One of the best and most significant annual technology conferences for advisors is one that is not open to advisors: The TD Ameritrade Institutional Technology Summit. The Summit, now in its eight year, provides an opportunity for TD Ameritrade to collaborate with a subset of their 150 third-party VEO partners, as well as new prospective partners, to provide a better technology experience for their advisors and the end clients of those advisors. This year, TD Ameritrade hosted 50 attendees, representing 24 technology firms.
According to Jon Patullo, Managing Director, Technology Product Management at TD Ameritrade, before the first meeting in 2010, his firm was hearing from advisors that they wanted to pick their own software solutions, but they wanted them all to work seamlessly together. At the initial TD Ameritrade Institutional Technology Summit, TD Ameritrade shared what they were hearing from advisors with the vendors and proposed that they collaborate and innovate to provide a better user experience to the advisor community.
What TD Ameritrade heard from vendors early on was that the vendors wanted access to TD Ameritrade data through application programming interfaces (API’s). Opening up API’s and exposing them to vendors was a real innovation at the time that has since been mirrored by may others.
Today, API’s are commonplace. This has supported the growth of digital advice platforms throughout the industry and at TD Ameritrade. According to Patullo, fourteen digital platforms for advisors, sometimes referred to as robo-advisors, are currently leveraging TD Ameritrade data and technologies through API’s.
While other custodians host events to share their technology roadmap with advisors, none are as open, collaborative and broad-based as TD Ameritrade’s, according to one vendor in attendance who has attended similar events hosted by other RIA custodians.
Virtually every RIA custodian provides some level of integration with a number of third party technology providers; the consensus among vendors I spoke with is that TD Ameritrade is the most collaborative. This willingness to listen to partners and alter their development roadmap based upon vendor input serves to foster an ecosystem that is unique within the industry.
TD Ameritrade’s reputation as a collaborative innovator provides some benefits to TD Ameritrade and their advisor-clients. Most new vendors looking to enter the RIA space come to TD Ameritrade first for integration opportunities because TD devotes significant resources to supporting newer firms with innovative products. In fact, TD recently launched a self-service co-creation development portal that makes it easier than ever for new integration partners to access their API’s and supporting documentation once they have been vetted and credentialed to do so.
According to Chris Valleley, Director of Technology Solutions at TD Ameritrade, one of the areas that the firm is working on now to help advisors is improved analytics. By incorporation analytics from FA Insights, which was purchased by TD Ameritrade a few years ago, into the VEO advisor workstation, TD Ameritrade can help advisors better understand their businesses.
For example, analytics will be available to help advisors segment their business, show them where they and their employees are spending their time, benchmark how many NIGO (not in good order) forms and instructions they submit to TD Ameritrade vs. other similar firms, and glean other operational insights. They will also be able to see how clients of advisors are interacting with the TD Ameritrade portal for clients of advisors.
NEW WEBSITE FOR CLIENTS OF ADVISORS
TD Ameritrade is also rolling out a new client site for the clients of advisors, something that was sorely needed. The current site is based upon the retail client site and, in my opinion, it is lacking in multiple areas. The new site is a vast improvement.
Like the VEO workstation for advisors, the new client portal will, for the first time, provide the end client with access to data from multiple systems. CRM, portfolio management, financial planning and other systems that take advantage of this opportunity will be able to display relevant information within the portal with a unified look and feel. So, for example, a client would be able to log on and see any tasks assigned to them through the advisor’s CRM system, view the probability of meeting their financial goals, view their net worth, and view the performance of their investments all in one place.
The new client portal is based upon a more modern technology stack, and it provides a vastly improved client experience. TD Ameritrade will be adding some self-service tools, a virtual agent and other enhancements in the months ahead.
Clearly, advisors are taking note of this innovative culture. In the 2018 T3 / Inside Information Technology Survey, when we asked advisors what custody platform they were thinking about switching to in 2018, the TD Ameritrade VEO platform topped the list by a significant margin.
TD Ameritrade’s approach to technology development for advisors and their clients seems well suited to this environment where technological change accelerating, and client expectations constantly rising.