Fintech Report Card: March 2017
Below is the March edition of the Fintech Report Card, a monthly piece by Riskalyze CEO Aaron Klein originally published in WealthManagement.com.
Welcome to the March edition of the Riskalyze Fintech Review, where Riskalyze CEO Aaron Klein gives you the thumbs up or thumbs down on the biggest pieces of news to hit advisor technology in the last month. Failing to read this piece may be the riskiest move of all!
eMoney Launches an Enterprise Division 👍
What happened: eMoney Advisor announced on March 23 the launch of eMoney for Enterprise, a division that will support users in the home offices of banks, large registered investment advisors, broker/dealers, insurance companies and other financial institutions. eMoney had traditionally focused on selling to individual advisors, but this new division will support users over an entire network.
Why it matters: Creating a dedicated offering to handle enterprise clients is a great move. If you’re an individual advisor who uses eMoney as your planning tool, there’s a good chance you’re about to receive even better home-office support.
Goldman Sachs’ Launching Robo Advisor as Part of Diversification Strategy 👎
What happened: The new product is likely to target individuals with less than $1 million to invest, a significantly larger market than Goldman Sachs' current private wealth management service that caters to clients with at least $50 million. Their acquisition of Honest Dollar and the launch of a loan platform called Marcus suggest that this robo venture is part of a larger diversification strategy.
Why it matters: The robo plays that are working are connected to companies that already have some kind of distribution with consumers. We’ve yet to see a self-directed investing service profitably scale a business without having the robo provide incremental revenue on top of an existing business. I’m skeptical that mass affluent investors turn to a Goldman-branded robo, especially if it doesn’t also offer human advice.
Amazon Web Service issues cause widespread outages 👎
What happened: Right on the brink of March, the internet came to a halt as Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service experienced “high error rates,” crippling many large companies that rely on the web service. Scores of websites and apps like Slack, Netflix, Hubspot, Medium and even the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission faced a range of outages in network connection. What many were calling a “digital snow day” lasted for more than four hours before Amazon could completely restore services.
Why it matters: Amazon later reported the official cause for the outage: a typo. Nearly everyone that went online that day experienced some type of throttle in services due to a clerical error. Let this be a reminder to advisors that partnering with technology companies who emphasize reliable security and recovery procedures is very important. Moral of the story: Always have a backup plan.
Fintech Firms May Soon Be Eligible for Banking Licenses 👍
What happened: The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency pressed ahead with its plan to offer a specialty license to fintech firms, a move that would allow the industry to enter the federal banking system. Currently, fintech firms must apply for licenses in each state to do business, which can be a costly process. The new federal banking license would allow for one set of rules nationwide. The OCC’s draft proposal would require fintech firms to meet certain standards similar to those for traditional banks, including higher capital and liquidity requirements, and be subject to rules like those that try to prevent customers from laundering funds.
Why it matters: Thumbs up for allowing fintech firms to focus on innovation rather than paperwork. Removing the handcuffs of redundant licenses will surface relevant technology even faster, and I think we’ll see advisor confidence in fintech platforms continue to rise.
Morgan Stanley Hiring Tech Specialists to Help Advisors with Digital Tools 👎
What happened: Morgan Stanley is continuing its technology surge after hiring Charles Schwab’s Naureen Hassan as Chief Digital Officer and appointing Jim Rosenthal to lead the development of the company’s digital services, which includes tentative plans for a self-directed robo platform. They just announced their next move: training hundreds of technology specialists to be deployed nationwide. These new hires will instruct advisors on using investment applications, software and social media with the intention of reaching a younger and broader range of prospective clients.
Why it matters: The move sends a mixed message for a few of reasons: is their tech stack so counterintuitive that they need hundreds of specialists to deploy it? Do they think that little of their advisors’ ability to use a computer? Is this a sign that they’re moving closer to implementing the advisor-less robo tech they’ve been whispering about? Having to hire hundreds of specialists is a red flag.
Merrill Lynch Goes Mobile 👍
What happened: Merrill Lynch is introducing new features to its website, such as a dashboard to track investments, real-time maps of the markets and interactive charts. The wirehouse will also let clients use their Apple and Android smartphones to initiate wire transfers, sparked by the 25 percent rise in how its clients use mobile devices. Following the lead of market newcomers that make mobile integration look easy, Merrill Lynch and other traditional firms are expanding in-person models to meet tech-savvy demand.
Why it matters: Beyond the necessity of innovation to remain competitive, customers are now expecting mobile integration as a basic service. As consumer expectations continue to grow, so will this fundamental shift in the industry.
MIT Hosts First Fintech Hackathon 👍
What happened: MIT and TD Bank hosted their first fintech hackathon, an event challenging 26 student teams to develop a fintech platform in under 36 hours. A team from Cornell University and their product called Switch, which they describe as a micro-loan and insurance broker, took home the $5,000 prize. The team plans to start up the company after graduation, so stay tuned.
Why it matters: I’m a huge fan of developing young tech talent. In 2015, MIT created the first graduate-level course in the U.S. to focus on building innovative fintech, so the future’s looking bright for these young engineers. And hey, in case that Switch thing doesn’t work out, maybe one of those Cornell students would want to bring their talents to Riskalyze.
Aaron Klein is CEO at Riskalyze.
Editors note: The views expressed in this column are Aaron Klein’s, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Wealthmanagement.com.
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