Respect for tech puts firm on path to success

This top performer treats technology with the same importance with which it treats clients

May 4, 2014 @ 12:01 am

By Trevor Hunnicutt

best practices, technology, success, software
+ Zoom
Brian R. Jack: His firm often builds technology in-house. (James Decamp)

When Brian R. Jack joined the financial advisory firm Budros Ruhlin & Roe Inc. in 2000, managing technology was a responsibility shouldered by one of the firm's financial planners.

At the time, the firm realized that technology was changing so fast that it needed to be more than a part-time avocation.

Now it's anything but, according to Mr. Jack, information technology director for the Columbus, Ohio-based fee-only adviser, which manages nearly $2 billion.

In fact, the firm has decided to dedicate as much of its resources to technology as to client services. “We are going to treat tech with the same importance that we treat clients,” Mr. Jack said.

(Don't miss: Quantifying the best practices of advisory firms)

Mr. Jack's unit includes a network administrator and three full-time staff members who work with data. And the firm doesn't shy away from building technology in-house when nothing fits its needs. 

“Our industry, from a software and systems standpoint, is very fragmented, and nobody does things exactly the same way,” Mr. Jack said. “It's hard for software designers to design things for everybody.”

For its efforts, Budros Ruhlin & Roe won an InvestmentNews Best Practices award as a top performer in technology last year.

Top performers in the 2013 InvestmentNews Adviser Technology Study of 317 advisory firms spent dramatically more than their counterparts on software, hardware and technology consulting.

(See also: Client concierge frees up advisers)


Right now Budros Ruhlin & Roe is focused on building a way to get transaction data from manually tracked accounts into the firm's Envestnet | Tamarac portfolio management software. And it is also developing a new iteration, version 3.0, of its client portal.

The client portal has been an important initiative for the firm over the past four years. Nine in 10 clients use it — most on a regular basis — Mr. Jack said.

The new portal is expected to support the scheduling of client meetings, the deliverance of performance reports and even meetings by videoconference.

The platform is also expected to include support for tablets and smartphones as well as push technology, where servers send notifications directly to the client's device, and encrypted messaging.


Efficiency is one goal — the new systems will likely enable staff members to complete their duties and access data more quickly. But perhaps more important, the once meeting-centric firm wants to make sure it's in the right business.

“We were almost in the meeting business because all we did was meet with clients,” Mr. Jack said. “We're trying to get out of the meeting business. We're trying to be in the advice business.” 

And being in the advice business today, according to Mr. Jack, means talking to clients in a cyberfriendly way. Smartphones and tablets have captured the imagination of clients — and not just the younger ones.

“The iPad, iPhone phenomenon has really changed the culture, and it's not just young people or kids or middle-aged, it's everybody,” Mr. Jack said. “When clients come in today, it's pretty rare that they're handed paper. They're handed iPads now.”


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Sponsored financial news

Advisers on the Move

Featured video


Carson Group's Schaben: Making sense of millennials

Lazy, entitled, the trophy generation: These are stereotypes most often associated with millennials. But why are these myths and not realities. Carson Group's Aaron Schaben explains.

Video Spotlight

The Search for Income

Sponsored by PGIM Investments

Recommended Video

Path to growth

Latest news & opinion

TD Ameritrade triples time before it charges fees on popular ETFs

Extending free trading of Vanguard and iShare ETFs to January.

Trump rejects idea of new caps on 401(k) savings in tax plan

GOP reportedly had been considering reducing the cap on the annual amount workers can set aside for 401(k)s.

Finra's stats reveal an industry in decline

The broker-dealer regulator reports fewer entities under its watchful eye.

T. Rowe Price steps up its game to serve financial advisers

The Baltimore-based mutual fund giant is more aggressively targeting financial advisers with a beefed-up wholesale crew and placement on custodial platforms.

The most important tax changes for 2018

The Internal Revenue Service issued inflation adjustments to more than 50 tax provisions for 2018.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print