Morgan Stanley gives close-up look at new adviser technology suite

Firm betting tech will increase wallet share and move brokers towards financial planning

Jun 12, 2018 @ 2:06 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

In addition to accessing a larger share of clients' wallets, Morgan Stanley believes its new integrated technology platform will make it easier for brokers to offer comprehensive financial advice and goals-based planning.

At a demonstration in New York on Monday, the company gave a closer look at its tech suite and how using it can help advisers attract new clients, improve service of current clients and connect with clients' children to secure a pipeline of future business.

The overarching theme is to shift client conversations away from investment performance and towards achieving personal goals.

"I think traditionally in wealth management, people think about what product can we sell and then figure out how to package that in a way that's most effective for either the adviser or the firm," said Jed Finn, Morgan Stanley's chief operating officer of wealth management. "We tried to restructure the approach and start from what do our clients actually need and what are they telling us they want."

Besides goals, clients want advice on all their assets, not just those held by Morgan Stanley, and a better risk system that can take into consideration daily fluctuation of complex markets, Mr. Finn said.

The company showed off its goals planning system, or GPS, which lets advisers show clients how likely they are to achieve their goals and how to create an investment proposal to help clients get there. Key to GPS is account aggregation, powered by Envestnet Yodlee, to sync held-away assets.

(More: Envestnet Yodlee raises the bar with AI-powered apps)

As previously reported by InvestmentNews, Morgan Stanley sees this as a key area for growth. While the company wouldn't give hard data on how many clients have aggregated their accounts, or how many held-away assets it can now see, Andy Saperstein, co-head of Morgan Stanley wealth management, said usage has "exceeded our expectations."

"Historically, there was no good reason why a client would give [outside account information] to you because you couldn't demonstrate the value they would get from it," Mr. Saperstein said. "Obviously it's still early days because we just started rolling this out collectively, but when you explain to a client why it would be helpful and you can actually quantify the benefit for them and show them why it's in their best interest, and they've actually been quite receptive."

Part of the value is Morgan Stanley advisers can monitor risk in clients' held-away assets, thanks to an integration with BlackRock's Aladdin software. The idea is that the adviser can identify areas where their portfolio is dragging and show clients why it would be beneficial to move those assets to Morgan Stanley.

(More: BlackRock expands risk analytics tool to wealth managers overseeing billions in assets)

Morgan Stanley also demonstrated Next Best Action, then firm's early foray into artificial intelligence, and Access Investing, the direct-to-consumer robo-adviser it launched in December.

(More: Wirehouses best positioned to benefit from artificial intelligence)

Again, the company wouldn't share metrics about the success of Access Investing, but Naureen Hassan, the chief digital officer of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, said robo is accomplishing the firm's internal missions.

"The purpose of Access Investing is really to serve our stock plan participants [and] the children of our current clients as a pipeline for the future," Ms. Hassan said. "In terms of meeting those objectives, we're pleased with where it is at."

The firm also demonstrated its platform's capabilities, like e-signatures, digital money movement, video conferencing and tools for providing insurance and mortgages.

Morgan Stanley is rolling out the tools in phases and expects all its advisers to have access to them by the end of the year.

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