Unlock Your Access for the Data Webinar: Winning Data Teams: Getting Started and Scaling Your Team aired November 15, 2022

This has become one of my favorite parts of conferences: The Demos.  A steady stream of vendors, each given under ten minutes to extol their latest features to a highly critical audience that can sometimes get a little glassy eyed with wonder.

In these sessions, it pays to be on early, since by the time the last presenters take the stage, everyone’s brains have probably turned to mush. This round of demos took place at the In|Vest NYC 2018 conference last month. You can check out my conference overview here: Digital Digest from the InVest 2018 Conference

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Invest2018 is using a panel of judges to evaluate product demos kind of like the Olympics. Who will be playing the role of the East German judge?

And the role of the East German judge will be played by Kendra Thompson from Accenture.

I liked adding judges to the demo format when I first saw it back at the Digital Banking Conference in May.  The SourceMedia people asked me what I thought about doing it for this conference as well and I said it would be a fantastic idea.  They were in need of a fourth, and I was able to refer them to Kevin Adams from Raymond James, who did a terrific job.

At my consulting firm, Ezra Group, we run a lot of RFP and vendor selections projects that require product demos. We probably see a few dozen or more every year. Part of our process is to teach our clients how to leverage a demo as part fo the software evaluation process.

What we find is that, without training, most people do not pay attention to the right things during the demo and barely remember anything afterwards.  Our clients know what to look for and take copious notes using our templates to help them with their evaluations.

These “Shark Tank” style presentations with one after another is sometimes difficult to get anything out of. What I like about having the judges there is that they remind the audience of the good and bad points of each product.

Lisa Brignoni Asher, CFA on Twitter

@kennyt5 has been getting ribbed for her critiques but glad to see she’s providing helpful feedback. We can’t move forward if we’re patting ourselves on the back all the time. #invest2018 #wealthtech #innovation

I’m commenting on the demos in alphabetical order, just to make it easier for me to keep track.

Addepar

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Some judges’ comments on @Addepar demo: I’m impressed by the level of customization, platform was snappy, you’re shifting into a proposal generation tool, I found reporting uninspiring #Invest2018 Scores: 6.0, 8.0, 8.0 & 8.0

Addepar has gathered a tremendous amount of assets from large RIAs and family offices because of their gorgeous reporting and deep knowledge and support for alternative investments.  They’ve done so well that they have become the bar that most reporting tools measure themselves against.

One vendor I spoke said that Addepar was selling Porsches while everyone else was selling Chevys. Although, they do get dinged for the difficulty in implementation which requires heavy consulting support for most firms.  Their flexibility could also stand to be improved.

The proposal generation features also jumped out at me during the demo.  Interesting that they would move in that direction. It could be their first step towards building out an entire wealth platform.

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Clients with the largest portfolios had the least visibility into their holdings during the financial crisis @Addepar #Invest2018

This is true. Especially if you have a lot of complex holdings like asset-backed securities where the portfolio management and reporting systems had minimal visibility into the underlying investments.

Advizr

When Advizr came out with their financial planning product, many people thought they were just a cheap knock-off of eMoney or MoneyGuide.

Boy, were they wrong!

They have since developed a suite of advice-based offerings—including investment management, wealth planning, trust administration, and specialized services that have helped them to score big wins with wealth management firms targeting the HNW segment.

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Judges comments on @Advizr Workplace demo: “FA efficiency is one of the best out there, end checklist is quasi-gamified, group workplace solutions is an untapped market, like how you segment the workforce.” #Invest2018 Scores: 8.5, 7.5, 8.0, 6.5

Advizr’s CEO, Hussein Zaidi, demonstrated their new business line,Workplace, that was built on their self-directed financial planning technology. Instead of fighting it out one RIA at a time, Zaidi had the idea to go after the employer retirement plan market instead.

Advizr Workplace enables financial advisors, record keepers, employers, investment advisers and broker-dealers to offer customizable financial wellness programs and marketing collateral that drive end-user engagement and encourage behavioral changes.

Ian McKenna on Twitter

Great to see #AdvizrWorkplace from @Advizr_Inc inc their #RetirementExpress has huge potential to deliver low cost advice to 10 million + UK citizens now saving via #AutoEnrolment @DWP & @GuyOpperman consider as a tactical #PensionDashboard option #WorkplacePensions #invest2018

Is the UK on Advizr’s list of overseas expansion targets?  Sounds like an opportunity.

Clearnomics

There are so many wannabe and copycat products on the market or being released (“Another robo-advisor platform? Seriously?) that it could make your head explode. So when a company comes along with an original idea, it makes everyone sit up and take notice.

Enter Clearnomics.

I met their CEO, James Liu, at the T3 Conference back in February and was impressed by his presentation.  Their analytics and reports give advisors the ability to translate complex economic and market data into a clear, simple message that clients can easily understand.

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Some judges’ comments on @Clearnomics demo: “I love embedding of contextual data, @Slack integration was great, I liked simple, guided workflow & talking points, a great tool for an RIA” #Invest2018 Scores: 6.0, 8.5, 9.0 & 8.0

Creating chartbooks is a task I was assigned many moons ago and it took me days to complete just one for a big client meeting.  An advisor using Clearnomics tools can build polished chartbooks with customized market and economic insights very quickly.  It’s all white labeled and can include talking points customized for each client.

Gavin Spitzner on Twitter

Not as sexy or comprehensive as other caps demoed but an underappreciated advisor need that goes to the heart of actually delivering advice and ends up being huge time suck @clearnomics #InVest2018 https://t.co/TtYvW9AwGB

I love heat maps!

eMoney Advisor

I go back and forth as to whether I prefer these demo sessions to focus on new companies with brand new products or if there is something to gain from seeing  existing vendors show new features.

eMoney did a fantastic job with a demo of their new voice-activation commands via Alexa.  I was impressed with the ease of use and the ability to move across the interface quickly.

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Some judges’ comments on @eMoneyAdvisor demo, “I love the emphasis on business mgmt it’s a massive gap, intuitiveness of voice is getting better, challenge of voice is stringing commands together, I like focus on practice mgmt. Scores: 7.0, 8.5, 8.5, & 8.0 #Invest2018

Stringing commands together without Alexa getting confused is definitely a major hurdle. But they were still able to get the basic navigation completed during the demo. Although, this type of integration has suddenly become quite popular and is showing up all over the place.

Andrew Welsch on Twitter

Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I see voice command style tech, I inevitably think of Star Trek. And then I want to see Captain Picard say “Computer, tea, earl grey. hot.” Again, maybe that’s just me. #invest2018

Don’t worry, I was thinking that as well. “Make it so, Number One!”

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Watching the @eMoneyAdvisor demo, I think navigation will be the killer app for voice-based technology, since product UI have become so complicated with too many layers of menus & options #Invest2018

I’d like to see the major wealth management vendors replace their cluttered, confusing user interfaces with a simple Google-like search bar.

Envestnet | Yodlee

Envestnet acquired Yodlee back in 2015 for a cool $660 million.  They have spent the past three years working to integrate it into their overall wealth management offering. (See 5 Reasons Why the Envestnet Acquisition of Yodlee Was Brilliant)

Ian McKenna on Twitter

Complelling demo from @Yodlee showing how to streamline the advice while creating a full picture of client needs. Huge potential to #democratise #FinancialAdvice really want to see a #UK version of this, should also be interesting to @GuyOpperman #invest2018 #FinancialInclusion

Data aggregation has become table stakes for most wealth management firms and most every platform vendor as well. Some vendors took Envestnet’s route and bought their own aggregation technology (i.e. Morningstar and ByAllAccounts) while others buy the data in various forms of partnerships.

One trend we have seen is technology vendors contracting with three or more aggregation vendors in order to become an aggregator of aggregators. This allows them to evaluate the data and decide which is providing the most accurate source almost in real time. (See The Data Whisperer: How Yodlee Plans to Revolutionize Financial Advice)

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Some judges’ comments on @ENVIntel demo: “Very impressed, liked self-service components, good to see @Yodlee integration, we don’t pay attention to the full balance sheet, I found the user experience a little flat.” Scores: 8.0, 6.0, 7.5 and 8.0 #Invest2018

Envestnet redesigned their self-service digital advice offering this year, which I saw at their conference back in May. I agree with the judges that the user interface was not very exciting and seems that they’re just playing catchup in this area.

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

⁦@ENVintel⁩ and ⁦@Yodlee⁩ demo their redesigned client portal to allow self-directed advice for investors #invest2018

These are some screenshots of the not-so-impressive user interface of the client portal.

NexJ CRM

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Judges comments on @NexJ #CRM demo: “I was struggling to see anything new in the demo, platform looked great, using Google Material Design was a nice touch, very elegant UI.” #Invest2018 Scores: 6.0, 8.0, 7.5 & 8.0

It’s rare that during a demo that they presenter explains the underlying technology behind the product. Google’s Material Design framework has been evolving since 2011 and appears in almost all of their products from Gmail to Android. By leveraging this, it seems that Next is working towards design unity across their entire set of products.

I agree with the judges that they didn’t present much that was new, which is kind of the whole reason why you would get up on stage at a conference like this. Especially with the other companies showcasing new AI, voice activation, and other cool stuff. (See Redtail vs Salesforce FSC: Which is the best CRM for Financial Advisors?)

Private Client Resources (PCR)

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Judges comments on @PrivClientHub demo: “there’s something really cool here that can help scale, other aggregators focus on simple investments, like that you can securitize any asset, like focus on APIs and single source of truth.” #Invest2018 Scores: 7.5, 6.5, 7.5, 7.0

PCR is often going head to head with Addepar and trying to differentiate themselves in the family office and HNW RIA spaces. PCR does it with customization and flexibility, while Addepar does it with report design and deep support for alternatives. API’s have been around forever, but are turning into a new wave as a lot of the larger wealth management firms are building their own user interfaces and plugging in data and services via APIs. Without a robust library, you can not compete for this business.

RetireUp

RetireUp is taking a slightly different tack by focusing on facilitating the purchase of insurance products that support a well-designed financial plan. Their software has the ability to model annuities based on specifications received from their insurance company partners. The selected annuity is placed inside the client’s plan where the advisor can use a slider to adjust the amount of money to transfer in from a selected account and instantly see the impact on future cash flows.

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Some judges’ comments on @RetireUpLLC demo: You’re solving a problem that we all face, like the focus on annuities & increasing ISR, there’s a huge gap in incumbent space, would like to see connection to cash flow. Scores: 7.5, 7.5, 7.5 & 7.5 #Invest2018

More firms are expanding their product offerings into tangential areas and markets. Financial planning vendors are adding abilities to implement the plans they design by filling out the necessary insurance forms like RetireUp or even executing the trades needed to populate an equity portfolio like Advizr. (See Stranger Things Are Happening to Financial Planning Software)

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

How can clients protect themselves from retiring at the wrong time? ⁦@RetireUpLLC⁩ offers tools to increase income stability & show clients the lightbulb moment #invest2018

I like their user interface and how it walks the advisor through the process.

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

⁦@RetireUpLLC⁩ has Incorporated alternative investments and can evaluate the benefits of hedging to a clients portfolio #invest2018

Investors’ appetite for alternatives have been growing steadily with global AUM reaching $6.5 trillion last year. Total assets managed by the Top 100 alternative investment managers globally was up 10% in 2017, according to research produced by Willis Towers Watson.

Salesforce

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Judges comments on @Salesforce demo: can we see more real-world use cases for Einstein? advisor insights are compelling, like the ability to optimize client visits, the lack of UI flexibility is limiting, prefer less jumping between boxes. Scores: 8.0, 8.5, 8.5, 8.5 #Invest2018

I don’t want to slam Salesforce, but I’ve never liked their UI. I was first exposed to it back in 2007 and the interface hasn’t gotten much better since then.

Salesforce blows everyone else away in the ability to customize and develop on top of their platform and with their app exchange, but it still requires a heavy lift from your tech staff, and a lot of companies just don’t have the capacity or the understanding to do it right.

I’d like to see more practical examples of their Einstein AI as well. I want to see how it really works. I wasn’t impressed with the optimization of client visits. To me, that’s more eye candy than anything an advisor would use. Do they think that advisors are like traveling salesmen?

Gavin Spitzner on Twitter

@salesforce continues to build out #FinancialServicesCloud capabilities with integrated #clientportal…nice collaboration/calendaring tools as well #InVest2018 #Fintech

The number of client portals are multiplying like rabbits at a pet store; there are so many of them I think clients are getting overwhemed. Some independent broker-dealers have three or more portals available for advisors and see a mix of deployments with some overlapping. This is no way to run a business.

It’s true you that every vendor thinks they need a client portal, but it really needs to be awesome if you are going to get enough clients to use it. Between platorm vendors, financial planning and CRM’s, everyone has a portal and wants to be the hub where all other product integrate. (See The Battle for the RIA Technology Integration Hub)

Scivantage

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Judges comments on @Scivantage Wealthsqope demo: “Great for an org lacking subject matter expertise, targeting a wide range of investors, new widgets will be interesting, toolkit should have positive impact on small, independent firms. #Invest2018 Scores: 5.5, 7.0, 7.0, 7.5

Scivantage had one of the first digital offerings out of the gate, but they haven’t updated it in awhile, so I’m glad to see them show a refresh. They’ve fallen a bit behind in this space, so I’m interested to see if they can catch up to digital leaders like Jemstep and SigFig. (See Comparing The Best Digital Advice “Robo-Advisor” Platforms For RIAs)

Gavin Spitzner on Twitter

I found the @Scivantage demo interesting. Built an advice portal in real time with Wealthscope Digital Developer. For firms with the internal talent to leverage it, this offers the ability to build something very unique vs renting a more cookie cutter robo offering #InVest2018

That’s a good point, especially given how ubiquitous their robo advice has become. Almost every firm has a digital wealth channel now, but you can only make it work if you have staff to support it. Otherwise you are spending money on technology that you can’t use. There is a very small target market of firms that have the exepertise to do this efficiently.

Smartleaf

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

Some judges’ comments on @SmartleafInc demo: Health checks puts you above other rebalancers, love transparency in tax savings, I see a massive gap in advisors explaining what they do, first demo to scale advice in new ways #Invest2018 Scores: 8.0, 8.0, 8.0, 7.5

Smartleaf had a long history as focusing on the bank space and partnering with the bigger wealth management platforms and TAMPs as their rebalancer of choice. They have always offered strong tax management functionality including budgeting and real-time tracking of gains and losses.  (See Advisor’s Guide To Choosing The Best Portfolio Rebalancing Software)

Kendra Thompson on Twitter

Well done @SmartleafInc strong demo. Love that ‘how I added value’ style advisor reporting and the layered / client specific constraints on rebalancing workflow. #inVest2018

Many advisors have a difficult time explaining the value of rebalancing to their clients. Smartleaf built a report that helps them walk their clients through the reasoning behind the rebalance and how it benefits them.

Gavin Spitzner on Twitter

@SmartleafInc continues to stand out as state-of-the-art tax smart portfolio rebalancing engine very attuned to bank space. Nice enhancements to help advisors and pms demo value to clients scalably #invest2018

One area that I always felt Smartleaf needed to improve was their user interface. Most other rebalancers have dashboard style front end that enabled exception-based management. Smartleaf never had this. Their response was that it was “not an alerting system, It’s a solution system. We don’t alert you to problems, we solve them!”

Looking at these new UI screen it appears as though they have migrated to a new way of thinking.

Craig Iskowitz on Twitter

The primary method that ⁦@SmartleafInc⁩ clients use to sheet accounts to rebalance is the cost/benefit score #invest2018

The primary method that Smartleaf clients use to select accounts that need to be rebalanced is the cost/benefit score.  This is unique among rebalancers that I have seen where every account falls into the category of rebalance triggered or not.