Advisor technology was an area of focus again this year at Schwab IMPACT 2015, with the company unveiling enhancements of many of its advisor technologies.

Schwab also released results from its latest Independent Advisor Outlook Study (IAOS), which found that technology continues to grow in influence and importance at RIA firms. Sixty-one percent of advisors say changes in technology are having a greater impact on their firms than changes in client demographics. This view was even stronger among larger firms with AUM of more than $500 million, at 67 percent.

Sixty-eight percent of advisors see technology adoption as central to their operational strategy, allowing them to spend more time with clients and achieve firm growth, according to the survey. Client expectations also influence technology adoption, with 43 percent citing this as a driver, while 31 percent cite competitive necessity as a driver of technology adoption. In addition, the study found that staff members are spending more time interacting with clients (52 percent) and less time doing manual data entry or generating reports (43 percent). 

In regards to the company’s technology, Schwab announced incremental improvements to several advisor products and services. These included security enhancements to Schwab Advisor Center; enhancements to Schwab Alliance, the client portal for clients of Schwab advisors; eSignature enhancements; enhancements to the move money feature; and enhancements to the trading platform, including improved online fixed-income trading functionality and fractional share allocation capabilities that are due in December.

Schwab previewed PortfolioConnect, their next-generation portfolio management application scheduled for release in late 2016. Cloud-based PortfolioConnect is being built with a focus on three goals: to create operational efficiencies, to provide insights to advisors and to enrich the client experience, according to Schwab. To create efficiencies, the platform will do away with daily downloads and reconciliation. A customizable dashboard will provide all of the key information an advisor needs at a glance, with additional details a click away. This will include traditional portfolio information, as well as key portfolio and business metrics. A new dynamic client portal will be accessible online and through mobile devices. Graphs in both the advisor and client dashboards are interactive. You can scroll over for details in many cases.

We counted about 60 third-party technology vendors, a major increase from previous years. The vendors covered a wide range of advisor technology needs, including CRM, financial planning, portfolio management, rebalancing, enterprise content management, digital client offerings, client risk assessment tools and macro risk tools.

Tech vendors often use IMPACT as a platform for product or integration announcements, and this year was no exception. eMoney Advisor and Redtail announced the integration of web-based wealth management and CRM solutions. Orion announced a deal with WealthSite to launch the Orion Private Asset platform, which provides management and reporting for private assets. Chicago Clearing Corp. and InvestCloud announced a partnership to provide historical trade data, class-action settlement information and other data to InvestCloud clients. Quovo, a financial data science company, announced that they have become a Schwab Performance Technologies third-party data aggregation provider.