TD Ameritrade Institutional is giving away cash awards for fintech proposals that offer innovative strategies for the RIA industry.

Called Innovation Quest, the inaugural competition includes a panel of judges that will score the first 300 submitted proposals based on their ability to improve technology for independent planners.

Three finalists will be announced in mid-October and each receive an award of $25,000. They will work with the firm to develop the ideas before presenting the ideas in front of a live audience at the TD Ameritrade Institutional National LINC Conference in San Diego in February. The grand prize winner will receive a total of $50,000.

“All the good ideas don’t just belong to TD Ameritrade and our associates, but the big ideas also belong to our clients and other innovators that might be out in the marketplace,” says Jim Dario, managing director of product management at TD Ameritrade Institutional.

TD Ameritrade Institutional President Tom Nally speaks on stage at the February 2018 National LINC conference in Orlando.
TD Ameritrade Institutional President Tom Nally speaks on stage at the February 2018 National LINC conference in Orlando. LILA PHOTO for TD Ameritrade Institutional


TD Ameritrade will get the first rights to the three finalists’ ideas in the competition. The company plans to start developing the ideas, and potentially implementing them, as soon as the finalists are chosen, Dario says.

The Omaha-based company is one of four large RIA custodians, and it provides brokerage and custody services to about 6,000 RIAs and their clients, according to company data.

Other key players in the RIA industry have been taking their own steps to harvest the newest fintech ideas. Schwab announced it was opening two new digital accelerator hubs in May.

RIAs are spending more money on technology, specifically to improve their clients’ experiences, a TD Ameritrade survey released in January showed. Clients are more and more interested in alternative technologies that can give them better access to their accounts at any time of day, Dario says. There could be benefits from technological advancements in cybersecurity.

The competition will accept entries for about two months. Dario expects the submitters to be a diverse group of candidates including RIAs, financial planning students, advisors or anyone associated with fintech.

While the selection of judges has not yet been finalized, TD Ameritrade has narrowed its focus to groups of people who will sit on the panel.

“It’s going to be a representative group of participation from senior execs at TD Ameritrade, RIAs themselves, and industry experts that work within the RIA marketplace,” Dario says.

TD Ameritrade would like to assist in developing several of the submitted ideas, even if they are not chosen as finalists, Dario says. The company wants to see collaboration and hopes that the competition will foster the development of the next generation of technology leadership, he adds.

Jessica Mathews

Jessica Mathews

Jessica Mathews is a reporter for Financial Planning, On Wall Street and Bank Investment Consultant.