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The 6 defining features of a modern RIA custodian

employee of a modern ria custodian

At the heart of any independent advisor’s operations is their RIA custodian, the entity responsible for holding and safeguarding client assets. Choosing a custodian is a key decision for advisors that can significantly impact many aspects of their business – from day-to-day operations, to scalability, to client experience. 

One way to narrow down the field is to split it into two categories: legacy and modern. 

Working with legacy RIA custodians lets you reference a so-called “household name” with clients, which some advisors view as important. Although they do bring name recognition, these legacy systems tend to fall short in other crucial areas.

Enter the modern custodian, built explicitly to address these long-standing deficiencies. 

What is a modern RIA custodian?

Modern custodians seek to solve common problems that have plagued the industry for decades: things like labyrinths of paperwork, slow transaction times, and high fees. Let’s explore the six main features that set modern custodians apart from their legacy counterparts.  

1. Fast, Digital Onboarding

You might not need wet signatures for account opening anymore, but mapping the exact same paper-based workflow into an e-signature tool is hardly revolutionary. Legacy custodian processes for account opening and funding are still time-consuming and prone to manual errors, wasting multiple hours every month. 

A modern custodian helps advisors spend less time on account opening and funding with a digital account opening process, completely paperless ACATs initiated in under 60 seconds (no statements required), and digital move money authorizations — reducing the process to a few minutes per month.

2. Live Chat with Real People

When you have a client-impacting issue in need of fast resolution, few things are more frustrating than waiting on hold for an indeterminate amount of time, unsure of whether you’re going to get a trustworthy answer. Quality support shouldn’t be reserved for firms above a certain AUM threshold — advisors of all sizes deserve responsive, reliable support from an expertly trained team. 

3. Dedicated Transition Teams

Transitioning to a new custodian should be easy on advisors and clients alike. Every implementation is unique and deserves a highly tailored plan with support from experienced facilitators. 

A modern RIA custody solution brings together a dedicated team with a digital onboarding process, making the burden of a transition significantly lighter – that means your firm can adopt processes faster and start realizing benefits sooner.

4. Modern Client Experience

Consumer finance apps have significantly outpaced the tech in the wealth management space. Your clients have come to expect an experience that is completely frictionless, highly transparent, with important information just a few clicks away. 

Advisors need to be able to offer clients quick and easy access to statements, tax documents, invoices, activity, performance and more, through an easy-to-navigate client portal (with a user interface that isn’t from the early 90s).

5. Fully-Integrated Tech Stack

What if you didn’t have to stitch together a patchwork of disparate (and expensive) technologies to run your business? Account management, trading and rebalancing, billing, and reporting belong together in one elegant solution. 

Beyond your critical operations, a modern custodian empowers firms to integrate seamlessly with other tools like CRM, financial planning, risk analysis, etc.

6. Built for RIAs

A modern RIA custodian is a partner to the independent advisor, not a transactional service provider or (in the worst cases) a competitor. There are no retail products or in-house advisory offerings, which means no obnoxious marketing messages sent to your clients. 

A modern custodian empowers firms to set their own minimums, and provides integrated tech at an industry low cost. In addition to being built for RIAs, it is also built with input and feedback from advisors, ensuring that the highest impact features are the fastest to market.

Is a modern custodian right for your RIA?

Whether you choose a legacy or a modern custodian will likely depend on the size and goals of your business. Legacy options are popular for a reason: they’ve been around for a long time and are seen as reliable and steadfast. 

But those same characteristics can also be a disadvantage. Advisors seeking to start and grow modern advisory firms often find themselves frustrated by legacy players that remain stubbornly stuck in their ways, lacking the will – or ability – to meaningfully innovate. This can leave RIAs working in systems that are a drag on efficiency and client experience. 

Modern custodians like Altruist are on a mission to redefine the landscape of financial advice, building solutions to address the dynamic needs of today's RIAs and their clients.

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