Although robo-advisors might feel like a threat to traditional financial planning firms, it might be time to team up with them. A recent study by Investopedia and the Financial Planning Association showed that clients prefer a combination of human and technological guidance. This, combined with the fact that there has recently been more and more of a focus on access to financial advice for all in this country, has made it so that there is a big opportunity for automated investment platforms and financial advisors to work together.
Robo-advisors may be a more accessible alternative to the traditional advisor, but using one often comes with trade-offs for clients. Of course, there’s no denying that robo-advisors are usually a lower-cost alternative for most people, whether they simply don’t meet the asset minimums required by typical advisory firms, or don’t want to pay the percentage of AUM that most firms charge for ongoing investment management. However, some might argue that those with the least amount of assets are those that actually need the most one-on-one (human) guidance. Instead of having to choose one over the other, combining a robo-advisor platform with a human advisor can give clients access to high-tech and high-touch forms of financial planning.
And for advisors, leveraging a robo platform and making it part of your own offering can be a way to cultivate relationships with younger clients (or those who don’t yet meet your minimum asset requirement), so that in the future, once they do hit your minimum, you will have already built up a rapport and a relationship with them, and thus they will likely be more inclined to work with you then had you not already been working with them through the robo-offering.
What is a Robo-Advisor?
The term “Robo-Advisor” might sound futuristic, but at their core, robo-advisors are simply automated, digital investment services that rely on computer algorithms to invest their clients’ assets. The way it works is simple: an investor creates an account online, answers some questions about their current financial circumstances and future aspirations, and then the robo-advisor gives immediate advice and suggestions on how the client should invest their assets.
When Might Advisors Consider Leveraging a Robo-Advisor Platform?
Some advisors have begun to “team up” with robo-advisors in order to offer a sort of “Second Tier” to potential clients who are looking for advice, but who do not meet the firm’s minimum asset requirements. Tim Welsh, president of advisor consultancy Nexus Strategy, notes that by incorporating (and white-labeling) a robo-advisor platform service, an advisory firm may be able to provide a lower-end offering to clients rather than losing those clients to a robo-advisor platform.
Since most people prefer a mix between human guidance and the use of technology when it comes to their finances and investments, incorporating high-tech tools into your practice, in general, is a good idea. For instance, no matter what custodian, financial planning software or other tools you use, we recommend you include links to those online portals on your firm’s website so that clients can immediately access and view their accounts at all times. This should now simply be standard practice for all firms, as clients expect 24/7 access to their financial statements and information.
How to Integrate a Robo-Advisor Platform on Your Website
If you do decide to start leveraging a Robo-Advisor platform as an offering, one key thing you will want to think about is how to incorporate that offering on your website. After all, one of the core tenets of the robos, to begin with, is that they provide a completely digital experience – with 24/7 access.
So to help you better visualize how this might work, we’ve put together some examples for you from advisors’ websites, to help you envision how you might go about including a robo offering on your own website.
But first, a note: Betterment has created “Betterment for Advisors“, and has done a good job marketing this service; so far at Twenty Over Ten, the Betterment for Advisors offering is what we have seen being “white labeled” and integrated into advisors’ websites most often. However, many other traditional financial services firms have already (or are in the process of) setting up their own robo-advisor offerings (Charles Schwab’s Institutional Intelligent Portfolios, Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services, and BlackRock’s Future Advisor, to name a few) and thus we expect to see those options popping up on advisor’s websites very soon as well.
Keep in mind that regardless of which robo-advisor platform you decide to use, you’ll ultimately want to include a link to the robo platform (typically as a button in a client center) and you may also want to include some language that explains how you use the service, and for which types of clients that you serve (see example #3 below).
Pillar 6 Advisors LLC offers Financial Planning and Investment Management “as-needed, on-demand,” and even on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. From their resources page, clients can access all the portals they need, including eMoney, TD Ameritrade, and Betterment.
If a client clicks on the “Betterment Institutional” button, they are then taken to a white-labeled portal, branded with the firm’s logo (see image below). This all serves to reinforce the advisory firm as the one provided the guidance and support and is great brand reinforcement. If you are going to have buttons for multiple different client logins, it is also a best practice to divide those logins up by type, as Pillar6 has done.
Patuxent Financial Partners offers independent, fee-only financial planning in Columbia, MD. They offer two tiers of investment management and use both Betterment and Loring Ward. They’ve chosen to showcase the four different tools offered to their clients by including a logo for each firm with a brief explanation of what can be accessed via that particular portal (when you hover over each logo, you can click to be taken to the portal).
Again, similar to the Pillar6 site above, when a client clicks on “Betterment” on the Patuxent Financial Partners website, they are taken to a white-labeled portal page, that includes the firm’s logo.
Triprescient Financial Services is a financial planning firm with a focus on providing a collaborative experience for their clients. On their website, they explain “Our financial planning software allows you, the client, to determine your personal and financial goals. With the guidance of our planners, we collaborate with you to create a custom financial plan for your unique situation.”
Triprescient has chosen to list out the various partnerships they have all on one page of their website, including organizations such as XYPN, the Financial Planning Association, and NAPFA. Included on this page is also a tab for “Betterment for Advisors,” where the firm outlines exactly how they have partnered with Betterment to serve their clients.
We like this approach for its candor and straightforwardness. For clients who may not realize that Betterment has a “Betterment for Advisors” program, and could be scratching their head if they just see “Betterment”, this approach helps make very clear how the partnership works. Just like the other sites showcased, once you click on the Betterment login for this site, you are also taken to a portal that asks for your Betterment login and password, that is branded with the TriPrescient logo.
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