It's been a chaotic year for many in the industry, but once again, turnkey asset management platforms (TAMPs) and their advisory affiliates were relatively cushioned from the shocks.
The TAMPs we track are still growing their platform assets at a healthy rate. The advisors they work with are expanding organically.
And the advisors they work with are more loyal to the outsourced investment approach than ever. We asked our readers which platforms they prefer and
the votes flowed fast and furious.
Orion took the prize this year for both technology and, via the Communities program, the best model marketplace. However, when it came to the advisory industry's favorite overall integrated offering, AssetMark rose to the top of the list.
You can read the preliminary results in the newly released 2023 edition of America's Best TAMPs, available HERE or via TAMPs.com. You probably have your own favorites. That's all right. Every truly independent advisor has different criteria and prefers a different experience.
Either way, there might be a platform on the new list that you don't know about yet. Maybe your perfect potential partner has only emerged in this year of turmoil.
We know that several are growing fast. This year's list includes AUM growth rankings for the very first time, reflecting expansion across the entire 2020-3 COVID era.
There's a lot of disruption packed into that timeline. The market as a whole has effectively stalled even before you adjust the results for inflation.
And yet SMArtX, Geowealth and others are growing fast. This is what success looks like.
The TAMP Proposition
Nobody can do this alone, especially today. Wealth management has always been a collaborative sport combining the expertise of specialists and generalists to create stronger client outcomes together. But now, in the wake of three bear markets in four years, advisors still recovering from the pandemic lockdowns are acknowledging an essential truth: what was once simply a smarter approach to squeezing efficiency out of your firm becomes a question of survival.
After everything the industry has been through, if you aren’t delegating, you’re probably running on fumes. And delegation still requires continuing resources, even after you pick the right partners for your platform. As the platform gets more complicated, managing it can become a full-time job in itself.
Turnkey asset management programs (TAMPs) evolved to make it easier to manage the mix. All of the functions they provide are engineered to integrate together like a modern car or computer: turn the key, push the button and the system will take you and your clients wherever you want to go. After that, they run in the background of your life. You can always turn off the automatic systems and recover manual control over a single operation or your entire career . . . if that’s really what you want.
Some advisors may long for that manual control, but most of us are more interested in making sure we have the resources to respond to the emergent shocks that have multiplied in recent years. That’s what modern clients demand. While the absolute stakes might be small, the emotional buffer for mistakes has gotten unbearably thin. They’re simply exhausted. And managing them can leave the advisor exhausted as well.
Modern technology makes it happen. Modern problems make it a matter of survival. Our universe has grown and deepened as well. You’ll find the biggest platform providers here, as well as the most exciting next-gen players in the space. As the lingering impact of the pandemic fades, outsourcing the portfolio isn’t just a niche decision for technophiles anymore. Home office work and online client calls have shown every advisor it’s the key to continued relevance, prosperity—even survival.
We’re letting go of what’s not working: The notion that every wealth manager needs to be an asset manager building their clients’ portfolios from the ground up. We’re picking between platforms, looking for outside help . . . seeing what’s out there. This year, we’ve brought back favorite firms old and new. We’ve also had to cut a few names that stumbled along the way.
Let this guide help you determine whether you need a partner, and help you navigate your search. It means change, yes. But for once this is change on your own terms. That’s what this guide is all about.
From Niche to Normal
We once treated automated wealth management as fringe technology: More sizzle than substance. We would leave it to the visionaries to put their client portfolios on autopilot: Read advisors did everything by hand. Every client portfolio was a mark of professional pride…
But then we started to see the results. Those visionaries and their exotic systems delivered results comparable to the finest hand-picked portfolios. In many cases, of course, they were using the same strategies—only now, delivered to every advisor willing to explore outside expertise.
Compare it to the cloud computing revolution: Data that had been locked up in redundant servers was now free to circulate around the world, powering applications that can be accessed anywhere. Those are the systems that saved the industry when all the offices were shut down, and we needed to keep working remotely.
Now, we all collaborate with clients and colleagues in the cloud. It’s not exotic, it’s normal. And more importantly, it’s not going away: Every VC with dreams of disrupting the wealth management industry is pouring their dollars into robot-only alternatives.
They can’t match what you can do. Most of them will fail. But before they go, they’ll remain a drag on everything from client retention to asset attraction to advisory fees. They’ll go on capturing today’s marginal millennial accounts before they can grow into something more substantial.
Here’s the good news: Human talent can use the exact same tools and efficiencies. The easiest way to start? Opening a relationship with a TAMP.
State of the Industry 2023
Each and every year, this guide profiles the most dynamic TAMPs on the market: The best platforms available, representing the majority of all assets used by advisors using automated portfolio management techniques.
For our purposes, these are the only TAMPs that matter. They run the range from the trillion-dollar giants to ambitious entities still experimenting in their scope. Some focus on technology, others act as consultants. They use their platforms for the distribution of professional expertise.
Whether you want to work with an integrated set of investment models or wide-open architecture, you’ll find the perfect platform here. This is the new mainstream.
Envestnet alone counts over $600 billion in platform assets and over 100,000 advisors across its ecosystem. That scale feeds new innovation at the core as the dominant platforms add capabilities across the financial spectrum: insurance, credit, multi-generational wealth services, cash management. Predictive finance is popular now, just as “big data” account aggregation is approaching full artificial intelligence.
Whether you’re a wealth manager shopping for a partner or a venture capitalist angling for a different piece of the action, dynamism matters. A company with vision innovates. And innovation translates into asset flows as accounts migrate to platforms with the power to dramatically enhance advisor operations.
The fact that a lot of TAMPs kept reaping the rewards of innovation in an otherwise challenging year—and throughout the COVID era—demonstrates their power to thrill. A net $300 billion in advisory assets have moved into just the 13 fastest-growing platforms on our list since 2020.
The money moved for very good reasons. TAMP technology helped many advisors get through the early pandemic lockdowns and then access to cutting-edge investment solutions kept their clients afloat in the market disruptions that followed.
This is the real “fintech” marriage of finance and technology. While persuasive marketing plays a role, we believe that growth is a signal that a platform is developing along lines that make existing affiliates happy and attract new relationships.
They solve concrete problems. They make life better. And as the wealth managers who gravitate toward a platform grow their own businesses, the platforms grow around them. A TAMP that succeeds in attracting successful advisors tends to succeed right alongside its affiliates.
And ultimately scale unlocks opportunities. Bigger companies support bigger budgets for qualified personnel, R&D and everything that goes into a better advisor experience. If management can stay alert, nimble and at least a little bit hungry, asset flows become a virtuous cycle: revenue funds innovation and innovation attracts accounts.
Asset flows can come organically or through M&A. Sometimes platforms get bolted together as a matter of corporate strategy. But more often, especially in the last few years, we’ve seen organic growth dominate as good platforms make friends.
And when the numbers move in the right direction, you know you’re working with a financially healthy partner. The risk of seeing a vibrant platform sell itself drops considerably once you have scale.
You’ll see in the case of the top 13 Americas Best TAMPs 2023 each one of these platforms has grown at least 25% or more in AUM annually. Last year was terrible and yet these firms are thriving.
The beauty of America’s Best TAMPs is that we’re tracking all of these firms for a long period of time, and therefore are able to offer our readers tracking: side-by-side benchmarks for the industry to determine what they need to grow at in order to compete in an aggressive marketplace. And we survey our readers every year to find the sweet spots that advisors love.