Tag Archives: eMoney

FPPad Bits and Bytes for January 20, 2017

In this week’s top advisor technology stories:

  • Starburst Labs, the creators of Wealthbox CRM, raised $6.25 million in new capital
  • The XY Planning Network inks an enterprise pricing deal with eMoney Advisor
  • Morgan Stanley pays a $13 million settlement for billing mistakes across 149,000 customer accounts, and
  • Document management provider Cabinet Paperless gets acquired by PSIGEN Software

Starburst Labs raises $6.25 million in new capital

This week, Starburst Labs, which is the New York City-based company (formerly known as Gotham Tech Labs) that makes Wealthbox CRM, announced it raised $6.25 million in Series A funding. Back in December when the Financial Planning Magazine technology survey came out, Wealthbox CRM was one of the few movers and shakers in that survey who rose up the ranks in overall adoption. Most of the other companies basically stayed in the same positions as in previous surveys.

So Wealthbox CRM basically launched from zero on February 11th 2014 (which I remember because February 11th is my birthday) and in under three years has ascended to the level of industry adoption to compete with well-known CRMs like Redtail, Salesforce, and Junxure.

What’s interesting, though, is that Starburst has three other products in addition to Wealthbox CRM which are InvestorSay, an online community centered around investing ideas, PaperTrade.io, a plugin for simulated stock trading contests, and Wealthbase, a question and answer website that reminds me a lot of Quora.

So the Series A funding won’t exclusively support Wealthbox CRM, because I’m sure it’ll be allocated across all four products, but at least the new investment will do more than just keep the lights on at Starburst’s SoHo offices. Now, they don’t have a personal chef on site, but the offices are more than adequate to support the work the team needs to get done.

And don’t forget, Wealthbox CRM is included in the technology package for anyone who is a member of the XY Planning Network, which is growing at its own eye-opening pace, so I’m not at all concerned that the product might go away anytime soon. An acquisition is a whole other story, but that’s a risk you take with any independent technology provider you use in your business, and isn’t a risk that’s exclusive to Wealthbox CRM.

So with that, let me just say that I believe Wealthbox CRM deserves a little more respect and recognition in the industry for the adoption it has already earned among advisors in just a few years.

The XY Planning Network inks pricing deal with eMoney Advisor

Speaking of XY Planning Network, they’re also in the news this week after announcing a partnership with eMoney Advisor, where members of the network will receive enterprise pricing to emX Pro.

emX pro is the top of the line package that offers planning modules for cash flow, estate, investment, and retirement illustrations above and beyond the client portal and account aggregation in the less expensive tiers.

Retail pricing for emX pro is around $3800 a year, so enterprise pricing probably knocks off 10 to 20 percent, but it doesn’t bring the price down to the $1000 a year range for planning software like MoneyGuidePro and inStream that offer pricing discounts to XYPN members.

Morgan Stanley pays a $13 million settlement for billing mistakes

I have two more quick stories worth mentioning: First, I saw that Morgan Stanley was ordered to pay $13 million to settle civil charges brought by the SEC after the Commission found that more than 149,000 clients were charged excess fees of more than $16 million between 2002 and 2016 as the result of billing errors. The firm also failed to comply with custody rules by not conducting surprise audits on client accounts for which the firm had custody.

So accurate billing is one of those things than often goes under appreciated inside your advisory business. If you have robust portfolio accounting systems like Orion, Envestnet | Tamarac, Advent, AssetBook, and others, it’s probably built in and pretty seamless. But I know some firms still calculate fees using custom Excel spreadsheets, and if that’s you, this action against Morgan Stanley should be a reminder for you that it’s probably time to replace your Excel spreadsheets with a more robust and less error-prone accounting system.

Cabinet Paperless gets acquired by PSIGEN Software

And to wrap up advisor technology news, I saw that Cabinet Paperless, a document management company based in Huntsville, Alabama, was acquired by PSIGEN Software for an undisclosed amount. PSIGEN offers document scanning and capture technology, and it’s safe to say that once you capture a document electronically, you’ll need a good solution to index, store, and archive all that information, hence the acquisition of Cabinet.

Someone challenged me last week about why I think advisers are behind on technology adoption, and when I think of document management, this one of the solutions where I think I’m correct in that a minority of advisors have purchased and implemented a robust solution here. Your top contenders here are Laserfiche, Cabinet, NetDocuments, and possibly Sharepoint if you can justify the cost and customization required to make it work right in your firm.

Soapbox: Incremental Care > Acute Care

So moving on, I didn’t come across any cool or disconcerting apps this week to share, so i’ll get right to the soapbox to wrap up this week’s update.

Sometime in the next few days, I hope you’ll take about 20 to 25 minutes to read an essay in the New Yorker by Dr. Atul Gawande about incremental care, or primary care, and the differences and tradeoffs of that kind of physician interaction compared to acute care, or the interaction one might receive from a specialist.

Yes, there are some connections with health insurance and health insurance , but this essay helped me set aside my own political believes and consider what I want from my long-term healthcare interactions.

I’m one of the fortunate ones; my wife works for a big employer that offers a high deductible plan with subsidized premiums and very good coverage. I try not to loose sight of how much of a privilege it is not to have to worry each year about our family’s coverage. But that’s not true for millions of americans nationwide. And I’m sure many of your clients, especially your small business owners, spend a lot of time each year evaluating some very difficult choices around the coverage for their employees, as well as coverage for their own household. Many of you, as owners of independent RIAs, are in the same boat.

So that’s why this essay was a compelling read for me. It was worth 25 minutes of my time, and I hope you’ll find it’s worth your time, too.

I’ve linked to all of this week’s featured stories over on my website, so be sure to check them out over at fppad.com/203

And that wraps up this week’s broadcast on the best in advisor technology and more. If you have something to say, or have a story you think should be featured in a future episode, please send me a tweet on Twitter, I’m @billwinterberg, or if you’re not already receiving my email newsletter, you can sign up at fppad.com/subscribe

Thank you so much for *reading*, I’m Bill Winterberg, see you next time.

FPPad Bits and Bytes for December 16, 2016

On today’s broadcast, Schwab announces its Schwab Intelligent Advisory services, Finicity raises $42 million for account aggregation, Envestnet|Tamarac rolls out Yodlee, and more.

So get ready, FPPad Bits and Bytes begins now!

(Watch FPPad Bits and Bytes on YouTube)

Today’s episode is brought to you by eMoney Advisor, featuring a new Client Onboarding process as a part of their leading client experience. Onboarding replaces printed fact-finding documents with an automated, digital workflow, allowing clients to populate their own personal financial information online from anywhere — adding an extra layer of convenience and efficiency to your service.

eMoney Advisor

For more information on eMoney’s Client Onboarding tool, visit fppad.com/emoneyonboarding today.

Here are the links to this week’s top stories:

Schwab Announces Schwab Intelligent Advisory™ from Charles Schwab

[Now the big story this week is news from Charles Schwab, as the largest custodian for RIAs announced plans to introduce Schwab Intelligent Advisory™ in the first half of 2017. In the press release, Schwab’s Neesha Hathi said that Schwab Intelligent Advisory is designed for emerging or mass affluent investors who don’t have complex financial situations, features access to CFP® professionals who are available by phone and videoconference, and charges fees of just 28 basis points (disclaimer!) with a maximum of $3,600 a year.

Now this isn’t as much of a technology story as it is a marketing story, because the technology for Schwab Intelligent Advisory portfolio management is that same that powers Schwab Intelligent Portfolios for retail investors and Institutional Intelligent Portfolios™ that you can use in your own RIA if you custody assets with Schwab.

But, how does that make you feel knowing you’re using the same technology that your custodian will use to offer its own human-assisted advisory services to mass affluent clients?

So I was asked if I thought RIAs should be concerned about this announcement, and I said yes, RIAs should absolutely be concerned. Look, when it comes to getting a prospect to buy what you do, most of the time it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear, and I’ve gotta admit, prospects are hearing comprehensive plans by CFP® professionals with 24/7 access, all for 28 basis points (disclaimer!)? Unless your prospects hear something far more different and compelling from you, I just can’t believe they’ll be willing to pay more than three times the price of Schwab Intelligent Advisory for your services.

And I’m not ignoring Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services, which also employs hundreds of CFP® professionals and charges 30 basis points (thank you!), with more than $40 billion on the platform and growing. A few of you have told me that you’ve lost clients to Vanguard’s service, which is also likely going to happen with Schwab Intelligent Advisory, but the difference with Vanguard is that they’re not also soliciting your custody business while simultaneously soliciting mass affluent clients.

But the executives at Schwab surely know what they’re doing, and I think they know their target RIA client pretty well, which I suspect largely enforces client account minimums of a million dollars or more, so Schwab Intelligent Advisory really isn’t a competitive threat, because it’s not intended for the high-net worth clientele targeted by the largest RIAs that generally choose to custody with Schwab.] Charles Schwab today announced plans to expand its suite of wealth management and advisory services with the launch of Schwab Intelligent Advisory, a hybrid advisory service that combines live credentialed professionals and algorithm driven technology to make financial and investment planning more accessible to consumers.

Finicity Secures $42 Million in Funding to Accelerate New Solution Development from Finicity

[Now one of the things not mentioned about Schwab Intelligent Advisory is account aggregation, which is the focus of my next two stories, starting with Finicity, as the company announced it secured $42 million in a new funding round led by Experian.

This is the first time I’ve mentioned Finicity in my broadcast, but I have a popular post on FPPad from March of this year when Intuit announced it was shutting down their Financial Data API and selected Finicity to offer façade APIs to developers who needed to transition off of Intuit’s aggregation.

In the wake of that change, Guide Financial, which was acquired by John Hancock in the summer of 2015, shut down back in October, but other than that I haven’t heard of other significant disruptions among other tech providers.

What remains to be seen is whether or not Finicity makes an attempt to offer aggregation services to advisers, either directly or by partnering with existing technology providers, so if you have some intel you can share with me, I’d appreciate the heads up, otherwise advisers can continue to engage aggregation providers such as Morningstar ByAllAccounts, Aqumulate, eMoney, Quovo Wealth Access, and Envestnet|Yodlee.] Finicity, a leading provider of real-time financial data aggregation and insights, has secured $42 million in new funding. Experian, a global innovator in consumer and business credit reporting, led Finicity’s Series B round, along with a venture debt facility provided by Bridge Bank and participation from existing investors.

Tamarac Incorporates Yodlee’s Data Aggregation into Advisor Xi® from PRNewswire

[And speaking of Envestnet|Yodlee, my last story highlights the rollout of Envestnet|Yodlee to the Envestnet|Tamarac platform. While at the Schwab IMPACT conference in October, I had a chance to connect with Brandon Rembe to get a quick update on what this new feature means for advisors.

I’ve linked the full interview over here and in the description below, but let me just finish by saying that technology like account aggregation is still a bit of a differentiator for you, since it helps you know as much as you can about your client’s total financial picture, and not just what clients have at one custodian, such as, ohhh, Charles Schwab, which is a complete coincidence.] Envestnet | Tamarac now enables advisors to add assets and liabilities to households in Advisor View™, helping them expand their focus and deliver more holistic advice to clients.

A few parting words:

Before I sign off, you need to know that I have some big plans in the works for FPPad content in 2017. I’m not going to go into the details right now, but what you will notice is that this broadcast, the almost-weekly videos, will be taking a bit of a hiatus for a few months.

But don’t worry, I’ll still be providing my independent insight on financial technology that thousands of you count on as you navigate what I feel is an exciting, unprecedented opportunity in the business of financial advice.

So connect with me anytime on Twitter, I’m @billwinterberg, or sign up for my email newsletter at fppad.com/subscribe

Here are the stories that didn’t make this week’s broadcast:

Scottrade® Advisor Services Clearing Paths for Advisors with New Tech Agreements from Scottrade

Scottrade® Advisor Services now has agreements with two leading industry solutions providers to help RIAs run their day-to-day routines. Scottrade signed agreements with Morningstar, Inc. and Orion Advisor Services, LLC to offer their services at a discount.

Yahoo Says 1 Billion User Accounts Were Hacked from NY Times

Yahoo, already reeling from its September disclosure that 500 million user accounts had been hacked in 2014, disclosed Wednesday that a different attack in 2013 compromised more than 1 billion accounts.

A Note From Chris O’Neill about Evernote’s Privacy Policy from Evernote

We recently announced an update to Evernote’s privacy policy that we communicated poorly, and it resulted in some understandable confusion. We’ve heard your concerns, and we apologize for any angst we may have caused.

Introducing Asset Classes from Riskalyze

Advisors have been asking for better ways to visualize portfolio allocations, and we’re excited to announce today that we’re rolling out Asset Class coverage for all portfolios in Riskalyze!

Personal Capital Adds $1.5 Billion in AUM and Closes $100 Million in Financing in 2016 from PRNewswire

Personal Capital, the leading digital and professional advisor based wealth management firm, today announced that IGM Financial Inc. has completed the firm’s Series E round. Additionally, Silicon Valley Bank has extended $25 million in credit to the firm.

Watch FPPad Bits and Bytes for December 16, 2016

Watch FPPad Bits and Bytes for December 16, 2016

FPPad Bits and Bytes for October 21, 2016

On today’s broadcast, the World’s Most Famous Hacker shares his top cybersecurity tips, Fidelity previews its next-generation advisor technology platform, and get rapid-fire news from three of the fastest-growing portfolio management providers.

So get ready, FPPad Bits and Bytes begins now!

(Watch FPPad Bits and Bytes on YouTube)

Today’s episode is brought to you by Envestnet | Tamarac, providers of Advisor Xi, an industry-leading fully integrated web-based suite for RIAs. Tamarac’s Advisor Xi unifies portfolio management, modeling, rebalancing, trading, billing, and reporting with a fully customizable client portal and enterprise-grade CRM.

envestnet-tamarac-600

If you’re going to Schwab IMPACT next week, be sure you make some time to visit the Envestnet |Tamarac booth for a live demo on their latest client portal and financial planning capabilities.

Here are the links to this week’s top stories:

See the #topsecurityshow tweets from Kevin Mitnick’s cybersecurity presentation

[Now continuing with the National Cyber Security Awareness theme this month, my first story is about Kevin Mitnick, the World’s Most Famous Hacker, as he presented some jaw-dropping examples of cyber and social engineering attacks that are being used today to compromise businesses of all kinds, including financial advisory firms.

Envision Consulting hosted the event in Washington DC and brought me in as the master of ceremonies, so I wanted to be sure I shared my top three takeaways with you.

First, Mitnick advised that none of the computers in your business or home should have any kind of peer-to-peer sharing software installed. This software is usually used to download pirated movies and music across peer-to-peer networks, so while you might not be downloading any pirated content, it’s possible that some of your colleagues or even your kids are doing so.

Mitnick said that some peer-to-peer software exposes the contents of a computer’s ENTIRE hard drive to the sharing network without the user’s knowledge, which is never a good thing, so you need to be sure it’s not installed on any of your systems.

Second, Mitnick showed how hackers can use a custom wireless access point to mimic public WiFi hotspots and perform man-in-the-middle attacks on your devices. For about $100, hackers broadcast their own hotspot pretending to be attwifi or free airport wifi, wait for your device to automatically connect, and then intercept the data your device sends back and forth.

So whenever you’re in a public place, turn your wifi connection off and use your mobile carrier’s network, or if you must connect to an untrusted WiFi network, use a virtual private network, or VPN, to encrypt the traffic sent to and from your device.

And third, instead of opening email attachments directly with Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat, consider using Google’s file preview built into the Chrome browser. This way, you won’t risk executing what Mitnick calls “weaponized” files, because Chrome will render a preview of the document in the web browser first, helping you determine if the file looks legitimate or if it seems suspicious. You can check the plugin settings in Chrome to see if the PDF viewer is enabled for your computer.]

Fidelity® Goes to Market with Next-Generation Advisor Technology Platform from BusinessWire

[Next up is news from Fidelity Investments, as the company offered a preview of its automated investment solution for advisors called the Fidelity Automated Managed Platform, a solution co-developed with eMoney Advisor expected to be in pilot in the late first quarter of 2017.

Now if you take a look at the linked article, you’ll see a few screenshots of the solution powered by the eMoney online experience, so this doesn’t appear to be a repackaged version of Fidelity Go that is offered to retail clients, and the portfolio allocations are the same as those in Fidelity Go which are managed by the sub-advisor Geode Capital Management.

Unfortunately the preview didn’t cover any specific pricing of the Fidelity Automated Managed Platform, and advisors not already using eMoney will have to purchase at least the eMX Select subscription that’s somewhere around $1,500 to $2,000 per year, which is an interesting way to get advisors to buy more eMoney subscriptions. The press release also includes descriptions of the coming Wealthscape total advisor platform, Wealthscape Portfolio Tools, Wealthscape Regulatory Early Warning, and more. There’s a lot to take in from the press release, so be sure to follow the link included with this week’s top stories if you want to get completely up to speed.]

Envestnet | Tamarac Offers Goals-Based Reporting in Advisor View™ & Client Portal from PRNewswire, and

BAM Advisor Services Selects Orion as Exclusive Portfolio Accounting Software for RIAs from Marketwired, and

Addepar Surpasses $500 Billion in Assets and Opens Platform API for Integrations from PRNewswire

[And I’m running out of time, so let me finish with a rapid-fire update that starts with Envestnet | Tamarac, as their Advisor View client portal integration with MoneyGuidePro is now officially in production, then Orion Advisor Services, as the company announced a partnership with BAM Advisor Services to provide portfolio management software services to their collective $27 billion dollars in assets, and finish with a surprise update from Addepar, which used a rare press release to announce that the company surpassed $500 billion in assets managed on its platform and the rollout of the Addepar Open API for third party developers.]

 

Watch FPPad Bits and Bytes for October 21, 2016

Watch FPPad Bits and Bytes for October 21, 2016

FPPad Bits and Bytes for September 30, 2016

On today’s broadcast, get updates on hackathons hosted by Orion and eMoney, Motif Investing introduces subscription pricing, Betterment automates asset location preferences, and more.

So get ready, FPPad Bits and Bytes begins now!

(WatchFPPad Bits and Bytes on YouTube)

Today’s episode is brought to you by Envestnet | Tamarac, providers of Advisor Xi, an industry-leading fully integrated web-based suite for RIAs. Tamarac’s Advisor Xi unifies portfolio management, modeling, rebalancing, trading, billing, and reporting with a fully customizable client portal and enterprise-grade CRM.

envestnet-tamarac-600

On October 20th, two innovative and rapidly growing firms will share how they leveraged the Advisor Xi Suite in their business during an interactive webinar. Space is limited, so secure your spot today by visiting http://fppad.com/tamarac

Here are the links to this week’s top stories:

Fuse 2016: Day One and eMoney Advisor Summit 2016: Hack-a-thon Day One

Now you’ve probably noticed that it’s been a few weeks since my last Bits and Bytes broadcast, and that’s because I’ve attended not one, but two hackathon events hosted by financial technology companies. The first was the Fuse event in Park City, Utah, where Orion Advisor Services assembled developers from dozens of companies to present innovative ways they leverage the Orion Notifications platform. My producer Steve and I vlogged each day of the event, which I highly recommend you watch to find out who claimed the coveted Best in Show award.
And then two weeks later, eMoney hosted their own hackathon event, which had a bit of a different structure from Fuse, as four groups of advisors teamed up with eMoney product, design, and engineering employees to build new planning experiences onto the existing eMoney platform. We made vlogs of this event, too, which I also think is worth your time to watch.
Now, I get that hackathons generate good PR and marketing buzz for the host companies, but quite honestly it’s exciting to see activities like these that promote innovation and experimentation with technology that’s all about helping you serve your clients AND be a better business owner.

Motif Enters Subscription Economy, Introduces Motif BLUE from BusinessWire

Now, moving on to top stories, let’s start with Motif Investing, as the company just introduced a new subscription-based service called Motif BLUE. If you remember back in December 2014, I awarded the Best Back-Office Technology to the Motif Advisor Platform, but that was before the company switched from a flat monthly fee per customer to an AUM-based fee schedule.
But with Motif BLUE, the monthly fee makes a comeback, as customers can pay up to $19.95 a month to invest in three motifs, get auto-rebalancing of professional motifs, and trade motifs three times per month commission free.
So my theory is, customers can use the Motif BLUE Starter plan at $5 a month to mimic one of the asset allocations of the popular automated investment services out there, but instead of paying an AUM-based fee of, oh, 25 to 35 basis points, customers pay Motif roughly $60 a year.
Do the math, and Motif is cheaper when assets go above about $20,000 versus an annual fee of 35 basis points. Now I admit, there are still other differences between Motif Investing and automated investment services, but I think you can sense I believe that fees for investing software should not be based on the size of the assets being managed, and I expect that trend to grow as customers gravitate towards subscription-based pricing models.

Tax-Coordinated Portfolio™: The Latest Breakthrough in Tax-Smart Investing from Betterment

But to up the ante, Betterment announced its own new offering called the Tax-Coordinated Portfolio service, where Betterment automatically implements asset location preferences across taxable and tax-deferred or tax-exempt investment accounts.
Now the concept of asset location preferences is nothing new, but what IS new is the ability to use software to automatically manage location preferences on the fly, such as when clients make one-time deposits or withdrawals across their various accounts. Betterment confirmed that this service will be available to Betterment for Advisors customers, so when I go back to that whole discussion around fees a moment ago with Motif Investing, one could argue that higher fees could be justified because of nuanced differences like automated asset location management.

Quovo Unveils Advisor Dashboard, Arming Financial Advisors With Enriched Client Data Insights in an Intuitive User Interface from Marketwired

And look, if you want to effectively mange asset location preferences, you really need to see all of your clients’ assets and accounts, which leads me to my final story that comes from Quovo, as the company announced the release of the Quovo Advisor Dashboard. The dashboard allows advisors to quickly view information on both assets under management as well as held-away assets, easily synchronize new client accounts, and generate simple reports based on the data obtained by Quovo.
Now I know aggregating held-away assets has always come with its share of challenges (like expired account credentials), but with the Department of Labor fiduciary requirements coming in April next year, how will you be able to defend the advice you provide to clients if you don’t have a clear picture of their assets and liabilities?
You can certainly get those details without using account aggregation, but it just won’t be very efficient, and with direct-to-consumer providers like Personal Capital and Betterment including account aggregation in their solutions, well, these are the new table stakes for technology in your business. So if you’re not using solutions like Quovo or alternatives like Morningstar ByAllAccounts, Aqumulate, eMoney, Wealth Access, Yodlee and others, there’s still time to add one of these to the tools you use today.

Here are several stories that didn’t make this week’s broadcast:

Riskalyze Rolls Out Coverage for Individual Bonds from Riskalyze

It’s a request we’ve heard from a lot of advisors: make it simple to include individual bonds in a portfolio on Riskalyze. We’re excited to announce that coverage for over 30,000 individual corporate, government and municipal bonds will arrive on October 1.

Qumram launches fully-compliant WhatsApp social media record keeping from Qumram

Despite end-to-end encryption, Qumram enables financial services firms to meet client demand for social media interaction, via WhatsApp, without compromising compliance.

Save time with smart scheduling in Google Calendar from Google

If you’re using G Suite, “Find a time” already lets you set up meetings much faster in Calendar on Android. Today it’s coming to iOS and by the end of the year, the web.

eMoney Advisor Summit 2016: Hack-a-thon Winner

eMoney hosted its first-ever Hack-a-thon at this year’s Advisor Summit in Dana Point, CA.

At the conclusion of the conference, four teams presented their solutions to a room full of judges and advisor attendees, where one team was ultimately selected as the winner of the hack-a-thon.

Get my summary of each team’s hack-a-thon creation in the video above, and then see how the winner was revealed on stage to close out the event.

(Watch the eMoney Hack-a-thon winner presentation video on YouTube)

eMoney Advisor Summit 2016: Hack-a-thon Day One

eMoney is hosting its first-ever Hack-a-thon at this year’s Advisor Summit in Dana Point, CA.

Four teams were assembled, made up of four eMoney product managers, developers, and engineers combined with a diverse group of nearly a dozen advisers to explore ways to push the eMoney roadmap.

Witness the energy and activity of this event in the vlog embedded above, plus get a few tips on how to apply the design thinking process to your next brainstorming session.

(Watch the recap of the eMoney Hack-a-thon Day One video on YouTube)

Ed O’Brien to become CEO of eMoney Advisor

Ed O'Brien hired as CEO of eMoney Advisor

Ed O’Brien hired as CEO of eMoney Advisor

Quick Take:

  • Ed O’Brien, former head of platform technology, Fidelity Institutional, will leave the company to become CEO of eMoney Advisor
  • As eMoney CEO, O’Brien will report to Fidelity Wealth Technology president Mike Durbin
  • Prior to assuming the eMoney CEO role, O’Brien reported directly to Durbin for seven years
  • Durbin stresses the CEO search included “a long list of candidates”
  • I’m taking a “wait and see” attitude to see if eMoney can continue its aggressive innovation as a digital wealth management provider with O’Brien as CEO

(3 minute read) (Updated 4:01pm ET)

In a press release yesterday, eMoney Advisor announced Edward O’Brien was hired as Chief Executive Officer of the firm.

Wait and See

I’m not as overly enthusiastic as others seem to be on the prospects of innovation from eMoney Advisor.

I posted a poll on Twitter to survey my followers whether they think the hiring of O’Brien as CEO of eMoney is positive, negative, or let’s wait and see.

twitter poll obrien

It’s a close race between a positive and the “let’s wait and see option,” and I fall into the wait and see camp.

Fidelity First?

In order to maximize its acquisition of eMoney (for a reported $250 million), Fidelity needs assurance that eMoney’s product roadmap will directly benefit the custodian’s various lines of business in order make a return on their investment.

And once Edmond Walters abruptly resigned as CEO of eMoney in September 2015, Fidelity was granted the opportunity to fill the vacant position with an individual who can strongly influence eMoney’s strategy in Fidelity’s favor.

It makes a lot of sense that Ed O’Brien, a long-time Fidelity executive with decades of industry experience, fill the CEO position.

Don’t get me wrong: few in the industry have O’Brien’s experience and tenure leading teams to develop financial services technology, and that experience should directly benefit eMoney.

This is most definitely a good thing.

But when it comes to developing an innovative, yet untested/unproven, feature versus developing the market of Fidelity’s existing customers, who wins?

Technically Independent

Even though eMoney Advisor will continue to operate “technically” as an independent organization, I cannot help but connect the dots that the hierarchy of O’Brien under Durbin will influence the eMoney Advisor product roadmap.

O’Brien is not only a Fidelity insider, he has reported directly to Fidelity Wealth Technologies president (and former Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services president) Mike Durbin for over seven years.

When originally acquired, eMoney was organized under the yet-to-be-announced Fidelity Wealth Technologies, a division of Fidelity Enterprise Services led by president Michael Wilens. Fidelity waited several weeks after the eMoney acquisition to announce the creation of Fidelity Wealth Technologies, according to the company spokesperson.

eMoney was technically never organized directly under Wilens and Fidelity Enterprise Services, as the company has always been under the direction of Durbin’s Fidelity Wealth Technologies group.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Durbin most definitely anticipated the connection I made, stressing how O’Brien topped a long list of “both internal and external candidates.”

Durbin also took the liberty to call out doubters (such as myself), saying in an open letter posted to the eMoney blog.

Don’t buy it? No problem – actions speak louder than words.  And I welcome you to watch and see for yourself how it continues to unfold.

Ok. I’m watching.

See, I’m just a guy in Atlanta who wants to help advisors sort through copious (and often confusing) technology options for their business so they can be better advisors. I’m not the head of a major custodian, CEO of a technology vendor, or even an executive of a multi-billion dollar RIA.

But I take my role seriously to navigate what can be a very murky and (sometimes) conflicted fintech ecosystem.

I can’t help but imagine how the connection between O’Brien and Durbin will steer eMoney’s strategy to favor Fidelity relationships ahead of other innovation.

Yet I agree with Durbin: Actions will speak louder than words.

Will eMoney’s existing culture of relentless innovation and development continue to flourish, or will O’Brien’s longtime bond with Fidelity suppress eMoney’s characteristic risk-taking in favor of the parent company’s interests?

I so want the former scenario to transpire, but hey, business is business, and it’s not always possible to satisfy multiple objectives at once.

Let’s wait and see.

Updated: The following corrections to the original post have been made

  • Ed O’Brien’s former title corrected to head of platform technology, Fidelity Institutional.
  • At the time of acquisition, eMoney Advisor was structured under Fidelity Wealth Technologies, a division of Fidelity Enterprise Services, and not directly under Wilens’ Fidelity Enterprise Services group, according to the company spokesperson
  • Corrected timetable, adding O’Brien’s reporting change in July 2013 and structure of eMoney under Durbin’s yet-to-be-announced Fidelity Wealth Technologies group

Timetable

If you’re not completely in the know regarding the events that preceded this news, here’s a timetable of what’s happened.

I also made two flowcharts (being updated now, so check back soon) showing the hierarchy of Fidelity’s different businesses that illustrates how not much has changed between Durbin and O’Brien before and after the eMoney acquisition.

  • Prior to July 2013, O’Brien reported to Mike Durbin, president of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services
  • In July 2013, O’Brien reports under Ron DePoalo, CIO for Fidelity Institutional, when the company aligned the platform technology team across the clearing and custody businesses
  • Fidelity acquires eMoney in February 2015 and places CEO Edmond Walters under Durbin’s yet-to-be-announced Fidelity Wealth Technologies group
  • Weeks later, Fidelity officially announces the combination of the clearing and custody businesses, creating a new Fidelity Wealth Technologies group with Mike Durbin as president. O’Brien remains under DePoalo in Fidelity Institutional, Walters remains under Durbin as originally structured
  • In September 2015, Walters resigns and Durbin assumes the interim CEO role for eMoney
  • In March 2016, eMoney Advisor hires O’Brien as CEO of eMoney
  • As a business unit under Fidelity Wealth Technologies, O’Brien will once again to report to Durbin in his new role as eMoney Advisor CEO