Fidelity and Lincoln collaborate on custom technology suite

Lincoln Financial Network has moved all of its clearing business to Fidelity, and will partner with the firm on fintech developments

Nov 29, 2017 @ 4:31 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

Fidelity's investment on adviser technology is starting to pay off.

Over the last three years, Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions has collaborated with Lincoln Financial Network on a custom-built technology suite for Lincoln's retail advisers. During that time, Lincoln has rolled out 30 new enhancements and products to advisers to digitize sales and client-services processes.

The latest, which Lincoln will announce Thursday, is an automated account opening tool that lets clients digitally open new accounts, fill out required forms and sign with an e-signature. The tool is integrated with the adviser's CRM to automatically add or update client information.

Lincoln president David Berkowitz said the company also has plans to work with Fidelity on a robo-adviser.

The technology partnership also solidifies a long-term commitment by Lincoln to Fidelity's clearing business. While the broker-dealer previously worked with both Pershing and Fidelity, Lincoln is moving 100% of its clearing to Fidelity.

"Our objectives and our strategy could best be supported by Fidelity," Mr. Berkowitz said.

He said Lincoln completed its conversion in September. Without giving details on assets or accounts, Mr. Berkowitz said his firm previously had 40% of its overall business with Pershing. According to InvestmentNews' broker-dealer data center, Lincoln Financial Network had $24.3 billion in assets under management at the end of 2016.

Mr. Berkowitz said he took the better part of a year deciding on a development partner for Lincoln's technology platform. While Lincoln already had a 30-year relationship with Fidelity, what ultimately tipped the scales, Mr. Berkowitz said, was Fidelity's commitment to data aggregation and supporting tight integration between various technology tools.

"We wanted to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace," Mr. Berkowitz said. "What's powerful about our direction here is it's all about points of integration. We want [the technology] to be seamless."

Neither company would specify the financial details behind the deal. Fidelity spokesperson Jessica Macdonald said in an email that both firms contributed resources to developing the technology.

"It is not our place to discuss the details of our clients' fee structures," Ms. Macdonald said. "This is part of a multiyear technology vision for Lincoln to improve its adviser platform."

Carolyn Clancy, executive vice president at Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions and head of the broker-dealer segment, said the product built for Lincoln uses much of the technology it is developing in WealthScape, its wealth management technology platform, but with significant customization.

Ms. Clancy said that for Fidelity, the relationship means taking on the new role of technology provider.

"It's been a natural transition, as Fidelity has always been a technology-forward firm," Ms. Clancy said. "For us, dealing with our own clients, it means we have to be true technology consultants."

The deal is a loss for Pershing, which historically has served insurance-driven wealth management firms like Lincoln and National Planning Holdings Inc., which was acquired by LPL Financial in August. Pershing did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Berkowitz said Lincoln received "enormous pushback" from advisers when plans to convert from Pershing were first announced. To ease concerns, Lincoln didn't force the conversion until after it developed the technology, and rolled it out over time to support training and adoption.

"It was very, very smooth because everyone was prepared," he said. "We were under no self-imposed deadline."

John Robert Marshall, founding partner of The Resource Group, a Lincoln-affiliated firm, compared the transition to upgrading a smart phone — at first there is some trouble learning new features, but eventually you can take advantage them.

Mr. Marshall said his firm was previously going to technology vendors to find "best-in-breed" solutions, but had trouble getting the programs to communicate together. He said the integrations Fidelity is offering will save time and help reduce errors when creating new accounts and developing client reports.

"What Lincoln is rolling out has been a huge step forward," Mr. Marshall said. "It has allowed us to run more efficiently and not spend so much time coordinating and pulling that data together."

The technology is part of a larger initiative by Lincoln called AdviceNext, which it says is part of a multiyear investment to technology enhancements to improve adviser productivity and improve client satisfaction.

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