Schwab tech starts to gain momentum

Jul 7, 2013 @ 12:01 am

By Davis Janowski

It is time for an overview of the latest updates and statistics regarding the Schwab Intelligent Integration initiative.

This was brought home two weeks ago following The Charles Schwab Corp.'s latest quarterly technology conference call held for the media and financial advisers (Tech Talk is how it is labeled).

After all, almost 7,000 advisory firms custody with Schwab Advisor Services. Although just a small minority of those firms use one of Schwab's multitudinous combinations of tech platforms, it is significant and growing.

And small is, of course, a relative term.

As of the end of May, 735 registered investment advisory firms were using some portion of the Schwab Intelligent Integration platform, representing $272 billion in assets under management. That was up from 440 firms and $115 billion in assets in November.

Most of this falls under Schwab's OpenView Gateway offerings.

Whether we are talking about the plethora of choices under the OpenView Gateway banner or the simpler-to-understand turnkey OpenView Integrated Office offering, the company continues to plug away at adding features and partners, and extending its integrations, though perhaps more slowly than some advisers might like.

And when it does come to the OpenView Integrated Office offering, implementations have in-creased, albeit in smaller numbers.

At the end of May, 71 firms were active on the platform — “on pace with expectations,” according to Schwab officials.

That number has increased from 40 in November.

PARTNERSHIPS

Several new Gateway partnerships were announced during the call. Among them were Tamarac's Advisor Rebalancing application and two popular financial planning apps, MoneyGuidePro from PIEtech Inc. and NaviPro Planning Suite from Zywave Inc. (formerly EISI).

The addition of Tamarac's Advisor Rebalancing app means that advisers who use the custody services of Schwab will be able to access real-time data on those assets from within the app.

Also announced was that in the months ahead, Tamarac will integrate with Schwab's new web trading platform to provide advisers with more-fluid online account-level trades, as well as the ability to block trades and allocations.

As Schwab has been doing all along with its platform developments, integrations are being rolled out in stages. Initial integrations with the two financial planning providers will center on bringing in client profile and account data, including balances and positions.

Just to help advisers unfamiliar with the Schwab ecosystem: Schwab Intelligent Technologies is the subsidiary that builds and maintains the OpenView Gateway portions of Schwab's adviser offerings.

The turnkey offerings referred to as Schwab OpenView Integrated Office are fully outsourced and hosted for advisers, and are the responsibility of the Schwab Performance Technologies business unit, which is also responsible for the PortfolioCenter app. About 3,700 firms use this long-lived program.

And this most recent announcement follows on the heels of SPT announcing availability of a fully hosted version of PortfolioCenter in May. Early indications point to a large amount of interest in the service offering by advisers.

Among the features announced most recently, Schwab is including in its immediate-integration multicustodial views for firms using PortfolioCenter Hosted. If these prove deep enough, it will be one more reason for firms to keep using the technology and not switch to something more modern.

The full OpenView Integrated Office platform includes as its central hub a highly customized version of Salesforce.com, tailored to function in tandem with PortfolioCenter — in other words, customer relationship management and portfolio management that are completely outsourced, and hosted and maintained for the adviser in the cloud.

OPENVIEW GATEWAY

Meanwhile, over on the OpenView Gateway side of things, Tamarac's re-balancing app, MoneyGuidePro, and NaviPro Planning Suite are just the latest additions. Others include the CRM apps Junxure, Salesforce.com and Salentica (a Microsoft Dynamics-based CRM offering).

In addition to PortfolioCenter, other partner offerings available on the OpenView Gateway include two from Advent Software Inc.: Advent Portfolio Exchange (better known as APX) and Black Diamond. This was probably a smart move, as more than 1,700 firms continue to rely on the legacy (if not ancient) Advent Axys portfolio management system.

For many firms, APX or Black Diamond will be the first option to consider in terms of migrating from Axys when they realize they must update their programs.

Schwab has begun a pilot for the earliest round of integrations with Black Diamond, which is supposed to extend availability of custodial data that will include intraday information and operational alerts.

I have yet to explore the extent of those data and the alerts, but it is a start, no matter how shallow.

Finally, beginning this month, Schwab will start rolling out a web trading platform with a largely new order entry interface and modular dashboards that are meant to provide advisers with quick access to research and somehow tie in the impact of potential trades.

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