The LPL Difference: Integrated Technology Centered Around the Advisor
Technology is now the #1 reason advisors are joining LPL Financial. Why? Because LPL, the industry’s largest independent broker/dealer 1 and a leading RIA and RIA custodian, has focused on one goal: create a seamless digital experience for its 16,000+ advisors who, in turn, are now equipped to offer a more open, consultative experience to their clients.
In the past couple of years, the company has evolved ClientWorks, its advisors’ technology platform, to be more than just a suite of tools for wealth management. In fact, between 2018 and 2019 the firm will have invested $270 million to power its digital transformation.
The company’s approach to developing its technology offering focuses on building proprietary solutions that integrate with best-in-class third-party solutions. But it doesn’t stop there. When necessary, LPL has incorporated M&A into their plan, acquiring technology companies based on their ability to deliver differentiated capabilities. A recent example was their 2018 acquisition of fintech firm AdvisoryWorld, which now delivers award-winning proposal generation capabilities, risk scoring tools, and integration expertise to LPL advisors—all at no additional cost.
In the first of three interviews with AdvisorHub, Rich Steinmeier, managing director and head of business development for LPL Financial, explains how ClientWorks is the center of gravity for advisors’ practices, helping them to be more efficient so they can focus on their client relationships.
AdvisorHub: What role does technology play in advisors’ businesses today, and how is LPL helping advisors with that?
Rich Steinmeier: Technology should make it easier for advisors to manage their practices and help them build value with clients. ClientWorks is the backbone of our advisors’ practices. It brings systems together to provide the data they need, the histories of interactions, the ability to transact, the ability to develop financial plans, and the ability to act on those plans. The best technology connects all those disparate systems into something that makes the job of the advisor much more efficient. For us, that is a point of emphasis. We are integrating workflows that help advisors in every step of their core business activities: from prospecting and setting up a meeting, to developing a financial plan and opening an account.
Technology is vital to help advisors deliver a better experience to their clients. When they can save time on daily tasks, they can use that time to be in front of clients. And with access to data and insights, they have an opportunity to create better outcomes for investors.
AH: How can technology be a differentiator for firms? What do advisors expect from the technology that their broker/dealer, RIA or custodian provides?
RS: We are seeing clearly that technology is a differentiator for advisors.
Advisor businesses are more complex than ever. We support brokerage and advisory business, and along with those models, we are self-clearing and a custodian. We uniquely provide vertical integration that blends all of this together, making it easier for advisors to manage their practices, while staying relevant to address the needs of their clients.
It’s the firms that invest in and evolve their technology to meet the demands of the market that are positioned to be the most successful. And by that, I don’t mean tech for tech’s sake; I mean the development or acquisition of practical tools that make advisors better at what they do in their day-to-day practices. With our financial strength, we have the capital to invest in the solutions our advisors need. The $150 million we will spend on technology this year is going directly to key areas:
- Enhancing our advisory platforms
- Integrating more capabilities
- Continuously improving the platform’s speed, resiliency, and functionality.
And it’s paying off. We find advisors are very impressed when they experience ClientWorks and realize the capabilities it can add to their practice. Our technology is the #1 reason they give for joining our firm.
AH: How does ClientWorks technology accommodate advisors activities on a daily basis?
RS: Technology should work for the advisor, not the other way around. We’ve studied how advisors spend their time and how they uniquely run their businesses. We know each has their own preference on the systems they use. They may have an affinity for a particular financial planning software—be it eMoney Advisor or MoneyGuide Pro or something else. They run their practice on a preferred CRM—be it Redtail, Salesforce, or Microsoft Dynamics.
We then built our platform around those workflows, and designed the interface to be so simple and intuitive to navigate, that what used to take hours using various software tools, can be accomplished in minutes or seconds with one solution.
We offer the concept of curated choice, providing deep integrations with key technology partners that give them the freedom to choose the tools they believe best fit with their business. Advisors can either use a core offering in ClientWorks, or they can seamlessly integrate it with another third-party solution.
We also understand the power of the advisor-client relationship. That’s why we’ve given advisors the control and flexibility to shape the digital experience they bring to their clients.
AH: What are the hurdles involved with moving your business that are specifically technology related, and how are you helping advisors overcome them?
RS: Change can be challenging for advisors. As you move firms, you have to learn new technologies. The processes and workflows change. You have to learn new ways to do the core things you do every day. How do I find daily distributions? How do I find maturing securities and perform the normal activities that I perform day to day? We recruit more advisors than any other firm2, and our experience transitioning thousands of individuals and small businesses—each with their own unique needs—gives us an advantage in helping them navigate the challenges. To support onboarding of ClientWorks, we provide extensive training and resources to help them adopt the tools, systems, and capabilities that will power their business.
And we are using technology to simplify complex processes during the transition by having intuitive, straightforward, easy-to-use platforms. We help advisors map their products to our platforms and have tools to facilitate those conversions. We use technology to make repapering more efficient, and with our system, they can track their transition progress step by step. Individual components can make it easier for them and their clients, too. For example, e-signature is tremendously important in the transition. It’s one thing to change firms, and it’s another thing to change firms and have to set up a stack of mailings that may be two feet tall. E-signature makes it all digital and infinitely more efficient.
AH: Break it down for advisors: What can they do with your technology that adds value and how does that look and feel to them?
RS: Advisors can manage their practice through a fully integrated, end-to-end solution. You don’t have to go out and find the best-of-breed software tools, integrate those technologies, have multiple logins and then navigate through multiple portals and screens. You get a highly competitive workstation that evolves on an ongoing basis so that it continues to build value. You get deep integrations. You have embedded CRMs, embedded goals and proposal systems. You have everything you need to run your practice. If you want to run your practice differently and integrate other systems, we provide a curated choice. When you integrate Salesforce, it uses single sign-on and two-way data passage. You are not logging into one system, typing in all that information into Salesforce and then retyping it in to an account opening system. We have done the due diligence for you. We understand who the right partners are and who provides the best integrations. That’s where our technology teams spend their time—every day asking, “How do we make advisors better at their job?”
AH: What is your go-forward approach to technology development?
RS: Philosophically, we’ll build technology where we have intellectual property and where we think we can deliver a solution more efficiently and effectively than a solution that’s already available. We have the financial capacity to invest in solutions and firms if we see a great set of capabilities that fill a need.
When we acquired AdvisoryWorld, we integrated the proposal generation capabilities into our core platform, and made it available to our advisors in under 60 days. It would have taken months, if not years, to build those capabilities.
If we see opportunities to go quickly into the marketplace and to make a strategic acquisition, then we will do that. If we see that there is a potential partner already in the space, and advisors are already using them, we will engage with that partner and integrate them into our core offering.
We build technology for the future. The future is holistic wealth management, calling for robust advisory solutions and householding capabilities. And a more digitally-focused experience for investors. We are building a wealth management platform powered by technology, all to make advisors successful delivering the valuable advice their clients need.
Want to see what LPL technology can do for you? To view a demo of ClientWorks, visit www.JoinLPL.com/TechDemo.
Rich Steinmeier is the managing director and head of business development for LPL Financial – a Member FINRA/SIPC firm. www.JoinLPL.com.
1 Based on total revenues, Financial Planning magazine June 1996-2019
2 Discovery Database. Trailing 12 months as of May 31, 2019.