17 Takeaways From Envestnet’s Advisor Summit 2019


Executive Summary

Last week, Envestnet – the wealth management mega-platform that now touches nearly 100,000 advisors with their various technology tools – hosted their annual 2019 Advisor Summit in Austin, Texas. Fresh off the heels of its half-billion-dollar acquisition of MoneyGuidePro – a transaction that officially closed on the first day of the conference itself – Envestnet’s Advisor Summit provided a fascinating glimpse of what Envestnet plans to do with MoneyGuidePro, its recent purchase of Yodlee, and where the company sees its next opportunities… as communicated in a series of keynotes from the Envestnet leadership to over 3,000 attendees.

In the guest post, Craig Iskowitz – CEO and founder of Ezra Group, a financial technology consulting firm – provides a recap of the 2019 Envestnet Advisor Summit and shares highlights from various presentations as the company maps out their vision for creating an integrated wealth management platform that allows advisors to deliver solutions that support not just financial planning but the “financial wellness” of their clients.

From its roots as a TAMP and distributor of various third-party managed accounts, Envestnet in recent years has executed a series of industry-changing acquisitions, with two blockbuster deals announced just in the past few months, including the purchases of PortfolioCenter from Schwab in March and MoneyGuidePro in April. The newly-named Envestnet | MoneyGuide was out in force at the conference, as the company took the opportunity to point out that the deal aligns perfectly with their financial wellness marketing strategy, as they endeavor to differentiate themselves from an increasingly crowded wealth management technology space by building an integrated experience of portfolio management (via Tamarac), financial planning (via MoneyGuidePro), and centralized data (via Yodlee), to give advisors a more holistic platform to service their clients (and run their own businesses).

Envestnet executives also focused on data integration and analytics, as Envestnet’s acquisition of Yodlee back in 2015 continues to bear fruit, with the company touting that they’ve improved the accuracy of held-away data from 72% to the low 90s, and they continue to integrate their suite of tools and bulk up their data sources. Data also is also playing a big role as Envestnet builds a mobile budgeting app that advisors can white-label and offer to their clients, as well as in their plans to give advisors and firms the ability benchmark their performance and fees against 90,000 other advisors on Envestnet using the Advisor Analytics package (and to predict with 90% accuracy that a client is planning to jump ship within 90 days!).

Finally, Envestnet took the opportunity to highlight its recent introduction of its Credit and Insurance exchanges, which are seen as yet another game-changing development for the industry as the company seeks to address not only a huge area of opportunity for advisors who continue to seek ways to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace but a tremendous gap between client expectations of what products they should be receiving from advisors versus what advisors are actually able to provide, especially in the growing fee-based channel.

Ultimately, the 2019 Advisor Summit allowed Envestnet to present to the advisor community its vision for the future of the industry, and the massive technology platform it is building for them. Given how notoriously difficult it’s been for businesses to successfully integrate complex systems into one cohesive platform, though, it remains to be seen whether Envestnet can realize its vision. Nonetheless, Envestnet has moved well ahead of the pack to dominate every part of the marketplace they’ve entered, and has, at the very least, put themselves in a position to deliver on their ambitious goals.

Author: Craig Iskowitz

Guest Post

Craig Iskowitz is CEO and founder of Ezra Group, a management consulting firm providing advice to the financial services industry on marketing and technology strategy. Ezra Group works with RIA’s, broker-dealers and banks to help them make sound technology decisions, identify growth opportunities and energize their marketing.  Craig is also the publisher of the blog Wealth Management Today, which provides in-depth analysis of trends and issues facing the wealth management industry. Craig can be reached at craig@ezragroupllc.com.

Insurance and credit and planning, oh my!

Envestnet has been working non-stop to incorporate new financial services products into their ecosystem. From annuities to consumer lending to financial planning, the leading provider of wealth management technology seems to be constantly expanding the breadth of their offerings.

CEO Jud Bergman even quoted from the Wizard of Oz in his keynote at the recent Envestnet Advisor Summit held in Austin, TX. The conference brought together over 3,000 attendees to watch a steady stream of keynotes from senior executives sharing news, updates and sneak peeks at future plans for RIAs, broker-dealers and bank/trust firms.

Following the keynotes was a veritable avalanche of breakout sessions covering every aspect of Envestnet’s products and services which filled every part of the Austin Convention Center that wasn’t already taken up by the massive vendor and exhibit hall.

Keynotes Of The Envestnet Advisor Summit

Estee Jimerson, Head of Asset Manager Distribution at Envestnet, kicked off the conference by announcing that their acquisition of PIETech/MoneyGuidePro had become official that morning at 12:01 am. I believe it was $500 million well-spent to nab the leading provider of financial planning software. It also fits in perfectly within their financial wellness marketing strategy, which they launched at last year’s summit. (See Envestnet Rebrands as a Financial Wellness Platform)

CEO Jud Bergman mentioned during his keynote that the $123 million investment from BlackRock helped fund the MoneyGuidePro purchase. I asked him during our one-on-one interview whether he was thinking about buying MoneyGuidePro before the BlackRock deal or if it came up afterward.

In an excited voice, Bergman explained that he had been trying to buy MoneyGuidePro for “six or seven years” but Bob Curtis kept telling him that they weren’t for sale. It wasn’t until they had their partnership in place a few months before the T3 Advisor Conference announcement that Curtis suggested discussing an acquisition.

It was a wise move to differentiate them from an increasingly crowded wealth management technology space where platforms are looking more and more alike.

As Michael Kitces pointed out, Envestnet is framing their vision of financial wellness as being bigger than just financial planning. Planning is what advisors do, but wellness is the outcome they aim to achieve.

Adena Friedman CEO of Nasdaq said they’re leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning in three ways: 1) as a defensive measure to identify bad actors, 2) improving the efficiency of their AML and KYC processes, and 3) as an offensive activity to enable smarter investment decisions and identify new business opportunities.

Friedman also told us about what her son said to her after trying his hand at investing his own money: “This is hard!”

Of course, the drop in IPOs is an important issue to the head of a major stock exchange that relies on trading in public company shares as their primary source of revenue. But the data shows that the number of public companies has been pretty stable, at around 4,200, since 2008.

While the number of IPOs peaked leading up to the Dot Com Bubble (1998-2000), over the past five years, the companies that have gone public have been fundamentally more stable (fewer end up being delisted) and raised more capital than twenty years ago.

The biggest problem for Nasdaq and every exchange is the growth of robust private investment markets and alternative financing methods which extended the private financing stage of the corporate life cycle.

CEO’s Historic Opening

Every year, Envestnet co-founder and CEO Jud Bergman kicks off their client summit with a presentation that has a historical theme.

What would it be this year? The Fall of Constantinople? The Black Plague? The US Civil War?

Well, none of my guesses were correct. The person who voted for Winston Churchill as Jud’s theme can contact me about collecting their prize.

Bergman shared the results of a study done by the Money Management Institute, which found that 65% of HNW clients had indicated that they were ready to leave their financial advisors if they didn’t offer an integrated, omnichannel experience, like Envestnet.

While I believe that this can provide significant benefits for clients, I’m somewhat skeptical about the statistic. I don’t think many clients could describe what an integrated, omnichannel experience looked like let alone abandon their advisor because they didn’t have it. What if they’re partially integrated and it’s available across a few channels, but not all? Would that be enough for most clients to stay?

HNW clients are among the most sophisticated in the market and value relationships over technology. They’re entrepreneurs and corporate CEOs with complicated needs and they’re accustomed to personalized, bespoke services.

Schwab and Fidelity—the two biggest RIA custodians—even launched separate divisions to offer high-touch, customized service and family office capabilities to advisors serving the UHNW space.

Most people I speak to agree that MGP appears to have stopped development on their client portal a while ago, so I expect a push to replace it with Tamarac’s. This is an area that MGP consistently lost out to eMoney, with some RIAs that were MGP users signing up for eMoney just to get access to their client portal!

Any software company knows that the first rule of maintaining market share is not to give your clients a reason to buy anything from your biggest competitors. The strength of eMoney’s portal and the weakness of MGP’s has provided just such an opportunity for eMoney to get their foot in the door of hundreds of MGP’s customers. Bergman knows that cutting off this opportunity is one of the first areas they should attack now that the acquisition has closed.

I see Envestnet as a lot like Microsoft in the way they have connected all of the pieces of wealth management infrastructure together, especially at the enterprise level. It’s much easier to build advisor-facing tools and sell them since there is less heavy lifting that needs to be done.

Trying to plug into or replace an existing enterprise infrastructure is much more difficult but much more profitable. Especially when you can continually build or buy new products to sell that are tightly connected with your existing suite of software. Then wrap implementation and consulting services around that and build a robust developer community who will commit to supporting your technology and boom! You’re Microsoft. Or Salesforce. Or any other very successful enterprise software provider.

Envestnet is not going to become the “operating system” for financial wellness because it’s not a valid analogy. But they can build a platform with tools that enable advisors to more easily deliver solutions that support financial wellness for their clients. And they can encourage partners to build hooks between their systems or on top of their system and provide added value beyond just what Envestnet is building themselves, that becomes more of a network effect.

Data is the New Oil

Since buying data aggregation and analytics firm Yodlee for almost $600 million back in 2015, Envestnet has been busy integrating their tools, bulking up their sources of data (now 20,000+) and building out their sales organization. The results have been a quadrupling of revenue, improvements in data accuracy and system uptime as well as increased penetration of Yodlee services with existing Envestnet clients. (See How the Quovo Deal Validates Envestnet’s Vision for Yodlee)

Former CEO of Envestnet | Tamarac, Stuart DePina gave his first keynote presentation as CEO of the newly formed Envestnet Data & Analytics division. The Yodlee acquisition provided them with a foot in the door to 15 of the top 20 US retail banks. (See Winners of WealthTech: Stuart DePina)

DePina shared some statistics about advisors at RIAs, IBDs and Bank/Trust firms that utilize data aggregation. Although it is difficult to make assumptions about performance based on a single attribute, the numbers do look pretty good:

  • RIAs have 78% larger books of business, IBDs 100%
  • 46% higher revenue for RIAs, 73% for IBDs, 76% for Bank/Trust

These numbers could be purely correlation. It may be that advisory firms that are better at growing their business also use data aggregation. I’d like to see some additional research on this.

DePina boasted that in the past six months they improved the accuracy of held away data from 72% to the low 90’s. This sounds impressive, but think about how many years they were providing data with less than 72% accuracy. What quality of advice was being delivered based on that?

And on top of these improvements, they’re investing an additional $125 million to develop new ways for customers to gain insights from their data, DePina reported.

I’m glad I’m not the only one with questions about this stuff.

Mobile, AI & PFM Apps

Mobile apps for budgeting have been around for years and have developed a strong following among more technology-savvy and financially-concerned users. Envestnet has decided to build something similar that can be white-labeled by advisors and pushed out to their clients. DePina displayed sample screens with a host of features including reviewing expenses, pinpointing excessive spend areas, unsubscribing from 3rd party services and redirecting newly freed up cash to meet financial goals. (See 3 Reasons to Avoid the Pennies for Apple Watch Budgeting App)

So, it only took them six years to catch on. Better late than never!

Nice to see an acquired technology get integrated (at least in demo form) in Internet speed by such a large player as Envestnet. These tools are becoming table stakes in retail banking. Wealth management needs to play catch up!

I have a radical opinion related to this that I think I posted at last year’s summit after seeing Frank Coates demo their new Alexa interface. It’s about the Envestnet Enterprise Platform (can we please give this a name? How about Envestnet Enspire? Something catchy, yet corporate purchasing friendly.)

I’d like to blow up the entire user interface and replace it with a Google-style search bar. Do I really need to click down through five levels of menus just to give a new prospect access to my client portal? (That’s not an exaggeration, because I counted them) Why can’t I just type “client portal access” and have the search take me directly to where I need to be?

Or better yet, why not natural language processing for system tasks? “Envestnet, give Mr. Tom Jones <email> access to my client portal.” So much easier.

This would make me so happy if I were an advisor or operations staff. I don’t have time to call someone. I just want to chat and get answers. Move to Level 5 on the Capability Maturity Model — start tracking which screens generate the most help requests and make them more intuitive!

Advisor Analytics

Envestnet announced an updated version of their Advisor Analytics package, which appears to be a complete redesign from what they demoed at last year’s summit. They will soon include the ability for advisors and firms to compare themselves against different categories of their peers (advisor clustering).

Frank Coates and his development team must have been working overtime because the amount of functionality they packed into this release is impressive. Just the ability for advisors to easily benchmark their performance and fees against the other 90,000 advisors using Envestnet systems is incredibly valuable. Plus, be able to see a chart of the past twelve months of inflows vs outflows gives advisors insight into how their firm is growing (or not), which months are best/worst for them and they can overlay this on top of any marketing campaigns or market swings.

Lots of data views that will be helpful to broker-dealer home offices and compliance. Displaying average performance by risk bucket shows whether a firm has assigned the correct amount of investment risk to their models. I’d like to also see down capture by risk bucket.

A view that can quickly identify advisors that are over-concentrated in specific asset classes will be a boon to compliance. How about trying some alerts to a threshold by asset class per advisor?

Promised on the roadmap is an unbelievable report that they claim will be able to predict with 90% accuracy that a client is going to leave within the next 90 days. This is not solely based on withdrawals, but on a combination of small changes in behavior over time.

Almost as important will be the ability to predict which advisors are most likely to leave their firm, which would be a major boost for IBD’s trying to reducing advisor churn.

Another useful analytics report will provide advisors with the answer to the questions, “What products are trending now? What’s hot across the rest of the firm?”

Perfect example of how a company with a large enough data set can provide better visibility into industry trends than external research firms that rely on random surveys.

Wealth Solutions

This new division encompasses both Tamarac (for RIAs) and their enterprise platform (for broker-dealers & Banks), that used to be called ENV2, but is now just referred to as the Envestnet Multi-Portal Platform (not a great brand name, although this is quite similar to the completely description way that Microsoft names their products, see my comments above).

A little known fact: Envestnet’s first enterprise client that signed back in 1999 was Austin-based NFP, now Kestra Financial.

Tamarac continues to gain market share in the critical $1B AUM RIA segment maintaining the 40% level they reached last year. As we have mentioned before, the number of firms in this category is continually increasing due to mergers and strong market performance. So maintaining your share of the market means you have to keep winning new deals while keeping your losses to the bare minimum.

They’ve reached over 1,000 client firms, not including the 2,400 Schwab Portfolio Center clients they recently acquired. 259 of them are RIA’s with over $1 billion in AUM. (See Charles Schwab’s Crystal Ball Sees Less Technology in the Future for Custodians)

  • Tamarac CRM – 403
  • Tamarac Trading – 841
  • Tamarac Reporting – 914

One of the secrets of the Advisor Summit is that it’s almost like a university course on using Tamarac technology and best practices. There were at least a dozen sessions that covered all aspects of using their tools and how to get the most out of them. More than worth the price of admission (plus travel expenses).

Credit & Insurance Exchanges

I saw these two announcements as being huge potential game changers for the industry. Envestnet’s research showed them that there was a huge gap between client expectations of what products they should be receiving from advisors versus what advisors are actually able to provide. Especially around insurance and lending.

So they went out and found partners they could work with and got new products out the door in what would be considered record time at any other public company. (See Envestnet is Transforming into The Alibaba of Wealth Management)

Now we need to see if they can execute and continue to improve the offering and how it is integrated into the platform.

At least we won’t see any threat from UK advisors poaching our clients!

It’s the pre-qualification that can be a differentiator. Anyone can apply for a loan online. But if you can use the data you already have on your existing clients to pre-qualify them and either speed up the process or offer them loans you know they can afford and (should) know they need, you can flip the client experience and strengthen your client relationship.

MoneyGuide(Pro)

The newly-named Envestnet | MoneyGuide was out in force at the conference, including an “Office of the Future” setup surrounded by massive DELL 65-inch displays.

The giant touchscreens were an obvious gimmick, but the software running on them can be a differentiator for both mass affluent (MGP) and HNW/UHNW (Apprise) segments. I’m expecting announcements from Envestnet in 4Q (after their R2 release) with new integrations between MGP and Tamarac. They need to firewall off their $1B AUM RIAs from competitors who are circling like vultures looking to pick off their most profitable clients.

Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great and Built to Last, would call this a Cannonball Move. Envestnet fired some bullets with eMoney, FinanceLogix, and the MGP+Edmond Walters partnership and used them to calibrate the market. This deal is an empirically validated big bet that will give them massive momentum. (See The Day Envestnet Became the King of Financial Planning Software)

Envestnet has done a good job transforming from a closed architecture to one that is almost completely open and available via a robust set of application programming interfaces (APIs). Among the integration roadmap items they announced, I think the MoneyGuidePro functionality has the potential to have the largest impact on advisors.

There is a fair amount of overlap between MoneyGuidePro users and Envestnet users, but it’s far from 100%. A tremendous opportunity exists in cross-selling ENV2 and Tamarac to these firms and building more hooks to their platforms from inside MoneyGuidePro will be very attractive to advisors that lead with financial planning.

  • Start proposal from (inside) a plan – I can’t emphasize how important this one is. The proposal process is at the core of the Envestnet enterprise platform since you can’t open a new account without creating a proposal. Enabling advisors to launch a proposal form inside MoneyGuidePro right after they create a plan for a client will deliver a better advisor experience by eliminating the need to switch applications. If it is done right, it will be a seamless process that is more efficient, leads to more accounts being opened and with fewer errors since it also cuts out a manual export/import of data between the two programs.
  • Synching plan documents – Just the first step in replacing the old and busted MoneyGuidePro portal with the new hotness.
  • Two-way account synchronization – The already have this with Salesforce and it makes life so much easier for advisors. Why shouldn’t your applications talk to each other and share data? It’s 2019, why should anyone ever have to enter the same piece of information twice? It should be indistinguishable from magic.

I’m still calling it MoneyGuidePro and according to Head of Business Development, Kevin Hughes, they’re dismantling the financial planning process by breaking it down into bite-sized chunks called blocks – why should we do everything the same way it’s always been done?

They plan to have 30 blocks in production by the end of the year.

Talk about an unexpected moment at an industry conference. Envestnet | MoneyGuide CEO Tony Leal had everyone almost crying as he started tearing up during his tribute to former CEO and co-founder Bob Curtis. It’s more than just technology folks! It’s peoples’ lives, families and their careers all rolled into one.

The lack of enticing graphics has been a blind spot for wealth management technology practically forever. If I had a dollar for every time someone on stage invoked Amazon, Apple or Netflix as the goal for client experience, I’d be quite wealthy, but financial advisors’ user experience would not have changed one bit.

Michael Kitces & the Build-a-Bear Experience

This sounds almost like the title to a bedtime story for advisors.

Industry guru, speaker and celebrity blogger, Michael Kitces delivered a super-charged presentation that covered the some history of how technology (mostly the Internet) disrupted other businesses (like travel agents who are so often compared to advisors) and how the wealth management and financial planning industries need to create engaging experiences for their clients if they expect to stay relevant.

One serious problem is that current clients describe their experience of building a financial plan as a combination of a calculus final, a marriage counseling session, and a dentist appointment all rolled into one!

That C/X needs some serious revamping.

Maybe this new design toolset will be just the ticket for advisors to build their own customized client experiences inside of the Envestnet ecosystem?

What I think advisors really want is more control over the end-to-end functionality and user experience.

As new fintech players and TAMPs continue to commoditize asset allocation and have captured more of the value prop from rebalancing-centric firms, advisors once again need to move up the food chain, Kitces noted.

Kitces ran a live audience poll (that just happened to match a similar one done across the industry) that showed 60% of advisors think that their client service is “above average” — which is mathematically impossible, of course! And most of the methods they’re using to differentiate themselves are areas that are either impossible to differentiate or regulatory requirements that everyone has to support.

Summarizing the challenges (and opportunities) that Kitces described:

  • Most don’t realize they’re falling behind their peers
  • It’s difficult to differentiate
  • Baby Boomers control 90% of investible assets, but there aren’t enough of them to go around to support the current population of advisors
  • They’re competing for the same 1.5 million millionaire delegators who demand specialized client experiences

BlackRock

The world’s largest asset manager was front and center as a conference sponsor. Their gigantic booth was smack dab in the middle of the exhibit hall right in front of the entrance so you had to walk around or through them to see anything else. They were co-presenters in half a dozen practice management sessions and also snagged an interview for their COO on the main stage.

“Wealthtech success is about letting the workflow drive the technology, not the other way around,” proposed BlackRock COO Rob Goldstein. Considering that they give away their technology and generate revenue by selling investment products, this makes perfect sense.

But what happens when your workflow isn’t efficient? Maybe you should adjust to how the technology vendor does things since it is based on the experience hundreds or even thousands of other clients.

The endless argument around the best way for asset managers to increase distribution. Kitces delivers a concise summary.

While some advisors may get confused by multiple proposal workflows, it is also an opportunity to capture advisors who prefer to start their process from the BlackRock portfolio analytics and construction tools. As long as the process appears seamless and delivers a fantastic user experience, why not enable multiple entry points?

My only concern is advisors having to bounce their models back and forth between platforms, at least that’s the way they demoed it. Now that they have had some time to get to know each other, maybe it’s time for BlackRock to just buy Envestnet outright? It would certainly make the integrations easier.

Invest in Others

The Invest In Others Foundation is a fantastic non-profit that I support on both my blog and podcast. They raise money in order to provide funding to worthy charities that are supported by the hard work and sweat equity of financial advisors.

The first night of the conference, they delivered checks to advisors who have made a difference in peoples’ lives through their charitable efforts. I encourage everyone to go to their website and make a donation. If you are a CxO then suggest that your company join their corporate charitable giving program.

Development Roadmap

What’s a vendor conference without a preview of new stuff coming down the pike? Plus we get to beat them up next year for whatever doesn’t make it into production in time.

As a consultant with lots of big fintech clients, I find this kind of data super interesting. The problem most companies face is captured in the Innovators Dilemma. As a software firm reaches significant market share in their industry, the percentage of development resources consumed by legacy client requests increases which means less and less is available for the innovative ideas that got you there in the first place.

It is so about time they did this I can’t even begin to tell you.

General Colin Powell

The Honorable General Colin Powell was a keynote speaker and shared some words of wisdom gathered during his 82 years.

Sage advice for anyone in any line of work.

Only a general could say this in a meeting.

Envestnet Advisor Summit

I can’t say that I was disappointed by the content at this year’s event. Quite the opposite, in fact. This was my fourth (or fifth) Advisor Summit and the Envestnet team has only been getting at explaining their vision for how they plan to dominate the industry.

While there have been some missteps along the way, they seem to be adopting the principle of “move fast and kill what isn’t working.” It has gotten them to a position of dominance in every part of the market they have entered. Now the difficult part will be staying there.





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