What to Do When You Outgrow Your Technology

In 1986, when Gene Henssler moved to the small town of Kennesaw, Georgia, to teach at the local university, he had no idea that he’d one day be heading Henssler Financial, a firm with $1.6 billion in assets under management.

But what began as a side gig – a guest spot on a local radio show, followed by his own radio show offering financial planning advice that still airs today – soon became a full-time business that has grown in large part thanks to the local community, says Adam Ledbetter, the firm’s training manager, and its appreciation for Henssler’s “no-nonsense approach to investing and financial planning.”

In return, Henssler has always endeavored to give back to the Kennesaw community, Ledbetter said. As the firm has grown, doing that in a way that stays true to its homegrown roots, yet keeps up with changing regulations and the vast array of investment options available today, called for a solid technology solution.

“For many years, we were able to use our own proprietary software and build it up, as we wanted to trade for our clients and have a system for our own CRM needs,” Ledbetter said. “But then things got to a point where it was clear we needed to find something off-the-shelf that would work for us and where we wouldn’t need to put in the time and cost needed to maintain our own systems. We also wanted a solution that would fit in with our culture and the way we serve clients.”

After searching the marketplace for a solution, the management team decided that Envestnet’s Tamarac would be the best fit for Henssler.

The system was not the easiest to learn and implement, he said, which is why he and a few of his colleagues took their time to thoroughly learn its ins and outs by attending Tamarac University and then bringing in Tamarac experts to train Henssler’s staff. Even after the firm officially implemented all three parts of the Tamarac system (Advisor View, Advisor Rebalancing and Advisor CRM), they continued to maintain data in their former proprietary system, just in case anything untoward were to happen.

Tech Support for Multi-Generational Planning

Once everyone on the team was on board, however, it quickly became clear that Tamarac was the best investment Henssler could have made in terms of efficiency, Ledbetter said, and “allowing us more time to be working on our client relationships and creating new ones.”

Because Henssler Financial has been serving Kennesaw for so many years, the company has generational clients, he said, multiple members of the same family.

(Related: 7 Steps to Attracting Your Clients’ Kids)

“Tamarac has the ability to track those generations in the CRM system, giving us an idea of what may happen to the assets as the older generations pass on,” Ledbetter said.

The firm has always provided tax-loss harvesting as part of their asset management service offering, but its previous technology setup only allowed Henssler to run tax-loss harvesting screens on accounts once a year. Now, with Tamarac’s Advisor Rebalancing, Henssler can run tax-loss harvesting screens much more frequently as part of an automated process, Ledbetter said. 

Ditto on the trading side: Prior to Tamarac, Henssler had only one trading model, but now the company can customize trading models for each client using Advisor Rebalancing. 

The most important change for Henssler and its clients, though, is Tamarac’s client portal, which around half of its existing clientele (the firm serves around 1,100 clients) uses.

“When I started here, all our client documents were three-hole punched and in binders on the shelf,” Ledbetter said. “But now, everything is digital, and our clients can see a lot of the same data that we see everyday. They can check on their holdings, they can upload things to us and we can upload things to them. The portal is also a very secure storage vault for all documents.”

Henssler’s advisors make it a point to bring up the portal in client meetings, and, “if they’re not yet signed up for the portal, we make sure to emphasize its benefits” to clients, Ledbetter said.

Of course, the Advisor CRM system makes it easy for the firm’s advisors to track each client’s financial plan, schedule meetings with the clients they haven’t met in months and also add new clients in a seamless way to the everyday work flow.

Henssler has about 20 advisors on staff and the firm has never aimed to overload them by adding too many clients in a short period of time, Ledbetter said. Rather, as a “mom-and-pop shop,” the goal is to cultivate lasting relationships with clients – something that becomes easier, he said, with technology providing a solid backbone.

--- Read Is Your Technology Working Against You? on ThinkAdvisor. 

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