Morgan Stanley launches new adviser technology dashboard

WealthDesk integrates Morgan Stanley's new suite of technology in a single location

Nov 20, 2018 @ 2:43 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

Morgan Stanley is bringing all of the pieces of its adviser technology suite together in one digital dashboard called WealthDesk.

WealthDesk provides Morgan Stanley advisers with a consolidated view of their entire book of business and integrates account aggregation, risk analysis, financial planning, proposal generation, portfolio construction and tax optimization into a single workflow.

While other firms are working on integrating the various pieces of technology advisers use in their daily practice, Morgan Stanley believes it is the first to bring it this far. Executives at Morgan Stanley say WealthDesk is years ahead of anything else on the market and will prove a competitive advantage for its workforce of 15,000 advisers.

"We think scale is the secret to winning wealth management," said one Morgan Stanley executive. "We are intentionally spending more money than a lot of other firms have."

The firm also sees WealthDesk as a differentiator that will help retain top advisers and attract top emerging talent. WealthDesk is available to all Morgan Stanley advisers today, and young advisers in Morgan Stanley's training program will be trained on it.

A primary goal is getting advisers to talk less about beating benchmarks and more about achieving financial goals. Morgan Stanley's tool, Goals Planning System, acts as the entry point for engaging clients and prospects.

After using GPS to determine funding status, probability of success and downside risk, WealthDesk then flows along to constructing a portfolio and digitally opening an account. For advisers who are more accustomed to selling investment products than using a planning-led approach, WealthDesk also includes an advisory fee calculator to establish a consistent pricing strategy aligned with the services delivered.

By using technology to make financial planning more efficient, Morgan Stanley is preparing its advisers for whatever fiduciary rule ends up coming, said Aite Group research director Alois Pirker.

"This is what will be required, sooner or later," Mr. Pirker said. While many firms have the individual pieces of WealthDesk, other firms haven't yet pulled all the pieces together.

"The problem that comes in is you really need to spend a lot of time and effort and money integrating the various application areas to make it as seamless as possible ... getting it all in one workflow and arranging it in a way that allows advisers to efficiently work with clients," he said.

Financial planning also helps advisers retain clients in the event of a market downturn, Mr. Pirker said. On Monday, a Morgan Stanley equity analyst declared, "We are in a bear market," according to CNN.

But WealthDesk is also key to helping advisers tap into an estimated $2 trillion worth of assets held outside the firm and fuel the organic growth Morgan Stanley has emphasized since leaving the broker protocol.

A piece of WealthDesk that advisers can't yet get anywhere else is a portfolio risk platform powered by BlackRock's Aladdin. A Morgan Stanley executive said this offers institutional-caliber analytics never before available to retail advisers and lets them see the effect of a portfolio change before it's made.

Combined with account aggregation, which is powered by Envestnet Yodlee, and GPS, Morgan Stanley advisers can use the risk platform to demonstrate for prospects and clients how bringing over a held-away account can help improve the performance of those assets.

The firm doesn't expect 100% adoption overnight and is preparing a campaign of branch visits, regional meetings and academies, webinars and one-off meetings throughout 2019 to bring advisers aboard. One Morgan Stanley executive said the firm will incentivize advisers who adopt the technology, but didn't rule out the possibility of mandating it down the road.

"That's the model we want to follow — incentivizing advisers to do what we believe is in the best interest of their clients," the executive said. "No disincentives, but it's something we are going to watch closely."

Missing from the WealthDesk launch was Next Best Action, Morgan Stanley's highly touted machine-learning engine. When asked, a Morgan Stanley executive said the firm is still working on that integration, but expects to add insights and suggestions from NBA to WealthDesk in 2019.

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