Envestnet acquires estate and legacy planning technology from Apprise Labs. The terms of the contract were not disclosed.
The deal announced on Tuesday will close with Walters as the sole stakeholder of Apprise Labs, with Envestnet’s Tony Leal and Envestnet MoneyGuide leaving the joint venture.
In the meantime, MoneyGuide will add detailed cash flow reporting, estate and legacy planning, trust modeling, and inheritance fairness planning technology from Apprise to its financial planning offerings. The new planning services are called “Wealth Studios” and are included in MoneyGuide.
Apprise Labs surprised the advisory world in early 2019 when former competitors teamed up to make MoneyGuidePro’s goal-oriented planning more competitive over the estate planning offered by Advicent’s eMoney Advisor and NaviPlan. When it was launched, it was billed as a “Everyone Wins Scenario”, according to Leal, then Co-CEO and CTO of PIETech, who owned MoneyGuidePro, before being adopted by Envestnet later that year. One consultant called it “the perfect storm of providers”.
Apprise Labs officially announced that it was open for business in April 2020. However, the tool is designed to impress in a personal setting with consultant presentations on jumbo touchscreen televisions where clients and consultants sit together in an office. Apprise Labs apparently signed a major broker / trader in the first half of 2020, but it was never named and the technology provider was not even mentioned when Envestnet launched its Trust Services Exchange last month.
After Envestnet acquired the Apprise Labs technology, the estate plans developed by Walters can only be used through MoneyGuide Wealth Studios. The technology will be presented with beta testers in June and will be fully deployed by the end of the year.
Envestnet will focus on combining the two different financial planning styles – and engines – into one, said Leal, now President of Envestnet | MoneyGuide. He wants the zealots on both sides of the planning spectrum to be fully satisfied with the planning available at Envestnet.
“We’ll have both, but it’ll be a simulation engine,” he said. “From the point of view of efficiency and scalability, why carry two around with you?”
According to competitors, the comparison of the results of two calculation engines could give the consultants on the Envestnet platform a headache.
“If [advisors] With different computation engines running in these two applications, how can you compensate for a significant inequality when a client switches from one application class to the next? “Asked Anthony Stich, COO at Advicent. “Which engine wins in the end when it comes to the calculations?”
In fact, there is one fundamental difference in calculating between cash flow and goal-oriented planners: what comes first? Does cash flow planning lead to goal-oriented planning, or should goal-oriented planning provide the planning sketch that is later refined by cash flow-based planning? Envestnet wants to make the question a moot point by providing the best planning experience for either style, but consultants will ultimately crown the winner.
The developer of the digital estate planning software Vanilla, led by Steve Lockshin, also takes note of Envestnet’s announcement. “We welcome all players to the complex estate planning process,” he said. “Consultants are way behind in providing complete estate planning analysis for clients of all sizes. Competition, collaboration and acceptance are all important when it comes to serving customers in the best possible way. “
The deal also raises leadership and collaboration issues. While Walters is now the only stakeholder at Apprise, the working relationship between Apprise and Envestnet will remain the same, Leal said. “The relationship was created to do this,” he said, referring to the technology underlying Wealth Studios.
“We worked just like before and after the transaction. He’s still who I am looking for for leadership and creativity in real estate, ”he said. “We are talking about the future functions.”
“We have found that the relationship between MoneyGuide, Envestnet and Apprise is working really well,” he added. “We have just changed the ownership structure, but the working relationship is the same as it was before the deal.”
Over the past year, the sometimes bombastic Walters has been quiet as the founder and CEO of Apprise Labs. After Tuesday’s announcement, he did not return a request for comment and at the end of Envestnet’s press release issued a statement that he was partially “We look forward to continuing our collaboration to provide consultants with new ways to improve the way they interact with their clients. “
“Edmond is known for his big ideas,” said Stich. “Two years ago Walters went back on stage and was celebrated for his new company with Envestnet and at that time with MoneyGuide. You make many commitments about the power of this new tool and its impact on the marketplace. “
“Fast forward two years later and he’s leaving the stage creating another visionary vacuum,” he said.
Leal said Walters was just busy. Walters needed to quickly mature a complex product, get it to market, and get it to work – and look good with – existing technology – he said.
“He had everything from large corporations to midsize businesses, ensemble practices for customizing RIAs that he piloted / operated with, and he had received feedback from all of those types of businesses,” Leal said. Apprise Labs technology “has matured to the point where now is the time to get to the market and really maximize it from a sales standpoint, which means we needed everything under one roof.”
COVID-19 has also affected the direction of technology, evidenced by the lack of oversized touchscreen televisions in Tuesday’s announcement. “This story is incredibly different,” Leal admitted. “Marketing during COVID-19 is different. I don’t think it will ever go back to what it was. “
While some clients may end up back in their advisor’s office ready for an edgy presentation, many more will be accessing Apprise Labs technology at home through MoneyGuide through the Wealth Studios portal, he added.
However, that does not mean that Envestnet and Walters will split up. Envestnet ”will continue to partner with Edmond [Walters] about future ventures and technologies that the [Envestnet] Ecosystem ”, said an Envestnet spokesman. Unless something changes, however, the deal marks the end of the formal joint venture between Envestnet, Leal and Walters, leaving the founder of eMoney alone at the helm of Apprise Labs – in a landscape that is very different from the landscape in which Walters first was rose to the fore.