|Clients:||Wide range of financial institutions—from wire houses, broker-dealers, and RIAs, to banks and insurance companies|
|Value proposition:||Scalable practice management solutions that enable financial institutions to accelerate the success of their advisors.|
|The executive team:||Spenser Segal, CEO and Founder|
ActiFi is a true industry leader. The company started in 2003 and has bloomed into a powerhouse that serves leading financial institutions to help them build and scale more successful businesses. ActiFi’s products and solutions are currently available to over 50,000 advisors across the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia. Their flagship product, SuccessPro™, has become a must-have for advisors because it allows them to manage their practice in the best and most effective way.
I spoke with ActiFi’s CEO, Spenser Segal, in order to gain insights into what makes the company tick and how they have been able to stay strong in an ever-widening field of competitors.
Spenser is no stranger to the world of finance. He has been in the wealth-management space for almost 30 years, having started his career as a certified financial planner and practitioner. With a sharp eye for how to do things better, Spenser launched a number of FinTech companies, most notably BigCharts, the world’s leading and most advanced investment charting and research site. Spenser drew on his experience as an advisor in the early days of FinTech, to inspire his vision for ActiFi. Spenser noticed a significant gap between the availability of different technologies and tools and the typical advisor’s ability to apply those tools in a way that drives business results and growth. Out of a desire to close this gap, ActiFi became uniquely focused on enabling institutions to help their advisors leverage already available tools and technologies to accelerate success., and in particular, on the success of their advisors.
What makes ActiFi unique?
The full lifecycle of a financial advisor workstation encompasses onboarding, financial planning, risk assessment, portfolio construction, rebalancing, reporting, and many other steps. Spenser explained that ActiFi helps financial institutions cover the entire lifecycle because he feels that there is little business value in having such capabilities if advisors do not effectively use them. ActiFi focuses on executives, sales/relationship managers, and internal advisor consultants/coaches of financial institutions who are committed to making advisors more successful. Spenser said that to build the right business processes, strategies and tactics, advisors look for partners—and the most logical partner is the financial institution with which they are affiliated. In other words, the institutions themselves are in the best possible position to help their advisors be more successful in leveraging the latest technologies.
Integrations and tech
ActiFi supports its clients in many ways, one of which is by integrating with key financial institution systems such as CRM. ActiFi integrates with Salesforce for CRM and as well as a variety of back-office systems. Spenser pointed out that ActiFi’s team has built a number of proprietary integrations with financial institutions’ back-office platforms to connect data points between ActiFi programs and the financial institution’s existing technology.
ActiFi uses a Java stack, with Node.js for the front-end, and is powered by Amazon cloud and AWS.
ActiFi is not a one-trick pony. The company offers a variety of functional modules which operate independent of each other, similar to the way Microsoft Office works. As Spenser explained, “All of the modules cooperate optimally through the suite, but can be run on their own.”
“We have clients that just want to use Assessments or Metrics or Roadmap, and they have been very successful in doing that. Each can be effectively used separately, but they are also designed to work seamlessly together.”
“When you look across the different modules, there are over 50,000 advisors who, through their financial institutions, have access to ActiFi’s capabilities.”
Product development approach
According to Spenser, ActiFi utilizes an agile methodology with different roles in place. They have product managers, front-end/back-end developers, software architects, quality assurance, configuration specialists, support, and customer success managers. The entire ActiFi team uses Kanban charts with clear prioritization of their tasks and an integrated structure to ensure that clients’ needs are met. Spenser mentioned that they are currently doing monthly software releases, but are gradually replacing that a continuous delivery model.
ActiFi’s development team is divided into two parts. One half fulfills client-specific requests based on feedback from existing clients. Spenser outlined that they spend approximately half of their development resources on collecting, responding to, and executing client requests. Requested features and functionalities are sorted according to a disciplined approach to prioritization. The other half of the team is focused on enhancing the overall user experience. This side also relies heavily on feedback from clients in order to improve the current set of functions and tools and to address any specific issues that arise.
How ActiFi measures success
Metrics, metrics, metrics. Any financial entity must have a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that are used to determine what works, how well it works, and what doesn’t work. Different financial institutions report KPIs differently; Spenser noted that ActiFi spends a lot of time on how to most effectively enable the institution to develop, adjust, and execute on their KPIs.
The key KPIs that ActiFi focuses on with clients are:
- What are their advisors’ goals? What do their advisors care about?
- What progress are they making towards these goals? Is the institution effectively reaching out and engaging advisors in the execution of strategies and tactics that they and the advisor have agreed upon in order to achieve their goals?
- Are the advisors achieving their goals? What is the impact of the achieved goals?
Industry trends and driving factors
Spenser highlighted the explosion of FinTech and cloud-based technologies as a leading trend in the industry. As availability increases, consumers’ expectations also grow—and Spenser noted that this is a big challenge.
“We see that the biggest challenge and future trend is that advisors and individual practitioners are, in many cases, overwhelmed by all of the wonderful capabilities available. As a result, we see increasing importance in helping those advisors and their institutional partners leverage technology effectively to really drive value.”
ActiFi is offering and driving value by:
- Increasing their clients’ profits,
- Lowering overhead costs,
- Improving the advisor experience
- Improving the investor experience,
- Enabling institutions to reach more advisors in a scalable, effective, consistent and measurable way.
To accomplish this, ActiFi helps clients refine internal roles, re-engineer business processes, and optimize how their technologies work in order to create maximum value.
ActiFi empowers consultants and relationship managers at the financial institutions to partner much more closely with advisors in order to bring value and help them achieve the goals that matter most to them.
“That, to me, is the biggest challenge,’ says Spenser. “It’s almost like an embarrassment of riches. There are so many wonderful capabilities, but selecting appropriate capabilities, reengineering your business processes to take advantage of them, and driving the human behavioral change required to operate in a different way that delivers this enhanced experience is a daunting task. Financial institutions need to do more to help the advisors deliver an enhanced client experience more effectively.”
The challenges that ActiFi is overcoming
The main challenge that Spenser sees for ActiFi moving forward is improving brand awareness for their niche advisor success technology. In order to educate financial institutions regarding the importance and value of this technology, Spenser said that their marketing channels need to be optimized. Right now, the ActiFi team is concentrating on keeping clients happy and making them as successful as possible—which is in itself a great marketing tool.
“Beyond that, we need to continue to educate financial institutions looking to make advisors more successful on how to leverage their existing programs, tools and technologies. SuccessPro is a software suite specifically designed to empower leadership teams to accomplish the objective of making advisors more successful. I’d say the majority of financial institutions aren’t aware that these powerful advisor success capabilities exist.”
WealthTech Club takeaways
ActiFi is an established name that has been in business for over 15 years. It provides proven software tools that can help various types of financial institutions not only improve their workflows, processes, and overall advisor strategies, but drive advisor satisfaction, revenues and profits as well. ActiFi is actively moving toward a future where Advisors are able to fully leverage their tech stack to create a world-class integrated client experience more profitably and effectively. If you want to grow a scalable business, ActiFi will allow you to do that and much more.