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Advisor Tech Adoption: When the Boss Is the Roadblock

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When it comes to implementing new technology at an advisory firm, consultants and tech firms point out that success requires making sure you’re buying the right technology to meet your needs and that staff are adequately trained — and sometimes compensated — to make said new technology part of the firm’s workflow. However, attendees and panelists at Junxure’s third annual advisor conference agreed there’s another roadblock to tech implementation: the firm’s leadership.

The final session at the third annual Junxure conference in Las Vegas on Friday featured a panel of advisors and consultants including Rebecca Pomering of Moss Adams Wealth Advisors, Troy Mertens of Orgel Wealth Management, Brian Jack of Budros Ruhlin & Roe and Erin Kincheloe, a former Junxure trainer and co-founder of All About It Consulting.

Under the guidance of moderator John Haas, a Junxure trainer, the panelists agreed that moving from ‘adoption to implementation’ of new technology required that staff be told more than that the new software would make them more efficient. And it’s not just older people who have a hard time with implementing new technology and processes.

“People of all ages are tortured by change,” said Pomering, the former Moss Adams consultant who took over leadership of the accounting firm’s wealth management arm in 2008. “We need to provide the strategic context” to staff members, she said, “of what we’re trying to deliver to clients and how this technology will make a difference” in their lives. “Otherwise, she said, “it’s change for the purpose of torture.”

In CEO Greg Friedman’s opening remarks at the conference, he related how he had been speaking to a young Junxure user before the conference who was frustrated by the refusal of his firm’s CEO and COO to actually use Junxure themselves. “You need leadership” at a firm to “commit to tech adoption,” Friedman said, warning that without commitment from the top, a “fish rots from the head down.”

So in the bookend session of the conference, moderator Haas asked the panel to comment on whether principals were one of the main roadblocks to implementation of new technology, like Junxure Cloud.

Jack said that if “the principals don’t use it, it won’t work; you can’t implement new software or any program changes” without commitment from the top.

Pomering said she has been regularly “surprised by how many founders I’ve seen who don’t use technology. They think it’s charming, but it’s irresponsible.” She said she knew of a principal in an advisory firm “who calls a friend of mine to say ‘I forgot my password to my laptop.” Pomering said of that principal, “He’s a jackass; you shouldn’t feel proud” of your technology ignorance and lack of use.

Mertens urged firm leaders to introduce new technology by “talking about benefits rather than features,” citing keynote speaker Deena Katz, who used the same phrase in reference to advisors’ marketing efforts, especially in firms’ digital presence, including social media.

Getting Staffers On Board

The panelists also agreed that more than the technical staff and principals needed to be involved in the purchasing and implementation of new software. Kincheloe suggested that in any tech adoption process, include someone who might be skeptical about the technology (not hostile) to show the rest of the staff how the decision isn’t just coming from IT. Pomering seconded that idea, noting that it “gives that person more buy-in” to the decision, while Jack mentioned that every two weeks “we do a lunch-and-learn on Junxure” for staff.

Mertens said that at Orgel, “we work with our people using case studies” to show how the new technology will “resonate” with staff in their quotidian duties. That means, he said, “not talking about ‘greater efficiency’” in the abstract but rather showing them “how it is going to make my life easier” in daily processes like reducing the time needed to prepare for client meetings, “using old meeting notes to show how much time it’s really saving.” Kincheloe said that in her consulting work, “when I go into firms, one of the key pieces about Junxure” is to move perception of the software’s benefits among staff members from “it’s all about me” to “it’s all about the clients.” Mertens said of technology that “it’s not adoption that’s the problem but utilization.” At Orgel, they keep repeating the Junxure mantra: “If it’s not in Junxure, it didn’t happen.”

Jack said that at Budros, Ruhlin, “we use that exact term as well,” saying that the firm points out to staffers, especially the rainmakers, that “there are guys who do all this work but don’t put it into Junxure, so they don’t get the credit for that.” After years of encouraging use of the software, “it’s now the culture,” he said.

Pomering recalled that when she joined Moss Adams’ RIA firm, “I didn’t know Junxure and we had only 20% usage of it at the firm.” So “we did a case study of how we wanted a platinum client relationship” to develop. “We wanted a deep, seamless experience for clients, and staff were excited about that,” but what they didn’t realize was that the firm already “had a tool — that we were paying for — to accomplish that vision.”

She said that “our adoption now is almost 100%,” saying that “we removed some people” from the firm not simply for their failure to use Junxure, but because “their priority was not providing that kind of client experience.” Such an adoption strategy, Mertens said, “ends up being infectious — we used to do trades by hands, and sometimes that paper would be lost — which means the trade wasn’t done, which means the cash wasn’t generated, which means a check wasn’t sent out, which means it was a bad client experience.”

In response to an audience member who lamented that the principals in his firm wouldn’t even use Junxure, Pomering admitted that she didn’t have the platform installed on her own computer. However, she said “I’m not in a client-facing role,” and she does use business analytics “reports generated out of Junxure,” which the staff calls ‘Rebecca Reports.’

“I’m a financials nerd,” said Pomering. “I want a lot of statistics” around firm benchmarks like revenue per client, data that she says she uses to “to drive behavior and eventually culture.”

Mertens finished the session by saying “Junxure is the core of all our [key performance indicator] reports,” also mentioning revenue per advisor, which the firm uses to “make core decisions about the future.”

Finally, referring to the efficiency that advisor-focused CRM software like Junxure provides to firms, “we’ve hired eight new people in the past two years” as Orgel has grown. “We need to know where that stops.”

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