Two of the most widely-used adviser fintechs you've never heard of

While not as flashy as robo-advice or financial planning, forms automation vendors count most of the broker-dealers as their customers

Jul 29, 2019 @ 4:49 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

Financial advice requires boatloads of paperwork, but two little known fintech firms have been working for 20 years to make it easier. They likely are the most widely used adviser technology firms in the market — even if most advisers don't even know their names.

The effort to digitize documents and automate forms has opened the door for these two technology vendors, Quik and iPipeline' Laser App, to grow into nearly ubiquitous presences in the adviser industry. While not as flashy as financial planning or digital advice, most of the largest broker-dealers and custodians use either Quik or Laser App, or both for processing documents.

Given that every new account requires a handful of forms, and there's a never-ending parade of documents for ongoing account maintenance and reporting, they are likely to keep growing as long as they can keep the processing moving and improving. These firms function to help cut down on the dreaded "Not In Good Order" error that can pop up at any time a document moves to a new party, which can include the client, the broker-dealer, the custodian, the compliance department, etc.

Because the companies integrate tightly with back-office systems, many advisers may not know they use Quik or Laser App daily. For example, Quik is integrated with Cambridge Investment Research's CLIC adviser workstation so advisers can access the broker-dealers' documents as well as forms from product companies and clearing firms, said Cindy Schaus, vice president of public relations.

(More: Two IBDs look at technology differently)

"In fact, it is integrated so well that an adviser may not be aware that Quik is behind the scenes as a forms library," Ms. Schaus said. "In addition to Quik, advisers with Cambridge may also use Laser App," as Cambridge is a client so that it can serve the broadest needs of independent advisers, she said.

Each vendor offers a digital library of more than 30,000 forms that advisers need in their day-to-day practice, eliminating the need for advisers to contact individual firms for necessary documents. For example, instead of reaching out to an insurance company to get the form necessary to sell a client an annuity, the adviser can access the form digitally in their libraries.

The two competitors differ in how they approach automatically filling out information on those firms, though. Quik focuses on repetition. The adviser fills out a client's name once and the software will automatically fill it in every other field where it's required. Quik CEO Richard Walker said the technology can do this with at least half-a-million different fields.

"We defined all of the fields universally across the entire library of forms," said Mr. Walker, a former financial adviser who built Quik in 2002 to improve the paperwork process at his own firm. "What that translates to is a high level of automation and efficiency."

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Laser App vice president of sales Robert Powell said his firm's strategy is based on pulling data from CRMs, broker-dealers and custodians to pre-populate the fields, and on maintaining contractual relationships with the form providers so each document behaves the same way on the platform.

"The advantage there is it makes it very easy to integrate Laser App on the front end," Mr. Powell said. The firm's parent company, iPipeline, also provides greater access to insurance products, he added.

While other adviser fintechs are working to build multi-purpose platforms, both Mr. Powell and Mr. Walker attributed their firms' success in the industry to focusing on a single, simple-yet-important task exceptionally well.

"Filling out and maintaining forms is not flashy at all, but it's one of those things that's a necessity," Mr. Powell said.

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