Advisors: Beware The Rise of the “Franken-Product”


Last Updated on July 20, 2020 by Carolyn McRae

The Advisor Technology Dilemma

Software, you have. You have a CRM system to manage your communications and tasks. You have a financial planning system to create the long-term analysis that clients depend on. You have a performance reporting system to show clients how they’re doing. You have account aggregation to see a complete view of client assets.

These systems are often individually great, but each system seems to require some form of daily attention. And while some of the systems claim to be integrated, none of it seems to work together as well as you need to get real operational efficiency. Some of these “integrations” still require manually moving data. Other integrations are more automated but turn out kludgey and work in unexpected ways that create more work for you. You need software, but it often feels like you’re working for your software rather than your software working for you.

It seems logical to find a system that does everything you want. A performance reporting system, client portal, account aggregation, financial planning, deep analytics and CRM just for advisors all rolled into one. A number of vendors realized this, too, and have tried to oblige.


The Rise of the Franken-product

Achieving simplicity when building a software platform is not easy. Every customer comes with a list of requests to meet the needs of their particular firm. As a software vendor, if we answer these requests we tend to move toward “complete” solutions. The good news it that these systems are a little better at interconnecting and sharing data than systems loosely cobbled together.

The bad news is that they become Franken-products; a monster product with lot’s of mediocre individual parts stitched together. While serviceable at many things, these products do nothing particularly well. The worst part is that these systems tend to be very expensive as well as hard to use and maintain.

So if having individual vendors adding features to “do everything but nothing well” isn’t the answer, what is?

What’s the alternative?

The real alternative is an ecosystem approach. Practically speaking, it means that vendors need to create systems that are fundamentally designed to plug in to other systems. In other words, we vendors need to assume that we are not alone in serving you. In support of that, vendors must put as much thought and creativity in how they connect as they do with their core product. Each vendor needs to make it simpler and faster to build tools that work together and lowers the barriers to integration.

In this approach, each feature that might have been added to a single product can be delivered by multiple partners that specialize in that function. This gives advisors choice and flexibility. It also encourages the growth of specialty vendors by making it less expensive for them to get into the market. More choice for advisors.

This is why Blueleaf has spent so much time and energy building the simplest, most comprehensive connectivity in the industry. By lowering the time to integrate from the industry average of 4 months to under 4 days, we’ve encouraged dozens of companies to connect with us. All these partners make an advisor’s Blueleaf-centered system both powerful and flexible.

Blueleaf stays focused on what we do exceptionally well; Data and reporting with our account aggregation, client portal, performance reporting, and portfolio monitoring. Our engineering team spent years making these features what they are today and we’ll continue to improve them.

Through our open API, Blueleaf acts as a data hub in the middle of your wealth management software configuration. The resulting “Blueleaf ecosystem” can include financial planning tools, CRM, rebalancing, and analytics. We don’t build those features ourselves; we integrate with them through our partners. Think of Blueleaf as a Swiss Army knife with interchangeable blades.

Adding Your Own Features to Blueleaf

If you view our Partners page you’ll see a list of providers that we are currently connected with. MoneyGuidePro is on that list. So is Redtail, Grendel, AdvisoryWorld, Kwanti, HiddenLevers, and RedBlack. Is that it? Oh God, no. By year end there should be a couple of dozen more on the partners’ page. Would you like to be one of them? Our API is so simple to work with that even someone with very basic programming skills can build an app and connect to Blueleaf.

So when requests came in to add financial planning to Blueleaf, we did it, by integrating with MoneyGuidePro. When our customers asked for CRM functionality, we added it, through Redtail and Grendel. These companies are the best at what they do and Blueleaf is the best at what we do. And now you don’t have to settle for anything less.

Next:What is an API? Invitation to the Blueleaf Block Party


  • Kevin D. Flynn

    Kevin D. Flynn is a former Head Coach at Blueleaf and founder of Flynn Consulting, LLC, a business and financial coaching service for startups and small business owners.

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Kevin D. Flynn is a former Head Coach at Blueleaf and founder of Flynn Consulting, LLC, a business and financial coaching service for startups and small business owners.
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