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Five ways to stay current on wealth management’s tech trends


Want to become conversant in wealthtech? Download our tipsheet for practical ways to boost your industry knowledge.

Keeping up with disruptive trends be a challenge, especially if you try diving into the live discussion on #fintwit.

However, there is a method for becoming knowledgeable without getting overwhelmed. And as a bonus, you can learn in a way that’s relevant to your daily practice too.

Attend a fintech event

Not all emerging technology is being developed inside a black box. All over the country there are fintech groups that regularly meet to discuss ongoing innovation efforts in financial services, and larger events that bring together upstarts and institutions. You don’t have to be a fintech developer to attend these events, either; there are gatherings open to interested financial professionals, and some are even free to attend. 

Attending an event is a great opportunity not only to hear how others are thinking about the future of wealth management but also to meet young, talented people passionate about fintech who could become your firm’s next tech partner (or employee). Some gatherings are organized by third-party organizations, such as the plainly-named Fintech Meetup. Tech companies like Google also host sessions, as well as trade publications and even business schools. If you’re on the East Coast, I’d personally recommend checking out the MIT Sloan Fintech Conference. It’s grown into an event that brings together the brightest fintech students, top industry leaders and high-profile venture capitalists. There’s just something refreshing about being on a storied campus in Cambridge, MA, and listening to big ideas about what’s coming next. There are also tech events focused on wealth management – in addition to Joel Bruckenstein’s T3 and Financial Planning’s InVest conferences, advisors can consider attending Informa’s Wealthstack event or Future Proof, a new conference being held beachside at Huntington Beach, CA. 

Open up a digital investing / trading account

The best way to learn about the new platforms that younger clients are on is to use them yourself. If you haven’t used a robo-advisor account or a popular trading app, you’re not going to understand the conveniences or the instant gratification they provide. Given the small amounts needed to get started on most of these platforms, it is definitely worthwhile to open accounts with a few popular providers and explore. 

There are a couple of benefits to this approach. As an investment professional, you’ll get insight into the types of funds they use, the portfolios they offer and the advice they provide to clients. You’ll also get the chance to see how your money performs. Doing so will give you plenty of material to articulate how your offering can be better. These platforms all argue that they’re better choices than traditional wealth advisors, so it’s good to educate yourself about how they make this case too. 

You’ll also see how these platforms and apps have automated and simplified different aspects of the client experience, such as onboarding, document delivery and account updates. You can identify where the gaps exist in your current client experience, and hopefully upgrade accordingly. And of course, you’ll learn how these platforms are charging clients, giving you the opportunity to compare and develop a case for your own value proposition. 

Follow new alternative investments

If you can’t explain the difference between an NFT and a crypto token, it’s time to immerse yourself in digital assets, the alternative that at least one in five Americans has now either invested in, traded or used, according to NBC News. Crypto trading is the most obvious alternative investment among younger investors today, but there are others being promoted to them as well. 

Some hew to the robo-advisor ideal of democratizing access to areas of investing that have traditionally been the domain of the ultra-high-net-worth. One emerging example is fractional investment in blue chip works of art. Art exchanges and apps such as Masterworks tap into the ongoing appreciation of some of the most popular contemporary artists. Sotheby’s, for instance, notes the average compound annual return for Banksy is 8.5%. Another example is the crowdfunded opportunities targeting real estate, qualified investing and angel investing. 

It’s also worth recognizing that the new generation of investors is putting tremendous value on certain items that previous generations did not, and are spending their money in such a way that they’ve created new luxury categories. There are apps and websites dedicated to rare sneakers, for instance, which are now a bonafide collectible. In 2020, Sotheby’s sold a pair of game-worn 1985 Air Jordan 1s for $560,000 (the pre-auction estimated value was $150,000). It’s worth talking to clients if they’re being left estates with collections of collectibles such as comics, toys, rock concert posters or sports paraphernalia. They may not realize the current value of the inheritance.

Subscribe to a wealthtech newsletter

Getting a compendium of news from the tech space delivered to your mailbox on a weekly basis is probably among the easiest – and most passive – methods of staying current with industry innovation. Fintech has become a catch-all phrase – there are subcategories devoted to banking, payments, investing and insurance. As an RIA you’re going to be most interested in wealthtech and advisortech, the tranches of technologies that are being built to simplify your practice and for retail use by your clients. There are several trade publications that offer their own newsletters with focused coverage on the wealthtech and advisortech space, including InvestmentNews, Financial Planning, ThinkAdvisor and Digital Wealth News. (Some industry consultants also offer newsletters or blogs that you can follow for trends. Joel Bruckenstein, Michael Kitces, Craig Iskowitz, Doug Fritz and Gavin Spitzner regularly publish pieces). If there is one that rises above the others in terms of future trend spotting, it is the Fintech Blueprint newsletter launched by former AdvisorEngine executive Lex Sokolin, who now is the global fintech co-head at ConsenSys, a blockchain technology company. A keen observer, Sokolin has been documenting technology advances in the financial space for some time. He recently merged his newsletter with another fintech news source, Digital Wealth Week, which gives it a global perspective on development. You can subscribe for free, though there are paid options for more access too. 

Include younger colleagues in the tech decision process

Here’s an opportunity to mutually benefit from younger hires in your practice. As digital natives, your younger colleagues will have a level of insight into the developing tools and platforms your firm can take advantage of. What they won’t possess, of course, is the level of experience you’ve gained from being in the field, making business decisions and working with clients. Think of the opportunity as part mentoring, part knowledge exchange. You offer them the opportunity to learn the practice and be involved in a critical business decision. They can gain an understanding of how you want to position your firm for growth, and the issues your firm needs to address to make that easier. They’ll be able to provide input into the client experience your tech will be able to offer. Most importantly, it can become an exercise that builds loyalty and confidence in your firm. A recent survey by AdvisorEngine and Institutional Investor found that tech is an increasingly important aspect of attracting top talent – so having someone close to the source is important for evaluating what tools will appeal the most. In return, you gain guides to developing technologies in the fintech space that you can learn from without worrying about appearing ill-informed. Admitting you want to know more is a moment of honesty that allows  you to forge deeper relationships with your up-and-coming colleagues.

This blog is sponsored by AdvisorEngine Inc. The information, data and opinions in this commentary are as of the publication date, unless otherwise noted, and subject to change. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered a recommendation to use AdvisorEngine or deemed to be a specific offer to sell or provide, or a specific invitation to apply for, any financial product, instrument or service that may be mentioned. Information does not constitute a recommendation of any investment strategy, is not intended as investment advice and does not take into account all the circumstances of each investor. Opinions and forecasts discussed are those of the author, do not necessarily reflect the views of AdvisorEngine and are subject to change without notice. AdvisorEngine makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made and will not be liable for any errors, omissions or representations. As a technology company, AdvisorEngine provides access to award-winning tools and will be compensated for providing such access. AdvisorEngine does not provide broker-dealer, custodian, investment advice or related investment services.