The new strategy for advisor tech tools: Q&A with In|Vest speaker Kevin Adams, SVP of Raymond James
Q: What kinds of technology are advisors looking for?
KEVIN ADAMS: Advisors have so much information coming at them and so many questions, it really boils down to being able to use all of the data. The challenge is to bring that data together, not just to call the advisor to take an action, but also to look for opportunities within the relationships. By using advanced analytics to look for opportunity, advisors will improve their value proposition. They can improve investment decision by looking, digitally, to see if something was overlooked in the portfolio or if there was a significant change in the market. Synthesizing data just makes the financial advisor’s life a lot easier.
What are the biggest benefits of mobile applications?
If an advisor is sitting down with a client at dinner and wants to touch base on the account, the advisor can take a quick peek at the mobile app and find the client’s retirement account, or the account balance of an IRA, in real-time and make changes to those accounts in real-time. Those capabilities automatically add value to the relationship. If the advisor is on a train and gets a reminder of a client’s birthday and touches base with the client — it’s all of that stuff. Even just staying up to date on market news and how that’s related to the client portfolio.
What trends do you see in advisor tech?
There are a handful of tools that have started out life as very consumer-driven tools. Now, a handful of firms are directly coming up with versions for enterprise users. They are beginning to change strategy and shift toward serving the advisors — instead of the retail clients. That has been a boon for our business. Tools are coming to market with the advisor in mind, like account opening tools, portfolio modeling and product suggestions. It all plays into the end goal of making the financial advisor more efficient and effective.
How do you see robo advice playing out in the new few years?
Robo advisors certainly have a place in this industry. It reminds me of my time in the early 2000s working with Merrill Lynch as the firm moved into the online trading space that served a certain target of investors in the marketplace. For some investors, online trading was simply a complement. For others, it wasn’t really necessary for that relationship. Robo advisors serve a segment of clients. However, there is something about having a human being on the other end of the phone when you’re talking about financial goals and wants and the needs. You can’t call up a computer. When the markets are falling and clients have questions or when a client goes through a significant life challenge, advisors become irreplaceable.
What are the biggest disruptors?
The biggest disruptor will continue to leverage artificial intelligence to mine, cull and pull so much more information to improve the investment process and the planning process for clients. We look at the fintech space, and particularly in wealthtech, and just see so much money pouring into those firms and so much innovation. Now, the funding is coming from different geographies as well. It was predominantly the U.S. just a few years ago. Who knows what the next disruptor will be? There is just so much data. And, that means, big challenges and big opportunities.
Will technology firms enter the wealth management?
A lot of people have been talking about the big tech companies for a while. I haven’t seen any real movement. I think everyone goes through the mental exercise: “What happens if Amazon gets into wealth management?” And, it doesn’t mean that such a large player and large capital couldn’t enter the space. I just don’t see it happening. There are regulatory hoops that need to be met to get into this business — the compliance and supervision necessary that we need to be able to function properly. The tech players would have to deal with a lot of new supervision that they haven’t necessarily face before. I haven’t seen it happening yet.
How are firms tackling cybersecurity?
What keeps all of us up at night as IT professionals is the potential for a sophisticated cyber attack on our business. Right now — no matter what industry or what type of firm — you have to be looking at real-time attacks and monitor those encounters 24 hours a day to ensure client data is safe. It’s almost taken for granted because it is such a core part of what you do as a tech professional in financial services. It’s almost become table stakes, but it’s tantamount to what we do.