Advisers wasting time and money by underutilizing tech

Wealth management professionals who don't take full advantage of their firm's software programs are at a competitive disadvantage

Jun 11, 2015 @ 5:22 pm

By Alessandra Malito

Advisers, here's the truth: You're wasting time and money on technology that you probably aren't using to the fullest extent. And for the most part it's technology designed to make your job easier and improve client outcomes.

That said, getting up to speed on unfamiliar technology is not easy. There are a lot of functions within each program or platform, and having to go through every manual of every application can be a daunting task.

Taking the time to learn these tools, and perhaps even participating in a training program for yourself and employees, however, may save you some time and boost your bottom line.

When advisers were asked in the 2015 InvestmentNews' Technology Study what would be most critical to achieving their goals for growth, 55% of the 234 advisers who answered said fully utilizing their firms' current technology offerings. Another 28% said investing in new and emerging technologies, while only 17% said technology will not play a significant role in their firms' ability to grow.

Which of the following would be most critical to achieving your goals for growth?

Source: InvestmentNews 2015 Tech Study

"It's very important to spend time and money to train [personnel], and not just to buy the package and let it be," said Philip Palaveev, chief executive of the Ensemble Practice, a business consulting firm for financial advisers. "Technology is a tool — it's not a magic wand."

There are a few ways advisers can take advantage of the technology that they already have.

GET A CONSULTANT

Janice M. Cackowski, a wealth adviser with Strategic Wealth Partners in Independence, Ohio, said hiring a technology consultant, even for just a day and a half of mentoring, can greatly impact how an adviser or firm uses its software. A good one will be able to provide helpful techniques to optimize advisors' technology usage based on how they see the firm operating.

"We all need to take a step back and take a look at how things are done in the office," Ms. Cackowski said. "If we have to get involved in the hiccups of paperwork or any confusion, which we do, then it's costing time and money, because we are not out looking for the next client."

If hiring a tech consultant isn't of interest for some advisers, then there's always the option to appoint a "superuser" in the business, who will learn the programs backwards and forwards, get colleagues up to speed on the software and enforce consistent usage among employees.

"It is really important to assign ownership to a system," said Greg Friedman, president of Junxure, a customer relationship management (CRM) software, and president of Private Ocean, a wealth management firm in San Rafael, Calif. He tells Junxure customers that there needs to be a "Junxure champion" at their firm. The tech provider also has check-ins at least once a year to see how advisers are using the CRM and pinpoint what they can improve on.

STUCK IN A RUT

Redtail Technology, another CRM software provider, has Redtail University, a one-day program held in various cities once or twice a month. During each session, an instructor goes over all the functions of the platform, because sometimes users don't know about everything that the system has to offer or maybe they're stuck in a rut.

"Advisers and offices are so busy that you just get into that routine where you don't look that there may be other ways to make you more efficient," said David Mehlhorn, director of sales at Redtail.

Warren Terry, managing director of adviser platforms for Wells Fargo Advisors, said the wirehouse's advisers have a number of ways to learn how to take full advantage of the firm's software programs. Those include a concierge service that gets an expert on the phone to train an adviser and an on-demand video series called "Technology Matters" that shows advisers what they may not already know about their technology platform.

"Our advisers' primary focus is taking care of clients on a day-in, day-out basis, so I wouldn't expect a comprehensive understanding of all these technologies to be important," Mr. Terry said. "But when they're important to you, you have to know there's a model built to support the learnings you need."

If advisers embrace the technology they already have, they could be doing a service not only to themselves, but their clients.

"Avoid the shiny new object," said Matt Lynch, managing partner at Strategy & Resources, a consulting firm in Dayton, Ohio. "Let's differentiate between the needs and wants — does that next dollar of spending really serve to enhance the client service experience?

“Is it truly going to be impactful?" he said.

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