Special Feature

A Digital Partnership

A three-part web-exclusive series on working with robo-advisors. Part one looks at the different advisor platforms available from robo-advisors. Part two examines how you can partner with a robo-advisor. And, part three outlines the additional services the advisor can bring to the digital table. Photo copyright: ne2pi/123RF

Technology

Digital wealth-management platforms are aiming to make life easier for traditional advisors

By Fiona Collie |

Robo-advisors are generally thought of as disrupters in the financial services sector, but they have always professed a desire to work with traditional firms — and some of these start-ups are beginning to do just that.

Most recently, Toronto-based Nest Wealth Asset Management Inc. created Nest Wealth Pro. The white label platform, which formally launched at the start of June, is available for individual advisors or for entire firms and is meant to improve an advisory business with scalability and efficiency.

"A digital wealth-management platform is really about making the life of the advisor vastly better," says Randy Cass, CEO and founder of Nest Wealth.

From the client's perspective, individuals sign up with the advisor through a digital onboarding process, which captures know-your-client and risk profile information. Investors can then set goals and monitor their accounts from the same online portal.

Advisors can also keep track of their clients' accounts online and will be notified when those individuals start to move off course from their stated goals, or if they reach a target level of assets under management (AUM). In the case of prospective clients, the program allows advisors to communicate via technologies such as live chat.

As well, Toronto-based Wealthsimple Financial Inc. launched an advisor platform of its own in late May. Wealthsimple for Advisors is intended for advisors who wish to maintain contact with clients with small accounts (such as the child of a wealthier client) but not to necessarily manage the account day-to-day.

To get started, an advisor invites a client to sign up for an account with Wealthsimple, which, unlike the Nest Wealth platform, will manage the clients' investments. Once a client is signed up, advisors can monitor his or her progress through a web portal.

Advisors can decide whether they will simply follow the accounts until the client reaches a certain level of AUM, or if they will provide additional financial planning services for the client.

Similarly, Toronto-based BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. also helps advisors maintain access to clients of its robo-advisor platform, SmartFolio. Clients of the bank-owned robo-advisor can give permission to their Nesbitt investment advisor to view their accounts.

Other robo-advisors are also working toward their own advisor platforms — although nothing is formalized yet. For example, Oakville, Ont.-based Invisor Investment Management Inc. is currently in a pilot project with a fee-for-service financial planning firm. This is not a separate platform as in the case of Nest Wealth or Wealthsimple.

As well, since getting a fresh round of financing, Vancouver-based WealthBar Financial Services Inc. is working on building an advisor platform that will allow advisors to partner with WealthBar's offering while still keeping track of their clients.

"We're working on developing a platform for advisors and we're in kind of a testing phase," says Tea Nicola, CEO and founder of WealthBar who adds, "we have a firm that is interested in working with us."

This is the first article in a three-part series.

On Wednesday: How you can partner with a robo-advisor.