TAMPs And Annuities Platforms Are Trying To Figure Out How To Innovate For Advisors While Sometimes Competing With The Advisors’ Wealth Management Firms
Even as investment solutions providers continue to face greater pressure than ever to use new technologies and strategies to keep their offerings up to date, they must determine how to meet the lofty expectations of wealth managers and their firms as well as navigate potentially crossing purposes with those same RIAs and broker-dealers.
One issue is how wealth management providers view the need for using a turnkey asset management platform (TAMP) or an annuities platform that offers both commission and fee-based options. Another concern is how wealth managers and their firms view TAMPs and annuities platforms whose solution suite effectively competes against the wealth management firm’s own offering.
After all, some vendors provide practice management, business sales coaching and portfolio management that a broker-dealer or RIA might have considered their own value-add for advisors.
Not ‘One Size Fits All’
“Advisor Group sees offering both commission and fee-based options as a critical component in overall holistic portfolio management for clients,” said Shannon Larson, Senior Vice President of Platform Management and Product Development for Advisor Group. “Client needs are not ‘one size fits all,’ so having access to both allows financial professionals to provide a broad range of investment products to achieve goals and outcomes.”
Advisor Group – which encompasses more than 10,000 financial professionals – is in the process of transitioning from its current multi-brand network model to a single, rebranded entity that will unify eight wealth management firms currently part of the Advisor Group network into one structure.
Regarding annuities platforms, Larson explained that clients are expecting more customization, and while financial planning tools have evolved to meet those needs there is still an opportunity to deliver comprehensive proposals that demonstrate both performance and rationale for annuities. Ongoing comprehensive reporting that shows what role an annuity plays in an account is necessary regardless of whether the client is working with a brokerage structure or on an advisory basis, according to Larson.
“For TAMPs to grow their market share they need to differentiate what has become a more commoditized suite of investment solutions. Successful TAMPs support and drive advisor growth by providing practice management, coaching and tools for holistic wealth management,” she said.
“It is critical that those TAMPs partner with home offices to ensure that they are not contradicting policies or regulatory perspectives,” Larson explained. “Advisor Group is able to provide an experience with front-to-back integration to meet the holistic wealth management solutions advisors need to accelerate growth and that can pose a challenge to TAMPs if they find themselves increasingly outside the ecosystem.”
Offerings From Wealth Management Enterprises
Large wealth management platforms encompassing RIA and broker-dealer capabilities typically provide some combination of internal tools and access to vetted third-party investment solutions for their advisors.
For example, Commonwealth Financial Network’s Advisor360° enables advisors to assign and manage models as well as conduct trading and more. Its Preferred Portfolio Services (PPS) asset management platform lets advisors oversee fee-based accounts at scale, either with models the advisor creates or Commonwealth’s own investment research strategists manage the portfolios. Commonwealth advisors also can choose from outsourced asset management programs or work with approved third-party asset managers.
LPL Financial provides various centrally managed platforms designed to strengthen client relationships and increase practice efficiency, while separately enabling advisor-driven platforms with flexible investment options and customization. LPL also offers access through its IARs to several major TAMPs including platforms from Assetmark, Morningstar and Orion. Its annuities platform includes access to more than 40 companies, fee-based variable annuities and annuities research tools.
Cetera Financial Group – whose holding company recently announced the appointment of Fidelity veteran Mike Durbin as CEO – offers My Advice Architect (MAA), which allows advisors to build portfolios themselves or outsource them. MAA has five investment programs, access to more than 100 strategists, approximately 375 separate account managers with over 1,100 strategies, and more than 1,400 mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. Cetera’s portfolio solutions include ready-made strategic and tactical portfolios, a preferred list of SMA managers, asset allocation guidance and a best-ideas list of 125 mutual funds.
Jockeying For Position
TAMPs and annuities platforms have been jockeying for position, by building out their offerings to become more attractive to advisors and their firms.
In March, GeoWealth announced its acquisition of First Ascent Asset Management, an outsourced portfolio management service that also provides investment consulting, advisor support and 401(k) guidance. The firms intend to combine GeoWealth’s technology on its TAMP with First Ascent’s client services to deepen offerings for advisors and will search for more opportunities to increase flexibility and choice.
Luma Financial Technologies recently collaborated with Morningstar to include portfolio analytics for structured products within Morningstar’s Advisor Workstation. The fintech platform provides tools to help financial professionals learn about, transact and manage alternative investments in client portfolios, such as off-the-shelf and customized structured notes, as well as annuities. Its Creation Hub enables financial advisors to build products through a broad array of solutions, including underliers selection, structure configuration and product variables.
For wealth management firms that also offer advisors their own technology, the need for an investment solutions platform to provide both commission and fee-based options can have less to do with the product and more to do with the regulatory space that the advisor sits in.
“For true hybrid advisors, having access to fee-based and commission-based products is a natural fit,” said Matt Regan, President of Wealthcare. “As fee-friendly options in the annuity market have emerged, however, we see more advisors moving toward fee-only and dropping their B-D registrations.”
Wealthcare has a fee-only RIA and a hybrid RIA, and also is a tech company with patents including the GDX360 platform, which is effectively a TAMP. In addition to providing GDX360 to its advisors, Wealthcare offers the platform as a white label product to other businesses.
The company provides financial advisors with an integrated goals-based planning solution; business operations support spanning compliance, marketing and practice management; as well as access to investment models and portfolio management services. Wealthcare – which was founded more than 20 years ago – has over $5 billion in assets, supports more than 170 advisors and has more than 500 managed portfolios.
“Although we offer a comprehensive wealth management solution to our advisors, we certainly don’t require them to use our offering exclusively,” Regan said. “We are quite comfortable working alongside complementary solutions that may add real value in certain client cases. We feel strongly that our offering is superior to other providers but understand that we haven’t cornered the market on great ideas.”
New Investment Solutions Entrant
Indeed, new investment solutions entrants have emerged this year. For example, a cloud-based startup called SYSTM launched in February as a venture of the diversified financial services company William Blair – whose wealth management unit has over $58 billion in assets across more than 120 advisors – and utilizes InvestCloud technology.
SYSTM strives to streamline daily operations for advisors, provide them with a multi-custodial open-architecture marketplace of approximately 150 vetted financial strategies and products including annuities and alternatives, as well as thought leadership resources.
“We understand that wealth managers and their firms have varying perspectives on the need for a TAMP and/or annuities platform that offers both commission and fee-based options,” said Brad Goodman, Head of Platform at the company.
“At SYSTM, we maintain an agnostic stance when it comes to fee structures for the products available on our marketplace. Our primary focus is on ensuring that all products pass our rigorous due diligence process,” he said.
Goodman emphasized that SYSTM also recognizes the concerns wealth managers and their firms may have regarding TAMPs and annuities platforms that offer a solution suite competing against their own offerings. “We understand the importance of aligning with the needs of advisors and have developed our technology with their day-to-day workflow in mind,” he said.
SYSTM provides a single platform to serve as the central hub for advisors, accessible on desktop or mobile. The company has relationships with William Blair, Morningstar and Springtide Partners to navigate due diligence, manager research and alternative investment consulting. It also has partnerships with Halo Investing and +SUBSCRIBE, an alternative software solution.
“While firms can still utilize some of their own offerings, our aim is to serve as a customized one-stop-shop that takes care of everything else,” Goodman said. “However, we also support the idea of RIA firms having their own technology or service capabilities, and we strive to integrate and support them where possible.”
Chris Latham, Managing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org