I was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal Investing Editor, Geoffrey Rogow, during a fireside chat session at CB Insights’ Future of Fintech conference in New York.
During the conversation, I shared my insight into how Envestnet is approaching some key industry trends and what the company’s vision is for the future of financial services. Below are some of my key takeaways.
1. We’re working toward achieving financial wellness for all investors.
Envestnet is a technology, data, and services company, helping advisors deliver better advice to their end clients, so that they can achieve financial wellness. We continue to enhance and evolve our platform, developing all the pieces needed to connect every aspect of investors’ daily financial lives to their goals, tied together with a plan. We’re pulling in data on their transactions, investments, insurance, etc., and feeding that into apps that organize the information and aid in decision making, which power a plan to get them to where they want to be. We’re not quite there yet, but we are actively building that reality.
2. Our relationships are creating new possibilities for advisors and investors.
We seek to partner with companies that will enable our financial wellness mission and transform wealth management, integrating their tools and technologies into our platform. Since we are an open-architecture platform and a fiduciary, our advisors are able to select the options that work best for them and their clients.
BlackRock is a great example of this. We’re making its wealth technology available and accessible to advisors and their clients through the Envestnet platform. The level of clarity and visibility this gives advisors and their investors is powerful, enabling them to optimize their portfolios. The fact that this company has invested in us demonstrates that it believes in what we’re doing, and we consider it to be a huge endorsement.
Our call-to-action is to seamlessly integrate all of these technologies, tools, applications, and partnerships into one robust platform that can be leveraged at scale to enable advisors to serve as many investors as possible and help them achieve their goals.
3. We see advice as a growth business.
More than ever before, consumers are being asked to take personal control of their financial lives – as evidenced by the extinction of pension plans and the move toward high-deductible healthcare. Additionally, product choice – for everything from investments to insurance, to credit – continues to grow.
However, the ability to achieve a financial goal ultimately requires the assistance of a human advisor. Low-cost, digital models certainly have the ability to provide investors with information and some level of awareness of their cohesive financial situation – probably even more so in the future – but they can’t naturally adjust when unforeseen, complicated, or even extraordinary events take place, like deaths, purchasing a home, or getting divorced or married. While technology is beginning to help advisors automate simple, routine tasks related to their clients’ daily financial lives, the need for a human advisor to help them through major life transitions will increase. As a result, we believe human advisors will remain essential and their value will continue to grow.
4. The future will be connected and integrated.
Right now, we all live daily cash-flow-based financial lives, filled with buying, earning, and depositing cash. Currently all that real-time information lives in one place in our brains and our long-term goals live in another, and we have to mentally connect the two ourselves.
The future will bring these two things together, powered by data. Artificial intelligence will help to drive this, optimizing the balance between credit, investing, and insurance, in line with a person’s current life stage. For our part, we’re bringing institutional-quality capabilities to advisors and their investors so that they can make this connection and get results.
5. The demographics of investors are changing.
Right now, most advisors tend to fit within the same demographics. This is largely true of investors as well. Baby boomer families, for example, typically have a male head of the household. However, the world around us is changing profoundly. More females are graduating college than ever before, and they will require financial advice and investing capabilities tailored to their needs and desires. Advisors need to start making the shift now to serve these new markets.
To help drive that, we are creating programs, such as Envestnet Institute on Campus, to develop and train young advisors to work with the gender- and ethnically-diverse consumer that is emerging, and who will become their primary clients in decades ahead. We’re making sure we’re building a platform that aligns with their current and future needs – and the needs of their investors.
The future of the industry is a topic that we find fascinating, and it drives the work that we’re doing at Envestnet every day. There is no doubt that the financial services industry is changing, and we’re excited for the future and the opportunity to build a platform that will be a resource to advisors and investors now and for decades to come.