ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A year ago, LPL Financial had a technology problem.
The giant independent broker-dealer was one of only two IBDs with double-digit "very unsatisfied" rankings in the Financial Planning Tech Survey published at the end of 2012. When CIO Victor Fetter took the stage at the company's annual meeting in San Diego last summer, he started by copping to a long laundry list of service failings to advisors -- before telling the crowd of 5,700 that LPL had heard their complaints and was working to address them.
Now Fetter says he wants to give advisors the option to forget their technology -- simply because, he argues, LPL's new tech platform has become so good at simplifying the advisor experience to help them spend more time with clients.
And that, he adds, is what all advisors most want to do. "There's potential [with technology] in driving simplicity in their practices," says the CIO, who sat down for an interview during the T3 Conference here.
FACING TECH COMPLAINTS
Fetter's hiring itself was widely seen as a canny decision. LPL lured him in December 2012 from Dell Computer, where he was credited with delivering robust, personalized digital experiences and end-to-end technology solutions for consumer and commercial customers, according to LPL. At the time, LPL faced complaints by many of its advisors for slipping service and less-than-robust technology tools.
Since then, LPL has committed itself to a culture of innovation, Fetter says. "We are not just after a [single] point solution," he says. "We aren't just going to solve trading, or portfolio management or CRM ... Our view is we have an overarching strategy about helping our advisors take advantage of changes in the marketplace and use tech as an enabler."
Advisors are increasingly letting LPL know that they don't want to deal on their own with the compliance complexities that come with overseeing their client accounts, or portfolio balancing or streamlining their back offices, according to Fetter. And they are turning to LPL to either advise them about these issues or to do much of this work itself, he says.
Although Fetter says security is a key priority for LPL, he declines to provide specifics on what LPL is doing to address security worries tied to cloud services. "We don't talk about our security protocols," he says, arguing that the very act of publicly disclosing the measures that LPL is taking to secure its data could hinder those protective measures.
Still, he argues that he takes online security issues seriously, saying they were part of his work at Dell: "That notion of security and management of transactions, that's part of the core of who I am."
Indeed, he argues, strong security tools will become a competitive advantage as more advisors seek to partner with larger firms in order to arm themselves against security and compliance threats. On the same day of the interview, LPL announced that strong recruiting had helped drive net revenues to a record.
"The big message," Fetter says, is that "technology is just an enabler."
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