The cutting edge of wealthtech, fintech, robo-advisors and RIA adoption of technology was showcased at this years InVest West conference. Sponored by Sourcemedia, the home of FinancialPlanning and American Banker, the conference delved into the transformation of the wealth management industry.
Highlights included conversations Joshua Levin of OpenInvest the socially consious robo-advisor, Andy Radcliff of Wealthfront and Betterment’s Jon Stein. With panels led by Chelsea Emery, editor-in-chief of Financial Planning, William Trout of Celent and April Rudin of The Rudin Group.
The conference takeaways concur that the financial and wealth services industry is rapidly transforming. Following are trends that are upending the robo-advisory and wealth management spheres.
Evisor – Sara Borazan Wants Digital Consumers to Match the Financial Advisory Experience
Sara Borazan, principal at Evisor, North Capital’s robo-advisor claims the robo-advisor offers the same quality of service that an individual receives from a financial advisor. Similar to Betterment and Personal Capital, Evisor provides financial advisory access and automated digital advice for a competitive .25% management fee. With zero minimum investment amount, it’s competing on price, services and no minimum investment amount.
Evisor’s targets investors in the $500,000 to $1,000,000 category, who might not get the attention from a full scale financial advisor.
Anyone can receive free financial planning with a simple user experience, before opening an account. This is a useful offer for those potential clients seeking to check out the platform and find out how their finances are poised for the future. Paid users get the full package of investment management and financial advisor access.
Acorns – Manning Field Targets the Small Investor
The Acorns robo-advisory investment app for small investors was represented by Manning Field, chief operating officer. He covered the firm’s growth strategy and initiatives. With over 7,000 account opens per day, the company is expanding, predominantly by word-of-mouth. Although, they admit to paid advertising as well.
Field considers Acorns a brand, and as is common in today’s tech ethos, the work culture is important. The company focuses its efforts on providing what customers want. Specifically, new investors may not want excessive choice or complexity, so the app is simple and helps users build financial confidence and join the investing class, Field says.
Similar to other players in the field like M1 Finance and Betterment, Acorns is also moving into banking with a debit card and cash account as well. The company, like others in the field seeks to help new investors save and invest for the future.
Our concern is that financial education accompanies the product, With many users never experiencing a market drop, the consequences could be dire when markets reverse course.
Betterment – Jon Stein Tells All
The ongoing question Betterment’s CEO, Jon Stein asks is “How do we push as much value into our products?” With a new push into high yield savings accounts, checking and more offerings for RIA’s and institutions, it’s clear that Betterment continues with its goal of becoming a one-stop banking and investing destination for consumers and businesses.
During the first week, the Betterment EveryDay high yield cash account garnered over $1 billion in savings, mostly from new customers. Offering among the highest interest rates in the market and no limit on transactions, the FDIC insured account is poised to be a player in the banking arena.
But wait, Betterment goes a step further with its two-way sweep. The algorithm estimates the amount of cash a user will need and automatically sweeps excess funds into either the investment account or the Betterment EverDay high yield cash account.
Moderator Sean Allocca, associate editor of Financial Planning asked the right questions and furthered the conversation about the future of robo investing with Betterment.
OpenInvest – Joshua Levin Makes Changing the World Seamless
OpenInvest helps investors use technology to invest with their values. But unlike competitors in the socially responsible investing space, Levin offers customization by eliminating ETFs and employing individual stock investing.
“OpenInvest streamlines fund creation where the consumer chooses his or her investment parameters while the platform creates individualized and optimized portfolios,” Levin says. The company calls it, direct indexing at scale.
Another differentiating feature of this SRI robo-advisor is their ESG and impact reporting and proxy voting opportunity. Both services help the investor stay engaged in the companies and causes they value.
Not only for individual investors, OpenInvest partners with RIAs, and other companies such as L’Atelier BNP Paribas Bank, said co-presenter Arnaud Auger Sengupta, vice president.
InVest West Wrap Up – The Future of Digital Wealth Management
Finally, Suleman Din, technology editor at Financial Planning dug into the results of the “Robo Effect” report. Ultimately, technological changes are quick and pervasive across the investing and wealth tech industries and those that do not pay attention are likely to be left behind.
The conference presenters were in accord that wealth management is becoming more and more a marriage of the human financial advisor and digital wealth management. With mergers, acquisitions and movement into broader financial services such as banking, it’s likely that the future will be significantly different than today.