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Advice Architects Ep. 3 with Craig Iskowitz

All for One and None for All: Finding the Center of the Advice Stack

Responsive AI
October 3, 2022

Every financial advisory firm today faces the same challenge: building a tech stack that meets the needs of advisors and delivers the client experience integral to their brand. Almost invariably, this becomes a project of assembling a variety of software and tools that need to play well together and form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.Easier said than done.

 

In this episode of Advice Architects, we speak with Craig Iskowitz, CEO of Ezra Group and one of the most respected voices in wealthtech, about his thoughts and insights on all-in-one technology platforms, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, portfolio management and financial planning tools, data warehousing, and APIs.

 

All-in-one tools can be great platforms for advisory firms, but only if they understand their needs and how they will use the technology before purchasing it. Understanding a software application’s capabilities and how well it can be integrated with other tools in the tech stack is so critical that Iskowitz has launched a new service dedicated to measuring the wealthtech integration score of almost 300 software applications.

 

CRM software is commonly a foundational layer of the wealth tech stack and this makes sense because of the importance of advisor-client relationships in the wealth advisory business model. Though, Iskowitz cautions that placing portfolio management systems at the center of the advice stack may be an impediment to building more holistic advice models.

 

No conversation about the modern wealthtech stack would be complete without a mention of data and the importance of freeing that data from the software silos that currently constrain its usefulness.Listen to the full episode to hear who Iskowitz thinks has solved the data challenges in wealth management. (Hint: no one.)

 

You can find the full episode below or you can also listen on Apple or Spotify.

For more information about Craig Iskowitz, you can find him on LinkedIn, or check out Wealthtech Today and the Ezra Group website.

 

For more information on Responsive AI’s solutions for advice providers, contact us.


Day Wachell:

Welcome to Advice Architects, episode three, titled All for One and None for All: Finding the Center of the Advice Stack.This is Dave from Responsive and today we are speaking with Craig Iskowitz, CEO of Ezra Group, a wealth tech focused business and technology strategy firm. Craig has a staggering amount of advice in investment systems work under his belt and always brings sharp and incisive thinking to conversations on the category.

Welcome to Advice Architects and good afternoon, Craig.

 

Craig Iskowitz:

It is an honor and a pleasure to be here today. Thanks for inviting me.

 

Day Wachell:

Wonderful. At the start of the show, we do our Advice Architects questionnaire. It's like the Proust questionnaire. So I'll just jump into these questions. What's your job title and what do you actually do?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

I am founder and CEO of Ezra Group. What I do is basically everything. We're a growing company, we're in startup mode, we're hiring people. So I have to do just about everything from strategy, products, to sales, to delivery, everything about consulting is thinking on your feet and trying to keep the customers happy, and delivering fast, and delivering value. That's basically what I do.

 

Day Wachell:

And how long have you been doing that for?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

I started Ezra Group 17 years ago, but I've been a consultant for 24 years.

 

Day Wachell:

When and where were you happiest in a FinTech or WealthTech experience? What is your greatest show or moment?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

Oh, happiest right now.

 

Day Wachell:

Wonderful.

 

Craig Iskowitz:

We just launched our Ezra Group Integration Score. So, really happy about that. It's our first research product, just launched let's say Wednesday, yesterday, which you can find at ezragroupllc.com. This is exciting.

 

Day Wachell:

Oh, congratulations on that.

 

Craig Iskowitz:

Thanks, man.

 

Day Wachell:

Final question. Why do you care aboutWealthTech? Why do you think advice and wealth are important for regular folks?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

Well, my parents never had an advisor and they were led astray by some pretty unscrupulous agents and brokers who didn't really have their best interests in heart. They bought insurance policies and other investments that were not very fruitful for them, to say the least. So I learned from a young age that you really need to have good advice. Some people can do it on their own. I have a major in computer science, not finance, so people need help and they need to be able to rely on someone to guide them through these very complicated parts of their lives. So I felt WealthTech... I mean, I was in financial services for over 30 years in general, but moved intoWealthTech in 2005 when I started Ezra Group. And it seemed like a great part of financial services to focus on.

 

Day Wachell:

That's a deep story. Many firms face a challenge of how to build, buy or compose an advice stack using core software and integrated tools. And depending on the shape and size of the firm, there can be good answers to how to solve that problem.

 

Today, I wanted to have a conversation that reveals the value for advisors and advice firms behind technologies like all-in-ones, CRMs, data warehouses, APIs. We often focus on the Lego blocks we plug together, but our advisor users just need solutions that create value for them and their clients.

 

So for the first question, all-in-ones promise to be the ultimate solution for advisors, and then they claim that integrations can solve any potential gaps. What are the advantages and disadvantages of all-in-ones?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

Well, Day. You've thrown a lot of different technology there together. Let's break it apart and talk about wealth management technology specifically. In wealth management technology an all-in-one is usually centered around portfolio management and also has billing, reporting portfolio, rebalancing, trading, new client onboarding.That's usually what we refer to as an all-in-one.

 

Then all-in-one, some all-in-ones also haveCRMs built in, but not all of them. That's actually relatively rare at the moment for all-in-ones to have CRMs. Although you do see more of those with broker dealer all-in-ones, broker deal platforms do tend to build more of their own CRMs. So if you're looking at portfolio management, everything around the investment-centric part of wealth management firm, whether they're an enterprise RIA or a broker dealer, or a bank wealth division, that's really all-in-one.

Now, also there are all-in-ones that now offerTAMP services, so, Turnkey Asset Management Platforms. Firms like Envestnet, Orion and Morningstar have technology for advisors as well as outsourced asset management services. So, we don't necessarily include that in all-in-one, but there are a number of all-in-ones that also have TAMP services.

 

The question is, which one is better? We'll compare all-in-ones versus best-of-breed around running a wealth management firm. Is it better to buy one vendor that has a lot of capabilities or numerous vendors that have differing capabilities and you put them together? The answer is there is no right answer because every firm is different, every client has a different need. They have different capabilities, they have different history, they have different businesses, they have different technology capacity and support.

 

So, in general, wealth management firms that have very strong technology teams are more likely to succeed at a best-of-breed solution because they can handle the integrations. They can support them. And then they'll be able to deal with the integration issues. Whereas wealth manager firms that don't have as strong a team will struggle when it comes to best-of-breed because integrations never work as well as the vendors say they do. We always like to joke, if the vendor integrations worked half as well as they said they worked, we'd be out of a job, and we're still working doubly hard.

 

Now, we threw in a couple of things, the all-in-ones, CRMs, data warehouses, APIs. So, APIs are not mutually exclusive or required in any of these tools, but all these tools will have APIs. So, an API runs underneath everything and allows these systems to talk to other systems. So, a firm like in Envestnet has something called Open ENV. That is their API stack that they can then give access to partners and clients to build on top of their platform. Now, they don't offer a data warehouse capability yet, and most all-in-ones in the portfolio management, wealth management space do not offer data warehousing. They may have a data warehouse internally, but they'll offer a data warehouse like a Snowflake or other types of tools. That's really another separate piece of tech that you won't really see in all-in-one, at least not in our space.

 

Day Wachell:

You mentioned that integrations are good, bad and definitely ugly. What are the categories or types of integrations that you're seeing are working well and successfully for advisors? And then which ones are really breaking down and leaving something to be desired?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

Another good question. It's hard to say. AtEzra Group Integration Score, we scored 234 vendors and all of their integrations, and integrations went from zero to 50 or so, or 60 or 70 integrations. So you're talking about 1300 integrations. So 1300 integrations that we reviewed and scored. There's a wide variety of them. There's no ones that are working better or not better. The ones that we approve of have better security, better authentication, better documentation and better developer tools. So those ones we like to work with.

Day Wachell:

Is there a large blind spot or risk or something categorical you can say about all-in-ones and their thinking and your thinking?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

In general, in many categories of advisor tech and WealthTech, there's a couple of blind spots and we work with a lot of...Half our clients are FinTechs. They come to us for product management, product strategy, product roadmap, competitive analysis, client segmentation. And I found a big blind spot in many firms is they think they have a unique solution, that their solution is going to change the world. And in our space, it's hard to do that. I wrote an article two or three years ago now called 50 Portfolio Management Platforms Can't All Survive, but there's 50. Now, I expanded, I grabbed some international ones that maybe don't play in our space so much and maybe some trusts, so like maybe 40, really. 50 was a better number. Even just40, how can they all survive? How many different ways to do portfolio management are there? There aren't that many ways.

 

It's very expensive to change portfolio management platforms. I was talking to a broker dealer just before this call and they said, "What would it take for us to switch platforms?" And I said, it's almost impossible because the differences between the platforms is very small and the cost to change platforms, now that also goes not just portfolio management, financial planning or CRM, almost any tool that's really embedded into your company, it's very expensive to change and inertia's a powerful force.

 

So, the blind spot is, "Hey, we're going to come up with a new portfolio management platform. It's going to be great.It's going to change the world. Everyone's going to run to our door to buy it." They get crickets because, number one is, it's hard to differentiate in portfolio management, rebalancing, trading... In our space, right? If you're talking about high frequency trading, you're talking about trading very specific securities, that's different and that's something wealth management does. Wealth management is ETFs, mutual funds, stocks in general. That's pretty straightforward and pretty vanilla in most cases.

 

So, the blind spot is, what they have is so great, everyone's going to want it. Or another blind spot is whatever market we're in now, the other market's better. So, "If we're selling to RIAs, we've got to sell to broker dealers or vice versa. We're selling the big enterprises, how do we sell to small firms? And that's what we have to do. All we need to do is just change the product a little bit, and boy, we'll be doing great in this other market." And it's rarely the case. We spent 18 months with a vendor that had huge market share in the broker dealer space because they didn't know what an RIA was or how they worked or how their workflows were, their processes, different applications that they have to integrate with.So there's really a lot there. Those would be the blind spots, I'd say, a lot of vendors have.

 

Day Wachell:

Many advisors use a CRM at the center of their workflow. Thinking of different kinds of users and businesses, why is this a good idea?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

It's a great idea for the firms that are ingrowth mode, they're sales focused, they want to grow. And that could be any size firm. We've seen firms from solo practitioners who are looking to grow quickly and do a lot of prospecting and spend a lot of time in the CRM to multibillion, mega billion RIAs that are piggy-backed and they're buying up smaller RIAs. Every month, they're buying a couple of them and integrating them in. So being focused on your CRM is a good thing because it keeps you in touch with your clients. It keeps you in touch with what your clients want and interacting with them. So the more time they spend in the CRM, the more time they spend interacting with their clients and updating their CRM to keep track of what's important to their clients, then we find that to be a good solution.

We're seeing more integrations with CRM and other tools, things like portfolio management and financial planning. So you go into the CRM on the client's profile, you could see their risk score. You could see their probability of retiring on time. You could see their total household portfolio value, which saves a lot of effort. Switching, swivel chairing, as we call it. Swivel chairing back and forth to different applications. The more robust tools like Redtail have very strong workflow capabilities. So being in your CRM as the center means your company will be more efficient if you use the workflows, things like client onboarding, client terminations, money movement, change of address. You have a workflow for that. You won't make a mistake, nothing falls through the cracks. You always know the status of everything.That's a good solution that way.

 

And if you're using an enterprise tool like aSalesforce or Microsoft Dynamics, you can build more into it, like you can open new accounts from the CRM and it'll kick off other workflows, talk to other systems and such. So lots of good ideas why you'd want to use CRM at the center.

 

Day Wachell:

Okay. Now let's take the other side of the coin. Thinking of different kinds of users. Is there a reason centering on the CRM could ever be a bad idea? Or is there any risk in that, both for bucket shop users and enterprise users?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

I don't think it's ever a bad idea. There's no right or wrong way to run your firm. If you have a bad CRM or if it's implemented poorly or you put bad data in it, you don't use the workflows, yeah, then it's bad because you're not really getting the value. We see lots of companies that don't clean their data. We have a data assessment and a data cleaning service at Ezra Group. And we find firms in their CRM data, especially if they're older firms that have merged a number of times, their data will be so messed up. It's what we call noisy. Lots of mistakes. People's names entered five different ways. Security types enter different ways. Names of security, names of addresses, all different spelling. So all those things are a problem.

 

Day Wachell:

So data is a big risk, data quality, data currency. Are there any other risks that live in and around the CRM?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

Any application, there are risks. Any technology, there's risk. If you implement it poorly, there's risks, especially with the larger tools or larger technologies like a portfolio management platform. There's significant risks if you implement it poorly, you don't do planning. We do a lot of work planning with clients to implement their systems, whether they're financial planning, software, CRM, portfolio management or other tools. We're a ‘measure it twice, cut once’ kind of firm. Many firms don't think that. "Let's just go, just install it. Let's just get it going." But we have a client now, a $10 billion RIA, they wanted a CRM."Let's just go." Well, that's a bad idea because what is it going to integrate with? What are you using it for, you mentioned for it? We were just talking about all the things you could use a CRM for.

 

They need to know what they want to do with their CRM before they just start installing it, training people and building on it. You want to think about it a little bit and decide how you want it to work.Is it going to be the center of your life or will the tool be at the center? Are you more of a financial planning led firm where the advisor spend more time in the financial plan? Are you a holistic firm, you have other services you offer? And other tools, would you want to integrate them to the CRM, or is the CRM just one piece of the puzzle? Do you break up your advisors into hunter gatherers and farmers? Some firms do that where some people are just out the reselling and some are just managing. So they have very different roles and they spend time in very different systems.

 

It's definitely risky if you're buying software and you don't know why you're buying it, or you don't know what you're going to do with it when you buy it and you haven't thought about. It all comes back again to integrations. What are integrating it with? What can it integrate with? What capabilities does it have? I heard a good phrase that many wealth management firms, and I'm sure other firms as well, have a limited capacity for change. So they're going to change something and be really thoughtful about it because you can't only change so much so quickly before people either get pissed off, become less productive. Those are the risks in bringing in new software and not thinking enough about it.

 

Day Wachell:

Absolutely, absolutely. So on the topic of change, as the world changes and we see more innovation and so on and advice stacks evolve, how do you think the role of CRMs will change and what opportunities and risks are there?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

Well, I like to see all applications become better integrated and that's one of the reasons why we launched our Ezra Group integration Score. One is to make integrations more transparent. Something we find a lot of is that no one knows what they do. No one really knows integration, between the applications. It's not clear. The websites, if we're lucky we have a bunch of logos, they don't tell you what data transfer moves back and forth. Is it bidirectional? Is it one way? Is it just a single sign on? So we're trying to push for more transparency in integrations.

 

So, the CRMs should be able to change by connecting more places, becoming more of a dashboard, making it easier to dashboard out things for advisors, whether it's exception-based work. Are we saying, "Here's the things you have to do today." Providing next best actions. "Here are the clients you should call in this order, we've done analysis on that. We have an AI that's supporting that. CRMs should become more robust. Instead of being just a passive tool, "Hey, look at me and tell me what you want." More of, "Here's what you should be doing."

 

Day Wachell:

Okay. It's an interesting thought for my business. Data's become the new holy grail. What value can advisors find in the data? What's the treasure buried deep within?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

Yes, data, it's also the new oil. It's not the holy grail itself, it's the way you get to the holy grail. It's the path. Having data helps you get to the holy grail of being a holistic wealth management firm that has lots of happy clients. That's the holy grail. So advisors can find lots of value, and we've done a series of data webinars talking about data in wealth management. There's so many different ways. And again, back to what I was talking about, taking the data and then being able to use it in ways that provide value to advisors and helps them make better decisions. In the past, data was in a silo like financial planning data is in the financial planning tool. CRM data is in the CRM tool. Portfolio management data, it's in the portfolio management tool. Why? Because we've always done it that way, that's why. But there's no reason why there should be three separate silos of data. It should be in one place, or at least being passed into one place like a data warehouse, like a Snowflake or other tools that can organize it better and find information and also give you advice.

 

For example, I want to be able to go through all of my clients and see which ones are missing a financial plan, which ones haven't updated their plan in 10 years, which ones are not following their plan. Those types of things are what I want to know from my data or when I'm looking at clients, which of my clients rolled over a CD, which of my clients changed jobs. I shouldn't have to go to LinkedIn every day and look that up, the CRMs just tell me: this client changed job, this client's getting married, this client had a kid, this client... I should know all these things and it should alert me. "Hey, this client's just going to be 62 and a half soon." What does that mean? You've got to call them. This client's turning50. They need to catch up contributions. All these things, the system should be much more active and much more proactive in telling advisors what they should do next to help them improve their practice.

 

Day Wachell:

So, consolidated data helps us see more, know more, do more. We have actions we can do that are going to drive business and make our clients happier. That's the holy grail, I guess, is better business.We all know that data and machine learning and all this stuff is super challenging for businesses to execute on. What are the risks for firms in their data quest and what are some anti-patterns to maybe avoiding those risks?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

Risks around data? Huge. A lot of it's in data cleanliness and data optimization. So we do, as I mentioned earlier, data assessment service for enterprise firms, looking at all the data they're using, all the upstream sources, all the downstream consumers and looking for things like, do you have duplicates? Do you have duplicate sources, especially firms that are merging, that are the creation of many mergers and acquisitions, often have multiple layers of data sources coming in that do the same thing. Or they have systems that can provide data, they don't even know it. They're paying fora separate source when vendor X they've already paid for has that data as well. That takes some time. Got to really look at these things. You have to look at all the systems, look at what they can do and then dig deep. So that's a risk if they don't know that.

 

Another risk is not having backups, backup data sources, rather. So you've got certain data providers. If you don't know who the backup is, you don't know when they're available or what they can offer, we talk about a gold, silver, bronze. The gold source is the primary, then silver, what do they offer? Is it a subset? Is it a cross-section? What can they provide when they have to go to them and I have to back-fill my data, no matter what happens to be.

 

So when it comes to those things, those are our risks. Not having one person in charge of your data is a risk. We find a lot of firms have the data, a chief data officer, but that role is spread out across 10 people, each one is a little bit of it. Or they have data officers and people in charge of data under the CTO or CIO of each different business unit and they don't talk to each other. So that is a risk in that you're not taking advantage of your data very well. Each unit does their own thing and doesn't talk.

And again, on the product side, if you are a large enterprise wealth firm, you need someone looking at your technology and besides the CTO, but looking at it from the advisor's point of view. The CTO is going to look at it from the tech point of view, but someone's got to think about the advisor's experience and what did they need and then present that information. So now, what data do we have? What data do we need to get? Or what do we need to reorganize in order to deliver this particular value to our advisors, whatever that may be? Because advisors all talk, they know what's available to other firms and they're constantly shifting. So you need to stay on the top of things. You need to stay on the cutting edge. You need to provide them with the most value possible. There's a lot of risks when it comes to those types of projects, more about not knowing what data you have and what data you need.

 

Day Wachell:

This is an off-the-cuff question, but have you seen a firm big or small that really you feel nailed that problem and really has things firing on all cylinders to date?

Craig Iskowitz:

No.

 

Day Wachell:

Okay.

 

Craig Iskowitz:

For firms that are good, but they're not firing on all cylinders.

 

Day Wachell:

Okay. What are some of your good ideas forgetting value or staying focused or for walking the walk on data?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

There's lots of them. As I mentioned earlier, you've got to do a strategy. You've got to think about it. You've got to come up with a reason why you want your data, what you want to do with it. Who's in charge of it, how often are you checking it? All those types of things are important for understanding, for being able to take advantage of your data. There's so much there. You have to think about, also, do you want to insource or outsource? Are we going to build our own data team or are we going to hire people to do that? Which is better for us? Is this part of our core value statement? How long will it take us to get the speed? Do we have the capabilities as leadership to manage this? So there's lots of questions. We work with a firm called SoftLab360 and they do predictive analytics as a service.

 

So you don't have to build your own data team.You don't have to build your own IML. You just have to provide the data and the questions. And SoftLab360 will say, "Okay, now you gave us the questions, now we have the data. We're going to clean it, organize it, set it up properly so that we can now answer those questions for you, and just pay as you need it." Just like we see all these other cloud-based services, predictive analytics and AI are becoming cloud-based services where you can just pay for what you need and not have to build it yourself. But that decision has to be made.Some firms do have their own data teams because they know enough about data to incorporate it into the value processes and be a differentiator that way. Not everyone can do that.

 

Day Wachell:

Okay. You've been a very vocal proponent and obviously done some work with integration score of vendors making APIs available and transparent. Can you speak about why this is so important and howAdvice Architects and indeed advisors benefit from this virtue?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

We've spent about six months working on our integration scoring, methodology and testing it and gathering the data. So we're really pretty deep into this. The reason why it's important is because of all the things you talked about. How are we going to make wealth management technology better for advisors? One way to do that is make it seamless, make it a seamless experience across applications. I would like to be that there'd be no difference between best-of-breed and all-in-one for firms. They can just plug them in like Lego blocks and go. I don't have to worry about my Lego blocks not fitting together. They just plug into it together. But if I had Lego blocks and Lincoln logs, they're not going to fit together really well. My building's going to fall apart very quickly. And that's what we've got. We've got Lego blocks and Lincoln logs and having the APIs available and transparent and documented and supported turns us all into Lego blocks, at least closer toLego blocks.

 

So, if you have those available, as a consultant, we need to know this stuff. If we're building software or building integrations, the more data we can gather without having to call the vendor, the better. Because vendors have limited resources, and they're going to give those resources to their best clients. How do they scale? By providing that to these systems to be self-running. Just give me the data, give me a sandbox, give me sample code and I'll just run with it. And you get paid. Oh, you're going to get paid either way, but better that you get paid without having to have a developer sit with my developer for a couple weeks to make these APIs work. And a lot of vendors, that's how their APIs work. They don't even use them, they're only for external.

 

That's the other thing we call eating your own dog food. The best FinTech vendors use their own APIs for their internal systems. So when they're building it, built on their own API so they know they all work. They've called them. They know they're responsive. They know the errors. I can't tell how many times we hear from a client who said, "I tried to use the API, this vendor, and it didn't work." Then I called the vendor. They go, "Oh, we've never tested that one. We never used it. We don't even know what it does." Happens all the time. And the developer's got to go in. He's got to fix stuff. He's got to go check it. That's costs, that's a big cost for a FinTech firm to get a developer off of whatever he or she was doing. And fix one problem for one vendor one-on-one, not scalable.

 

Day Wachell:

On that thread, do you have any advice for vendors out there thinking about building an an API? Should they, and how should they? What advice do you give to vendors on how they can do better and how they can address the problem of which APIs to build and how to build them?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

There's so many tools out there for that. I don't even know where to start. If you're looking for APIs or how to do APIs, it's all online. You can do a web search and find out, but there's a lot of places that will also give you best practices are on APIs. We've got some of that on our website as well as ezragroupllc.com. It's all about being transparent, publishing all your APIs publicly. Don't hold them back. It's nota trade secret. Just put them out there. It's only going to be better for you, trust me, that you have them out there.

 

I was telling the story on another podcast about Google Maps. Now Google Maps, when it first came out, wasn't that successful. Some people used it, but not too many. Wasn't going over so well. What made it really popular was when they opened up their APIs because a couple people started to hack it and build their own stuff on top of it. Now, many firms who aren't Google would say, "Hey, we've got to shut those guys down. They're using our stuff. Shut them down." Google said, "Hey, wait, these guys have got a good idea. Look what they're doing. We should just give them the APIs. Let them build whatever they want." Then Google Maps became this tremendous product not because... It's also good, but because of the APIs allowed all these people to build on top of it, city crime maps or travel maps, or all kinds of stuff.

 

And that's the same way in our industry that the more you open up, the more successful you be. But we've always been closed. Many vendors are always, have been closed. "We don't want you to touching our APIs. It's a trade secret," we hear one vendor tell us, "we can't tell you." Like, "You crazy? Trade secret, your APIs? We know what you do. You're a portfolio management vendor. You're going to make a trade, you're going to open up an account, you're going to... That's your model.That's it. There's nothing proprietary about that. Just give the APIs out and you will be better off."

That's what we're really trying to push. And there are some folks still pushing back and we're telling, "Look, you don't want us to score you? You get a zero." "Oh wait a minute, wait a minute. That's horrible. Let me tell you. We can do something there."That kind wakes them up, but that's a mindset we have to break free. And we're not charging for these scores. We're giving them away free, one, because it's marketing for us, partly. We want to bring in more business, but also we want to help the industry a bit and show people, "Hey, this is what you can do with this stuff," and get the vendors on board.

 

Day Wachell:

Awesome. Well, we're going to take that to heart and I'm going to get our dev team to get some documentation up and online by mid-September. So we'll put it into practice here.

 

Craig Iskowitz:

Awesome.

 

Day Wachell:

We always end the episode with a deep question, deep philosophical question. What is the true center of an advice stack?

 

Craig Iskowitz:

That's your deep philosophical question? I thought you were going to say, "What's the meaning of life?" I mean, what are we here for? What's our purpose? Why are apples round? Why are whales so big? That's a deep philosophical question. The center of the advice stack? What is the center? There is no true center of the advice stack, Day. Everyone's different. We have two or three different centers. One is CRM for sales-focused advisors. And one is venture planning for financial planning-focused advisors in general. And the other one is the portfolio management system for investment-centric advisors. So we kind of have those three areas that are the center of most firms' advice tech, and there's no right or wrong answer.

 

I would push people away from the portfolio management as the center because I think advisors do themselves an injustice by being portfolio management or investment management centric. Rather, they really should be more holistic. I'd like to see a super tool that combines everything in one. Why do I have to go to different people for... My CPA, I have to go to a CPA for taxes, I have to go to a trust attorney for the trust,I have to go to an insurance agent for insurance policy. I have to go to an advisor for investments, a planner for planning. Why isn't it all in one place? It should be one place, not necessarily one guy, but one firm should have all that stuff. I don't have to worry about being the quarterback of my own financial life. You should have all that. I'd like a new application to be the center of the advice stack, which is the all-in-one super app. I need a super wealth management, not even all-in-one, everything in one.

 

Day Wachell:

Thank you. Well, it was really great talkingto you today. Appreciate you taking the time and the thoughtful answers. Really great conversation. Always love talking to you. Thanks so much for being here today. Appreciate it.

 

Craig Iskowitz:

Yeah. Happy to, man. Thanks. You've helped me out. You've been on our webinars and we really appreciate that, so I'm happy to reciprocate.

 

Day Wachell:

Today we talked to Craig Iskowitz about some of the core technologies and ideas behind an advisor tech stack. Craig said all-in-one solutions can be a powerful tool for some businesses, but to think carefully about your specific needs and likely usage when making a decision. Craig was bullish on the CRM being at the center of the advice tech stack, because it keeps you focused on clients and advisor-client interactions. Yet he sounded a cautionary note about the risk of buying CRM software or any software without understanding what you're buying and how it fits with other tools in use at your firm.

 

Under the same logic, he said it's important to understand exactly what integrations are doing and how well they work beyond just seeing a nice logo on the vendor's website. In our discussion of data,Craig confirmed my view that data at wealth advisory firms is over-siloed and most firms are still struggling to get a better structural handle on it. When data can be organized and shared across the firm, then CRM and other tools likeNext Best Action can be more proactive in telling advisors what they can do to improve their advice and client outcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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