Orion Ascent: Survey Results, New Tools And Upgrades

Orion’s McLaughlin Discusses Behavioral Finance, Growth Expectations, AI, Compliance, Data Integration, Estate Planning And More
Brian McLaughlin, President, Orion Advisor Technology
Brian McLaughlin, President, Orion Advisor Technology
Julius Buchanan, Editor in Chief, Wealth Solutions Report
Julius Buchanan, Editor in Chief, Wealth Solutions Report

Orion Advisor Solutions recently concluded its Ascent 2024 Conference, held in San Diego from March 12 to 15, with approximately 1,600 in attendance. During the conference, Orion made several announcements, including results of its second annual wealthtech survey, the introduction of an estate planning tool designed to provide intuitive presentations and what-if scenario modeling, and the expansion of its behavioral finance toolkit with PulseCheck, which aims to integrate personal fulfilment and wellness into financial planning.

The firm also introduced a new tool for post-trade supervision integrated into its Client Oversight module, enhancements to its Redtail CRM and its newly launched Compare tool, which integrates advisors’ data in real time across the firm’s tools and systems.

We spoke with Brian McLaughlin, President of Orion Advisor Technology, during the event about the survey, new tools and tool enhancements.

Optimism And Integration

Orion’s survey found that 90% of advisors expect continued strong growth this year, with the growth expectation averaging 16%. Addressing this optimism, McLaughlin said, “I was delightfully surprised that the recovery has been so swift. Even if we don’t see that growth number as high as we’re expecting this year, they’re still leaning into 2025 with optimism too. We’re going to see advisor growth in size of accounts and number of accounts.”

McLaughlin said that integration challenges are still a salient topic even after 20 years of wealthtech advancement. “This shows there’s still a lot of opportunity there. Very few firms reported that they had all the needed technology working together. That’s one of the big challenges that we’ll be taking on.”

“We want advisors that use our technology to have an easy, intuitive flow across all the applications.”

Brian McLaughlin, President of Orion Advisor Technology,

He said that in addressing this issue, Orion is working to reimagine the advisor experience to take into “account the fact that Orion has had multiple acquisitions of technology over the last five years, and blend them together into a unified experience for clients. We want advisors that use our technology to have an easy, intuitive flow across all the applications.”

Single Source Of Truth

McLaughlin pointed to another firm initiative, to develop a “single source of truth” database, which would unify the identifiers in separate databases into one. “For example, if they start with a proposal generation tool and add a client, it flows into the CRM automatically. You’re working off that one record.”

He further explained that the firm is coordinating the data points to make them interact across all other platforms. “Advisors will see the same data from different angles. It will reduce application switching and multiple tabs.”

AI And The Compare Tool

Orion’s survey revealed that 38% of respondents expect AI to be the most disruptive technology in the industry over the next three years. “We keep adding more innovation on that front,” McLaughlin said, pointing out that the firm integrated AI into its Redtail CRM last year, specifically into its Redtail Speak communication tool.

“The new release I’m most excited about is the Orion Compare tool,” he said. Compare integrates data from across the firm’s tools to allow advisors to construct, analyze and communicate the impact of simulated portfolio changes. It also incorporates behavioral finance and AI. “Many financial planning tools have ‘playgrounds.’ This is like a playground for proposal generation.” It aims to implement adjustments quickly without advisors having to move across various systems or tools.

Orion also takes results of behavioral finance tools and, leveraging AI in the Compare tool, generates executive summaries and talking points according to the client’s emotional responses.

Post-Trade Compliance

The firm also launched a new compliance tool that adds post-trade supervision to the company’s Client Oversight module. McLaughlin explained that it runs the rules engine on a trade after it’s been transacted. “It gives you the back-end check. If there was some kind of change in the client account, it will now move through the compliance rules engine and get flagged, even though they went outside the box. It’s one of the biggest requests we’ve had for a while.”

He continued, “This will flag it earlier, rather than learning later on, and being surprised, that something in the account had changed that shouldn’t have happened. The firms will know about it in real time or much closer to the event.”

Behavioral Finance

According to the firm’s survey, 33% of advisors have already integrated behavioral finance into their practice, with an additional 43% planning on doing that over the next three years.

To address behavioral finance needs, the firm announced the launch of the PulseCheck tool, which is designed to incorporate clients’ well-being and fulfillment into the financial planning process. The tool surveys clients in six areas: happiness, engagement, advancement, relationships, truth and strength, to help them set financial and personal goals. The results can be used across multiple firm tools.

Daniel Crosby, Chief Behavioral Officer, Orion Advisor Solutions
Daniel Crosby, Chief Behavioral Officer, Orion Advisor Solutions

“Our vision for PulseCheck was to create a tool where an investor’s values, well-being and

financial goals are in sync, enabling advisors to offer a planning experience that’s as unique as

the individual themselves,” said Daniel Crosby, Orion’s Chief Behavioral Officer. “PulseCheck is about understanding the complete picture of a person’s life and what matters most to them. It’s designed to enrich the advisor-client relationship and facilitate a truly integrated approach to wealth management.”

Estate Planning

Orion also launched a new estate planning tool to meet anticipated needs as the firm’s survey revealed that 57% of advisors are focused on generational wealth transfer as a growth opportunity and another 36% are expected to do that over the next three years. The tool enables visualization of estate planning as both flowcharts and tables. It also provides modeling for hypothetical scenarios for clients.

Commenting on the new tool, McLaughlin said, “One of the main parts I enjoy is the visualization that helps the investor understand the flow of the estate plan. Instead of spreadsheets, this visually takes all the account data and puts it in a mapping-type experience.”

Brian Morgan, Product Director, Financial Planning, Orion Advisor Services
Brian Morgan, Product Director, Financial Planning, Orion Advisor Services

According to Brian Morgan, Product Director, Financial Planning at Orion, this tool adds to the existing document checklist and beneficiary review the firm previously provided.

In a statement to WSR, Morgan explained, “The Estate Planning tool is built inside Orion’s client portal, where client information is readily available in a modern user interface. This allows advisors to create each client’s unique estate planning visuals in a matter of minutes, while simultaneously providing clients visibility through the client portal experience.”

In order to retain heirs, instead of them moving to new advisors when the assets are inherited, Morgan says that “advisors will need to proactively engage their clients with conversations around estate planning, while also developing stronger relationships with the next generation to ensure an efficient and seamless transfer of assets.”

Julius Buchanan, Editor in Chief at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at jbuchanan@wealthsolutionsreport.com.

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