SAN DIEGO - At any given time, there are 30 different technology initiatives underway at Schwab, but in a rapidly evolving wealth management business, what are those efforts building toward?

Executives say their efforts to develop new technologies and applications for advisers — from cybersecurity protections to AI-powered tools — are intended to enhance an adviser's efficiency in a competitive marketplace.

"From an operational perspective, more advisers are going to have to automate simple tasks and modernize their back offices, just as a number of industries have also done," Ed Obuchowski, head of advisor services technology at Schwab, says.

So far, a host of new features have been rolled out in the firm's core custody and trading platform for RIAs, Schwab Advisor Services, and initiatives within the custodian to introduce digital, error-reducing features have seen increased adoption, says Lauren Wilkinson, vice president of advisor technology solutions at Schwab.

The firm is also developing its next-gen portfolio management solution, Schwab Advisor Portfolio Connect, and expects to release it next year.

(Bloomberg News)
(Bloomberg News)

Currently, the institutional version of its Intelligent Portfolios robo platform is finding its footing among RIAs. "They are getting to place to knowing where it fits in their overall practice," Obuchowski says.

Schwab's Intelligent Portfolios now manages over $10 billion, the firm says, and will soon be expanding its offerings, including its selection of ETFs. In order to speed adoption, the firm is working to simplify the process advisers have to go through to convert accounts into the digital platform.

Obuchowski says that digital advice's advancement demonstrates how wealth management is evolving. "I don't think face-to-face is ever going away. But there is an expectation that there will be a change in the interaction model. That could be more online, that could be video chat."

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"From an operational perspective, more advisers are going to have to automate simple tasks and modernize their back offices, just as a number of industries have also done," Ed Obuchowski, head of advisor services technology at Schwab, says.

NEW PARADIGM

Even as Schwab experiments with new digital technologies and interfaces, the firm is still heeding the needs of the less tech-savvy advisers.

"Our strategy is to help the new paradigm bridge with old behaviors and help our clients make that journey," Brian Shenson, vice president of advisory technology solutions at Schwab says.

Looking to the near future, Shenson says there could be opportunities for Schwab to adopt AI-powered features that could make it easier for advisers and their staff to navigate information.

But AI would likely come to Schwab first in the form of fraud detection capabilities, Obuchowski says.

There's also an opportunity for Schwab to provide big data insights to advisers about their practices, Shenson adds.

"Big data really is little data for advisers, helping them get their arms around their own practices," he says, adding one example would be RIA benchmarking.

"We're trying to think about future, but we know that advisers have a lot on their plate," Shenson says. "So we want to be thoughtful and practical about the capabilities we bring to them."

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Suleman Din

Suleman Din

Suleman Din is technology editor of American Banker and Financial Planning. Follow him on Twitter at @sulemandn.