Practice Management

Good Luck Beating Technology Providers at Their Own Game

Enterprise-level adviser technology providers are just fine with winning new business behind the scenes; two industry executives explain why “traditional advisory firms” should embrace them. 

By John Manganaro | October 06, 2016
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Advicent is one of those companies fulfilling a role in the financial services industry that can be hard to explain to someone who hasn’t worked in or around the space.

Among other offerings, Advicent is known for providing the technology backbone underlying the client-facing technology solutions brought to market by many big-name financial services firms and smaller advice shops alike. A great deal of the time the digital tools and platforms are white-labeled, meaning the end-user (i.e., the client) only interacts with Advicent systems via an intermediary, whether that is an institutional financial adviser, a wealth adviser, a private bank, etc.

According to Tony Stich, director, global marketing at Advicent, and Cory Olson, global product director, this “enterprise solutions” portion of the business has been a major point of focus and success for the firm in recent years, with no expectation of a slow down. Both suggest new collaborations with advisers have benefitted not just Advicent, but also the performance of partnering firms and their clients on the ground. They rattled off an impressive list of existing enterprise clients and promised they would be revealing several big new deals soon. 

“We have been around since 1969, which is not something you would usually brag about as a software and solutions provider,” Stich tells PLANADVISER. “But in our case, operating in a more tradition-focused industry, it is helpful to be able to point to that history and learn from it.”

As Stich and Olson tell it, the first traces of what is now Advicent Solutions began in 1969 when Gus Hansch led the development of a software program that would eventually become Financial Profiles. Nearly four decades of development later, Emerging Information Systems Inc. (EMISI) purchased Financial Profiles to complement NaviPlan, its own software solution for financial planners, advisers and enterprises. In 2011, EISI was acquired by Zywave, a provider of software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology solutions for the insurance industry. In 2013, Zywave Financial renamed itself as Advicent Solutions and divested its insurance division, solidifying its exclusive focus on the financial services industry. Finally, in 2014, Advicent acquired the Dutch financial services provider, Figlo, to expand its interactive, client-facing technology to strengthen the adviser-client relationship.

Stich and Olson offer that potted history alongside a pretty frank warning for advisers: Don’t try to beat technology providers at their own game. Firms like Advicent and others are steeped in the history, processes and culture of creating innovative digital technology—not to mention the simple fact that it’s going to be a big challenge for any individual advisory firm to match the investment of a large-scale enterprise solutions provider. And besides, technology providers for the most part don’t want to edge out advisers, anyway. The conclusion is that advisers have a lot more to gain from firms like Advicent than they might have to lose, the pair says. 

“We want to be viewed as a partnering organization that can elevate the performance of an adviser,” Olson adds. “The adviser remains front and center and remains in control of the client relationship. We are simply here to help create new levels of efficiency and scalability across the adviser’s business.”

NEXT: Understanding emerging technology solutions