When Jason Kavanaugh, president and CEO of Livonia, Michigan-based Concorde Investments, set up the firm in 2005, he felt technology would serve as the cornerstone of the company and the foundation from which to grow the business. Rather than designing and implementing a proprietary system, Kavanaugh and his team decided to look outside the company, investing in what they believed to be the best systems and products available in the burgeoning world of financial planning technology.
Kavanaugh and Concorde worked with these companies to adapt software and models to Concorde’s individual business needs, but the firm took things a step further by introducing their affiliate tech firms to each other. Kavanaugh believed that by partnering with one another and working together, the net effect would be a win-win for all — Concorde included, of course.
“We wanted these tech companies to embrace each other so that when there’s an update from Company A, it would automatically flow to Company B,” Kavanaugh said. “Without that kind of collaboration, users like us would have a problem.”
Kavanaugh was impressed by the firms’ ability to work together.
“You would think that because these companies view each other as rivals, they would not want to work together, but we went through and showed them the benefits of having relationships,” he said. “We showed them that we are working through their processes to give them feedback on what works and what doesn’t, so that they can then go back to the industry and roll things out a larger scale.”
Kavanaugh thinks of Concorde as a “hub” for technology. The relationships the firm has with various tech companies, as well as the relationships Concorde has helped foster between these individual providers, have enabled the firm to employ best-in-breed products in a cohesive and integrative manner, he said. Technology has enabled Concorde’s advisors to reduce their administrative burdens and focus more on client relationships.
“We now have a nice, holistic working system so that if a technology component becomes rusty and is not as sharp, it is very simple to take it out and replace it with another,” he said. “As long as Concorde remains a hub, it [is] easy for us to be nimble and compliant, and to change with the regulatory needs of the environment. And of course, good technology offers efficiencies for reducing document processing, for cybersecurity and so on.”
(Related: Advisors' Low-Tech Cybersecurity Action Plan)
Tech Providers and Partners
The backbone of Concorde’s tech platform is Docupace. The processing platform was one of the first vendors the firm connected with that offered a solid solution, and has proven to be a solid and steady partner open to the change, collaboration and innovation that Concorde has needed to scale up its business.
“For us, everything starts with Docupace,” Kavanaugh said. “When I approached them, I talked to them about what I wanted to do in the broker-dealer space. I asked them if they would be open to [working with] other technology companies that specialize in things that they don’t specialize in. I knew I could take a leap of faith with Docupace because of their expertise in certain areas and their willingness to partner with others who have expertise where they don’t.”
Docupace’s willingness to have “an embedded relationship” with other firms has been key to ensuring Concorde gets the best in technology solutions. Docupace is open to cooperate and share information with other companies, Kavanaugh said, and is willing to be the “spinal cord” of a larger system.
Concorde has successfully integrated and embedded Redtail’s offerings into the Docupace platform. FolioDynamix, which is mostly known on large RIA platforms, has proven to be a great addition for Concorde.
“Both Redtail and FolioDynamix have worked great with Docupace, and are open to customizing to our needs and to providing the best client approach,” Kavanaugh said. “Both firms share the same openness that we want. These technologies also operate efficiently together.”
Tech as a Hiring Strategy
Having in place a strong technology platform that consists of several best-in-breed solutions working seamlessly together has proven vital for Concorde in terms of being able to recruit top-level talent from across the industry.
“People are usually surprised we have the technology that we do have, that we’re on version three of Docupace whereas most others are still on version one, but it’s really our entrepreneurial spirit that has done this for us,” Kavanaugh says.
--- Read 5 Sink-or-Swim Metrics for RIAs in 2017 on ThinkAdvisor’s TechCenter.