How a Cold Call Led to a Deal with Scottrade for ASI’s Rebalancing Software

It was an idea born of convenience.  Neal Ringquist, President and Chief Operating Officer of Advisor Software Inc., was planning a trip to St. Louis to meet with one of their clients, EverBank.  He knew that Scottrade® Advisor Services was also headquartered there.  The thought seemed natural to him to give them a call and see if he could arrange a meeting and pitch his company’s portfolio rebalancing solution?Scottrade Logo The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”  Ringquist’s call was the first step a journey that led to the recent announcement by Scottrade that they would be integrating ASI’s Portfolio Rebalancing Solution® into their new custodial platform. Brian A. Davis, who has since left the firm, but up until last month was Head of Scottrade® Advisor Services, was the recipient of the cold call.  “Your competitors use ASI for rebalancing,” Ringquist told him, referring to Schwab Advisor Services and TD Ameritrade Institutional, so why not see if it would also be a good fit for you a well?ASI Logo Ringquist’s pitch apparently resonated with Davis and his team because one of their core principles is always looking for ways to simplify the advisor’s workload.  Since so many of their advisors were already familiar with ASI’s software, they believed it would be a burden for them to be forced to learn how to use a different rebalancing tool.  Ringquist got his meeting.

White Labeling

Scottrade, whose RIA custody business serves over 1,000 advisors, will be licensing ASI’s rebalancer and white labeling it with their own brand, which is similar to what Schwab and TD Ameritrade have done, according to Ringquist. While they do not have access to detailed statistics about the number of accounts or number of trades generated by their software, Ringquist did say that they have seen substantial growth in the number of total rebalancing sessions at both custodians. ASI’s relationship with TD Ameritrade started back in 2005, two years before they acquired iRebal.  This deal means that TD Ameritrade will offer two realancing solutions to their advisors.  Ringquist feels this is because iRebal is not as efficient for advisors that manage their portfolio using models, which is the majority of Scottrade customers. (See TD Ameritrade Comes Out Swinging with iRebal Update)

GadgetThrowAwayOut With The Old

Not only has Scottrade replaced the head of their RIA unit, but this deal also replaces their former technology partner for portfolio modeling and rebalancing, MyVest.  Scottrade and MyVest announced their tie-up a little over a year ago, but it seems that one of the last decisions Davis made was to bring in ASI.  Neither of the vendors would comment on the reasons behind the switch.  Scottrade would only say that it has “ended its relationship with MyVest to provide modeling and rebalancing”. Based on my discussions with MyVest and review of their rebalancing software, I can’t see any reason related to technology that would cause Scottrade to make this change.  MyVest’s product is solid and they are especially strong in UMA\UMH functionality.  My guess is that ASI simply offered them a better deal.  (See Is MyVest the Right Portfolio Rebalancing Software for You?) Since Scottrade launched their new custodial platform back in February, they have been looking to cut costs and increase their revenue per client.  According to an article in RIABiz.com, they recently announced that they were hitting advisors that have less than $7 million in assets on their platform with an annual fee that could reach as high as $12,000.  That should be a strong incentive for the smaller RIA firms to jump ship.

Rebalancing Features

ASI offers a proposal-generation mode as part of their rebalancing solution that is similar to their Client Acquisition Solution, with just a bit less functionality.  Although both products do share the same portfolio analytics including Current vs Proposed, backward-looking analytics like Morningstar rating and forward looking analytics like Monte Carlo Simulations The standard rebalancing software provided by ASI supports multiple custodians, but Scottrade clients will only be able to rebalance assets on their platform with the integrated version.  Of course, RIA’s can always contract with ASI directly to take advantage of this capability. The ASI software provides a lot of flexibility in the modes that an advisor can use in a rebalancing session, Ringquist explained.  It has a lot of flexibility for management of cash-in/out logic, tolerance bands, and restricted securities, he said.

Will ASI Ever Become a TAMP?

While ASI does own an RIA and provides outsourced asset management products for other RIA’s, they have no plans to become a full-fledged TAMP, Rignquist stressed.  Analytics are their core competency, he added, they do not want to be seen as a competitor to their clients or partners and want to work on as many platforms as possible.

Robo-Advisor-In-a-Box

Ringquist noted that his vision for ASI is “marrying technology and asset management to provide solutions”.  One way they are doing this is by providing technology to help advisors to build a digital persona.  This web presence will deliver lead generation workflow, proposal and document delivery, and account opening, to name a few.  There will also be an option for an entirely online service model for smaller accounts or for more tech-savvy clients (like Millenials).  It could also be packaged with ASI-provided model portfolios that fit into a goal-based model mapping functionality that advisors can brand as their own, he observed.

Deepening the Relationship

Scottrade already offered ASI’s financial planning app, goalgamiPro™, which constructs a Household Balance Sheet to validate whether a client can reach their goals.  (See Financial Planning in 10 Minutes or Less with goalgamiPro) With the addition of portfolio rebalancing, the relationship between the to firms is strengthened and the ASI brand is more visible to advisors.  Scottrade benefits be reducing the number of vendors they have to support and possibly reducing their licensing costs.  ASI also gets their foot in the door at another of the top five RIA custodians.   That’s a win-win deal in anyone’s book.

Related WM Today Content
Which Portfolio Rebalancing Software is Right for You?
Which Financial Planning Software is Right For You?
5 Hot Tips For Selling to RIAs

Is MyVest the Right Portfolio Rebalancing Software for You?

Research has shown that portfolios that are rebalanced at least annually experienced lower volatility and higher risk-adjusted returns than those that are not rebalanced.  Every advisor should have access to a quality, automated software rebalancing tool to handle this task, which used to be a time-consuming chore.

As part of my series of articles on portfolio rebalancing software, I reached out to MyVest. The company was co-founded by Bill Harris in 2001 and has their headquarters is in San Francisco, CA. Harris, who is chairman of the Board of MyVest, was formerly CEO of both PayPal and Intuit and is currently the CEO of Personal Capital.

MyVest has been gaining traction recently, announcing a deal with Thomson Reuters to provide their Strategic Portfolio SystemTM (SPS) wealth management platform to users of Thomson Reuters’ Beta Systems clearance and custody platform.  This will be a welcome improvement and provide Beta’s broker-dealer clients with a more modern managed accounts offering.

For this review, I spoke with Mike Everett, Vice President of Business Development and Charlie Haims, VP of Marketing.  Everett  joined the firm back in 2010 after 14 years at Checkfree (now Fiserv Investment Services).   Haims has been with MyVest for almost a year and a half and was previously in the same role at SharesPost. Continue reading

IAS Responds: Which Portfolio Rebalancing Software is Right for You?

As part of my series of articles on portfolio rebalancing software, I met with some folks from Interactive Advisory Software (IAS), who were kind enough to give me a demo of not only their rebalancing tools, but their entire wealth management platform, called Solution 360.

IAS is based in Egg Harbor Township, NJ and was founded in 2000.  They have 55 employees to support around 200 firms using their platform, of which 90% are RIA’s.  They are a fully-owned subsidiary of Hanlon Investment Management, which purchased IAS from their VC backers in 2012.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Nathan Burke, CEO of IAS and Matt Wolf, Regional Sales Director who provided a high level overview of their product.  They handed me off to Wade Waller, Director of Product Management and Ryan Jotkoff, the Product Manager for Rebalancing to answer my more in-depth questions.

Tax Management Sets IAS Apart from the Competition

Tax management is probably the area that most sets them apart from their competitors, according to Wolf.  Since their platform includes financial planning and their rebalancer is tightly integrated with the rest of their system, it has immediate access to a lot of additional client information.  This helps the rebalancer make better decisions as well as generate detailed tax estimates with multi-year projections and taking into account gross income, itemized deductions and client expenses, he explained.Tax Squeeze Finger

While I usually advise clients against ‘re-inventing the wheel’, in this case, the time and effort it took IAS to develop their own financial planning functionality has paid off.  Whereas other firms force clients to import data manually or use programming interfaces that are sometimes unreliable, IAS has immediate access to all the data.

And they use this data to their full advantage across the system in ways I haven’t seen many other vendors offer.  The system has an automatic exercise feature that converts employee stock options into an underlying equity position going forwards, captures dividends and can even project the client’s future tax rate, Wolf added.

Continue reading

Envestnet’s ENV2 Platform Delivers New UMA Features

Sliced bread.  The electric light bulb.  Indoor plumbing.  Unified Manged Accounts (UMA’s) were supposed to be better than these revolutionary inventions and a whole lot more.  They still have not lived up to their hype, but UMA’s have become a standard offering for all managed account platforms.

In this summary of a session from Envestnet’s 2014 Advisor Summit, a panel of experts provides updated information about the Envestnet UMA program including how the program has changed over time, coordinating and updating UMA models, building performance composites and other exciting, new features.

Moderator: Jeff Nicholas, Senior VP, Product Management, Envestnet
Panel: Daren Evans, Sr. Research Analyst, Hightower Associates
Joel Floum, VP, Investment Advisory Programs, US Bancorp Investments
Jim McCormick, Principal, Pryor McCormick Investments

Continue reading

TD Ameritrade Comes Out Swinging with iRebal Update

I began this series of articles on portfolio rebalancing software with a panel of four product vendors at last year’s T3 Conference. (see Which Portfolio Rebalancing Software is Right for You?)  One of those products was iRebal and since then I have been looking forward to writing a more in-depth review of it.

I recently had my chance when I was able to speak with Danielle Fava, Senior Product Manager at TD Ameritrade (TDA), who gave me a demo and discussed some of the new features that will be part of the upcoming May release of the cloud-based version of iRebal.

iRebal on Veo, as TDA refers to it, was built by following the blue-print for rebalancing set forth by the desktop version, which was acquired by TDA back in 2006, Fava explained.  iRebal on Veo has been offered for free to RIAs for use with accounts that are custodied with TD Ameritrade Institutional, since last year.

Continue reading

Adventures in Rebalancing: The Last Frontier

FA Magazine recently published a good primer on automated solutions for portfolio rebalancing. The article is titled The Last Frontier and was written by James Picerno and it is definitely well-researched. He managed to obtain quotes from industry experts such as Bill Winterberg, Joel Bruckenstein and Michael Kitces, all of whom I have tremendous respect for. The article is certainly a useful resource for any RIA or advisor interested in the basics of rebalancing.

Besides discussing the basic functions of rebalancing, Picerno also gets into some of the more esoteric features that make rebalancing software so incredibly useful. Here is a quote from a lesser-known industry expert:

Technology circa 2013 offers a better way, for reasons that go beyond easing your workload. “You’re also going to provide better service for clients,” says Craig Iskowitz of the Ezra Group, a financial technology consultancy. Rebalancing software, he explains, makes it easier to build and manage custom investment strategies, such as a socially responsible portfolio that closely matches an investor’s preferences.

Portfolio customization has been available for more than a decade on systems such as Fiserv’s Unified Wealth Platform, which is still based on what was formerly known as Checkfree\APL. While it’s true that most of the top vendors in the space offer this feature now, you didn’t have to wait until “technology circa 2013” in order to take advantage of it. Continue reading

Which Portfolio Rebalancing Software is Right for You? Smartleaf’s Response

I recently posted a summary of the Portfolio Rebalancing Software Panel from the Tools and Technology Today (T3) Conference that took place in Miami back in February 2012. The responses from the four vendors were very informative and I thought it would be interesting to hear from a few other vendors who couldn’t be part of the panel.SmartLeaf logo

Another of the vendors I reached out to was Smartleaf. The company takes a very narrow product focus. They provide an overlay portfolio management system with only two components; an automated rebalancing engine and model management. They currently have more than 40 customers that run approximately $50 billion in AUM using their system. Some of their largest clients include US Bank, Peoples United Bank, BB&T, City National Bank, and Bank of Hawaii. (See my previous post FundFire: Bank of Hawaii Launches $2B UMA Program.) SmartLeaf was founded in 1999 and their headquarters is in Boston, MA.

For this article, I spoke with Gerard (Jerry) Michael, the President and Co-Founder of Smartleaf. I asked Jerry the same questions that were posed to the T3 panel and he was gracious enough to provide the following answers. Continue reading