Sometimes when a company has less than flattering news to announce, it attempts to sneak it in just before a major holiday in hopes vacation travel plans mean the story attracts less attention than it normally would. It’s why InvestmentNews always has a reporter on duty in late December.
But I can’t remember the last time this happened in the fintech world. Late last Friday afternoon, after people may have already logged off for the Labor Day weekend, Wealthfront and UBS announced they had mutually decided to terminate their $1.4 billion acquisition deal.
As surprising as the initial deal was, the termination was downright shocking. It’s rare that these high-profile acquisitions don’t go through, and UBS had been proudly touting its plans for the robo-adviser for months.
What went wrong? Right now the companies aren’t talking about it, but theories have popped up online. Maybe UBS decided it didn’t want to pay that far above Wealthfront’s revenue, or maybe the drop in market significantly dented Wealthfront’s value and UBS didn’t want to pay January prices for a September product?
Besides the markets, the biggest change that occurred between when the deal was announced and last Friday was UBS’ appointment of Naureen Hassan as president of UBS Americas in July. Hassan has a background in building a digital advice product at Charles Schwab, as well as creating Morgan Stanley’s technology strategy. It can’t be a coincidence that less than two months after Hassan is hired, the company decides to go in a radically different direction with its technology.
What do you think happened to the UBS/Wealthfront acquisition? Let me know on Twitter or via email.
In the meantime, here are some of the other adviser fintech stories you may have missed this week.
CETERA USING BROADRIDGE’S NEW COMMUNICATION TECH
Broadridge Financial Solutions has a new digital communications tool, and Cetera Financial is its first customer. Wealth InFocus consolidates, aggregates and presents the important information across client communications, including statements, confirms, proxies and prospectuses. More than three-quarters of Cetera clients involved in a pilot reported a improved digital experience, and 88% said they would like to receive Wealth InFocus digital communication on an ongoing basis.
We all know that nobody reads the thick paper documents firms are required to give clients. At least 95% of those go straight in the trash, unread. Anything that can improve this system to make it easier for clients to read important information about their investments, and eliminate all the wasted paper, is a huge step in the right direction.
Orion Advisor Solutions is transitioning its business model into three distinct segments — TAMP, adviser technology and outsourced chief investment officer — to better focus on each segment as the company continues its rapid growth. Ryan Beach has been named president of the TAMP, Orion Wealth Management, while Brian McLaughlin will head up the adviser technology division. Kurt Brown will lead Orion OCIO.
I can’t speak to how the reorganization will help the business, but I do know it will help this tech reporter keep track of updates coming from Orion. Orion founder and CEO Eric Clarke is a busy man, and delegating some of the leadership duties makes a lot of sense. It’s also interesting to see McLaughlin, who was CEO of Redtail when Orion bought the CRM company, given charge of the technology business.
MORNINGSTAR LAUNCHES INVESTABLE WORLD
Morningstar’s latest initiative aims to make sustainable investing more understandable, engaging and actionable. Investors can explore themes like water, food, energy and health to see opportunities and trade-offs across investment approaches. Investable World uses Morningstar’s research across asset classes, as well as its ESG Risk Ratings and Impact Metrics.
A tool like this sounds interesting because it accounts for the fact that everyone has different motivations, values and degrees of conviction when it comes to investing. Feel-good companies can have hidden risks, and making these trade-offs easier to see and understand is a benefit for everyone.
SNAPPY KRAKEN IMPLEMENTS DATA INTEGRATION WITH THREE CRMS
Adviser marketing fintech Snappy Kraken now has data synchronization with Redtail Technology, Wealthbox and Salesforce, three of the most popular client relationship management systems among advisers. The company says this will save time and hassle by providing a single source of accurate information about clients.
Without bidirectional data integration — where updates on one platform automatically sync with another — advisers must manually update information, which opens the door for mistakes and inaccuracies. Automating everything reduces this, which is the real value of tech integration.
INTERACTIVE BROKERS INTRODUCES OPTIONS TRADING
IBKR GlobalTrader, a mobile trading app from Interactive Brokers, and Impact, the company’s ESG-focused app, are now giving retail investors the ability to trade options. A new Options Wizard asks investors a series of questions and then selects an options strategy based on their preferences and market expectations. An Options Chain feature gives more independent investors a way to choose a single option or build a strategy piece-by-piece.
I’m all for “democratizing access to investing,” but firms need to be careful about how they introduce riskier investments to retail investors. Novice investors can quickly get in over their heads with options trading, and the results can be tragic, such as the 20-year-old Robinhood user who committed suicide after digging himself into a $730,000 hole. I hope Interactive Brokers delivers plenty of education for these products and offers some guardrails for people before pushing these products.
DRAWBRIDGE SECURES FUNDING
Growth investment firm Francisco Partners has invested an undisclosed amount of capital into Drawbridge, a provider of cybersecurity software for financial services firms. Drawbridge says that it’s used by more than 900 funds in the alternative investments industry, and that the new money will help the company expand its services to more sectors in the financial services industry.
Drawbridge doesn’t currently work with advisory firms, but it’s nice to see a fintech attract funding at a time where deals across the industry are down. And there is a definite need to improve cybersecurity across the entire industry.
‘IN the Office’ with organizational expert Richard Hawkes
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