Platform Wars Heat Up as Orion Acquires Advizr

Platform Wars Heat Up as Orion Acquires Advizr

Orion Advisor Services, LLC (“Orion”), a leading portfolio management solution provider for registered investment advisors, announced today it has acquired Advizr, Inc., a financial planning and client experience technology platform. The move comes on the heels of Orion’s recent brand consolidation. Advizr will be free to existing Orion and TAMP clients.

To help steer the trajectory of the financial planning and client experience technology, which will be available as part of Orion’s platform as well as on its own, Advizr co-founders, CEO Hussain Zaidi and COO Mustapha Baassiri, will join Orion’s executive team as President of Financial Planning Solutions and Executive Vice President of Financial Planning Solutions, respectively. The pair will continue to lead their team out of Advizr’s Manhattan, NY location. Existing Advizr clients should expect no disruption to their current service and will be among the first to benefit from the company’s position as part of the Orion brand family. 

Advizr is known for its intuitive user experience. Their technology enables advisors, financial institutions and even employers to engage investors in many different ways, depending on their service model — from highly collaborative to fully investor-led. Advizr is also known for its client portal which provides investors with a range of dynamic personal financial management capabilities powered by its financial planning engine.

“We’ve been looking at the financial planning technology sector for some time,” said Orion CEO Eric Clarke. “We believe that this technology will take the client experience of both our core Orion offering and our TAMP offering to the next level. Bringing these components together will also help advisors fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities regardless of the current regulations and cement their value to clients in a clear and measurable way.”

According to Clarke, the Orion team is very impressed by the Advizr user experience, and they anticipate that the Advizr portal will become the next generation Orion portal across all the Orion properties.

Because it is built on APIs and shares a common code base, Advizr’s compatibility with Orion’s signature portfolio management technology should be seamless, creating a single platform that enables advisors and firms to improve operational efficiency and the client experience at the same time. The similarities between the back ends of the platforms will also enable the combined experience to come to market quickly; Orion expects the integrated capabilities to be available to current Orion users as early as next month, with TAMP integration coming in November.

Strategically, the move makes sense for several reasons. First, there seems to be a growing consensus within the industry that financial planning will drive growth in the future. Historically, Orion has collaborated extensively with MoneyGuidePro as a financial planning partner, and also with eMoney and others. Now that MoneyGuide is owned by Envestnet (one of Orion’s top competitors) and eMoney is owned by Fidelity, it stands to reason that Orion wants some ownership of financial planning software independently of others. Furthermore, if Orion really wants to create an end-to-end workflow that includes financial planning and a portal, and they want to control the experience, they need to own it.

Clarke also believes there is a gap in the current Orion financial planning integrations that Advizr can fill. For example, over 30% of firms on the Orion platform do not have a financial planning integration associated with the firm installation of Orion. Of those firms that do have a financial planning software integration, 70% of households do not have a financial plan associated with an Orion account. Clarke believes the lack of financial planning penetration is due to the client experience, or lack thereof. He says that the seamless integration of Advizr into the Orion platform will help advisors deliver financial plans to more people. He is so convinced of this, and he is so determined to get Advizr into as many hands as possible, that Orion has decided to offer it to all existing users at no additional charge.

“We believe that if advisors use it, they will grow their businesses; that is good for advisors, and it is also good for Orion,” Clarke says.

Zaidi points to the flexibility of Advizr as an asset to advisors. It can be used in the traditional white glove advisors’ service model, but it can also be used in a segmentation strategy where some clients are self-service and some get a higher level of service. It can be used in a strictly self-service model as well.

Advizr has made inroads into the employer space as well, so advisors can use it with employers they work with when providing services to employees.

Orion sees the Orion/Advizr combination as a way for advisors to compete with low cost offerings from Schwab, Vanguard and the like. They can now provide an end-to-end solution from prospect engagement to goal-setting, proposals, implementation, reporting, rebalancing and monitoring, with an improved client experience, including a client portal at a reasonable price.

This acquisition continues a trend of consolidation in the advisor fintech space with firms jockeying to create end-to-end solutions for advisors, thereby controlling more of the advisor desktop. Given the fact that Orion will provide this software at no additional cost to existing users, it is difficult to envision any downside for existing Orion users. Whether or not the acquisition ignites the asset growth that Orion expects remains to be seen, but I think there is a good chance that it will.

Joel Bruckenstein
Joel Bruckenstein
Joel P. Bruckenstein, CFP®, is Publisher of the T3 Tech Hub (formerly the T3 newsletter) and the producer of the Technology Tools for Today (T3) Advisor Conference, the only annual technology conference for independent advisors, as well as the Technology Tools for Today (T3) Enterprise Conference. Bruckenstein is an internationally acclaimed expert on applied technology as it relates to the financial service industry. He is the co-author of three books: Virtual Office Tools for a High Margin Practice, Tools and Techniques of Practice Management, and Technology Tools for Today’s High Margin Practice. Joel’s monthly technology columns appear in Financial Advisor magazine and Financial Planning magazine. In addition, he compiles the annual technology survey for Financial Planning magazine. Bruckenstein has for more than twenty years advised financial service firms of all sizes on improving their technologies, processes and workflows. For more information about Joel Bruckenstein and the services his firm offers, please visit www.JoelBruckenstein.com

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