[technology]. We do integrate; but to keep
costs down, we’re building a platform that
we own and control. That’s important.
Webber: What we’ve learned over
and over is that there is a generation
of advisors that don’t always use all
the new bells and whistles and another generation that’s coming in and
demanding them and using them like
crazy — that’s the right time to invest
the dollars to build the sophistication
on the other end. We’re telling advisors
they have to be prepared for the genera-tional wealth transfer. We spend a lot of
time balancing that.
Dolber: To do what you just said,
you really have to walk in the shoes of
your customer, and you’ve got to ask
them to do this together; let’s do the
Webber: We have a New Century
Council of advisors, and it’s celebrating its 10-year anniversary. It started
as advisors in their mid-40s and under.
However, I would have had to fire
myself a few years ago, so I realized that
we’d better stop talking about age if I
still wanted to be a part of this conversation.
But it’s the forward-thinking advisors, and we just had a
meeting with them; they’ve now added virtual reality, augmented reality. They’re telling us what they think the financial planning, UMA, wealth management and fully digital
platform needs to have three, five or seven years from now.
That’s how we got to where we are today, by working with
them for 10 years.
Dolber: Have you brought in the end customer at all?
Webber: We have not. It’s a delicate situation for a finan-cial-solutions firm working directly with the end investor in
any way. But if we give [advisors] the tools, they can go out
and have those kinds of conversations with their [own] client
Dolber: Have you ever invited, with the permission of advisors, [advisor] customers to the national conference?
Webber: We have not. Have you?
Dolber: We did and then we met with them afterwards. It
went well. We were concerned about some of the things they
might hear, but we thought it was still worth it to get their
opinions. We did, again, do this with the permission of the
advisors, and advisors are pretty keen on having it happen.
We had a whole group of end clients come and participate,
and they gave some interesting feedback. From the design-
thinking point of view, it’s essential
to have the end client involved on an
ongoing basis. It can’t just be the advi-
sors, your staff and be top down. It’s
got to be bottom up, as well, and has to
include the investing public; it is tricky,
but you could do it with the permission
of the advisors.
DeVito: How do you balance the
group [of advisors] you bring in [to discuss tech]? We have an advisory council of forward-thinking folks. Everybody
says, “We need ‘this.’” We spend all this
money to build “this,” but then no one
Stringer: We look at them through
the [tech] adoption bell curve. We’ve
got an early adopter group, roughly
10% or about 10–15 of our advisors.
We’re a small firm, so we have to
be nimble and quick. Still, it looks
like some of this is taking off; we get
[new tech] adopted pretty quickly. But
we’re not going to do the experiments,
though the bigger firms can.
DeVito: We look at this whole plan of
everything integrated, and it’s coming
together. What we’re finding is that we have to teach each rep
or regional office one on one; by doing that, they learn to adapt
and get into that [innovative] mindset.
Webber: Actually, regulation can positively impact some of
this. I can’t believe I just said that, but I did. From a tech perspective, we’ve been talking about goals-based financial planning, comprehensive financial planning, that’s where we’ve
really been. And the traditional advisor would charge an asset
management fee and still be doing all kinds of comprehensive
financial planning, but not documenting that in their value
proposition. That’s just how they did business with investors.
Then the DOL [fiduciary rule] hits the street, and everyone wakes up and realizes: Hey, transparency is important. I
should start articulating my value proposition. The cost compression, the price compression on asset management is coming down. My clients want me to charge less and still provide
all these services. Maybe if I articulate what I do differently I
can actually make sure that my clients understand all the hours
that I’m putting in.
About 1% of our revenue came from financial planning some
two, three or four years ago; over the last two years, that’s now
up to over 15% in planning under our corporate RIA. Today,
52% of our advisors are actually doing full financial planning.
Now, they’re not doing the old-fashioned binder financial
“We look at this whole plan
of everything integrated,
and it’s coming together.
What we’re finding is that
we have to teach each rep or
regional office one on one;
by doing that, they learn
to adapt and get into that