Immersing Advisors in the Technology of Advice

The study of innovation teaches us that in a hyper-competitive business environment, driven by an accelerating rate of change, the winning path forward is an open mindset and a commitment to continuous learning. We can see this rapidly evolving dynamic in financial services even on core functions like the concept and nature of “advice” that has evolved in its practice and delivery and has emerged as a technology. FinTech has evolved to AdvisorTech and further branched out into AdviceTech and that category is exploding.

One upcoming free virtual event that can immerse advisors in practical learning on the topic of AdviceTech is an online, crowd-sourced showcase called AdviceTech.LIVE being developed by Institute Founding Member Adam Holt, CEO of Asset-Map – an advisor-client advice visualization and engagement platform.

The AdviceTech.LIVE event will be held on November 2-3 at 12:30pm – 5:00pm each day with 2,000 expected industry attendees and 20 leading AdviceTech companies. Now in its fourth year of operation, the virtual showcase recently won industry recognition by being named a finalist for’s 2023 “Wealthies” Award for thought leadership.

The virtual event is structured into a number of different sections spread out over two afternoons:

Four Rounds of ten-minute speed demonstrations of the latest tech product developments from these AdviceTech providers: AdvisorEngine, Asset-Map, Bento Engine, Estate Guru, ForwardLane, FMG, fp alpha, fp pathfinder, holistiplan, Hubly, Income Conductor, Income Luminant, MobileAssistant, Morningstar, Nitrogen, Orion, Redtail, Snappy Kraken, Toleri$k, and VRGL.

Two Keynote Panels with high-profile industry leaders like Bill Crager, CEO of Envestnet and David Karr, Chairman of Equitable Advisors from AdviceTech aggregators and national tech platforms to hear how they are shaping the technology and prioritizing the advice experience for both advisors and their clients. The panels were put together to promote the contrast and distinction between friendly-competitor speakers as we hear their perspectives on where the industry is headed.

Two Industry Expert Review Panels at the end of each day are set up to provide advisors with immediate feedback and a review of the technology and product reveals presented that day. The panels of financial advisors, thought leaders, and industry experts will provide thoughts on how to apply the latest technology to your practice with a relevant debate around hot topics and upcoming industry concerns. Panelists Include – Diana Cabrices, CEO, Cabrices Consulting – Marguerita Cheng, CEO, Blue Ocean Global Growth - Mac Gardiner, CEO, FinLitTech – Ross Marino, Founder, Transitus Wealth Partners - Keena Pettijohn, CEO, Lifelogixs - Luis F. Rosa, Founder and Podcast Host, Build a Better Financial Future.

As a FinTech CEO and former full-time advisor, we reached out to Adam Holt of Asset-Map to dig a little further and explore his unique perspective and thinking behind creating this industry tech event to help accelerate the implementation of advisor technology. We are interested in how he specifically designed the virtual event to provide meaningful context and guidance for advisors. This is critically important, especially now, as advisors are facing a dizzying number of new technologies and new business models that are being explored. It is a major challenge for advisors to know how and where to focus on change and how best to innovate their firms and processes, especially on the topics of the best delivery of advice and client engagement.

Hortz: You have billed AdviceTech.LIVE as an Asset-Map community event that is provided for free for the entire financial advice community, including all enrolled students of financial services education. What is your motivation for engineering this large-scale industry event?

Holt: Many years ago, when I was in high school, I learned that if you want to be part of a community, you have to start it yourself. And AdviceTech.Live is no different. It was an attempt to create a forum for all of us in financial services who deal with the day-to-day of using a lot of this technology with our clients but do not have the time or resources to go see what is being built that is going to affect our very futures of how we deliver advice.

So, the whole intent of this program was to create a community, create a showcase to expose what is being built today, and how it is going to affect all of our collective futures. And virtual was the best way to do that during the pandemic. Keeping it virtual has just stuck because one of the things that has been obvious to us is that not everybody can get on a plane, can afford to take three to four days to go to a conference, walk around all the booths, and still expect to see 10, 20, 30 companies representing what is coming.

Unfortunately, the live events get dominated by the big players who can afford to spend gobs of money to get in front of advisors. And yet there is all this technology that is coming out that is going to disrupt our industry, our businesses, that do not have the budget to get exposed in these larger events. This was our opportunity to showcase them, put them on a virtual stage. Think of it like a miniature concert of local musicians and to get the community exposed to new music. And that is how we think of it at Asset-Map - we needed to build it and invite everybody to come, including students, our next generation of advisors.

Hortz: Why do you feel advice and AdviceTech are vital areas for advisors to embrace and a guiding force for the future of the industry?

Holt: There has been a big conversation in our circles around both the relevance of human advisors and the entrance of artificial intelligence; combine this with robo-advice as a potential disruptor for traditional advice and financial services distribution. The marketplace of financial advisors - which total in the hundreds of thousands - are an essential resource for consumers to have access to the financial world and help them make decisions because they are complicated and there is a high cost of being wrong.

So, we think that humans will still play a very important professional role, whether they are tax, insurance, investment, or even legal advisors. But they are going to need to have technology available to them that helps support what we think is actually going to be a huge push towards financial planning and advice. And humans cannot do it alone today. They are going to need digital delivery and customer experiences.

There is research that was recently provided from JD Power and Craig Martin's team in the wealth management division that indicated that between advice, planning, and service, boomers through X, Y, and Z generations all had different preferences for whether they wanted more human or digital interaction. And it is not surprising that generations Y and Z preferred a mostly digital experience in all three of those services. Even though most of the money is in the boomer's hands at this time, there is a fast transition happening to these other generational preferences and it is important that advisors have the right tech to engage the customer of the future as well.

Hortz: Your inaugural AdviceTech.LIVE event was launched in the middle of the 2020 pandemic. How has the event been evolving over time and what have you been learning that you can share?

Holt: We keep changing it in an attempt to make it better and innovate and discover what structure works for a virtual conference. This year is the first year that we split it over two days as a result of feedback that few advisors could spend the whole day with us. In addition, we also saw the original $50 to $70 ticket charge as a barrier to the accessibility we were trying to create. And so, this year we got sponsors such as Advisor360, Cambridge Investment Research, Carson Group, Envestnet, Equitable Advisors, and Orion and to make contributions that alleviated the pressure on us to charge admission.

In addition to making this free for everybody to attend – now no excuses - we also have increased our charitable impact for the entire event. And that would not have happened if we did not keep changing it up and trying new things. We have been asked to move this event to an in-person event, but it begs the question of can we have as much impact if we do this in person versus create accessibility for everybody, including students who could not normally afford to travel.

Hortz: How have you designed your tech event this year to accelerate advisor learning and buy-in on the importance of integrating new technology into their practice?

Holt: Every year has a theme and this year's theme is advice engagement, which is all about the technology supporting advice delivery. And so, each of the companies this year has been asked to share how their newest builds and innovations are actually affecting advice delivery pain points. There is no question that we are all forced to deliver more, quicker, faster, better. And so, advice delivery is no exception to that.

Advisors are being put in a position to answer questions technically as well as deliver an appealing experience. Consumers have higher expectations than ever and everything has to accelerate. And so, the focus of delivering 10-minute speed demos across twenty emerging technologies is designed to really be a great use of time because it is the one thing we all have too little of.

Hortz: You have a very impressive list of speakers, panelists, and AdviceTech firms assembled. How do you go about curating your cast of professionals and what are the challenging logistics you have to wrestle with to make this event happen?

Holt: There is something that happens with having momentum in our fourth year that attracted so much attention before we even went public with it. I think we have earned a reputation of delivering value to our industry participants that is attractive. I think that is important for every event to remember. If it does not add value to the end consumer, nobody is going to want to be part of it. For us, the advisor community is our customer. And I think as a result of creating community these last four years and our own reputation at Asset-Map, we have been able to attract bigger names that are interested in being affiliated with this project.

The challenges are the same as they would be in any event, which is just getting people to schedule a specific time together. When you are talking to 26 or 30 different CEOs of companies coordinating live presentations on two days, that is extremely challenging. The live nature of the event is a scheduling nightmare, despite the fact that nobody has to travel. Everybody has plans months in advance.

I think the real testament to the project is making sure that everybody is prepared and the technology supports the number of people that we are talking about participating in this event. But it is really exciting to see how many AdviceTech and FinTech leaders are willing to put themselves out there in a live, unscripted way for all of the audience to hear. That is the novelty of AdviceTech.Live where you do not get scripted experiences from people who are typically not in the public forum with each other. And it is the hope of creating that tension that we try to also bring to AdviceTech.LIVE in seeing competitors on the same stage speaking frankly.

Hortz: Tell us more about your charitable partners this year – Invest in Others and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. What do we need to know about them and what part do they play in your event?

Holt: There are two charitable benefactors this year – Invest in Others and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society which is honoring our industry friend Gavin Spitzner who we lost last year.

Invest in Others has done a great job in our industry of providing an outlet for advisors and firms to earn supportive grants for the charitable work that they have done and the charities that they invest in locally. It is a financial community resource charity that will make direct gifts to advisors, charities, and there are many firms that are affiliated with funding this organization.

We also seem well aligned this year for our second partner, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society which is non-industry specific to us this year because in the past we had included the CFP boards, a DE&I program, the Foundation for Financial Planning and last year included several educational organizations supporting our industry including American College and University of Texas. And this year since we have tried to stay so community driven, Gavin Spitzner was a consultant to several of the firms that were actually sponsoring this year. And we thought we would profile his contributions to the greater community because many people did not know about it. It was a good opportunity to celebrate our friend's work in this space.

Hortz: Why have you always built a charitable component every year? What are your thoughts and motivations behind that?

Holt: Well, for this to become a true community event, there has to be some opportunity to give back to the greater good. It was important for us that this not become another money maker for the host and that it is not singularly focused on Asset-Map. We were really just hosting the party at our house for which there are costs and all of the sponsors share in that cost, but the operational efficiency of the event potentially leads to excess leftover. And if we had leftover, we would not keep it.

We would all decide where it went to serve the greater good so that when we are all sponsoring, we are not just sponsoring someone's P and L. We are sponsoring a greater contribution, which is easy for us all to get behind, and not worry about whether we are paying too much or too little to run the party. At the end of the day, everyone wins. And that is an important alignment, I believe, for a community event.

Hortz: What best recommendations can you offer advisors on how to navigate and start implementing the ever-widening choices in AdviceTech?

Holt: Well, the answer to that question I think will be brought up many times at AdviceTech.Live this year. I think the biggest problem that we are trying to address, like most of the world, is can you just get educated on what's out there? In the truest sense of the forum, we are really trying to, without judgment, just create awareness of what is going on and then allow people to make informed decisions.

We even invited our competitors to show what they are building because we think the marketplace is massive and the need is massive. And there is no excuse for financial advisors to say that they are uninformed and not aware anymore. We need to create an outlet for people to find out what is being built. And moreover, the keynotes were actually brought in this year to address a concern that I had, which was that there are decisions being made in rooms of very smart people that will affect thousands of advisors and millions of consumers. Advisors need to be aware of those decisions being made. And that is why we put these very public CEOs on the keynote so that advisors could get some insight as to what is coming, because it is going to affect their very livelihood and the financial wellbeing of millions of people. And they should be in the know.

Related: 180 Degrees of Separation from the Investment Hoard