When Angela Pecoraro took over as the CEO of software firm Advicent earlier this year, she didn’t see herself merely as the company’s first female chief, breaking through gender disparities in her own industry. She wanted to be viewed as a technology change agent for the independent financial advisory community that still lags larger institutions and discount providers in giving clients online tools and real-time information.
“I do recognize the uniqueness of where I sit,” Pecoraro said recently, reflecting on the new role she’s held since April. “I’ve been in financial services for 15 years, starting in the software business at the entry level. And I was always one of the youngest, and few women in room.”
But more importantly, she sees the independent financial advisory marketplace at the entry level of what it could become in interacting with clients. “Institutions need to move in the direction of interactivity,” she says. “Clients are demanding it. Clients want to view their entire financial picture online and build scenarios around that picture. They want to look at bank accounts and their cashflow, and tools that showcase how well they are reaching their goals. “
The purpose behind Advicent’s Narrator Clients – an update to the very popular NaviPlan, Pecoraro says, is to provide a digital, interactive portal connecting advisors to clients and prospects.
NaviPlan is noted for its robust financial planning tools, catering to a high and ultra-high net worth client base. The folks at Advicent recognized that as a registered investment advisor today, you face competitive challenges not only from RoboAdvisors like Betterment and Personal Capital but from financial empowerment tools like Mint and YNAB – all of which give users a digital financial planning experience.
Even high net worth investors now expect instant answers.
“Clients and investors expect a high level of interactivity in privacy of their home, so they can run different scenarios,” Pecoraro says. “They want to check in on how they can save more, or see what would happen to their nest egg if they retired early.”
She doesn’t buy the notion that RIAs work only with delegators who wouldn’t be interested in scenario planning in their pajamas late at night.
“We think about it as establishing a collaborative relationship, and clients have different personas. Those personas will change in their lifetimes,” she says. “Someone who might be do-it-yourselfer, might experience a life event, tragic or exciting and want to talk about it. So their do-it-yourself persona or their delegator persona is situational.”
NaviPlan has attracted more than 100,000 FA users, and generates millions of client plans per year.
The new portals allow advisors to input and update client data (clients can input their own data) and to communicate with clients conveniently in between quarterly meetings. Clients can leave messages for their advisor and even schedule their own appointments. It helps advisors combine face-to-face communication with self-directed tools. These features can help FAs follow fiduciary regulations requiring more value than just investment management. Portal communication tools give advisors the ability to serve more clients, without sacrificing service.
Tools like Narrator Clients – as well as its companions, Narrator Advisor (a practice and client management dashboard) and Narrator Connect (a financial planning customization tool) – also affect RIA marketing – potentially letting them reaching out to the next generation of tech-savvy clients, giving them much-needed financial tools and in the process, creating a diversified book of clients.
With a new CEO at the helm, Advicent is ready to lead independent advisors to new technological heights.
Sample Advicent Client Portal