This year’s industry awakening to embrace financial planning as the new business model for growth in 2020 and beyond has well-positioned Advicent’s NaviPlan for growth as the software company aims to introduce its technology.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Advicent’s NaviPlan has considerably less market share than some of its competitors. In fact, according to InvestmentNews’ 2020 Adviser Technology Study, 4% of advisers reported using NaviPlan. By comparison, 35% of financial advisers use MoneyGuide, while 30% use eMoney.
However, the pandemic might be the catalyst that enables Advicent to increase its market share as nearly 20% of advisory firms plan to increase their tech spend toward financial planning software. Advicent’s NaviPlan builds custom versions of its financial planning software for approximately 3,000 advisory firms across North America and Europe.
The Milwaukee-based fintech currently builds custom financial planning software for nearly 100 financial institutions including UBS, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Ameriprise and Northwestern Mutual to name a few, according to Advicent’s CEO Angela Pecoraro.
“Financial planning used to be very reserved for those that were in the higher wealth classes and wasn’t something the mass market was able to get their hands on,” Pecoraro said. “What 2020 has done is expedited a higher level of urgency for firms to make sure clients across the board have access to financial planning tools.”
What follows is an edited version of Pecoraro’s conversation with InvestmentNews.
Nicole Casperson: How is Advicent working to bring financial planning to the mass market?
Angela Pecoraro: When I took over as CEO a few years ago, one of our biggest challenges was how do we take this legacy system, something that’s very reliable and robust in the industry, and make it more accessible to more people to provide those services and tools that everyone needs.
One of the things I often talk about is my own personal situation. Yes, I’m a CEO of a fintech company, but I actually am not independently wealthy. I’m actually part of that sandwich generation — Gen X.
I bear that responsibility to make sure that both of my children, my in-laws, my parents, but also me and my husband are able to live a life fulfilled with the goals and the dreams that we have. So I really have to make my dollar stretch further. I’m actually more in need of financial planning services so that I can make the best tax decisions, the best investment decisions, because I need to stretch that money so far, for a very long time.
Everyone deserves access to financial planning — not just the ultra wealthy.
NC: How are you revamping your software to accommodate this trend?
AP: We are on the precipice of launching and reimagining the financial planning process. From a technology perspective, we took this year to reinvent that financial planning experience to bring more opportunity to more people.
So the applications that we’ll be putting out next year will be all API-based and all very capable to be turned on as an ‘off-the-shelf’ application.
A couple of the big things that we know are going to be game changers is a shared client and adviser experience. We believe that there’s no longer the space for disparate applications, but we all need to be operating off of one source of truth.
The actual experience is critical to clients, too, they want an experience like they do on their cell phone. So we’re going to be leveraging data sources and automated intelligence to make sure that the adviser isn’t sitting for hours with a client collecting information. We can give advisers a financial plan with literally one client data point.
NC: How is Advicent working to include more women into fintech via the RAD Women program?
AP: The RAD program — retain, attract and develop female talent and leaders — started in early 2019, but we should’ve started sooner.
This year, we spent a lot more time thinking strategically around our talent and experience that we’re providing our employees, and making sure that we have a diverse, inclusive and equitable environment. We’ve spent a lot of this year expanding upon the successes of the RAD program and making sure that we’re providing programming and a safe conversation zone for our employees.
I am one of few female CEOs in the fintech space, and I’ve been in fintech for the last 18 years. So I get it. I understand the responsibility I have to make sure that we’re creating a sustainable environment that continues to foster female talent.
One of the practical things we’ve done is a survey for our employee engagement — we’re going to layer in additional questions and start assessing to make sure that we don’t have any particular employee groups that are having a disparate experience.
We’ll be forming an employee advisory group of diversity, equity and inclusion advisers because we thought it’s a better way than this top down mandate through the executive team. Instead, let’s involve the employees.
We’re doing things like just reviewing our employee handbook or removing biases out of recruiting, like job descriptions, or our policies and procedures. It’s pretty amazing that there are those little specific actions that are going to make a big difference in the experience that our employees will have. That’s really going to set the tone for how we continue to bring new people into this business.
In 2019, it was a lot of conversation, maybe people weren’t comfortable with the topic, or felt like they had to move mountains to make a difference. It’s action — and small actions are just as meaningful as the large ones.
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