Although there be no 'In memoriam' before the keynote at this year's T3 Conference, this summer marked the quiet passing of the Silver Bullet.
Your Silver Bullet was an effort by software providers to play well together and make it easy for financial advisers to create a set of technology solutions for their firms. Providers realized that being part of an ecosystem of solutions is as much of a key “feature” than some isolated functionality within the software.
As an adviser, I always thought this was a great idea. With my inStream hat on, I also came to realize that, while great in theory, these point-to-point integrations have a shelf life. It is practically impossible to find a static technology solution that maintains its relevance for more than a few years.
As inStream seeks out potential integration partners, I frequently ask partners how we should effectively integrate with others. The most commons responses are:
• “Do not go down a list of providers and integrate with them on a one-on-one basis.”
• “Develop your own interface and let them integrate with you”
The first response implies that if we integrated with 25-plus providers, we would be welcoming a significant number of headaches. The phrase “pushing a string” came up a lot. This integration is difficult because we would have to account for our integration partners' new releases. This can create a weekly “whack-a-mole” workflow that manifests itself when an adviser calls the customer service desk to report a problem and the provider tells the adviser that the other party's new release is at fault.
As an adviser, I never cared for that response and usually stepped away from a potentially endless circle of calls and hoped that the issue would be magically resolved.
Although the second response is somewhat of an “I'm Moe Greene” type of answer, it sows the seeds of a new methodology for integration between vendors. Some vendors are taking this a step forward and aiming to be the interface for all vendors. Hence, if inStream wanted to integrate with 25 vendors, we could just integrate with a provider who has an open interface with everyone else and essentially be connected to them.
Redtail Technology is a significant innovator on this front. In addition to the integration benefits, information will flow freely and in real time between the systems.
Your Silver Bullet successfully achieved its stated desire.
Software vendors realized the importance of integration in a meaningful and measured manner. Many providers are now racing to this next phase. Any vendor with an open interface that allows it to be the integration hub to other vendors can potentially be an adviser's silver bullet. Many will attempt this and that is great news for advisers.
Alex Murguía is a managing principal at McLean Asset Management and chief executive of inStream Solutions LLC.