Start-up technology vendors have responded in full force to XY Planning Network's call for innovative adviser-focused financial software.
Six finalists with software for various adviser needs, including client prospecting and advising on student loans, have been chosen out of 18 entries, according to Alan Moore, co-founder of XYPN, an organization of advisers serving Gen X and Gen Y clients. Judges for the inaugural financial technology contest include XYPN's co-founder Michael Kitces, financial technology expert Bill Winterberg and Tom Kimberly, general manager of Betterment Institutional.
Finalists include: Snappy Kraken, a referral automation tool for advisers; RightCapital, a financial planning software provider; Totum Wealth, an analytics tool; DataPoints, a behavioral science analytics company; Ambitient, an adviser-client communications tool; and EFC PLUS, a student-loans program. All will get a booth at the network's annual conference in September and have the opportunity to introduce their software to attendees. One will be chosen the winner and receive promotional assistance for their idea.
While the goal of the contest is to fill the gap of innovative technology in the financial planning industry, it also aims to help start-up software providers get a leg up on the challenges new vendors often face.
"There are a lot of players out there that are doing interesting stuff and just struggling to break into the marketplace," Mr. Moore said. The financial services industry in particular could be hard to crack, because advisers are so hesitant to try new technology and marketing can be extremely expensive, he said.
These finalists are in touch with what advisers need, probably because a few of them have been deeply ingrained in the industry for many years. Michael Krol, the chief service officer at Waldron Private Wealth, created Ambitient, a software that compiles all the different ways advisers talk to their clients — text messages, emails, phone calls, etc. — onto an adviser application to better manage their communications.
Advisers who have clients with student loans may look to EFC PLUS to incorporate higher education into their financial planning. The software was created by Fred Amrein, founder of Amrein Financial and college funding expert, to manage three main facets of higher education: the decision (including cost) of which school to attend, what to do while in school and, lastly, the repayment process.
"There is no place that brings the personal financial issues to the college funding process," Mr. Amrein said.
One of the finalists is targeting marketing for financial advisers. Snappy Kraken, created by financial services marketing consultant Robert Sofia, was designed to offer advisers insight into referral generation and communicating their brand to potential clients. It will integrate with other third-party vendors in the industry, Mr. Sofia said.
Capitect, a client portal provider, and Life Xplorer, an app with templates for productive conversations with clients, received honorable mentions.
An additional judge will be added to help choose the winner at the conference, Mr. Moore said. Ben Welch, managing director of adviser business development and iRebal at TD Ameritrade Institutional, will join the list of judges for the competition in San Diego, Sept. 18-21.
The contest will come back next year, too, Mr. Moore said.
"All these firms want next gen software," he said. "They need better integrations and pieces of software."