The sixth annual TD Ameritrade Institutional Technology Summit, which recently concluded in Frisco, Texas, demonstrated that the company is still the leader in providing technology choice among RIA custodians. With 105 current VEO integration partners, the company offers a breadth of integration partners that rivals can only aspire to. TD Ameritrade is not resting on its laurels, however. As we shall see, it continues to develop and innovate in conjunction with its partners. Before we get into the latest developments, however, a little background is in order.
Over the last six or seven years, all of the major custodians have become somewhat more open to integrations with their technology vendors than they were previously, but no RIA custodian has embraced the open platform concept with the gusto that TD Ameritrade has.
As recently as 2008, RIA custodians offered limited, if any, third-party technology vendor integration. They viewed integration as the responsibility of the advisor, even though the evidence was clear that few advisors had the know-how to evaluate and implement platform integrations on their own. In late 2008, Fidelity announced WealthCentral, an integrated advisor workstation. Initially, it included CRM, financial planning, portfolio management/accounting and rebalancing software from third-party vendors, but there was only one provider for each software category (Fidelity has since increased the number of vendors participating in the offering).
In mid-2010, TD Ameritrade caused a stir in the industry when it announced its open architecture concept. The idea was to create an open application programming interface (API) that would allow any technology vendor, assuming it passed a screening for due diligence, compliance and security, to interface directly with VEO, the TD Ameritrade interface that the firm makes available to its advisor clients. Most industry experts were initially skeptical of the VEO Open Access concept, but it has proved to be a real boon for the company, for participating vendors and for advisors. The nine original vendors in the program have swollen in number to 105, and the company welcomes new partners.
The company’s approach to technology centers on three major themes: choice, flexibility and efficiency. For choice, TD Ameritrade offers a wide variety of providers for advisors to choose from. While it is true that not every integration is of the same caliber, there are many of very high quality. For vendors, particularly newer ones, there is an opportunity to integrate with a major custodian well before others will consider such a move. For TD Ameritrade and its advisors, perhaps the greatest advantage of VEO Open Access is that it creates an environment of collaboration and innovation that is currently unique among the custodial platforms. The company’s platform benefits not only from the creativity of its own developers, but also from the ideas of over 100 other FinTech companies.
A good example of its flexibility is the options that TD Ameritrade affords advisors in digital account on-boarding. Advisors can choose to launch DocuSign from within VEO. Assuming the relevant information already resides within VEO, the system will populate the fields within the TD Ameritrade forms and DocuSign will electronically send the forms to the client for their e-signature. TD Ameritrade also allows advisors to launch DocuSign from within a VEO integrated CRM system. In this case, the CRM would populate the forms. Under this scenario, advisors can add their own form to the digital envelope. DocuSign then sends the envelope to the client. Yet another option: Advisors can choose to use Laser App Anywhere to populate form fields with data fed through the CRM. The advisor then launches DocuSign from within Laser App to complete the process.
TD Ameritrade makes both DocuSign and Laser App available to its advisors at no charge, as do many other custodians. Where TD Ameritrade differentiates is by allowing advisors to use their own version of DocuSign to interface with TD Ameritrade. While advisors must bear the cost of their own DocuSign licenses under this option, it has the advantage of allowing advisors much more flexibility in the scope of forms, the scope of work flows, etc. The ability to customize DocuSign is particularly appealing to larger firms, or those looking to maximize automation.
A couple of years ago, TD Ameritrade began handing out VEO Integrated Awards to recognize a select group of key vendors and incentivize others to excel. MoneyGuidePro won the award for advisor satisfaction, based on a survey of over 1,200 TD Ameritrade advisors. Junxure Cloud won the Innovation Award for its deep two-way work-flow integration with TD Ameritrade. Riskalyze won the Newcomer Award for Autopilot, an automated digital asset management platform for advisors.
The ability to automate processes such as account opening, the ability to encourage vendors to improve the advisor experience through the VEO Integrated Awards as well as the VEO One dashboard discussed below are examples of ways that TD Ameritrade promotes advisor efficiency.