What do advisors expect from their broker/dealers when it comes to keeping up with trends in financial advisor technology? And how do broker/dealers deliver the tools and resources their advisors are asking for?
From cybersecurity to system integration, here I'll discuss some of the prominent trends that will continue to play a significant role for financial advisors in the years ahead—with a focus on how we meet (and exceed!) expectations here at Commonwealth.
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Investor360°®: Providing Secure Access to Client Data
Today's investors want control over what they do, and much of that happens through a portal. Commonwealth has recognized this need for years, launching our client-facing web portal in 2006. Here, affiliated advisors can give their clients online access to as much (or as little) of the information available in our Client360°® platform. For example, clients can:
- View advisor-managed assets, plus assets (and liabilities) held elsewhere
- See statements, tax documents, and confirms, as well as manage their paperless preferences for the same
- Access important documents in a secure online vault
- Take advantage of integration with Quicken and TurboTax to simplify tax filing
Our advisors appreciate the portal's outside account aggregation—a tool that allows clients to add their outside accounts, balances/liabilities, and holdings to Investor360° and to have the same flow upstream to Client360°. This gives important insight to advisors regarding new opportunities with clients, in addition to integration with Commonwealth's planning tools.
Plus, the Investor360° client portal is a responsive site—meaning it responds to the screen size on which it is being viewed. But we've also built the Investor360° Mobile App, so clients can securely view their portfolios from their smartphones with a single tap.
The Shield: Keeping Sensitive Information Safe
From the WannaCry ransomware attack to phishing e-mails, I don't have to tell you how prevalent cybercrime is today. Commonwealth has taken a strong stance on cybersecurity, implementing a mandatory program across all advisor offices called the Commonwealth Shield.
The guideline for our program is Massachusetts General Law Regulation 201 CMR 17.00: Standards for the Protection of Personal Information of Residents of the Commonwealth—one of the most stringent available. This regulation establishes the minimum standards that need to be met regarding the safeguarding of personal information in both paper and electronic records.
Using the following components, the Shield helps manage and minimize the cybersecurity-related risks for our advisors:
- A high-end hardware firewall
- Information security policy documentation
- Antivirus upgrades and renewal
- Automatic software patch updates
- Workstation hard-drive encryption
- Portable media security
- Password management security
- Secure remote access functionality
- Extended HelpDesk support
National Conference: Educating Our Advisors
Each year, Commonwealth holds our National Conference, offering a plethora of educational opportunities for our advisors. But one feature we always prioritize? Technology education. Here's how we do it.
Training. We offer hands-on training sessions on applications like Practice360°® Models, our online trading and rebalancing platform, and Client360° Planning, a system that we think of as "financial conversation software." It allows advisors to facilitate planning discussions with clients without having to generate a full-blown financial plan.
Tech problem-solving. We also offer a Tech Desk at the conference. Advisors can meet with a HelpDesk specialist to address a problem piece of hardware or get guidance on tech-related issues. And at our CyberCafé, attendees can explore our many technology applications. Our offering platform is robust, so we want to ensure that our advisors—and their staff—are comfortable using our tools to maximum advantage.
360° Platform: Integrating Client- and Practice-Level Data
Our 360° platform (which includes Client360°, Practice360°, and Investor360°) puts client- and practice-level information into an integrated system that allows advisors to manage all aspects of their business. Integration with third-party applications is also available. For example, Client360° pushes relevant account information into our partner tools, including Morningstar®, MoneyGuidePro®, and Wealthscape.
In addition, our next-generation Commonwealth CRM—which we've built in-house from the ground up—helps our advisors keep track of all aspects of their clients' financial lives, whether they're in the office or on the go. By downloading our mobile app—available for both smartphones and tablets—advisors have easy access to Client360°, alerts, CRM contacts, our trading engine, market quotes, and more.
Leading the Charge
David Fetter, CEO of Fetter Logic (a data solutions provider), once noted that there is value in being able to "tell an advisor he can do that paperwork in his client's kitchen electronically." (We offer that, too, by the way, through our e-Signature platform). Still, the industry at large has some catching up to do. But at Commonwealth, we continue to lead the charge. We are passionate about technology, so we can respond proactively to our advisors' needs. And we've got a jump-start on these trends in financial advisor technology—from the Shield to our total client and business management platform—helping power everything our advisors do.
What other technology trends have affected your business? What measures have you taken to protect your clients' sensitive information? Please share your thoughts with us below.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in July 2015, but we've updated it to bring you more relevant and timely information.