Christen Marsenison

Vice president of corporate strategy and development for Envisage Information Systems
Christen Marsenison

PA: Christen, there’s a lot happening with technology across the industry today. What changes are you seeing in general that we should be aware of?

Christen Marsenison: As a technology company, Envisage is looking for ways to push that leading edge of technology. We’re dealing with a lot of today’s technology using features such as auto-escalate, auto-enroll, and other automated options for plan sponsors to get participants into their plans, but what does tomorrow look like? What do we need to do to get the platforms to move forward, to talk to each other and to move data more efficiently and effectively?

In general, we’re seeing that technology is going from multiple levels of platforms to a singular consolidated platform. Consolidated platforms allow for data to be more readily available to the participants’ plan sponsors, as well as to advisers. Technology has to be ready to support that, to allow advisers to do what they do best, which is advise participants about how to retire.

PA: What role does technology have with financial advisers today, specifically those in the retirement plan industry?

Marsenison: We see a trend in advisers being able to access that platform data—or in their need to be able to access it more readily. By adjusting the platform basis, they have access to more data to assist their participants. Advisers are going to have to utilize those platforms to give a more realistic view of each participant.

One of the ways that we’re seeing technology change is to more specific areas of technologies. As advisers are specializing their focuses, their lines of business are getting very specific with what they’re dealing with and what type of participant they want to look at: high-net-worth or low-net-worth, or somewhere in the middle. As they are specializing, we believe the technology also has to specialize, and be built on a larger platform that allows them to integrate their specialties with their technology as well.

PA: Are financial advisers using the technology more than ever? Are you seeing a rapid migration or a rapid shift to the use of technology for all plan advisers?

Marsenison: We’re not seeing a movement right now to using the technologies, but we’re absolutely seeing a need—and a pattern and a trend in that need—developing across the industry for advisers.

PA: There’s a lot of talk about the Millennial population today—those 18 to 35 years old. How important is it for financial advisers to focus on and consider them in their business plan today?

Marsenison: Advisers have to start focusing on Millennials simply for mathematical reasons. Fifteen thousand Baby Boomers are retiring every day—a trend that, over the next 15 to 19 years, will cause a significant decrease in the money within a plan or, first and foremost, within the retirement realm of advisers’ assets under management [AUM].

Secondary to that, Millennials will start driving the market differently. They’ve worked differently, they function differently, and they’ll retire differently. Millennials are going to change jobs far more frequently than the industry is used to with Baby Boomers, who had an average of five careers over a lifetime. We’re looking at up to 15 job changes for Millennials on average, so plans and technology have to start supporting that and allowing for more fluid actions for advisers to advise on different parts of services.

Advisers have to start to plan for Baby Boomers moving their money out of the market and Millennials moving their money in. As Millennials move their money in, advisers have to focus on how to best serve them, and we believe that will come with technology advancements.