For many advisors, the promised efficiencies of new ‘integrated’software tools have been nothing short of a high-priced scam. Instead of instantaneous, critical and actionable client information at their fingertips, they’ve had to contend with disparate, costly systems that inundate them with useless data. The end result is the creation of unnecessary processes and needless wastes of time.
The truth is, most of these systems are created without the end user—you, the advisor—and your clients in mind. They’re built to benefit the broker-dealer or custodian and their back offices rather than as business solutions to help you grow and serve your existing and prospective clients. Even worse, the reality is that much of the technology being offered to advisors focuses on tackling yesterday’s problems, not the challenges advisors face today, tomorrow or even several years from now. At their core, they are either thrown together hoping to rely on loose integrations between vendors or, even worse, lack any ability to react to the fast evolving challenges and solutions emerging in our market.
Okay. You get it. Many technology systems aren’t designed or built to make your life easier. They’re simply minor improvements to old legacy systems and obsolete methodologies. But did you know that these software systems present more than just a technological headache for advisors?
Many national RIA and broker/dealer technology ‘solutions’ are actually designed to hold your data hostage, locking critical information in a virtual proprietary silo. All the time spent entering your valuable data will have to be repeated when you ‘convert’ to a new system. The result: precious hours wasted that could have been better used growing your business and serving your clients.
Why Portability Is Crucial
The issue ultimately comes down to portability. As an independent advisor, you can take your clients with you when you move, but taking your data may be more difficult. There’s been a steady flow of registered representatives moving away from the traditional wirehouse or ‘captive’ model, since they see greener pastures if they move to a more independent model. What a pity to make the change from full-service brokerage W2 employment or 1099 subcontractor status with a regional firm thinking you’d be reaching the ‘promised land’ only to find out that your national RIA or independent broker-dealer, either intentionally or unintentionally, would be chaining you and your data to their technology.
I believe that RIA and IBD business solutions should be liberating; so our approach at United Planners is to focus on business solutions rather than on technology per se. There are scores of excellent software solutions offered in the marketplace, and advisors are wise to ask hard questions about the solutions any firm provides.
In my opinion, what best serves the advisor is a way to integrate the solutions so that they work seamlessly, securely and efficiently—with a single secure sign-on, single accurate source of data, paperless solutions, and efficient back office systems. Our approach is to focus on business solutions over technology by acting as the middleware, sometimes know as “software glue.” This is a term used to describe software that provides services to other software applications beyond their current capabilities. In a nutshell, it acts as a middleware that enables business solutions by empowering various system components beyond their general interactions.