Investors today are demanding a much more rich and interactive online experience from their financial services provider than they ever have before. The new generation of investors is here, and they think differently about just about everything. They’ve come of age in a time where the “internet of things” has grown into nearly every corner of their lives. It’s no surprise, considering that by 2020, there will be an estimated 6.6 devices per person.
And that’s just two years away. When it comes to advice and banking, it’s not just the next generation that has great expectations. Keeping up with the latest technology is absolutely essential for financial institutions to thrive right now and keep growing in the future.
The bank trust and wealth management industry is not known for being on the cutting edge of digital technology. PwC references a “do or die” for the industry in “Asset & Wealth Management Centre Revolution: Embracing Exponential Change 2017“:
Technology advances will drive quantum change across the value chain – including new client acquisition, customisation of investment advice, research and portfolio management, middle and back office processes, distribution and client engagement. How well firms embrace technology will help to determine which prosper in the years ahead. Technology giants will enter the sector, flexing their data analytics and distribution muscle.
We call this drive for the latest and best technology the ‘Amazon-effect,’ and its transforming how wealth management is being delivered. In order to compete in this new environment, leading bank trust and wealth management firms and their providers are rapidly seeking best in breed applications and platforms such as FIS and Wealth Access to provide that heightened digital experience.
The client-centric market also represents a substantial growth opportunity for the leading firms that are embracing technology. According to PwC report, assets under management (AUM) will continue to grow rapidly in the US. PwC estimates that by 2025, AUM in the US will have nearly doubled – rising from $84.9 trillion in 2016 to $145.4 trillion in 2025. Over this same time frame, fees will continue to be pushed down by investors and regulators.
Despite today’s hypercompetitive market, the “hunt for growth is on,” as was stated in a recent session at the FIS Connect conference last week. According to the FIS Readiness Report, 50 percent of buy- and sell-side decision makers say the economic outlook will create growth opportunities in 2018. However, 74 percent of respondents believe their current technology isn’t strong enough to support their growth plans, and 72 percent say the same about their operations functions.
Wealth management firms are under pressure, not just to have a mobile-friendly website, but to release and maintain a customized mobile app. Still, less than one in three firms offer a mobile application today. Landmark Bank is one of the firms leading the charge.
“When we first saw Wealth Access, the first thing that stood out to us was that it was just a very appealing, visual piece of software,” said Jay Alexander, Director of Private Banking at Landmark Bank. He was keen to bring the bank’s technology up to speed with the new tools brokerage competitors were deploying to enhance the client experience online.
“Having a compelling, fully functional client portal with account aggregation is table stakes, these days,” Alexander notes. “Even for old-line Trust companies, client expectations are now making it a priority.”
But even the most modern of conveniences come with their own unique pain points. While plenty of banks are able to offer online access to accounts, delivering a complete client-centric wealth picture has often been just out of reach. One key reason for this is the inherent difficulty of data aggregation. After all, aggregation is only as good as the data it compiles and only as impactful as it is easy to use.
Data aggregation is the process of pulling digital information from various institutions and consolidating that information into a single system/view. Types of financial information that can be aggregated include bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement, loans, credit cards, and business accounts just to name a few.
How can data be aggregated?
- Direct data feeds: A permanent link between two systems that is built by developers to map data discretely between those systems.
- API connections: Application Program Interface is a set of “rules” for how two systems can share data between each other automatically.
- Screen scraping: A process that uses login credentials to one institution to “scrape” data from that institution and load it into another system.
- Manually: Includes manual data entry or uploading files (i.e., Excel or CSV).
Depending on the method of aggregation being utilized, over time, changes to data connections may require users to re-sync accounts between systems. The financial services industry is moving toward API connections and direct data feeds as they allow for a higher level of security to protect your clients’ data.
The value of providing a comprehensive overview to your clients – and you as their advisor – cannot be overstated. Having a comprehensive view saves time, because you can log in to one place to view all information. It gives you the big picture – a holistic overview of your financial situation. Your clients can have their information updated daily at their fingertips from anywhere at anytime on any device.
One of the firms taking advantage of data aggregation is Arlington Family Offices. Communication between Arlington and its clients is critical, but the way information is shared within families is at the forefront of modern technology. To provide a simple way for clients to stay connected, Arlington built a proprietary client portal.
The portal gives clients a technology solution that displays their complete wealth picture. From balance sheets that give a bird’s eye view of everything they own to their long-term financial plans, the client portal is a solution that enhances relationships.
Due to the complexities of serving multiple generations within one family, Arlington also found that assets could be located almost anywhere. For a firm dedicated to comprehensive wealth management, reporting on those assets, and including them in the client portal amounted to painstaking hours of work. And while most clients custody directly with Arlington, for those that kept accounts and assets elsewhere, Arlington’s process for reporting on those assets was less than optimal.
“Before we discovered Wealth Access, we used a manual process where an employee would log into every connection, download spreadsheets if they were available, and then manually build those files into our custody platform,” explained Kenneth H. Polk, CPA, CFP®, CEO, Arlington Family Offices.
A large part of the reason Arlington chose Wealth Access is because of their ability to use the Wealth Access API to pull all the client data aggregated by Wealth Access through to their own proprietary systems. The integration with Wealth Access’ API streamlines Arlington’s internal processes and ensures accuracy of data.
“We had been trying to figure out a better solution to data aggregation. A lot of the technology solutions available could retrieve balances, but we needed a solution that could download transactions, so we could properly code them for accurate performance calculations,” said Elliot Robbins, Arlington’s Chief Fiduciary Officer. “Wealth Access has made our data retrieval process much more efficient.”
In their new process, the Wealth Access aggregation engine does the heavy lifting of grabbing data from each connection.
Now Arlington’s team reconciles accounts weekly as they load them into their proprietary custody portal. And even though the connections have doubled since the time they manually entered the data, they spend less than two days each month working with the data that Wealth Access provides – representing a 50 percent increase in productivity compared to their old process.
“Internally, Wealth Access has given us a tremendous benefit. Transactions download into our custody platform and get categorized automatically. Our team has become much more efficient because of our relationship,” said Robbins.
The benefits for account aggregation are clear for both advisors and clients. Clients gain a holistic view into their wealth in an easy-to-grasp format, bringing together all of their assets, holdings, and liabilities into one picture. Previously, clients would have to piece together dated account statements with their financial plans to see how they were doing, what their net worth was, and if they were on track to meet their goals.
For advisors, having an automated, aggregated, and integrated view of their clients’ entire financial situation leads to providing better advice and recommendations as well as tremendous efficiencies in gathering the information and calculated data they need to be their clients’ trusted advisor.
While these benefits are intuitive and have a big impact on advisor service and practice management, recent research has failed to quantify these benefits in terms of ROI firms receive by providing account aggregation technology to their clients.
In order to better quantify these benefits and ROI, Wealth Access conducted a study in partnership with Nexus Strategy, LLC – a leading consulting firm to the wealth management industry – to determine this information in a definitive fashion.
AMG National Trust Bank chose Wealth Access as its new client portal for its ease of use, simple user interface, and powerful aggregation features.
AMG was able to get up and running with Wealth Access quickly, thanks in large part to the fact that the portal and mobile app come ready with a number of technology tools to help aid client communication.
One of the tools AMG uses to help clients understand their full financial picture is the Wealth Access portal’s Document Vault, a single source for all client data. Its potential to act as a robust communication tool between advisors and clients is what sets it apart from a security standpoint. The vault is branded as an AMG app on client phones, positioning AMG as a go-to resource for clients.
“Our clients can use the Document Vault as replacement for secure email. We believe it creates an easier solution for exchanging documents,” said Donald Seacrest, AMG’s Senior Vice President of Operations. “We plan to continue adding additional reports and documents, like taxes and performance. With the Vault containing all of a client’s information, that functionality will continue to drive adoption of the portal, because clients know they can get all their data online with one login.”
Analytics and Business Intelligence
In order to grow, compete and succeed in a more competitive environment, wealth management leaders need real-time business information about how their firms are performing, how productive their advisors are, and opportunities to increase revenues. Previously, that information was hidden from decision makers or difficult to cobble together from disparate systems.
Wealth Access launched Firm Insight to make that data immediately available via a firm dashboard to help executives and their advisors stay on top of opportunities and ways to enhance their firms.
Troy Jordan, Managing Director of INTRUST, is an active user of Firm Insight and was one of the platform’s early beta testers.
“Before Firm Insight, we were operating at a disadvantage in not having key information available,” he said. “Now, this critical functionality is helping us to be more efficient with our resources and as a result, we are able to more intelligently manage and grow.”
The Wealth Access business intelligence solution provides top-down information to help multi-faceted wealth management firms make more informed decisions and gain insights into advisor productivity and client satisfaction. Firm Insight makes it easy to ensure compliance and control at a firm level.
“Firm Insight is a powerful system that will really help us to better manage our firm by being able to see on one screen each of our advisors and their entire business,” said Daniel Carter, President of The Trust Company of Tennessee. “Features such as the ‘Activity Mode’ in Firm Insight enable us to see key information about our clients and identify opportunities to grow these relationships.”
Bringing It All Together
Even with all of the benefits that can be realized to both your client experience and advisory capabilities, adding yet another technology component to your already complex technology footprint may be daunting.
The fully-hosted, fully-supported, cloud-based technology solution from Wealth Access can help ease that IT burden, but the ability to integrate the solution with other technology components is what drives real efficiency and scale to your operation.
Direct Integration with Trust Accounting Platforms
The ready-to-use integration with all of the FIS trust accounting platforms (Global Plus, AddVantage, TrustDesk, and Charlotte) makes the initial setup straight forward and efficient while allowing for the necessary flexibility in data mapping to conform to your unique business processes and organization. The information housed on your trust accounting platform automatically flows daily into Wealth Access, under your control, but without the need for any further manipulation. And the automated integration of trust accounting statements from several of the FIS platforms into the Wealth Access Document Vault helps to complete the comprehensive client experience.
The promise of true integration is to enter data points only once and then use that data where it is best purposed. A great example of that is the robust two-way integration with FIS WealthStation Financial Planning. All of the data collected by Wealth Access – both the data integrated from the FIS trust accounting platforms and the aggregated data from other managed and held-away accounts – can pass in one click directly into the WealthStation Financial Planning tool, saving an advisor significant time and work, avoiding errors, and providing the basis for holistic financial planning services. What’s more is the Single Sign-On between Wealth Access and WealthStation makes this a seamless experience for the advisor.
Of course, the comprehensive client experience remains a priority, so the integration with WealthStation also results in the financial plan documents loaded into the Wealth Access document vault for secure storage and access by the client and advisor alike. And useful financial calculator widgets are seamlessly integrated into the Wealth Access mobile/digital client experience as well.
Effective integration with other elements of your chosen technology platform is key to driving efficiency, scale, and adoption. Wealth Access takes a multi-tiered approach to both data and widget-level integration. With a full set of supported API’s, Wealth Access supports data movement and seamless client experience integration with other third-party and proprietary technology components.
Investment Performance and Client Reporting
Having the right technology and expertise to calculate accurate performance results is critical to maintaining trust with clients. First Rate CORE is a powerful asset for wealth management firms who need a flexible solution that serves a range of performance measurement and client reporting needs through a user-friendly, API driven, web-based console. Whether it’s simple historical returns, in-depth analytics and attribution or goals based reporting, First Rate CORE provides the solution necessary to help wealth managers tell their investment story.
With First Rate’s integration into Wealth Access, users can take advantage of a powerful performance engine that handles all the calculations, data management, and automation to support investment analysis, and advisor/investor decision-making. At the heart of CORE’s effectiveness lies APIs, which allow platforms like Wealth Access to pull raw data, branded client reports and everything in between to support the advisor and investor experience.
Partnering with First Rate allows Wealth Access clients to remain focused on cultivating client relationships instead of figuring out how to keep accurate and up to date performance data in their clients digital vault.
Best of Breed
FIS offers a Unified Wealth Management Technology Platform and Services to clients and has partnered with Wealth Access to develop an end to end, component-based, flexible solution that leverages proprietary platform technology and is surrounded by a broader set of services that enables unique competitive differentiators. We provide the white-label client interface of the FIS solution, with improved customer servicing and a broad set of potential product offerings.
In other words, together with FIS, we provide a complete technology solution that you can private label with your bank’s brand. Instead of spending time and money developing and maintaining a custom mobile app, you can use Wealth Access for a private-labeled, fully functional mobile app with deep integration to the remainder of your wealth platform.
While the mobile client experience is based on a common set of technology, this is not a one-size-fits-all method. Through our highly configurable approach, we are already successfully servicing large $30B+ wealth management firms and smaller firms alike.
Check out how some FIS clients have worked with Wealth Access to change their client experience.
This premium reporting and fully mobile client experience is conveniently available directly through your FIS relationship. Enterprise pricing benefits, ease of contracting, technology delivery oversight, and platform integration make it easy to implement. Truly, it is a collaborative financial management tool that’s completely customized to you with comprehensive service and high-touch solutions.
If you’re ready to stay on top of the ever-changing landscape of financial services and immediately improve your mobile/digital client experience, it’s time to talk.