Robb Baldwin of TradePMR: On Selecting the Right Technology and Custodial Solutions for Your Financial Advisory Firm
TradePMR (www.TradePMR.com) specializes in providing custodial services and technology solutions for RIAs. Their technology is proprietary and built by their in-house developers with RIAs in mind. TradePMR supports RIA business without a competing retail division. This specialization gives them the agility and flexibility to respond to each advisory firm’s individualized needs. “You deserve to be on a first-name basis with your back office,” says Robb Baldwin, founder and CEO. I had the pleasure of speaking with Robb in July 2017.
A transcript of the interview is posted below.
Marie Swift: Hello and welcome back to the Best Practices in the financial services industry this is your host today Marie Swift and I’m speaking with Robb Baldwin. He is the founder and CEO of TradePMR. Robb, as a former advisor, you established TradePMR about 20 years ago, is that right?
Swift: Could you tell me why? Why did you start Trade PMR? That’s a lot of work to start a custodial services and technology support platform.
Baldwin: Well you are correct, but picture this Marie: In 1997 as we were investigating who we were as an RIA and we had assets custodied with three different various vendors, we realized most of those vendors were heavily catering to the retail public. The service model to the RIA channel was undeveloped. The technology was nothing but comma-delimited format sent to us in an email every day. And we still had the competitive nature of the fact that our custodians were going after retail clients that could cross over to our clients. So, we wanted to develop a model whereby we were heavily involved in service. We developed incredible technology that gave investment advisors all the tools they needed to run their practice and be able to offer that we weren’t going to compete with our own clients, our own advisors. So, that’s why we started TradePMR in 1998.
Swift: Could you tell me a little more about TradePMR and the ways you stand out from your competition?
Baldwin: Certainly. We are currently the only real-time portfolio management system available to an advisor on the phone that is out there in the marketplace. And we do that because we are heavily involved in technology. We believe you can solve a lot of issues with technology. Of course, there is a lot of discussion about technology in the RIA space, always has been in the last 10-15 years, but it’s becoming more and more out there to the RIA community that they have to ante-up and solve their technology problems and integrate so they can increase their bottom lines.
The difference between us and our competitors simply is we want to be a much better service model, know our client, stay relatively small in our advisor count and provide a full-service technology suite that allows an advisor to be up and running in business without having to add any additional technology except for those they want based on maybe some historical use they have from a prior life.
Swift: So, when you said “available on the phone” do you mean a mobile phone, a smart phone?
Baldwin: Yes, any and all devices.
BIG NEWS AT SYNERGY CONFERENCE 2017
Swift: You recently had your big annual conference; I believe it was called Synergy, down in Miami. You had a big announcement there. Can you talk a little bit about what that was?
Baldwin: Certainly. We released EarnWise, which is our newest technology – it is really a three-in-one system. It combines an advisor portfolio management system so advisors can have performance reports, do fee automation, and all portfolio management, which includes trade re-balancing, model management, trailing stops etc. In addition to the advisor PMS, It also provides a client portal so the clients can login and see all their account information, and also a robo offering. So, advisors can utilize the same system with the same database off the same feed, a robo, and attach that to their practice if that’s an offering they want to include. So, it’s a three-in-one piece that we dreamt up and started planning out about two-and-a-half years ago. We just rolled it out in May.
Swift: When I was at the conference with you, I heard from you and your team that this might be the biggest thing you’ve ever done. Why is that? Why do you say that?
Baldwin: I think it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done because when you look at how an advisor works typically they are piecing together technology in order to formulate what they need in their practice. They have to have an outside portfolio management system. They’ll end up with a separate vendor to give their clients a portal access. Then they’ll go out and find a robo and it may be a robo at a different facility than they currently use. It’s all these pieces they have to deal with, work with, and have human capital in their office to handle all the different vendors. EarnWise is revolutionary because it allows an advisor to have everything in one place. That way they don’t have to go out and buy all different types of equipment and solutions for outsourcing – it’s all included with EarnWise, including the CRM.
(you will also see Robb Baldwin jump out of an airplane)
Swift: That’s fantastic. I read here you also have third-party integrations. Could you talk a little bit about the freedom of choice for advisors who want to stick with their favorite whatever it is CRM or PMS?
Baldwin: The advisors that come to us sometimes have a history with different vendors and we want to support all of those vendors whether they be a portfolio management system, a CRM, a trading platform, a re-balancing system, etc. All of those are supported by us. We have literally dozens of integrations to support that — including the financial planning tools.
GOALS-BASED CUSTODIAL SUPPORT
Swift: You’ve also been in the news a lot recently. I noticed in RIABiz yesterday another big article about TradePMR and how you’re helping advisors reach their goals. The goals they actually tell you they want to achieve when they come on with TradePMR. Could you talk a little bit about the Letter of Understanding and how that works for TradePMR and the advisors they serve?
Baldwin: The Letter of Understanding (LOU) came about three years ago when we noticed that we were having relationships with some advisors that were not working out. They would send us emails and discuss their business plan with us and what their future plans were with their practice and literally would fall flat on their face. So, we wanted to introduce a concept with the LOU, to have a written-down goals agenda with each advisor so that our relationship managers could follow up with the advisors and discuss with them where they were in their business plan. And if they didn’t meet their goals or didn’t accomplish what they had written down in their LOU with us we might be able to assist them or get them coaching.
We have a free coaching program that we offer that allows them to be under a coaching mentor that helps them grow, helps them reach their goals. If they are not really interested in doing that or not really interested in reaching their goals or something came in the way then sometimes it’s best we part ways if they don’t have the same goals that we have and that is to work and grow advisors.
Swift: Well, I certainly met a lot of interesting advisors. Some large advisors when we were together in Miami at the conference. Could you talk a little bit about the type of advisor that is drawn to TradePMR and who is really the ideal advisor for TradePMR to serve?
Baldwin: Yes, exactly. Well, I think we’ve been known in the past for dealing with smaller advisors; however, a shift has started to occur and I think it’s being driven mostly by technology because many of the large advisors are searching for technology solutions and our three-in-one EarnWise solution is something that a lot of advisors have looked at and stated that’s something that could help them out greatly to increase their P&L. So, the message is getting out there to a lot of larger advisors that TradePMR is open and available to them. We’ve increased the size of the RIAs we are searching for to bring on board – $180 million and up is really our search criteria at this junction.
Swift: So, last question Rob. How do advisors learn more and what does the process look like if they’re interested in exploring the opportunity with TradePMR?
Baldwin: The best way to find out about us is just to visit our website at www.TradePMR.com. On our website, we have the ability for advisors to request a package and it will give us a little bit of information about them. Then, we will reach out to them and discuss completing a profile form. That profile form will allow us to really give a proposal based on their practice and how they want to run. That’s really the best way to learn about us and begin working with us.
Swift: I sure appreciate your time today. Thank you so much for your insights.
Baldwin: Thank you, Marie.
Trade-PMR Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC