eMoney Changes Its Vision of Financial Planning

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eMoney Advisor will be leaning into machine learning and adaptive software in the coming year. The financial planning technology developer is currently building new predictive features for its cash flow–based planning and marketing functions, with availability expected sometime in 2022. eMoney also gave updates on its move from screenscraping to API-based account aggregation and on advisor and end-client adoption of its financial planning and education app, called Incentive.

Earlier this year, eMoney launched two new features, Longevity Risk Analysis and Confidence Age. Centered around the risks associated with outliving assets, they were designed to make Monte Carlo simulations more approachable for clients and to give advisors conversation starters for client meetings; they will also form the foundation for new features to be introduced next year. Those features are tentatively called Solvers and Progress to Goals.

eMoney’s 2022 Product Roadmap

Solvers is a feature designed to pinpoint where a financial plan begins to fall short, said Jess Liberi, head of product at eMoney. “What we’re doing with Monte Carlos Solvers is saying, ‘Let’s have the advisor indicate to us what confidence level or success rate they are looking for in that financial plan,’” she said. “And we’ll begin to highlight to them: What are the actions? What are the techniques? What are the plan changes that are going to be required in order to achieve it?”

The tool will allow advisors “to isolate where the plan begins to fall short,” she added.

It’s a different approach to the cash flow–based planning that eMoney has used in the past. Essentially, advisors are “working backwards” with cash flow. Solvers starts with a confidence ranking—gauging how confident the client wants to be in achieving a certain goal—and then highlights suggested financial behavior adjustments for hitting those goals.

Progress to Goals will automate the client experience, providing feedback on how likely a client is to hit a particular goal.

Solvers and Progress to Goals are in development and expected to debut in mid- to late 2022, said Liberi.

Changes are also slated for eMoney’s marketing service, called Bamboo (formerly known as Advisor Branded Marketing). By late 2022, Bamboo will be adding “Smart Content” to its service offering to make marketing more dynamic for advisors’ clients, said Liberi.

As it has been conceived, eMoney’s software would—once it has been built—gauge client interest in certain content, as well as provide data points to help better (and more easily) tailor marketing content to individual clients. At the moment, however, eMoney is still wrestling with whether this feature will be built in-house or will come instead from a third party. 

Although typically reluctant to turn data over to third parties, eMoney has come to rely on at least one outside data provider recently. It joined the Akoya Data Access Network earlier this year, in a first for eMoney, as it sought to meet a portion of its account aggregation needs. Now jointly owned by 11 major banks, alongside Fidelity Investments, Akoya was originally developed by Fidelity in 2018.

Providing predictive, actionable direction for an advisor is well within eMoney’s product develop capabilities, said Will Trout, director of wealth management at Javelin Strategy & Research.

At a broader level, eMoney is attempting to provide a dynamic link between financial planning and investment management, he said. “These are systems that don’t really speak to each other, generally.” By building features like Solvers, which provide dynamic, actionable suggestions, eMoney could be on the road to linking planning and investment management, allowing an advisor to reposition him or herself from between the two software systems, which would make it one of the first outside of the wirehouses.

This planning-meets-investment management “holy grail” has been achieved by only a few. Merrill Lynch’s Personal Wealth Analysis bridged that gap, said Trout, as has a Winnipeg, Canada–based startup called Conquest Planning. Conquest raised $7.5 million to accelerate its product development in July.

Incentive Updates

At the start of the year, eMoney introduced its first app: Incentive. Designed for retirement plan end-clients, the app is part financial educator, part behavioral modifier and part lead-gen tool for retirement plan advisors. It relies heavily on account aggregation to be most effective and requires a special activation code provided by an advisor or employer.

eMoney continues to chip away at its account aggregation goal of 100% API-based aggregation. Currently, slightly more than 40% of accounts still require screenscraping, said Liberi.

In comparison, Morningstar’s ByAllAccounts has a similar ratio of screenscraping to API-based aggregation. ByAllAccounts uses screenscraping for 40% of its account aggregation, according to Morningstar spokesperson Sarah Wirth. The technique is necessary when capturing data from “smaller banking institutions,” she added.

Account aggregator Plaid doesn’t share the percentages of accounts that rely on screenscraping, but has a goal of getting to less than 25% of accounts relying on the method, according to company spokesperson Natalie Giannangeli. The firm did not share when it aims to achieve this goal. 

Envestnet | Yodlee did not provide information on the ratio of screenscraping to APIs that it uses in account aggregation.

Meanwhile, eMoney has made improvements to account aggregation stability, said Liberi.

Developers at the firm are working on a “health monitor” that will indicate when an aggregation link is broken, the status of the repair and any steps an advisor or end-client may need to take to repair the link. Liberi is hoping the increased transparency will help advisors and end-clients manage the headaches inevitably produced by severed account links. eMoney has a goal of fixing broken aggregation links in three days or less.

Financial planners are already aware of the importance of account aggregation for clients. But account aggregation is also vital to the success of Incentive, which debuted nearly a year ago and has 15 advisory firms using it. 

Collectively, those firms account for over 700,000 employees, although the actual number of Incentive end-clients depends on employees’ access to retirement plans. As advisors navigate a historic period of employee movement, apps like Incentive could be positioned to shine—providing coveted client “stickiness” for advisors associated with retirement plans.

“We are working with them on the rollout, because we want to make sure that it’s a success,” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re investing in adoption and engagement.”