David Edwards spoke with Murray Coleman recently: Financial technology has come a long way – even over the last year!
MURRAY COLEMAN, REPORTER, FINANCIAL ADVISOR IQ: Hi, this is Murray Coleman with Financial Advisor IQ. I’m here today with David Edwards, President of Heron Financial Group in New York. And David, you’re seeing signs that the technology opportunities that a lot of people talked about last year are finally starting to show up in the market today, correct?
DAVID EDWARDS, PRESIDENT, HERON FINANCIAL GROUP: Absolutely. I was just at the annual T3 Conference – Technology Tools For Today – in San Diego about three weeks ago. And my observation was that all of the technology that was promised in 2016 is being delivered in 2017.
MURRAY COLEMAN: What are some of the most promising technologies that you’re seeing?
DAVID EDWARDS: The area where we’re most excited is the rollout of the Wellscape platform from Fidelity. One of the issues that we struggle with is the cost and expense aggravation of integrating a half-dozen or more applications within our own systems, and what Wellscape is promising to us is, number one, taking over certain functions such as fee generation and performance reporting that we currently work with other vendors. And then two, better entire integration with both the technology investors and the custodians.
MURRAY COLEMAN: Well, what else are you seeing out there on the market besides what Fidelity is doing?
DAVID EDWARDS: There wasn’t anything in particular this year that made me say, huh, I must buy this right away. One of the things that we’re looking for intently is a robo-platform that our portfolio manager will use – not our clients – that incorporates our models and our platform of funds. And so Riskalyze has a tool that’s heading in that direction that will be coming out in the April-to-June time frame, and we’re going to be eagerly testing that to see if it will work for us.
MURRAY COLEMAN: Any other robos out there that are interesting to you or are you being very particular at this point in what you want?
DAVID EDWARDS: In 2015 and 2016, we spent a lot of time evaluating the consumer-facing robos. That would be Betterment, Personal Capital, Wealthfront, et cetera. And we chose one platform, and we spoke to a number of our clients to find out if they wanted to use it. And the answer was no, they did not want to use it at all.
MURRAY COLEMAN: Well, was it because it just wasn’t easy enough to move around in or was just not –
DAVID EDWARDS: It was pretty easy in the sense that changing the oil in your car is easy. But as far as our clients were concerned, that’s our job, not theirs. I certainly have met plenty of people that do use the robos happily. They’re never going to be our clients. They don’t need the personal touch to have to do it themselves.
MURRAY COLEMAN: How about any CRM software advances or just broad-based portfolio management software?
DAVID EDWARDS: We’re Redtail users, quite satisfied with that. It does a good job at a low cost. We asked for a couple of enhancements, which we might see in six months or so. Well, for example, whenever we create a task for a client, an email goes out to all the team members that are associated with that task. All right. Cool. Well, the email that comes across says "Email from Redtail Technology," and the subject line is "Email from Redtail."
Well, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to change that so that the sender is me or one of my team members and the subject actually is the subject. Right now, I have to scroll down the page to find out who it’s from and what it’s about. And that doesn’t sound like a big deal until you look at hundreds of items per day, oftentimes on your phone. So a lot of enhancements that we’re looking for are what we call user experience. How can I do this faster and easier than I’m doing it right now?
Let me actually address the topic that I’m pressing our vendors about, which is making the process of routine operations easier for my clients. What I mean by that is if you going into Amazon and you routinely buy stuff, eventually you discover there’s an order feature that lets you scan down past orders, say, oh yeah, I need more protein bars, one click, and it’s on its way.
Well, there’s about 475 forms that I can use with my custodian, and each one is between one to four pages long, filled with legalese. But the client doesn’t care about that in the slightest. If the client wants to journal money from their individual cap to their IRA account for their annual distribution, why should I have to send them a four-page form that they may or may not be able to print off, may or may not be able to use a signature, certainly when it’s on their phone? Why can’t I just let them log into the "Custodians" platform at Fidelity.com or Wellscape or eMoney, and click 'I approve.' Our clients understand that. They don’t understand four-page forms.
MURRAY COLEMAN: Makes sense. How soon do you think it will show up?
DAVID EDWARDS: I first raised this issue about 18 months ago with Fidelity, who is our primary custodian, and Fidelity is an amazing firm. But all these things take time, because resources have to be dedicated, programmers assigned, budget found. And most importantly, the cybersecurity has to be rock solid. So I think I might start to see what I’m looking for in about 18 months.
MURRAY COLEMAN: Well, thank you very much for your time today.
DAVID EDWARDS: Awesome, Murray. Bye.