As the largest independent broker-dealer in the U.S., LPL Financial has experienced a lot of growth since its inception more than 60 years ago. But in recent years, the financial advice market that LPL serves has undergone dramatic shifts driven by regulatory changes and market conditions.
To remain competitive amid an increasingly complex environment, the firm has leveraged technology solutions as a strategy to meet the needs of an evolving industry, create greater efficiencies for advisors to manage their practices and enable advisors to get closer to their customers. That strategy is led by Victor Fetter, former Dell CIO and VP, Online, who was recruited to LPL Financial 4.5 years ago for his leadership and technology savvy to help the company identify effective ways to help LPL to address its shifting market requirements.
"I joined because the company was going through a transformation," said Fetter, who will be one of the top technology executives speaking at the 2017 Dallas CIO Executive Leadership Summit on April 6 at The Ritz-Carlton Dallas. "They needed someone who could refresh the company's technology strategy based on the changing market dynamics and lead with a new vision."
Fetter started by encouraging LPL executives and managers to gather feedback and gain insights from the more than 14,000 financial advisors and 700 banks and credit unions that the company supports, a practice he had undertaken during his time at Dell.com. To accomplish that, he said the company gathered customer product feedback through e-commerce transactions and A/B testing to deliver improved solutions.
At LPL, the firm began a program in which it sends members of its product team to a financial advisor's office for a day or two to better to understand how LPL's tools are being used and to identify opportunities for creating new functionality.
In addition, LPL created an advisor council to regularly obtain and act on insights regarding their changing needs. The combination of these insights has helped LPL refine its tools to meet those needs.
For example, said Fetter, financial advisors want online portals and access to real-time client data to help them closely monitor customer investment inflows and outflows. Advisors also want mobile tools they can use to provide clients support wherever and whenever they may be meeting with them.
Meanwhile, as many investment firms have ramped up their use of robo advisors in the delivery of advice, LPL has taken an approach where investors can engage with an advisor-driven digital advice platform that combines an advisor's advice with an online investment portal, bringing technology to the client but keeping the advisor at the center of the relationship.
In the evolving investment environment, data is another technology component that is playing an increasingly significant role. "Data is empowering our clients and their customers to make more informed decisions," said Fetter.
LPL has also changed its delivery model under Fetter's guidance. "When we first launch new capabilities, we start by testing it with 30 clients," said Fetter. "We then gather their feedback and make refinements. Then we expand the test group to 100 and do the same. We continue this until we've tested with 1,000 clients before sending out production-ready capabilities. It enables us to build a solution that delivers on the users' needs and ultimately delivers more value."
Being proactive with the C-suite and the board
As Fetter and his team continue to introduce innovative solutions to address changing client and advisor needs, Fetter stresses the importance of communicating with the C-suite and the board about the different ways that technology can create new opportunities for the business.
"We've got to be proactive in bringing solutions to the table," said Fetter. "I encourage my team to take a leadership position and demonstrate the business value that technology can deliver."
Interested in learning more? Please consider attending our upcoming Dallas CIO Executive Leadership Summit on April 6th at The Ritz-Carlton Dallas. We look forward to seeing you there and hearing your viewpoints on our exciting journey to the future of tech leadership!