Industry icon is enthusiastic about technology

Jun 15, 2014 @ 12:01 am

By Trevor Hunnicutt

Harold Evensky is an icon.

The co-founder of Evensky & Katz Wealth Management is an influential champion of the fee-only, planning-first business model that's increasingly shaped the way financial advice is delivered to mom-and-pop investors.

But you knew all that. What might be less well-known is the glee with which the 71-year-old is also an avid technologist. It's a trait that serves his business well but one that his colleagues have had to restrain, Mr. Evensky said.

“I'm the geek,” he said. “I see something interesting and I'm ready to do it tomorrow — they approach it in a much more businesslike manner than I did it in the past.”

Evensky & Katz won the InvestmentNews Best Practices award for being a top performer in technology last year, ranking ahead of all its competitors in that category. Top performers in the 2013 InvestmentNews Adviser Technology Study spent dramatically more than their counterparts on software, hardware and tech consulting. The study looked at 317 advisory firms.

The fast-changing technology infrastructure around RIAs presents constant new challenges to Mr. Evensky, his son, David, the management committee's point person on technology, and Christopher Snyder, who manages day-to-day technology operations.

There's no shortage of choices.

TECHNOLOGY REIGNS

When CRM provider Junxure launched a cloud-based version of its customer relationship management software last year, Evensky & Katz had to decide whether to embrace it.

In February, the firm also needed to decide what its options were when its financial-planning software provider, MoneyGuidePro, an-nounced a partnership with Yodlee, a data provider.

And what to do about the raft of vendors that claim to make it easier for advisers to be compliant on social media?

All that matters. But the biggest challenge with technology is often not the technology at all, but what to do with it.

Mr. Evensky's Coral Gables, Fla.-based firm has been wrestling with social media compliance, tracking and content, as well as the standards it uses for re-balancing portfolios.

The portfolio software it uses, iRebal, allows the firm to re-balance a number of different ways; for instance, it can do so differently for each asset class, choose whether to bring the market-distorted portfolios all the way back to their target allocation or just part of the way. Each of those choices comes with tactical implications for the investments and tax implications for the client.

“We just talked last week about perhaps contracting with a doctoral student to do some research and to think through where we should we go next,” Mr. Evensky said. “No matter what we do there's always something new out there that we have to look at.”

Still, certain advances like cloud computing are a natural fit for Mr. Evensky. He was an early advocate of cutting down on paper, after all. And he resisted buying a fax machine in the late 1980s because, “I just thought it was going to be generating more paper.”

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