LPL placing heavy focus on technology improvements

ClientWorks, the company's adviser dashboard, is now available to more than 11,000 advisers, up from 500 this time last year

Aug 23, 2016 @ 4:41 pm

By Alessandra Malito

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To stay up to date with technological innovations, the independent broker-dealer LPL Financial is developing more tools for its new adviser dashboard and implementing smarter automation.

At last year's LPL Focus, the company's annual conference, LPL Financial said it intended to increase automation of its processes to 85% from 15% within the next few years. Victor Fetter, managing director and chief information officer at LPL, estimated that the number is somewhere in the 50-60% range now, including new tools for moving money, order entry and e-signatures.

“You're seeing an ecosystem of automation come together,” Mr. Fetter said during a phone interview.

ClientWorks, the company's adviser dashboard, is still in development, though it is now available to more than 11,000 advisers, the company announced at this year's conference held this week in San Diego. There were only 500 advisers on the platform this time last year. The dashboard was first announced in the summer of 2014, created to replace the company's former workstation, BranchNet.

ClientWorks includes tools such as Move Money, for monetary transactions, and a client management page to show advisers their books of business. Additional tools are expected to be made this year, including an account opening tool and integrations with client relationship management programs Salesforce and Redtail.

“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Jamie Cox, an adviser and managing partner at Harris Financial Group. “LPL has been building ClientWorks piece by piece.” It's all starting to come together, he said.

Still, the company has a long way to go, some say.

“LPL is trying to be relevant,” said Devin Carroll, an adviser at Carroll Investment Management. “They are willing to move and adapt.”

Change, however, is never easy, and they'll have to do a better job of it, he added.

“Until we can fix the communication of simple topics, I think it will be very difficult to roll out some of the complex technologies, and articulate how to use them,” Mr. Carroll said.

Advisers need help learning the technology currently available, he said. When he was beginning to use the tool to deposit checks remotely, it took numerous phone calls with various departments to figure out how to use the app. Mr. Carroll suggested the broker-dealer make training sessions available for advisers.

LPL executives highlighted their efforts to improve service to their clients during the company's annual conference held in San Diego this week. The broker-dealer is focusing more on providing technology and services to its 14,000 advisers, some say. There has been a 25% increase in staff answering phones and they are working on programs to track adviser questions and waiting time for advisers who call for help has dropped to 20 seconds from two minutes.

There are also opportunities for advisers to learn about technology updates, Mr. Fetter said. There is a monthly call to discuss the latest technology and a resource center with information and tips.

LPL's robo-adviser, called Guided Wealth Portfolios, will be available for all advisers in January. The company partnered with BlackRock's FutureAdvisor in April, though it originally announced a robo at last year's conference. Mr. Fetter said the robo-adviser's pilot program will be expanded in the fourth quarter.

“This shift we are seeing at LPL is really positive for the industry,” said Ross Gerber, president and chief executive of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth. “They are at the forefront of adapting their business model for what the future brings to our advisers.”

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