning is uncharted territory for fintech startups. Most companies choose to focus on products that reel in assets, not ones that set a plan for spending them, according to Grant Easterbrook, co-founder of DreamForward..
“For a new tech startup, it’s definitely not as appealing as an accumulation business model,” Easterbrook says.
Some firms are already tackling the problem of creating software to handle estate planning needs. Scott Huff, founder of the estate planning tool YoureFolio, says the new entrant into the space is a boon for business. “We resonate with everything that Walters said,” Huff says. “His business model is a little confusing to be honest. We’ve been on the block a lot longer.”
Huff admits estate planning is not the sexiest part of wealth management, but having an industry veteran like Walters enter the space is much deserved validation.
“It just boosted my stock,” he says.