20 Years In, T3 Remains an Emerging Tech Barometer

Emerging Technology sign on floor at T3

What debuted as “Virtual Office News” 20 years ago, in a small assembly of emerging software companies and a few dozen advisory firms, has now become the biggest gathering in the independent advisor technology marketplace.

Rebranded as “T3,” which stands for Technology Tools for Today, the conference recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with 100 technology companies and nearly 1,000 attendees at the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas. 

Through these 20 years, T3 has been the barometer for what technologies will emerge to help independent advisors gain productivity and serve clients as they continue to be the fastest-growing segment of the financial services industry. For example, 10 years ago the conference was overtaken by robo-advisors’ potential implications for disruption. However, we’ve all seen that movie, with human advisors remaining paramount in clients’ lives. 

That said, many of the robo innovations, such as digital account opening, have since been adopted, and there’s no better place to see those come to life than at T3.

Five years ago, it seemed to be all about direct indexing, which promised to revolutionize how portfolios were constructed and disrupt traditional mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. While that trend is still playing out through mergers and acquisitions, this year T3 leaned into personalization: how advisors can overcome the tradeoffs inherent in customizing their services, while gaining scale via a variety of new technologies. 

A prime example of this movement was the launch at T3 of Nebo Wealth, from GMO, the investment management firm founded by Jeremy Grantham. 

“Nebo Wealth is a turnkey, end-to-end platform that enables RIAs to streamline and automate the process of delivering personalized portfolios for each and every client at scale,” said Martin Tarlie, product lead for the needs-based optimization platform.

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Building on the success of its introduction 18 months ago, Tarlie says that Nebo Wealth — which now has $2 billion in platform assets — extends those capabilities by including automated trading and rebalancing, performance reporting, billing, advisor and client portals, as well as back-office support for account opening and administration. 

“Nebo Wealth has the potential to disrupt traditional model management and managed account marketplaces which rely on “cookie cutter” methodologies,” he said.

A number of new technologies are being launched by both emerging and traditional players, including an entrance into the RIA custody business by Apex Advisor Solutions. 

Apex has long been the clearing platform for some of the largest fintechs and digital RIAs, as well as powering advisor technology platforms with its account-opening interfaces. Now, Apex is turning its sights on disrupting the RIA custody industry with Apex Astra, a user interface that takes advantage of Apex’s flexible APIs and institutional-grade advisor platform. 

Apex’s Astra was built by the same technologists and executives that made TD Ameritrade’s Veo famous.

According to Olivia Eisinger, the general manager of advisory at Apex, “Apex Astra is designed to be the industry’s strongest operational growth engine.”