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26 September 2019

Delivering the Future for Advisors

By Timothy Welsh

SS&C Deliver 2019, recently held in Orlando, Florida provided attendees with a comprehensive view into what is driving impact and change in the wealth management industry.

The company’s annual conference attracted a diverse group of advisors, vendors, executives and industry experts all focused on how to leverage technologies to enhance the client experience as well as drive operational efficiencies, productivity and scale. Particularly as RIAs are fueling their growth through non-organic channels, such as mergers and acquisitions, the conference featured a seminal panel discussion on the state of the market, valuations, deal structure and strategies to become “better buyers.”

Francine Miltenberger, Managing Director for DeVoe & Company, provided some compelling stats that shows the direction for deal making in the RIA space. Her research shows that the industry is on pace for a record number of deals, as advisor demographics are driving consolidation. Aging advisors create both a challenge and an opportunity in the industry, particularly for the thorny topic of succession planning. “At the lower end of the market, smaller advisors do not have anyone internal that they can sell the business to, while at the top end of the market, valuations are so high that the next generation of advisor simply can’t afford to buy out the founders,” she noted.

Jim Kacic, CFO for MAI Capital, agrees with this assessment and is positioning his firm to capitalize on these transitions by becoming an active buyer of firms. Kacic provided the crowd with solid advice on how to become a buyer of choice by having a compelling value proposition for transitioning advisors. Rounding out the panel was Jill Young, executive director of LourdMurray. Young’s back office focus is particularly important for post-deal integrations as she is currently managing a couple of transactions, which she says bring added complexity. Leveraging her Black Diamond system to onboard the firms acquired she says, “The work really begins once the documents are signed.”

Another compelling session led by the Black Diamond® Wealth Platform team included a future forward discussion lead by Bjorn Widerstedt, VP, Product Management. His research into investor perspectives revealed some compelling takeaways for how advisors need to re-architect their businesses to ensure firms will be delivering in the right way as they move forward.

Summarized into a number of categorical statements, these profound perceptions from investors show how far advisors need to go to remain paramount in their clients’ lives:

  • “I need a financial life coach, but it is hard to find one,” meaning that investors are looking beyond advisor investing and planning services to a broader set of deliverables.
  • “Why am I paying for this, when I only want that?” is the classic mispricing that comes with basis points on AUM, forcing investors into a tradeoff of accepting a bundle they may not necessarily want. Investors time and again value financial planning, yet that service offering and support is bundled into an investment management service which is rapidly becoming commoditized.
  • “If Google can be fast and connected, why can’t my financial apps be as easy to use?” again showing the slow pace of change in investor technology that is becoming more pronounced as client expectations for a better digital experience are rapidly increasing.
  • “Don’t make me go looking for stuff, just tell me what I need to do,” is the lament of too much information and the hope for direct feedback and guidance that advisors can provide through an elegant client portal and a better digital experience.

 

The good news for advisors, Widerstedt shared, is that Black Diamond is actively investing in new capabilities to provide answers for many of these investor concerns. The Black Diamond Client Experience portal provides a much more personalized approach, where advisors can really extend face-to-face discussions into the digital world. The interactive, in-depth experience surfaces what matters most to clients and helps them make solid decisions.

There are also a series of related integrations highlighted at the conference that will further this mission, such as new connections to the Relationship Timeline within the Black Diamond Client Experience portal by SS&C Salentica, RightCapital, SMartX, Redtail Technology, Asset-Map, Riskalyze and Life Yield. Other platform news included the integration of HiddenLevers, and new capabilities from SS&C Salentica in the form of Engage, a CRM platform for Microsoft Dynamics along with its automated workflow platform “Flow.”

Wrapping up the conference was a well-received session on being an employer of choice. As talent is getting harder and harder to attract and retain, having a focus on the workplace is critical for firms looking to grow. Executives from award-winning firms Tolleson Wealth Management, Smith Anglin Financial LLC and Welch Hornsby Investment Advisors shared their strategies and tips for being a “Best Place to Work” through building an inclusive culture, providing space for employees to shape their careers, as well as the more traditional benefits, such as time off, flex days, outside activities and fun events.

SS&C Deliver is known for its networking opportunities and this year didn’t disappoint with multiple receptions in the exhibit hall, meals outside under the Florida skies and a final night gala event at the nearby Universal City Walk. Additionally, a key note chat with former NHL star and Olympic Gold Medal winner, Patrick Sharp, gave the event an inspirational feel.

To learn more about what went on at the 2019 SS&C Deliver Conference, check out the many tweets on the #SSCDeliver hashtag on Twitter.