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Edelman Exec Explains Inside Strategy Behind Financial Engines Deal

By Garrett Keyes January 31, 2019

RIA Edelman Financial Services completed one of 2018’s largest M&A deals when it bought TAMP provider Financial Engines, according to DeVoe and Company data. Facilitated by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, which holds a stake in Edelman, the deal merged $21 billion Edelman and $169 billion Financial Engines to form the company Edelman Financial Engines. Executive vice president Kelly O’Donnell says the deal was done to combine Financial Engines' scale with Edelman’s human advice elements.

“From the Financial Engines perspective, we were looking for a way to combine our technology and scale with human-based advisors” because it would be “a key part of firm success going forward,” O’Donnell says.

Merging with Edelman was “very attractive” when looking at Financial Engines’ “long-term growth opportunities and ambitions for the future,” she says. And that’s because O’Donnell claims combining Edelman’s advisors with Financial Engines' technology and scale creates some key benefits.

First, the merger lets Edelman Financial Engines create a great “omni-channel client experience,” she says. Clients and advisors can communicate in different ways – such as “face-to-face, on a phone call, over email, or through Skype” – as a result of the merger. “It’s something we really focused on,” O’Donnell explains.

Second, the merger lets the joined firms create “personalized portfolios and benefits for its clients at scale,” she says.

Financial Engines has more than a million clients, O’Donnell says. And at the time of the merger, Edelman serviced over 35,000 families or individuals, according to a press release. To create a great client experience at scale you need the right technologies to “automate planners' back offices, and take away administrative and operational tasks,” O’Donnell says.

With the merger, they can “do that at scale for many planners all together.” By doing so, the firms’ advisors can “spend more time with clients on things that really matter,” she says.

Kelly O’Donnell

“We have two mission-based firms coming together to help clients with their full financial picture. No other RIA has that ability,” she claims. When people have complex personal events in their lives they want to speak with an advisor “face-to-face.” But if they want guidance on smaller decisions, “that’s when email and asking for financial education is beneficial,” she says. “For the first time Americans have access to financial planning [at scale] that looks at their comprehensive financial life,” she says.