Available Today for TD Ameritrade Advisors, Coming Soon to the Schwab Platform
By Joel Bruckenstein, CFP
Tax sensitive, location sensitive rebalancing software has become a “must have” for advisors, and the market leader, according to the 2021 T3/Inside Information Technology Survey in the category is iRebal. There are several reasons for this. The first is that iRebal is free to TD Ameritrade advisors; but the free version was derived from the original paid version of iRebal that was created for a few sophisticated RIA firms to meet their own needs. In other words, iRebal was specifically designed to meet the needs of those original founding firms, and it made use of their intellectual properties.
TD Ameritrade originally acquired iRebal in January of 2007. At that time, it was server based. After making some enhancements to the original paid version, TD Ameritrade released a free, web-based version in 2014. The original web-based version had some limitations vs. the paid version, but over time, virtually all of the capabilities have been integrated into the cloud-based version.
From the minute the free, cloud-based version was released, it has been highly valued and widely praised by users. Given the application’s popularity with TD Ameritrade advisors, it is reasonable to assume that its market share will increase when it is made available to Schwab advisors some time in 2023.
That said, even before the TD Ameritrade/Schwab merger was announced, the tech team at TD Ameritrade came to realize that there iRebal user interface was becoming somewhat dated, and they launched a project to modernize iRebal from top to bottom. The results are impressive.
Most of the enhancements in the upgraded version of iRebal fall into two categories: scalability and usability. The reason for the enhanced scalability should be obvious: Even before the merger was announced, projected demand for iRebal functionality was projected to be strong. Now, with iRebal scheduled to become part of the Schwab offering, usage will likely soar, so the system but be architected to handle the increased volume.
While the functionality of iRebal has always been good, and the application’s user satisfaction rankings in the T3/Inside Information Survey have been excellent, there was room for improvement. Some of the operations and workflows required too many steps. Some information that could have been made more prominent was not. So, while the feature set was rich, the interface was not optimized for the way most users interact with it. This update addresses those deficiencies.
The overhaul begins with a new home page or dashboard. This dashboard is populated with widgets. The widgets contain valuable information that used to be buried in the application. For example, there is an “unassigned accounts” widget, so users can immediately assign those accounts to a Model. There is a “Blotter Summary” that indicates items that are pending or that require attention. There is a “Rebalances” widget that shows all recent rebalances, and rebalance type. There is also a “Top Models” widget that shows which models have the most invested in them. A quick glance at the legacy home page and the new one should give you an idea of how much more functional the new home page is.
The new grid interface is another major improvement. This grid acknowledges the fact that most advisors working with iRebal are using large monitors, so it is optimized to take advantage of that screen real estate. A much larger grid, containing more information, and responsive design, mean that advisors can view substantially more information, with less need to scroll through the grid. The grid has advanced filtering capabilities, and it narrow the search as you type. There are also copy and paste features, so you can, for example, copy a column and paste in into another application. Below is a look at the modern grid vs. the legacy version.
iRebal was the first, and remains among the best tax sensitive, location sensitive rebalancing tools for advisors. The recent enhancements only serve to make a good application even better. All of the enhancements here have already been made available to TD Ameritrade Advisors. Much work remains to be done before iRebal can be fully integrated to the Schwab platform, but Schwab advisors certainly have much to look forward to. The latest projections are that iRebal will be fully integrated in mid-2023.
Yet another usability innovation is the introduction of “Side Sheets.” Previously advisors had to toggle back and forth between a list and another location to complete certain tasks. Now, these tasks can be completed in context without leaving the grid. See an example of a side sheet below. This should be a real time saver for most users.
iRebal automates a number of common actions that used to take multiple steps. For example, if can surface all accounts that are out of cash tolerance (too much cash or insufficient cash). This a click off a button, you can bring cash balances into alignment. There is an allocation report that functions in a similar fashion. If will display all portfolios that are out of alignment, and with a single click, rebalance to the targets.
There have been a number of enhancements to the Model Market Center. One of note is a Model Market Center widget that resides on the Dashboard. This widget alerts advisors whenever a model provider makes a change to a model. If the advisor wishes to update all client accounts to reflect the changes, they can do so with a mouse click.