NEW ORLEANS - Envestnet isn't selling a product called financial wellness, but the financial services technology/platform giant is pushing the concept hard.
CEO Jud Bergman and president Bill Crager reiterate the phrase in every speech and interview they give. Lower level executives also continually refer to financial wellness, and frame new services and products they introduce as an outgrowth of Envestnet's commitment to a holistic view of a client's financial life.
United Capital CEO Joe Duran pioneered the concept of "financial life management" for RIAs in the context of financial planning.
Can Envestnet do the same for a technology-driven platform provider?
So far the reviews are mixed.
Some observers think Envestnet has struck a nerve that will resonate with its market.
"I believe it will pay off for them," says technology consultant Bill Winterberg, principle of FPPad.com. "We're barely in the first inning of the potential of financial wellness applications. Today's apps are very backwards looking. Progressive applications will leverage insights to promote actions consumers can take in the future to improve their financial health."
Others are more skeptical.
"It’s really difficult to say if it will work," says consultant Doug Fritz, principal of F2 Strategy. "There's no question that clients want and need more trusted planning and financial guidance at all wealth levels. And it’s a no-brainer that advisors need access to more quality data to make better decisions. However, it’s not a core competency of Envestnet and it all feels like a gimmick to me."
A test case for Envestnet may be financial.fit; a new app with a retirement orientation introduced at the conference and scheduled to roll out in late summer, with data analytics features from Yodlee set to be added next year.
Quote"It’s really difficult to say if it will work," says consultant Doug Fritz.
The app is modeled on a physical fitness workout and allows clients to budget for savings, debt, health savings accounts, insurance and retirement planning. It links to outside accounts and has video and gamification features.
Envestnet will promote the app to the 88,000 advisors on its platform throughout the year says Kelly Michel, chief marketing officer for the company's retirement solutions division.
"We think financial wellness is the future, and this helps us integrate different silos so we can get more generalists into the retirement business," Michel says. The marketing challenge, she adds, will be convincing advisors that the app's value justifies its cost.
At least one advisor liked what he saw at the conference.
"I think the app will fit in well," says Richard Rowehl, a retirement plan specialist for MMA Securities in New York. "The gamification features will help make it actionable for clients and it should be a good catalyst to have productive conversations. And I hope it helps make people more financially literate."