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TDAI on Practice Management: A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action

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TD Ameritrade Institutional recently changed the name of its practice management program to emphasize the importance of taking action to achieve positive outcomes.

“People talk about practice management, and it means a thousand things to different people. We wanted to have a name that spoke to the fact that our entire goal is to have an advisor take action and achieve some sort of result,” Vanessa Oligino said at the firm’s annual conference in San Diego on Thursday.

The program, Business Performance Solutions, is “not just about education, which is where a lot of people who offer practice management [programs] stop,” Oligino said.

The program has a team of consultants working to build relevant content for advisors to build into their own practice management plan.  Oligino said that in doing that, they’re also working to make sure that content is not overwhelming. “We don’t try to attack too much at one time,” she said. “We want to make sure we chunk it up for them so that it’s not overwhelming and they end up doing nothing.”

Technology will be a big focus for TDAI in 2015, Oligino said. The firm has been focusing for the past year on building a tech program for growth strategy. “We developed a whole host of tools and resources around niche marketing, branding, pricing, strategic introductions and why those are different from referrals, and high-impact events, which actually has been our most popular growth strategy,” she said.

Another aspect of that program is how to protect your technology; the infrastructure and the client information you have access to through it, Oligino said. “A lot of firms are still working with your basic antivirus software and they don’t realize how much they’re at risk.”

Those basic protections lead advisors to think they’re protected and feel confident about, say, using a public Wi-Fi network, but Oligino pointed out, “that just means the guy sitting next to you who knows nothing about technology won’t be able to break into your stuff. Anybody who spends a little bit of time, it’s not hard for them to breach those walls at all.”

To help advisors meet those challenges, TDAI launched another initiative, the Affinity Services program, where they work with about 120 third-party providers to bring discounted, pre-screened tech services to RIAs. “They take over where we stop. We’re not going to ever offer cybersecurity software, but we will take the time to vet vendors, figure out who’s best in the marketplace, who understands the advisory firm, and we will put forth a number of vendors as part of the program that they can tap into,” Oligino said.

She added, “Once they buy into the education, we talk them through the process, but then who can they go to actually go to, to get the system to implement?”

In addition to that network, Oligino’s team creates content like white papers to educate advisors, but she stressed that those resources don’t exist in a vacuum. “The best way to convince an advisor that they need to start thinking about something is to have research to prove it, but I’m never just going to say, ‘Here’s a white paper and good luck.’”

That research is supported by work from George Tamer’s strategic relationships team, which provides coaching and training for advisors.

“We have a huge network out there to help advisors get from A to B.”

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