Carson Group platform gives investors financial planning choices

Clients will be able to choose robo or human advice, as well as some options in between

Jan 18, 2018 @ 7:00 am

By Jeff Benjamin

The Carson Group on Thursday announced a digital platform that is designed to offer investors the full range of financial planning services, from robo to human adviser.

The platform is made up of four-stages that allows clients to move from fully digital to a fully human adviser relationship. It follows the May 2017 launch of an automated dashboard and client-relationship management system.

"Today you have either 100% digital or an adviser experience," said Ron Carson, founder of the Carson Group. "With this system, there will be no friction to moving. We want the clients to be able to move up and down the spectrum, and we think this will be significant because people won't feel trapped."

The basic levels of service will include fully comprehensive investment and financial planning, financial planning only, investment planning only, and an all-digital experience with no face-to-face interaction with a human adviser.

The fees, which are not yet set, are expected to adjust as clients move up or down the spectrum.

"Ron Carson fundamentally understands where things are going," said Joel Bruckenstein, president of Technology Tools for Today.

In addition to the level of sophistication on the platform, Mr. Bruckenstein recognized the digital marketing benefits.

According to the Carson Group, since introducing the platform early last year, "$119 million in new account assets under management have been realized."

The announcement comes one year after Mr. Carson left his affiliation with LPL Financial and joined Cetera Financial Group.

At the time, Mr. Carson, who leads a company of 49 advisory partner firms and nearly $11 billion under advisement, cited subpar technology and services among the reasons for breaking away from LPL.

"LPL has become a dinosaur that was viewing rocket ships and just kept bringing in other dinosaurs, and dinosaurs only know how to interact with other dinosaurs," Mr. Carson said Wednesday.

Instead of doing what was in the "best interest of advisers so they could better serve their clients, their focus was on shareholder value," Mr. Carson added.

LPL, which is a publicly-traded company, did not respond to requests for comment.

If the goal was to send a message to his former broker-dealer that technology is a priority, that mission was accomplished, according to Eric Clarke, CEO of Orion Advisor Services, which works with 1,300 advisory firms that have more than $600 billion worth of advisory assets.

"Ron's platform is best in class; we haven't seen anybody at this level," Mr. Clarke said. "He was able to see this a few years ago and was able to make significant investments to build out this platform. Firms that don't have a plan like this are in trouble."

Carson Group chief operations officer Teri Shepherd said the company invested $52 million over the past five years "in our internal infrastructure, data warehouse and, most recently, in the development of new client-facing technology."

David Canter, head of the RIA segment at Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions, said the Carson digital platform is "engaging and makes the collaboration between investors and advisers seamless."

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