Morgan Stanley wants its advisers to be top of mind for Alexa

New partnership with Yext hopes to modernize and future-proof Morgan Stanley advisers' online presence

Dec 11, 2018 @ 2:59 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

Morgan Stanley wants to modernize how prospects find its advisers — and that means getting in good with Siri, Alexa and Google.

The wirehouse announced Tuesday a partnership with Yext, a publicly traded technology company, offering online brand management to help its advisers modernize their websites and enhance their digital presence.

Today the deal means using Yext's technology to ensure the websites of Morgan Stanley financial advisers, teams and branches end up near the top of text-based search engine results. But Morgan Stanley envisions a quickly approaching future where investors can ask a device, "find me a financial adviser in San Francisco with a CFP designation and can speak Mandarin."

By moving back-end management of adviser websites to the Yext platform, Morgan Stanley wants to be the brand recommended in voice searches.

"The problem with Siri and Alexa is you're only going to get one answer back, an educated guess, it can't serve up a page of links," said Erik Jepson, head of digital marketing at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management .

A big reason Morgan Stanley chose Yext is its data management system, which Yext calls the Knowledge Engine.

"It's really about the underlying data structure that supports the websites — they're curating that data, marking up that data so its optimally available to search engines," Mr. Jepson said.

(More: Morgan Stanley launches new adviser technology dashboard)

Like the firm's push towards financial planning, digital advice, data analytics and artificial intelligence on the WealthDesk platform introduced last month, the Yext partnership is about "future-proofing" how advisers find and acquire new clients.

"We could very well see a future in the not too distant future where over 50% of searches are voice," Mr. Jepson said, adding that the move from text-based to voice search is one of the key trends occurring in consumer markets.

While Morgan Stanley wants to maintain the current branding and design of its adviser websites, Yext will enable some new features. Mr. Jepson said there's a new editing tool to make it easier for advisers to add or change information on their website.

A new integration will feed contact information entered by a prospect directly into Morgan Stanley's client relationship management (CRM) software, and advisers can use a new tool to manage and promote events in their communities.

Yext also is providing new capabilities around traffic analytics to show where visitors to an advisers' websites are coming from and what they do once they arrive on the page.

Yext launched in 2016 and filed for an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in 2017. The company has worked with banks and insurance companies, but the Morgan Stanley partnership is its first foray into the world of financial advice, said Howard Lerman, Yext's founder and CEO.

(More: Investment technology: Can Alexa handle multi-account portfolio management?)

Mr. Lerman said voice search is a way to help advisers take advantage of the anticipated transfer of wealth from baby boomer clients to their children, many of whom will take that money to a new adviser if they don't have a reason to stay.

"Sixty-one percent are going to be looking online to find a new adviser," Mr. Lerman said. "It's a huge deal."

Morgan Stanley isn't the only firm betting on the future of voice-powered technology. Voice command features were a theme at October's T3 Enterprise conference and Envestnet Yodlee recently demonstrated Envision IQ, an application for advisers to answer questions about their books of business using Amazon's Alexa.

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