Every financial advisory firm must come up with its own technology plan, and needs to figure out which platforms and solutions will work best for improving business processes and client experiences.
For David O’Brien, founder of Evolution Advisers, that means outsourcing what he calls “non-value-added work” to best-in-breed technology providers. Doing so since the get-go has proved to be the best path to improved quality and speed of business at the firm, as well as positive advisor-client interactions and overall client satisfaction.
Since its founding in 2006, Evolution Advisers has been paperless, and the firm has always had its technology tools in the cloud.
“Because of this, our tech staff can really leverage the best-in-breed providers in our space,” O’Brien said.
While many RIA firms are late entrants to the cloud world, fintech providers that help users maximize the benefits of the cloud have been extremely innovative in recent years, O’Brien said. MoneyGuidePro, for example, is a dominant player in the cloud, he said, as is Morningstar’s TRX (both of which are a part of Evolution Adviser’s technology solution). “As we continue to see new entrants come into the financial planning space, and a lot of technology companies moving into the cloud, we’re having a rapid development in this space,” O’Brien continued.
For Evolution Advisers, the greatest advantage to embracing cloud-based technology is that the firm can access any piece of information at any given time from anywhere in the world.
“The whole building could burn down and we would not lose anything,” O’Brien said.
The company uses Citrix ShareFile to store documents in the cloud.
“It is the best-of-breed in that space, and a lot of other client data lives in the cloud with other, best-of-breed technology suppliers, all of which use multiple sites, military-grade physical security and access security for employees, so this is significantly better for our clients in terms of data protection,” O’Brien said.
Citrix ShareFile also lets Evolution Advisers’ clients upload or download any document they wish in a secure manner, and allows advisors and clients to share data in a completely air-tight setting.
Citrix and the other tech solutions that Evolution Advisers uses are fully integrated with Orion, which O’Brien says functions as a one-stop shop or portal. He underscored the importance of integration.
“The integration of critical data is very important because it improves quality; it reduces errors and improves the speed of processes by reducing non-value-added work,” he said. “To optimize both speed and quality, advisors really need to think about which value-added processes can be outsourced to a technology provider. Although this is a point of contention among advisors, outsourcing to a provider can offer a much better experience to clients and allows advisors to focus on giving their clients advice.”
It’s extremely important for advisory firms to constantly innovate their technology products. “What’s current today will change in 10 years, and be different in five,” O’Brien said.
The firm’s early adoption of the cloud allows it to constantly evaluate existing technologies for updates and scout around for new products that it can integrate into its existing suite.
Staying on top of technological innovation is not just important for optimal client experience but also allows advisory firms to keep abreast of their client base as it becomes younger and more diverse, and clients’ needs change, O’Brien said.
“I, as a client, want to be able to log in to my account on a Saturday at 3 p.m. and see what is going on, ask my advisor a question and schedule a meeting – all right there and then,” he said. “I don’t want my advisor to be working at 3 p.m. on a Saturday, but I do want to look at my information and make an appointment for a video chat with my advisor when we are both at our desks.”
— Read Technology Is Your Firm’s Central Nervous System on ThinkAdvisor.