Envestnet, the technology, back-office and separate accounts provider to financial advisors, confirmed to Wealthmanagement.com Thursday that it has completed work on its new $1 million-plus mobile app and will roll the app out to its advisor clients in the next couple of months. It coincides with a larger relaunch of the firm’s entire user interface, an extensive set of tools cobbled together starting when the firm was launched 12 years ago by a number of former Nuveen executives. The new user interface is scheduled to go live in August.
Envestnet is doing internal demos of the app and allowing its advisory board to play with it, said Lori Hardwick, executive VP of advisor services in an interview at the Pershing Insite conference in Hollywood, Fla.
“We’ve allowed 100 percent of our platform to be available on our mobile app,” says Hardwick. “It’s swipe-able, you can drag and pull managers into a proposal, but what’s really cool is that end clients will also have access to it. They’ll be able to access performance reporting on it and run 'what-if' scenarios on it, if the advisor wants to allow them that access.” If a client pulls it up, he or she will see the advisor firm’s brand, not the Envestnet logo, she says.
Envestnet spent the past year developing the new app and showed a sneak peak to clients at its conference in Chicago last month. “Two years ago, I don’t think I suspected Envestnet would even have an app,” says Hardwick. “I don’t think apps were even really that commonplace…you’ve got to pick your bets a little bit. For example, twitter. Is this something that we should be doing or is it not, is it weird if we do? You don’t want to be too out there. But this was one that I think was a bet worth taking and I’m 100 percent confident it’s going to be really well received because it’s super cool.”
The app itself will be free for Envestnet clients. The firm charges a fee on investor-client assets invested, with tiered pricing points for its a la carte menu of services: data aggregation, performance reporting and rebalancing, access to its mutual fund and ETF and separate accounts managers, etcetera.
Envestnet, which caters to independent broker/dealers and banks as well as RIA firms, has been on an acquisition tear, buying up three new firms in the past six months with money from it’s recent IPO. The acquisitions include Tamarac, Prima Capital and FundQuest. Hardwick says any future acquisitions would come in the compliance reporting tool department, though the firm could build an application internally as well. It already offers some compliance capabilities on its platform. Envestnet has depleted most of the capital from the IPO, said Hardwick, with just about $6 million to $7 million left.
The firm has 1,000 contracts with broker/dealers and banks, including 42 of the top 50 IBDs, as well as about 250 RIA clients.
Envestnet gets all its good ideas by listening very carefully to clients, says Hardwick. So what are they hearing from advisors now? They want liquid alternatives, she says. Everyone learned their lesson in the last downturn—so many got stuck in hedge funds with no way out. And so, Envestnet is coming out with a line of liquid alternatives in the next two or three weeks. The firm has been telling its clients about this new offering so they can tweak as needed.
“You never know. Sometimes advisors say they need something and then they don’t use it. It’s hard to say, but I do see it as a trend for sure.”
The firm’s next big challenge will be training the 20,000 advisors on its platform to get comfortable with the new user interface, she says. To develop the new one they literally filmed advisors using the old interface to see where they ran into problems so they could fix those problems.