National Financial, Fidelity's clearing unit, says it is unveiling "a comprehensive new technology strategy that will focus on making significantly larger investments in key areas its broker-dealer clients have indicated would best support their overall growth and efficiency objectives." That sounds a lot bigger than it really is.
"The first in a series of deliverables from the new strategy take advantage of proven, state-of-the-art capabilities from Fidelity’s industry-leading RIA and retail brokerage platforms that include improved design and navigation for Streetscape and myStreetscape, conditional order and trailing stop trading capabilities, along with the extension of margin credit on international securities," says the press release. "National Financial is also introducing significantly expanded market data and research capabilities for Streetscape and myStreetscape, as well as enhanced money movement functionality and on-demand reporting. These new features will be delivered to clients over the coming months."
While the press release claims that "National Financial’s technology strategy is based on a deep understanding of the industry trends and challenges facing broker-dealers and advisors," I'm skeptical about such grand claims.
Fidelity's advisor division has made numerous missteps in technology over the years. About five years ago, it struck a deal with a portfolio management software company that was indeed promising. But the PMS company blew up after its venture capital backers disagreed on its direction.
And calling its RIA platform, WealthCentral, "state of the art" is quite a claim.
About three years ago, Fidelity issued a press release trumpeting its WealthCentral platform for RIAs--a year before it was going to launch. The platform's introduction was delayed for months and, since it was finally rolled out, it's never really caught on with RIAs.
That's largely because Fidleity chose an Oracle CRM system that is fairly complex and provides more than an advisory firm needs.
While I hear about advisors using one app in WealthCentral, such as its NaviPlan financial planning integration or its integration with Advent Portfolio Exchange, I simply don't ever hear about advisors embracing more than one app from WealthCentral, and I hear of almost no one using the CRM system.
The StreetScape app used by registered reps is more successful and that's what yeserday's announcement is mainly about.
Fidelity has in recent months said it will be offering tools it offers reps to advisors and vice versa, which seems like a great idea--one that should have been implemented years ago.
But Fidelity has trained me to look sketpically at all its releases about technology.
Maybe I am being a little tough on Fidelity but its claims have always been bigger than what it delivers.
In this case, the press release promises a "new strategy" when, in fact, what's being unveiled is really just a few new features.
What do you think? Do you use StreetScape? Or how about WealthCentral? Let me know what your experience is.