What You Need to Know
- Fidelity enhanced its Wealthscape advisor tech platform and Integration Xchange open architecture digital store.
- The updates could make Fidelity more attractive for advisors looking to switch custodians, Tim Welsh says.
- Other platforms already have similar digital account opening capabilities, Craig Iskowitz says.
Industry experts on Wednesday had positive reactions to the latest enhancements that Fidelity Institutional made to its technology for the benefit of advisors and their clients.
Fidelity announced earlier in the day that it enhanced its Wealthscape advisor tech platform and Integration Xchange open architecture digital store, while also introducing new account opening functionalities.
“These improvements are part of Fidelity’s commitment to elevate advisors’ digital experience, making it easier for firms to create technology stacks that best support their clients’ evolving needs,” the company said in a news release.
“This is great news for our Fidelity clients,” Doug Fritz, F2 Strategy CEO and founder, told ThinkAdvisor by email. “We’ve been awaiting this type of RIA workflow automation & integration capability and are stoked it’s here. I haven’t had a sneak preview from the Fidelity team, but will certainly be getting demos and deep-dive conversations on how this update will be integrated into our RIA CRM workflows and data architectures in the coming weeks!”
Joel Bruckenstein, producer of the annual Technology Tools for Today (T3) Conference and publisher of the T3 Technology Hub, had not yet seen the new account opening process, “but if [it] is fully digital, as described, it is significant,” he told ThinkAdvisor. The new Wealthscape Analytics are “also very important,” he added.
“This is very significant in light of the Schwab/TD Ameritrade integration timeline announced recently,” said Timothy Welsh, CEO of consultancy Nexus Strategy. “Fidelity and all custodians are ramping up their new account opening capabilities to capitalize on the disruption [anticipated] from dissatisfied TDA advisors looking for a better option … . The more streamlined you can make the account transfer/opening process, the easier and quicker it will be to move those advisors.”
Pointing out that Schwab has acknowledged there may be issues as it shuts down the TDA systems and aims “to move everyone over in a bulk transfer,” Welsh added, ”Fidelity beefing up their third-party integration capabilities will also be a very strong selling point for TDA advisors who will be losing their Veo third-party integrations. Those workflows they’ve built at TDA will all be broken and have to be re-created, so why not just move now?”
In his view, this news “marks one of the first salvos fired in the big battle looming for all custodians to take market share from Schwab over the coming months,” he said.
Craig Iskowitz, CEO and founder of Ezra Group, called the enhancements a “group of incremental, but strong, improvements in Fidelity’s technology suite for which their advisory clients have been waiting for a long time.”
But he said: “At Ezra Group, we have been helping broker-dealers and RIAs build fully digital new account opening processes since 2016, so Fidelity is behind the market in this capability.”
Several other vendors, meanwhile, have been offering tools and platforms “for many years that have features such as being 100% digital, bundled, multi-account opening, and auto-fill of data from CRM and multiple ACATs in a single digital envelope,” Iskowitz noted. “I’m sure some of Fidelity’s Wealthscape clients who also use these vendors will be encouraged to migrate away from them now that this functionality is available for free.”
Iskowitz added: “The market stands still for no one. Almost all RIA custodians have a free technology platform for clients that custody assets with them, so they need to behave like software vendors and continue to improve their offerings or risk seeing clients slowly move away to alternatives. I thought Integration Xchange was terrific when it was announced, and it has only improved in usefulness over time.
Ezra Group launched our Wealthtech Integration Score to help advisors make better decisions about technology as well as encourage more transparency from vendors about their integrations. The Integration Xchange serves similar purposes since it makes it easier for advisors to learn about specific integrations and search across many vendor options. We applaud all ideas across the industry to reduce the time and effort required to understand the myriad of integration options available.”
Iskowitz would “like to learn more about their new API analytics, which [are] supposed to let users know the availability of specific vendor APIs,” he said, noting that “will be useful for larger firms that have built custom software that connects to vendor” application programming interfaces.