Pershing is partnering with Marstone, a company offering digital financial tools and services, to roll out a robo-advisor service designed to help advisors self-brand later this year, according to Pershing chief operating officer Lisa Dolly. Pershing is the largest clearing firm for independent broker-dealers and one of the largest clearing firms for RIAs.

The Marstone digital advice service will enable advisors to provide online advice and portfolios to clients under their own firms' brands. A second, far more customized variant of the service will be available several months later.

Dolly said the service came in response to clients who asked for an online solution to help them automate their businesses and compete with robo-advisors. "Automation is going to improve the productivity of advisors," she said. "There is a lot of emotion around the issue of digital advice, but advice is one small piece of the story. Technology is the real story."

Ron DeCicco, chief executive officer of Pershing, said the firm anticipates a shortage of advisors developing in the next several years as firms are overwhelmed by demands from retiring baby boomers at the same time many advisors themselves will start to retire. "Technology can help them fill the gap," he said.