There are several advisor software surveys. I’ve written blog posts in the past where I’ve compared them. This time I’m going to focus on just one, as I think it is worth some of your time to review. It is the T3 / Inside Information Advisor Software Survey, compiled by Joel Bruckenstein and Bob Veres. The 2021 version has just been published. It is a service to our industry that the survey results are available to anyone to download at no cost.
Hopefully, the pandemic is being mastered as the vaccines continue their rollout. Advisors are looking ahead to work out how their firm should operate post pandemic. The software survey is a great lens to use. How much technology are you going to use in your interactions with your clients? Does marketing look different in the future? Has your distributed workforce shown that you need to revamp how your team communicates with each other?
The timing is good for advisors to peruse the survey and look across their firm’s infrastructure to see what needs upgrading or reinventing.
The format of the survey is organized around how an advisor can use it. Very refreshing! Everything is broken into categories, so if you are thinking of upgrading, say, your customer relationship management (CRM) software, you can move to that category and there is everything you need. In that category, last year’s market penetration (2020) is compared to this year’s (2021), so that it is easy to see what is trending.
The survey has a number of tables that help an advisor. The first is a “User Satisfaction” rating, which shows how satisfied the users of the software are. This is always interesting as there is some software you “have” to use, but you hold your nose as you do so. This becomes clear in the survey.
The second table is the “Programs Respondents are Considering” table. It shows you where the puck is going — what is trending up or downwards. If you are evaluating software this is akin to a “dial-a-friend” lifeline to see what other people are considering.
The third great feature, and one of my favorites, is the “Other Programs Mentioned.” This is a hodge-podge of applications that are ancient but still around, up-and-coming applications that haven’t broken through and, of course, applications that are hard to categorize and have to go somewhere.
Here are some of the insights most interesting to me from this year’s survey. The CRM section is always the first one in the survey for a reason. It is the one piece of software that holds an advisor’s most valuable asset — their client information. Once again, Redtail is the overwhelming market leader with an incredible 62% market penetration. They also have a very high User Satisfaction rating, which is a testament to their quality price rating (QPR). Salesforce is emerging with different overlay firms and different ways of using it. By combining Financial Services Cloud, Sales Cloud, Salentica and Concenter XLR8 it is up to a 13% market share.
The other big category is “Financial Planning.” I didn’t understand these market share numbers. Apparently, all the different vendors went up in market share. This seems unlikely! Once again in this mature category, the combined market share of the top two firms, MoneyGuidePro and eMoney, is a stunning 75%. RightCapital, the number three, is up to nearly 10%, which is a significant inroad.
Those are the big two; what else? One of the categories that our advisors are talking a lot about is “Tax Planning” software, which allows financial advisors to be proactive around tax planning for their investments. There is a lot of innovation in this category, as new firms like the market leader Holistiplan, use technology to assess tax returns. This software is inexpensive and the improved service that you can offer your clients is impressive.
A red-hot category is “Digital Marketing.” One of the results of the pandemic has been the focus on how to reach clients and prospects digitally. Most of the firms in this category are only a few years old. However, with the private equity money that is pouring into the FinTech sector, there is already consolidation. The #1 firm, FMG Suite, has acquired both the #4 firm, MarketingPro, and the #5 firm, TwentyOverTen. Between the three firms they have 23% of market share — a remarkable penetration for a category that is so young. I would also call out Broadridge, Snappy Kraken and AdvisorStream in this category — all good companies with interesting services. The survey is struggling with the fact that digital marketing is now integrated with an advisor’s website. This will all come together in the future.
If Bob and Joel are listening I’ll put a couple of notes in their suggestion box. We talk to a lot of advisors about their front office integrations. It would be great to see a discussion and advisor survey of Google G Suite (now named Google Workspace) versus Microsoft 365. Especially with Microsoft Teams being implemented widely and effectively in the pandemic, this has been a much-discussed topic.
The category “Video Conferencing” is absent, which really surprised me. With all of us peering at each other through Zoom, GoToMeeting or Webex all year, this would be a welcome addition next year.
As I said at the start, I don’t normally focus on one technology survey. But normally one of my favorite breakout sessions at the Technology Tools for Today (T3) conference is the review of the survey. The survey was my virtual T3 fix in a year of virtual everything.
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