With Bryan, I discussed global trends in wealth management, humans and robo components competing with one another, and expectations for the near future.> More details
AdvisoryWorld: Technology Investment Professionals Cannot do Without
|Value Proposition||Investment analytics
|Clients||Broker/dealers, RIAs, TAMPs, insurance firms and agents, banks and money managers|
|Top Executives||Philip Wilson, Chairman of the Board
Michael Wilson, President & Chief Operating Officer
AdvisoryWorld builds technology designed to help advisors attract and retain more assets. The company is a leading provider of private-label financial applications and Web-based tools for security and portfolio analytics, as well as a financial planning suite.
AdvisoryWorld at a glance
The company has been offering cutting-edge applications for investment professionals for more than three decades. Some of the most reputable market players use its offerings, such as AIG VALIC, SEI Advisor Network, LPL Financial, CFRA, Legg Mason, and CLS Investments.
We spoke to Philip and Michael Wilson, two generations of the firm’s top management, to find out the secret to their success.
Philip Wilson is Chairman of AdvisoryWorld. He has been in WealthTech for half a century. Started more than 30 years ago, the idea behind AdvisoryWorld was to provide technology to the financial services community to profile clients; analyze portfolios, risk, and securities; and provide proposal-generation capabilities. Before becoming a part of AdvisoryWorld, Philip worked with institutions such as Bank of America (BoA), where he provided investment strategies. Today, AdvisoryWorld provides its technology to about 35,000 advisors.
Philip’s son, Michael Wilson, is Chief Operating Officer at AdvisoryWorld. He has seen the company flourish organically and independently for many years.
Michael mentions that while they started off with PC-based floppy disc software, today AdvisoryWorld is a cutting-edge services provider of Web technologies—whether it’s REST APIs and services or analyzing big data.
The company focuses on investment analytics, portfolio modeling, and proposal generation. It uses a variety of approaches to deliver these solutions, including:
- Standard, off-the-shelf Web-based applications;
- Professional services, where the company is able to stake its core competencies and extend them in different ways.
Basically, the latter unit of the company works on specific solutions based on what the customer is looking for, being it a different user experience, different setup calculations report, etc. This is a key differentiator as financial service firms look to put their touches on technology offerings. The majority of larger RIA multi-office advisory shops, TAMPs, broker-dealers, and so forth want to build a custom user experience, with certain bells and whistles that may be proprietary to that institution. They don’t necessarily want to use an off-the-shelf tool.
“We differentiate ourselves through our ability to customize our capabilities to meet the needs of the specific client. That’s a huge differentiator for us.” Michael Wilson
AdvisoryWorld has developed a variety of multi-factored, quadratic algorithms for tasks like efficient frontier optimization and multi-factor regression analysis. The company has a huge library of calculations and functions created over the past 30 years.
Moreover, these days AdvisoryWorld is starting to dip its toe in the water on AI and predictive analysis. This is just another way that AdvisoryWorld helps their clients to better present products to investors and spot those investors who are taking more risks than they had anticipated.
Highly customizable reports at hand
For quite some time, the company has been helping advisors with a “cheat sheet” that contains bullet points they can speak to investors about:
“We put together a very clean one-page document that lists out everything that might be right about your brokerage account and the rest that might be wrong about your brokerage account, and a series of things that could be done to improve the account performance.” Philip Wilson
Advisors also have the option to choose which aspects to include in their report set among 100+ tables, visuals, and mini-reports.
The company has its own advisor profile generator and default psychological risk profile, which can be shown by advisors to investors, and used to collaborate with them to determine what the status and risk objective is. This is a default questionnaire. If a client, such as an RIA, an asset management firm, TAMP or wirehouse, has their own questionnaire, AdvisoryWorld can easily configure their existing applications to use that questionnaire to set the investment objectives for clients.
A scoring methodology sits on top of the questionnaire and works based on a series of different MPT statistics. On top of that, a handful of different factors go into the scoring vessel and are all subsequently weighed, referred to as “gravity.”
Another offering is a batch risk analysis tool, “Intelligence”, which calculates the risk scores associated with every single account, portfolio, and household in the book of business in one shot. Later on, it is possible to mine for those accounts that are either potentially out of alignment with the client’s investment objectives, or that meet certain criteria—for example, the search might be for all investors in the book of business that are older than 65 and have a risk score above 70, as well as an average P/E ratio higher than 30. Such filtering based on specific criteria is powerful when it comes to marketing efforts; in addition, it’s a great approach for dealing with compliance.
Due to the open nature of the platform architecture, AdvisoryWorld has strong ties with a number of leading companies in the space of legacy accounting, portfolio management, and performance reporting. From a CRM perspective, AdvisoryWorld collaborates very closely with Redtail and Salesforce. Thus, any user of the applications can create a proposal for any contact in these two systems and see the results of risk profiling in the applications.
“We have deeply embedded workflows between CRM and our applications. For example, when a proposal is generated, we’ll create an opportunity with that value in Salesforce, for example.” Michael Wilson
On the portfolio-management side, the company works closely with Orion Advisor. Other partners include Black Diamond and Albridge Wealth Reporting, which help AdvisoryWorld analyze any existing account’s performance and diversification statistics with ease. Model allocations can be imported from rebalancing applications such as Orion and iRebal, TD Ameritrade’s rebalancer.
“Our on-boarding capabilities help advisors get new accounts opened at custodians like TD Ameritrade. We seamlessly feed related information to the CRM (e.g. Redtail) and then right back through the portfolio management system such as Orion. This efficient workflow is currently used by several multi-office advisory shops to allow them to scale.” Michael Wilson
Data and cybersecurity
AdvisoryWorld has always been at the cutting edge of security. Before any releases, the quality assurance (QA) team runs a series of vulnerability tests and makes sure even the smallest threats are alleviated before anything goes to production.
“We separate our databases from our Web applications, both physically and logically, into different segments.” Michael Wilson
The company uses the market’s most advanced firewall capabilities and encrypts all sensitive data at rest. Any communication with the firm’s Web services is all done over SSL, for example, and is encrypted. On top of that, AdvisoryWorld has intrusion detection capabilities.
Technology and team
“We spend a lot of our efforts in building functional requirements, prototyping and documenting as much as we can.” Michael Wilson
The team at AdvisoryWorld works on a Scrum schedule with typical two-week sprints. The workforce is truly global and proficient in software design, Web services, and math and financial calculations. The team consists of domestic project managers, software engineers and designers, offshore code associates, and hybrid QA and beta.
Geographically, the company operates two in-house teams, one in San Diego and one in Los Angeles. Two additional offshore teams are also operational, so there is a 24-hour development cycle.
Knowledge sharing and transfer
“We try to protect against having any type of tribal knowledge per se.” Michael Wilson
Every two weeks, AdvisoryWorld teams conduct a collaborative working session across the entire organization, where at least one person is assigned with presenting the newest release features. All notes are then shared through Google Drive. The firm’s long-term strategy is to embrace AI and machine learning to help advisors better work with their investors so they can predict certain things about them and get ahead of particular situations. AdvisoryWorld wants to improve its efficiencies and allow advisors to scale by managing their whole book of business without having to manually interact with all clients.
New horizons, new challenges
The company’s top management plans to stay ahead technologically. However, there is more work to be done on marketing front.
“A lot of our clients refer to us as the best-kept secret.” Michael Wilson
Thus, the goal for the near future is to enhance the popularity of the current offerings, making them available to a larger audience.
WealthTech Club takeaway
AdvisoryWorld offers plenty of options to assist advisors in better serving their clients and adding an edge to existing products and services in wealth management. A global development team works 24/7 to deliver best-in-class, comprehensive, and cost-efficient solutions to a diverse pool of clients.