Jack Sharry: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us for this week’s special edition of WealthTech on Deck. As I’ve done over the past three years, each December, I weigh in on what I’ve learned from the 50 or so WealthTech on Deck podcast guests we’ve recorded over the past 12 months. I have the privilege of speaking with the best and brightest leaders in our industry about what they see and hear and about what they are working on and about what they’re seeing for their company and our industry going forward. To give you an update on the numbers, we’ve had more than 15,000 listeners, 35,000 downloads, and more than 130 guests on our show over the past nearly three years. And this year, we tried some new ideas. In addition to our usual C suite level and architect builder guests, we look back in time to have conversations with industry leaders who have changed the course of our business over the past 20, 30, and 40 years. We call it Legends of WealthTech. And I will highlight many of those conversations in our discussion today. We will also discuss noteworthy innovations and disruptions that happened over the past year, we’ll examine the advances being made around platforms, tech stacks, and ecosystems. And I’ll recount some of the learnings I’ve picked up from the smartest consultants I get to talk to. And as we do each year, my colleague, LifeYield’s VP of Marketing and the engineer of WealthTech on Deck, Matt Nollman, will be our host for this episode and I’ll take the guest chair. Matt, it’s all yours.
Matt Nollman: Thanks, Jack. This is the first time I’ve been called an engineer, but I’ll take it. So let’s jump in. Let’s start with a favorite of, actually, both of ours this year, The Legends of WealthTech. Why don’t you tell our audience kind of how the idea came about, how the sub brand of Legends of WealthTech within WealthTech on Deck came about?
Jack Sharry: Sure. So I was speaking at a panel a few years ago at the MMI. It was in Nashville. The topic of the panel was retirement and technology. So afterward, a person who was considerably younger than I asked me how you can learn more about the history of the advisory business that I had shared as part of my remarks. I pointed to the front row and said, “You ought to talk to that guy.” My friend and colleague, Frank Campanale, was in the front row as he always has been over the past 30 years or so that I’ve been attending MMI and other conferences. And frankly, for those who may not know, Frank headed Smith Barney’s Consulting Group, and was one of the real founders of MMI and advisory… the advisory business in general. This person didn’t know who Frank was, Frank had been in the business longer than I think this young gentleman had been on the planet. So it was then that I decided we needed to share the rich history of the advisory business with our audience.
Matt Nollman: I hear you on that. I mean, as someone who’s younger in the industry, I find it extremely valuable and enlightening to be able to listen to all the different legends. It gives me a perspective on the past and the growth of our space that I never really had before. So I appreciate it. And I hope our listeners appreciate the perspective that we’re trying to bring out from them as well.
Jack Sharry: Sure.
Matt Nollman: So since you were delivering that speech on stage, Jack, we’ve had ten legends on our podcast. Can you believe it? Of those ten, maybe you’ll highlight them all, who stands out the most? And what about them stands out to you from all the conversations that you’ve had?
Jack Sharry: Well, they certainly all stood out because they’re frankly, longtime friends or people I’ve admired and respected and learned from over time. So each in his own and her own way has made a significant difference in our business. That’s of course why we chose them. Our first legends podcast featured Noreen Beaman, Lori Hardwick, and Cheryl Nash. These were the first women CEOs in our industry. And one of the many reasons we chose them is not only for their leadership, but it also happened to coincide with International Women’s Day, which is March 8, your birthday, I might add, but also the month is a celebration of women in… women in general. So each of them came through… up through the business on a different track and made an important difference for their companies and the industry. Noreen has an accounting background, she worked for one of the big accounting firms. As part of her growth in the industry, she learned a lot in the field as a wholesaler and later as an executive at Brinker Capital and played a pivotal role in… when Brinker sold Orion a few years ago. Lori was one of the original founders of Envestnet and was part of the team that took an idea that I recall when Jud Bergman and Bill Crager and Lori visited Roger Engemann & Associates, who I was affiliated with at the time. They took a crazy idea, I just thought it was nuts, and made it into one of the leaders in technology and investment management in our industry. And Cheryl started in the advisory operation side and rose through the many name and ownership changes to become one of the most respected executives in our industry. Each of them shared stories on breaking through the glass ceiling individually and as supportive friends and colleagues. I heard from many younger folks, women especially, afterward who were inspired by what they heard from Noreen, Lori, and Cheryl. Then we had a few members from the Total Merrill team on the podcast. For those who may not be familiar with Total Merrill, it was a program started around 2000 that was backed by significant product marketing and advertising resources. Arguably, it was the first and maybe only true marketing program that our industry did. What Total Merrill did is extolled the virtues of looking at the full household in order to improve advisor efficiency and client outcomes. John Thiel, who headed up the Merrill advisors at the time. Rich Aneser, who worked for Paul Polito in marketing at Merrill at that point. And John Connors, who was the CEO… who is and was the CEO of the Boathouse Group, which is the advertising agency of record, they, they worked with. All shared stories of the launch and ultimate success of Total Merrill. It was great fun, I have to say. They talked about the live bull they brought onstage at an advisor conference. By the way, the bull’s name was Dollar, no lie. And they shared how they sought to change advisor behavior from stocks, bonds, and commissions to transform the industry with a combination of financial and estate planning, fee based advice, lending and banking, and a whole lot more. They share the critical role James Gorman played in bringing this about. Gorman started working with Merrill as the lead McKinsey consultant way back when. He later became Merrill’s Chief Marketing Officer and then president. Of course, he went on to become the chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, where in my estimation, he has been finishing the job of making Total Merrill into Total Morgan Stanley. One of the reasons Morgan Stanley is, has done so well for so long. So following James’ lead, the Total Merrill team changed our industry to what it looks like today, and kudos to them.
Matt Nollman: So the Legend series was a ton of fun to listen to, to record. But believe it or not, Jack, we’ve only gone through two episodes so far in this podcast. So based off that, I know for a fact that there were other guests that you found illuminating, and that left a mark on me as well. And I know we talked about them a bit before the show. So why don’t you highlight a few of your other favorite episodes from this sub series and elongate this section a bit?
Jack Sharry: Sure, sure. So like I said, all the Legends episodes, were fun, illuminating, really important, I highly recommend to our listeners to give those a listen. So next up, I want to talk about my good friend Len Reinhart and Jim Seuffert. They described how they left Smith Marty Consulting Group, where Len was in charge. And they worked… both worked for Jamie Dimon, who was their boss, and they started Lockwood advisors, which was the first TAMP of significance in the industry. We talked with Roger Paradiso, our good friend who is now at Franklin Templeton, who described how he and his team at Smith Barney invented the UMA, a unified managed account, not too many people know that. Many have made that claim, but I happen to know Roger did that and with his team and kudos to him. We heard from Edmond Walters, founder and the original CEO of eMoney. He described making a big personal bet on eMoney by investing all his personal assets to fund eMoney as a startup. And that’s a fascinating story there as well. What all these legends did was made big, disruptive bets that changed the industry forever. And for the better.
Matt Nollman: No doubt, no doubt. So one of the main topics that we spend a lot of time discussing with our guests is disruption and innovation and how our industry has changed because of the great work that they’ve done. So, of course, most of our guests are really all about that in principle from the beginning. So who were some of the guests, in your mind, who stood out in the areas of disruption innovation over the course of 2023.
Jack Sharry: So, innovation and disruption in our industry, really are two of my favorite topics. One of the same, arguably. So I love to speak with people who have a passion for making positive change. One of the most enlightening conversations we had this year was with Reed Colley, who’s the founder and CEO of Summit Wealth Systems. You may recognize that name. Reed started Black Diamond 20 years ago. After selling the company in 2011 to advent an SS&C, Reed took a little bit of a break. Well, he’s back and in a big way. I highly recommend you listen to what Reed has to say if you’re interested in building the platform of the future. He’s very much doing that with his team and has been for the past couple of years. Very impressive. Reed and the team at Summit Wealth are building multi account tax and risk smart capabilities and much more. The user experience for advisors and clients is graphic, intuitive, and easy to use. It is designed to help the advisor and client communicate more efficiently and effectively. So check out our discussion to find out where comprehensive advice platforms are headed. Another platform star is Aaron Schumm, CEO at Vestwell. We’ve had Aaron on a couple times before. He always has new information because he’s always innovating, always disrupting, always moving the industry, especially the workplace industry forward. So Aaron and his team keep improving the consumer experience by showing consumers how to save, budget, and get their financial house in order, starting with their retirement or savings plan, whether it’s a 401k, a 529, or 457, 403b whatever. If you’re saving toward a goal, the team at Vestwell keeps improving the experience around managing your financial future regardless of the size of your company, or the size of your plan. And on more platform star is Brian McDonald, who heads up Morgan Stanley at Work. Morgan Stanley is a juggernaut across the board and watch out for what’s happening at Morgan Stanley at Work. They are the fastest growing firm presently, in terms of net new asset growth percentage. In terms of net new assets in the aggregate, in the absolute sense, they rank third behind Fidelity and Schwab and ahead of Vanguard, most people find that surprising. And if you listen to James Gorman each quarter on their earnings call, you know that James thinks the biggest funnel for net new asset growth going forward is the work Brian and his team are doing on their Morgan Stanley at Work platform. It might have something to do with the fact that 53% of the S&P 500 companies have their stock plans with Morgan Stanley. It’s a dominant market share. Brian does a superb job of laying out their strategy for new asset growth going… now and into the future.
Matt Nollman: I mean, there’s a lot there. No doubt. All of these conversations taught me something new. I gained a lot of knowledge from them. All four of the people you just mentioned are extremely passionate about what they do. And they clearly know where they’re headed, their firms are headed, and have a great idea, I think, of where the industry is also headed. And they’re pushing all of the work that we’re doing and they’re doing towards that. But another important entrant in the disruption innovation game was Michael Liersch at Wells Fargo with the introduction of LifeSync. I know we talked a little bit about this. We wrote an article about it earlier this year. So why don’t you fill our audience in on why we think that innovation is so noteworthy.
Jack Sharry: So for my money, LifeSync is the best client engagement tool I’ve seen on the market. Par to none. Michael has a PhD in behavioral finance, something he taught at NYU Stern School of Business. He and his team have been applying behavioral finance concepts to tools that help consumers make better decisions and support advisors and helping those consumers. LifeSync was launched to all customers at Wells Fargo in late October. Michael gave me an update recently, and he told me that they now have 1.6 billion users of LifeSync with hundreds of thousands of goals articulated. Customers and clients look beyond the goals feature and can see a snapshot of their vitals. By vitals, they mean their estimated net worth, their portfolio performance, their FICO score, credit card rewards, all the different ways that information that they have access to. As well as their newsfeed, which, interestingly, has been curated… develops curated content based on their goals. So the stuff that they see in terms of a newsfeed is stuff based on what they’re interested in. A couple of others we should highlight, David Hegarty, of the… who is the CEO of Playbook. Playbook was created to help millennials reach… and their website says, “Reach financial freedom so they can start living their meaningful life without money stress.” Their interface is very user friendly and is designed to help consumers pay less in taxes, which of course is the biggest drag on returns. And switching gears to a different kind of innovator, thanks to my friend Tricia Rothschild, an innovator in her own right, who introduced me to Denise Wypiszenski. Denise is a founder and Co-CEO of 4U, a digital platform for investment companies and wealth management firms centered around sales, marketing, research, and collateral materials. 4U helps advisors and firms work through compliance issues and streamline the advisor-client-firm information flow process. What I find interesting about 4U is it’s one of those issues that every firm spends a lot of time and money on and she’s really streamlined it so it’s much more efficient, much more effective. Kudos to Denise and her team.
Matt Nollman: No doubt, no doubt. So, Jack, we’re sailing through this episode. You’ve highlighted 16 guests so far, but something tells me you have a few more up your sleeve that you want to get out in today’s highlights episode. So who else jumps out at you?
Jack Sharry: First of all, we’ve had some… upwards of about 50 guests on the podcast over the past year. Every one of them has something worthwhile to share. We can’t highlight them all. But there are four more I just can’t leave out and really want to underscore. Another big firm spending big money to build the platform of the future is Edward Jones. Lena Haas heads up all product and platform at Jones. She joined our podcast along with Ken Dychtwald of Age Wave fame. Lena and Ken talked about the research Edward Jones has done with Age Wave and the Harris Poll and what consumers want and aren’t getting, especially when it comes to retirement. Lena offered up that women in particular are underserved with fewer having a financial advisor and lacking the professional advice they need when life throws them a curveball. Onto another favorite. One of the people I enjoyed talking with most in our industry is longtime friend, Laura Varas. She and I have known each other from way back when so every time I speak with her, I learn something. She heads up the firm Hearts & Wallets, the founder and CEO. And then… which is an independent research and benchmarking firm that specializes in saving, investing, and financial advice. Many of the top firms in the industry rely on the work Laura and her team are doing in helping them to make strategic decisions that lead to business growth by improving products, distribution, pricing, positioning, and targeting. Basically, Hearts & Wallets bridges the gap between the complexity of saving, investing, and advice and the power of consumer marketing. So one of the things I find interesting about Laura, not only does she know the investment management business, she spent many years as a product manager for, I think it was the equity products at Fidelity, so she knows that part of the business but prior to that she has an MBA from, I think it’s Northwestern, where for her first foray was into the consumer packaged goods. And she understands, sort of, classic marketing and she’s applied that to our business which… Laura is the rare person that actually understands marketing at the consumer level, which is something our industry could use a whole lot more of, so I highly recommend you take a… take a listen to what Laura has to say. Last but not least our good friend Chip Roame, who’s the founder and Managing Partner of Tiburon Advisors and the Tiburon CEO Summit. He’s always worth listening to. Unfortunately, this year, I wasn’t able to attend the conference because of a family conflict. But I had a chance to catch up with him recently, we’ve had Chip on just before or after every Tiburon Summit that he runs a couple times each year and always illuminating to listen in to what he has to say. The CEO Summit is a can’t miss event if you want to understand what’s happening now and where the wealth and SME world is headed. Chip’s insights are always incisive and always illuminate. In our most recent chat, he said to “follow the money.” He’s referring to venture capital and private equity money. And you’ll see that it’s flowing into companies developing better technology for advisors.
Matt Nollman: That’s a lot. Definitely a lot. But we, again, had over 50 episodes this year. So I’m gonna ask you now, Jack, do you think you’ve missed anything?
Jack Sharry: You know, I could have kept going. And as I said at the outset, we are most fortunate to be able to host the best and brightest in our industry. For our audience, please check out lifeyield.com website and see if there’s a… an individual or a topic you’d like to learn more about. They’re up there, for… in perpetuity, they’ll be worth your while to check them out.
Matt Nollman: So we covered a ton of ground today. And it’s about that time where we ask our guests for their three key takeaways from the discussion. I know we highlighted upwards of 20 guests today. But if you could, can you boil today’s takeaways down into three from today’s discussion?
Jack Sharry: Clearly, that’s a tough assignment. But I’ve given it a lot of thought. So item number one. Takeaway number one, innovation and disruption is interesting and fun. But if you can’t execute, make it happen, and grow your business, who cares? All the guests we’ve highlighted, do all we’ve talked about; they innovate, disrupt, execute, and grow. Second, so many of our guests not only do all the above, but they’re largely mission driven, where they want to produce better results for all. That includes advisors, consumers, business partners, and their firm. And third, I can’t help but note how much I love this business and the people in it, good people doing good work for the benefit of so many. I am so fortunate and grateful to work with the people I work with and make all people’s lives better.
Matt Nollman: Jack, I agree. It’s a good purpose to have for sure. So thank you for diving in, sharing more than you usually do on a typical podcast. But I know that I appreciate it. And I’m sure our audience appreciates it too. So now, for my personal favorite question that we ask guests each week, gives us a little side of them that maybe people don’t know. You’ve answered this a few different ways as we’ve switched seats in the past but I’m interested to hear what you come up with this time. So, Jack, what do you do outside of work that you’re excited or passionate about that people might find interesting or surprising.
Jack Sharry: So as I mentioned a few times on the podcast and over time, I’ve been a guest lecturer at Babson College for the past nine years. Babson is located outside of Boston, and is not far from my home. It specializes, focuses on entrepreneurship and it has a worldwide audience. I think over half their students are from outside the US. I speak with undergrad and MBA students each semester, where they use my book, Authentic and Ethical Persuasion, as a text for their sales, marketing, and leadership courses. This is an uncompensated role and my way of giving back, it’s my way of thanking the people I’ve had the privilege of being taught by and who have mentored me over the years. In addition to the 75 or so students I speak to each semester at Babson and that’s with the fall, the spring, and the summer sessions. There’s another 10 or 15 folks, maybe it’s up as high as 20 that I mentor over the course of each year. These are just folks, some more formally set up, some more just by the by. But I love working with people who are committed to getting better at what they do and giving back. So between what I do with Babson and what I do with my good friends and mentees, we all learn from one another and grow as a result.
Matt Nollman: No doubt. In my four years at LifeYield, I’ve received a lot of mentorship from a lot of people and I appreciate yours. I’m blessed to be one of those people, Jack. Thank you. Now, anything else before we wrap up today’s show? Last final words.
Jack Sharry: So there’s one last thing. This podcast and its success is a team effort. Matt, I would like to thank you and our team for all you do. The team includes Anne Condon and Alyson Dorosky. Each member of the team makes very important contributions to this effort. I’d also like to thank the podcast recording pros who make it sound so good. The company is called Turncast. Thanks to Jud Mackrill, Adam Clark, Ashley Long, who… all who hail from Turncast. These folks edit, refine, and put the finishing touches on our show. I think you’ll agree, they do a great job.
Matt Nollman: No doubt. We couldn’t do without them. We couldn’t do it without the team and our partners and I… I know we all appreciate it. So thank you, Jack. I think I speak for everyone when I say that this is definitely one of the most fun projects that we work on at LifeYield. It’s been a blast meeting all these interesting people and hearing all their perspectives. I’ve learned a ton and I know that we’ll continue to learn a ton as we foray this show in 2024 and beyond. So I’m looking forward to some more fascinating guests as we come. A little sneak preview for the coming year… We’ll kick off the year by hearing from Bill Capuzzi, who’s the CEO of Apex, and Nalika Nanayakkara, who is the EY Managing Partner and Financial Services Consulting Leader for the Americas. Long title and she deserves it. It includes wealth and asset management, and tech enabled transformation. Additionally, we’ll hear from one of our founders, Paul Samuelson, on how he founded LifeYield and some of the more interesting feats that he’s accomplished over his career. All of those are definitely interesting, illuminating, and engaging listens. So I’d encourage you all to check it out. Now for our audience, if you’ve enjoyed our podcast today, please rate, review, subscribe, and share what we’re doing here at WealthTech on Deck. We’re available wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you again, Jack. It’s been a real pleasure sitting opposite you today.
Jack Sharry: Matt, thanks so much. And thanks to you, our audience. We sincerely appreciate you listening and supporting the WealthTech on Deck podcast. Thanks.