The ‘Why’ Behind eMoney-Nationwide Wellness Tech Partnership

Speaking about her firm’s new partnership with eMoney, Nationwide’s Rona Guymon says the time is ripe for the integration of retirement income products with holistic advisory and financial wellness solutions.

Earlier in July, Nationwide and eMoney Advisor established a new partnership aimed at equipping advisers with a greater ability to deliver customized client experiences and develop personalized, holistic financial plans.

eMoney brings to the partnership more than two decades of financial technology experience, and provides financial planning solutions that are both goals-based and cash-flow-based. According to Rona Guymon, senior vice president of Nationwide’s annuity distribution team, adopting new technology tools is imperative for advisers doing business in 2022, and the new partnership should help them do just that.  

As summarized in the following Q&A, Guymon says the firm’s new alliance with eMoney also gives advisers and financial professionals the tools they need to demonstrate the value of lifetime income and seamlessly integrate a guaranteed income solution into a client’s holistic financial plan.

Through the partnership, eMoney also provides advisers with access to digital marketing technology designed to grow client relationships. This includes automated campaigns, social media sharing, marketing analytics, email scheduling and eMoney marketing materials. In a press release about the partnership, Leslie Knotts, eMoney’s head of client engagement and adoption, said the collaboration “reflects the trending shift to holistic full-spectrum and planning-led advice and speaks to the fundamental role insurance and annuities can play in comprehensive financial planning.”

PLANADVISER: As a general matter, can you please offer some additional perspective on the ways technology can help to boost productivity for an advisory firm? Is it simply about making it possible to serve more clients efficiently by cutting down on the need for staff and leadership to process repetitive manual tasks, such as portfolio reviews or financial wellness assessments?

Guymon: Technology boosts productivity for financial professionals, both registered investment advisers and traditional commission-based brokers, by allowing them to efficiently provide clients with a personalized experience. The ability to work with clients throughout the planning, execution and management phases of their financial planning process in a digestible, client-friendly manner is paramount. 

For instance, eMoney has an incredible client portal, which is great for marketing, prospecting and staying in front of clients. Clients also appreciate the ability to create customized financial plans that can be adjusted based on goals or needs changing, allowing annuities to be incorporated into those plans so they can visually illustrate more predictable and dependable outcomes.

PLANADVISER: How important is it for an advisory professional to be able to generate ‘goals-based’ and ‘cash-flow-based’ analysis and financial projections for clients in an efficient manner? 

Guymon: These abilities are foundational to the financial planning and wealth management process. We know that customers have greater confidence and satisfaction when they have a written, documented plan with their financial professional. We also know that written plans typically allow financial professionals to capture more of the client’s overall assets. But creating those plans can be time-consuming and could be confusing if they haven’t used annuities within their planning software before.

The partnership with eMoney furthers the adviser’s ability to identify, analyze and illustrate the potential benefits provided by annuity solutions on a client’s existing portfolio on a repeatable basis. These include the benefits of tax-deferral, guaranteed income and asset protection.

Advisers can incorporate these solutions in their preferred planning software, saving them time and providing them with the ability to access the solution levers for each client scenario. This is why we created a support team that can help financial professionals incorporate annuities into the financial plans they prepare.

PLANADVISER: Can you speak about the burden of recordkeeping and documentation and how the new collaboration may support compliance efforts?

Guymon: When you think about the fiduciary standard or Regulation Best Interest, it is important to document needs and recommendations for each client. By using a financial plan to capture the client’s needs and your recommendations, you are creating a solid regulatory foundation for both the financial professional and the client.

We are currently working with our own suitability/new business team to allow approval for the client’s financial plan output from our FinTech partners to be submitted with the application, in order to streamline the process and serve as the needed documentation for suitability review.

PLANADVISER: From the perspective of Nationwide, what are the most important trends in the retirement plan industry today? Clearly the income question is key, but what else should retirement industry practitioners be learning about?  

Guymon: We feel Nationwide is leading the industry in the in-plan guarantee space, having launched a full suite of solutions in the past year and a half. That is an area where we expect significant growth in years ahead, as plan sponsors and participants seek to address decumulation challenges and ensure they don’t outlive their income.

Some of the broader trends impacting the retirement plan industry today include margin compression leading to industry consolidation and regulatory changes allowing for more capabilities within plans, including in terms of in-plan retirement income. Another important issue is providing plan access to more employees of small companies via multiple employer plans and pooled employer plans. This is especially important in light of the growth of the gig economy.

There is a need for plan sponsors and others in the industry to continue to educate on financial literacy, leading to participants who are more confident in making good long-term financial decisions regarding retirement. On a similar note, assisting plan participants more broadly from a financial wellness perspective, rather than focusing solely on retirement, is critical.

Finally, there is an increased need, overall, to help participants understand the decumulation phase of retirement. The industry has focused on accumulation over the years. We need to get better at helping participants create a decumulation mindset as they approach retirement.

PLANADVISER: Recalling that the Nationwide Advisor Authority study pointed out the perceived importance of merger and acquisition activity for the future of the adviser business, has this viewpoint changed at all with the turn we have seen in the markets and the rockier economy?

Guymon: I read a study recently from Ameriprise that examined how advisers nearing retirement are accelerating their own retirement plans due to the current market and economic environment. I think that may lead to greater M&A activity in the coming year.

Additionally, you still have private equity involved in and backing these large M&A activities. With account valuations lower due to market volatility, they may be able to find more opportunities at a lower valuation.

There are still those firms that are ready to double down and make their practice stronger. The need for scale, the impact of fee compression, the price tag for technology and the cost of compliance hits all firms hard, so getting to scale is important for efficiency and profitability.