Robo Market in Play as More Launch
By Sulman Din, Financial Planning
Advisors aren't starving for choices among robos and digital tools, but the rollout frenzy continues.
Just on the heels of Schwab's institutional robo offering, two more went live: Autopilot, a robo hybrid from CLS Investments and Riskalyze and Market Movement Strategies, a hybrid for advisors from Cincinnati, Ohio-based FTJ FundChoice that the firm says will offer a lower cash allocation requirement than Schwab's.
Beyond that, New York startup Everplans launched a digital estate planning tool for advisors and two former industry executives launched RightCapital, a financial planning software platform targeting retail and institutional clients.
ADVICE ON AUTOPILOT?
Autopilot, from CLS Investments and risk profiling startup Riskalyze, has been in beta for the past three months. The firms claim hundreds of investment advisors across the country have signed up for the tool in that time.
Riskalyze CEO Aaron Klein explains that the program was designed partly as an all-encompassing digital tool for advisors and asset managers, however with its human advisor customer service, provided through their partnership with CLS, clients also have access to 24/7 advisor assistance to help make complex deposits, transfers and withdrawals.
"It is those really complicated time slots, which before made advisors establish high minimums," Klein explains. "Now they can wave those minimums goodbye, put the hassles of their business on autopilot and focus on their client relationships."
The program, currently used by nearly 500 advisors at RIAs and broker-dealers across 45 states, is designed to gauge and capture a client's risk tolerance, sync their assets into the system and provide a quick look into whether they have invested correctly, Klein says. "Four out of five times clients typically have more risk than they want or expect," he adds.
Advisors that implement Autopilot are required to pay a base fee of 25 basis points annually and set their own price for clients, Klein explains.
"A lot of times we see [advisors] tier their fees based on size," Klein explains. "Clients with up to $100,000 are paying this amount, while clients with over $100,000 are paying a higher fee, because that advisor is going to provide additional services."
For asset managers, Riskalyze also offers the Autopilot Enterprise platform, Klein says, adding "it offers the same experience, but you can plug it into your asset management business."
To stand out amid the competition, the other platform rollouts are emphasizing their unique angles.
One reason RIAs should consider Market Movement Strategies, says third-party asset manager FTJ FundChoice, is requirements: whereas Schwab's advisor for robos requires a 3% cash allocation, the MMS platform does not have a cash allocation requirement; however, when an advisor invests with strategists through the platform there is a cash allocation requirement for the investments.
Advisors investing in mutual funds through MMS have a 2% cash allocation requirement, but for ETFs there is a 5% cash allocation requirement. If the advisor chooses to use the FTJ FundChoice platform but do their own investment management, there is a 1% cash allocation requirement.
More importantly, says Dean Cook, President of FTJ FundChoice, the platform connects advisors to top strategists, instead of pre-selected ETFs. There are currently 19 strategists, with BlackRock and Janus expected to join shortly.
"We believe that diversifying across multiple mandates will lead to better client outcomes as opposed to relying on a single strategy," Cook says. "We feel that our diversifier mandate comprised of liquid alternative strategies will complement an equity driven portfolio."
The platform already has 2,000 advisors using it, says Cook who expects another 500 to join by next year. Cost he says is another attraction: Clients are charged between 15 and 65 basis points for the program depending on account size. A client with an account size of $100K, would be charged approximately .30% based on the strategies selected.
Everplans Professional will help advisors' clients digitally file away all their legal, financial, healthcare, personal and digital information in one place, the firm says. With Everplans' focus on estate and wills planning, the tool features a dashboard to track clients with their life plans.
"Everplans Professional addresses an increasing demand from advisors to deepen and diversify their relationship with clients and, at the same time, ensure clients are ready for the future,” said Abby Schneiderman, co-founder of Everplans, in a statement.
The opportunity inherent in the rise of robo advisors was the reason why Shuang Chen says he decided to leave his comfortable position as a vice president with Prudential to launch a financial planning software startup, RightCapital.
The software is in its beta phase, but has managed to generate enough interest with its features that it includes Morningstar and Yodlee as partners.
"There's an opportunity for new players, who can create and add more value," Chen says.