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

Vital office tech tools

Joel Bruckenstein is a leading technology expert in the advisor industry. In 2002, he co-authored a seminal book for advisors entitled Virtual Office Tools for a High Margin Practice with David Drucker. It's considered a must-have for advisors that are looking to become more efficient and more straight-through in their day-to-day processes. As a practicing advisor, he experiences first-hand the elation and frustration that technology brings to the office environment. I had an opportunity to speak with Bruckenstein about a number of technology-related issues currently affecting advisors.

Marc Butler: Your book made a heavy impact when first released. How has it helped to change the advisor industry, specifically in terms of how we think about -- and implement -- technology?

Joel Bruckenstein: At the time of its release, there were very few paperless advisor offices. Since then, the adoption and desire to become paperless has increased. Broker/dealers have followed suit and have made their advisors more efficient and straight-through in what they do. One thing that has helped is that paperless equipment prices have decreased significantly. A Fujitsu scanner is relatively the same price today as it was then, but it now delivers more functionality at faster speeds. This has certainly helped smaller firms that may not have been able to afford such equipment in the past.

MB: What specifically have you seen from broker/dealers and custodians that has improved the advisors ability to be more efficient?

JB: They're headed in the right direction by moving to the Web, allowing forms to be more straight-through and assisting with integration (although there is still a lot of work to be done in this area). The problem for technology providers is that their decisions often take too long to make, which ultimately affects their ability to stay current.

MB: How can advisors better approach technology?

JB: Too often, advisors delegate technology decisions. It's not that they necessarily need to understand the finer points of technology, but they need to make sure it meets the needs of their firm. Anyone can buy and implement great technology, but it may not necessarily meet the needs of their business.

MB: What's new on the technology front? What are you recommending in your travels and conversations?

JB: There are a couple things we're recommending. Advisors should take a serious look at Apple Macintoshes for their office. Mac's do some things better than PC's. For example, practices that create their newsletters in-house, use video conferencing or create Podcasts might find a Mac useful. Most Mac's today also run some Microsoft Windows-based programs, which means that file-sharing with PC users is easy and entry-level. The second has to do with customer relationship management technology. Our belief is that not enough advisors are using CRM products. If they are using them, they're not using them effectively. In fact, approximately 50 percent of the industry is still not using CRM technology. Some advisors think that by simply using Microsoft Outlook they're in fact using a CRM tool. This is not the case. CRM tools are not just about storing client contact information. They're about task automation, reporting and help with marketing, among other benefits.

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