Industry veterans form tech integrator for advisers

Lori Hardwick and Michael Zebrowski introduce venture to improve advisers' fintech experience

Sep 6, 2017 @ 12:12 pm

By Liz Skinner

Financial advice industry veterans from Pershing and eMoney Advisor have joined forces to build a new firm aimed at providing the financial planning industry with the fintech integration solution it's been seeking.

A.I. Labs, which stands for adviser innovation, aims to provide the networking piece between advisers' technology systems so that firms can run their applications more efficiently.

The firm's founders, Pershing's former chief operating officer Lori Hardwick and ex-COO of eMoney Advisor Mike Zebrowski, recognize the recent explosion of financial technology offers advisory firms great opportunities to improve their business operations and to serve clients better.

But they've seen many advisers frustrated by how poorly their favorite systems communicate with each other and share data, thus limiting the benefits they're supposed to gain, such as increased productivity.

(More: In the future, advisers will be at clients' beck and call)

"We create a connective tissue around everything advisers depend on and add in a layer of touch to encourage engagement and make those systems create better outcomes," Ms. Hardwick, president of A.I. Labs, said in an interview.

The software from the pair's Bryn Mawr, Pa.-based firm is built to allow advisers to keep all the client-relationship-management, financial planning, portfolio management and other tools that firms have invested in, but to provide an adviser experience where planners don't have to make changes relating to clients and investments into multiple applications, she said.

For example, if a client's address changes, it will be updated within all the adviser's tools that incorporate that information.

"You can't keep adding on silos or you'll get lost in the fray," Ms. Hardwick said.

The software also is designed so that firms don't have to remain with any of its core tech pieces if they decide another product is better, she said.

(More: Custodians are charting fintech's future)

A firm could decide to swap out its planning software, for instance, for a different provider and the move won't lead to giant — and expensive — changes with other pieces of the firm's operational systems.

Ms. Hardwick left Pershing, a BNY Mellon company, in February, a year after joining the firm from adviser tech platform provider Envestnet, where she was a group president.

Mr. Zebrowski, CEO of A.I. Labs, left eMoney Advisor, now a Fidelity firm, in July 2016. Most recently, he was working for BizEquity, an online business valuation firm owned by a friend.

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