Attending any RIA custodian or independent broker/dealer conference as a technology reporter is always a hit or miss affair. Every year, you can count on these firms to announce some new or improved product or service, but it is not always technology related. When there are technology announcements they sometimes disappoint because they are closer to the idea stage than the finished product stage.
This year, from a technology perspective, I did feel that the trip to Phoenix, AZ in June was worth it, despite the over 110-degree temperatures. That said, I would not recommend that venue for future INSITE events.
At the conference, Pershing demonstrated to me several new technology capabilities that are either already in production or will be shortly. Virtually all of these enhancements to the current Pershing technology stack should be welcomed by advisors currently using NetX360.
Here are a few of the enhancements that advisors can expect from Pershing soon:
Securely deliver documents to a prospect: Most advisors have already established secure methods of sharing documents with clients, but they often struggle sharing documents with prospects. Secure email is an option, but I’ve heard many advisors complain about the usability. A new enhancement from Pershing will allow advisors to securely share Pershing documents with prospects. All that is required of the prospect is an email and a cell phone number. This will allow Pershing to send the prospect a passcode and authenticate them.
New Ways to Fund an Account: In a nod to the next generation of investors, Pershing will now allow investors to fund their accounts with Zelle or Venmo. For those of you unfamiliar with the services, they allow individuals to send money to others from their mobile devices. The app links to a bank account, and you can then pay or receive electronic funds from others who are on the system. For example, if my son off at college needs money, he can send me a request by phone, text, email or through the app. I can then send money instantly to him. My bank account is debited. His money arrives in the app account. He can then either transfer the money electronically to his bank account, or he can pay others who have an account with the app provider. Now, investors who make use of Zelle or Venmo can easily fund their Pershing accounts right from their mobile app. This may not seem revolutionary to some, but I think it is important. Creating a great customer experience is about allowing the client to engage with you on their terms, not yours. If a portion of the population is more comfortable paying through Venmo, why not make it easy for them to do so? This is the type of progressive thinking in our industry that more firms should adopt!
Better Digital Onboarding: Many firms, when they are moving from paper to digital, look to replicate the paper experience in digital format. Others ask if there is a better way to do things digitally. Pershing falls into the latter camp. For example, let’s suppose that an investor wants to open a taxable account, a traditional RIA and a Roth RIA account. Some firms make you print out, or digitally fill out three separate applications and sign three separate times. Pershing’s new digital forms wizard will ask you which types of accounts you want to open, require that you input each piece of information once, and require one electronic signature. If any of the relevant investor information already resides on the Pershing servers, the system will prepopulate the fields for which it has the information.
Digital ACAT Processing: As part of the digital onboarding process, or if an investor subsequent to the initial onboarding process wants to move assets to Pershing, there will be a couple of methods to do so. If Pershing can validate the account electronically through a digital feed that the advisor authorizes on NetXInvestor (the end client portal), Pershing can digitally complete the form and deliver it to the client for electronic signature. The other method is that an advisor can upload a paper statement to Pershing, where their technology, using a combination of optical character recognition (OCR) and pattern recognition reads the statement, identifies the assets and the current custodian/ broker, etc., fills out the paperwork, and presents it to the client for a digital signature.
A Digital Assistant for Advisors: Most advisory firms spend way too much time on low value operational tasks. The Pershing chat bot for advisors should alleviate much of this waste. For example, if you do not know how to perform a task in NetX360, rather than searching around for it and wasting time, you can simply type in to the bot (or soon, with voice, tell the bot) what you want to do and the bot will take you to appropriate place in NetX360 to perform the task. Or, what if a client calls up asking on the status of a check they requested. You can ask the bot, and it will tell you when the check was sent, who signed it, the UPS or FedEx tracking number, and allow you to access a copy of the check.
Build a Bot: This new feature will allowusers to create their own automations within NetX360. For example, if a new prospect has not digitally signed paperwork within 48 hours, it will send the advisor an email alert. If an ACAT transfer request has not been processed in X number of days, the system will alert the appropriate operations person for follow up. The list of processes that you can create with the Build a Bot feature is quite extensive, and it will certainly expand its capabilities if there is enough demand.
Build an Investor Site: Most firms do not want a NetX360 portal for their clients that looks like that of their competitors, so Pershing has always provided for some level of customization.The new system to build your own client experience offers a great deal of flexibility, and it is very easy to use. The only downside I saw to this feature was the lack of search engine optimization (SEO) capabilities. When I brought this up with Pershing executives, they assured me that this oversight would be addressed.
There were other new technologies announced at INSITE that are worth briefly noting:
The bottom line is that I was very pleased to see the features and functionality that Pershing as released or will release soon. While there is not a lot that is revolutionary here, there does appear to be a concerted effort on the part of Pershing to address the operational challenges and client experience challenges that advisors are facing. Technologically, they are moving in the right direction.