From the August 2007 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

Tech tools critical to advisor success

The level of importance a broker/dealer places on the technology products and services it provides investment professionals has increased over time. Not only is it important from a day-to-day operational standpoint, but it also has significant implications on the ability of a broker/dealer to attract and retain top advisors. While there are many factors at play, there appears to be a correlation between broker/dealers that have experienced success in recruiting top advisors and the technology toolbox that they provide. These firms clearly understand the desired outcomes of the advisors they serve and have executed on their technology plan. Thus, they have been able to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

In addition, it is not enough to simply say that you have a series of technology capabilities. It's equally important that these capabilities are aligned with some of the themes we have touched on in past columns (for example, integration, ease of use, etc.) While it sounds simple, the water gets deep very quickly. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the topic with industry veterans who have had success in providing the right solutions to the advisors they serve. What follows are key takeaways.

"A best practice is to have tools for advisors that can integrate a process from beginning to end," says Carol Hardiman, vice president at Jefferson Pilot/Lincoln Financial Advisors. Hardiman is in charge of the technology platform across the combined enterprise. "For instance, advisors shouldn't have to know what form to use in a particular situation. Instead, the system should be smart enough to know which form they need. We also see a need for more compliance tools that provide exception-based reporting and processing. This will help make the advisors more efficient, as well as the OSJ and broker/dealer."

Another trend Hardiman sees is more technology in the hands of the account holder. Collaboration between the customer and advisor, she says, can only enhance the customer experience.

Jeff Auld, president of Berthel Fisher & Company, spoke about specific areas his company is focused on pertaining to technology solutions for advisors working through his firm.

"Improving the advisor experience is paramount to our success and [it's] where we are focusing our efforts," says Auld. "We're trying to enhance every process - ranging from the way advisors open new accounts to the ways in which advisors provide reports to their clients. If I had to single out our biggest priority, it would be the imaging and workflow solutions, particularly related to opening new accounts."

Auld adds that Berthel Fisher is determined to make it simple for its representatives and home office staff to open, review, approve and archive all documents required to open new accounts.

The comments provided by Hardiman and Auld are consistent with what we see and hear from other broker/dealer firms. Broker/dealers need to strategically consider the methods by which they can be holistic service providers, and advisors should align themselves with those that do. While seamlessly integrating the right technology products may provide broker/dealers and advisors with a formula for success, the work doesn't end once the build is done or the contract with a third-party firm is signed.

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