InvestmentNews is recognizing firms that have risen above their peers through innovation in practice management, as determined by rankings in both the 2013 IN/Moss Adams Adviser Compensation and Staffing Study and the 2013 IN Adviser Technology Study. Profiles of Best Practices Award winners will run in every other issue.
A bit of record keeping, color coding and cloud computing has helped Joseph Barry add a personal touch to client relationships.
The wealth manager and his associates at Joseph Barry Co. LLC in New Bedford, Mass., prepare for meetings with their clients by consulting a centralized database with color-coded flags for each of four categories: financial, protection, estate and tax plans.
A red flag means that the subject hasn't been discussed. Yellow means the plan hasn't been executed; for instance, if the client hasn't filed certain documents or if he or she is spending too much money. Green means the issue has been handled.
The workstation helps ensure that no client is or feels left behind, according to Mr. Barry.
As one of the few firms to have its entire set of core applications integrated into the cloud, Joseph Barry Co. was recognized for excellence in the 2013 InvestmentNews Adviser Technology Study. The firm qualified as both a “top performer” and “innovator” in the study, which surveyed 409 firms, and received a 2013 Best Practices award.
Firms qualified as top performers by integrating technology throughout their practice and drawing the highest profits from each client and the highest revenue from each staff member. Innovators, meanwhile, used the widest variety of integrated software, cloud-based solutions and mobile applications.
Client's needs in mind
Mr. Barry credits his firm's efforts to build tech systems with its clients' needs in mind for helping it to achieve those recognitions.
“Who has the most revenue? It's the companies, the advisers, the brokers whose clients perceive their adviser cares about them,” Mr. Barry said.
“It's not enough that you just care; they have to know that you care — and we've developed a system that demonstrates that,” he said.
His son, Patrick, who is also an adviser, spearheaded the development of the workstation after its forerunner, which was run on internal servers, broke down, according to Mr. Barry.
He said that the company hired a consultant to help develop a more robust, networked infrastructure.
Now the firm uses eMoney Advisor for financial planning, Advent for portfolio management and NetDocuments to store paperwork digitally, Mr. Barry said.
Data from those platforms are fed into Salesforce.com Inc.'s customer relationship management system.
Implementing the system took several months and some investment, but the time and money were worthwhile, Mr. Barry said.
Cloud-based systems have the advantage of requiring less technical know-how and upkeep, and they allow advisers to be mobile.
Mr. Barry said that his productivity has increased substantially.
“If you can improve your productivity by 30%, believe me — price is not going to be an issue,” he said.
Subtle uses of technology also help the firm deliver “surprises and delights.”
By storing bits of data on clients, such as their hobbies, the breed of the family dog, the name of an alma mater or the birth date of a grandchild, the firm can send personalized gifts, such as monogrammed hoodies for a baby or a watercolor to hang on the wall.
“These are the little touches that show up from Federal Express that no one's anticipating,” Mr. Barry said.
And gifts such as a painting can be a conversation starter between existing clients and their friends.
“Our new assets come from wowing our existing clients,” Mr. Barry said. “So our workstation is about delivering service — the kind of service that generates referrals.”
Mr. Barry advises firms that are tech laggards to focus on solutions that will impress their top clients.
“You've got to have a real focus — a strong structure — that's already in place,” he said.
“Technology is not going to design a service model for you. You have to design it first, and your staff has to be open-minded.”