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Open Architecture Is Key for RIA/BD Hybrids

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Being both an RIA and a broker-dealer is not easy. Every opportunity is important for hybrid firms, said David Blisk, chief investment officer of Spire Investment Partners, but that means it’s important to do things in as efficient and cost-effective a manner as possible.

For Blisk, that means investing in a state-of-the-art tech platform. Shortly after setting up Spire, he experimented with a couple of systems, but nothing he tried proved as sound or as productive as Laserfiche, an enterprise content management and business process automation provider used by scores of companies and municipalities across the country.

(Related: FINRA Launches Innovation Outreach Initiative)

In fact, Blisk credits Laserfiche for helping him grow Spire over the past two decades from a company with $90 million under management to one that manages funds in excess of $1.5 billion for around 2,000 high-net-worth individuals.

“When we formed our own broker-dealer in 2007, it became incumbent upon us to find a system that would allow us to leverage our business” and bring together 60 teams in 30 locations around the country, Blisk said.

Laserfiche’s greatest strength, he said, is its superior ability to organize the entire workflow process. The software is perfectly engineered to streamline that process, starting with what’s required to open a new client account. It allows users to find documents easily within organized folder structures, effortlessly duplicate existing finding structures and easily search through documents with optical character recognition (OCR). Laserfiche automatically files all new documents as soon as they are imported into the system and changes made by any user are automatically saved.

“What’s beautiful about the system is that the interface of our company is the same experience all around, so whether you are in New York or Minneapolis, the processes we are able to use are the same,” Blisk said.

Because it operates on an open architecture platform, Laserfiche can easily be customized to an individual company’s needs.

Using Tech to Meet Regulators’ Demands

For Spire, one of the most important requirements is a stellar recordkeeping function, which Blisk said is necessary to keep up with the cumbersome regulatory pressures that RIAs and broker-dealers face. Laserfiche, he said, acts as an official repository of all the documents pertaining to individual clients that regulators require RIAs and broker-dealers to have.

“In the old days, there were a lot of opportunities for important documents to get lost, but in the Laserfiche world, nothing gets lost,” Blisk said. “We have gone to such an extent that when a document gets scanned, we name it with a variety of conventions so when the regulators come in to perform an audit and they say, ‘We want to see all 529s opened between 2007 and 2009,’ with a push of a button we can grab all those documents electronically, send them to the government and we’re done.”

Keeping up with the regulators is an expensive process and one that many RIAs find hard to stay on top of. In Blisk’s view, that has much to do with not investing in the right kind of technology from the get-go, or with purchasing a range of different technologies that don’t perform up to a firm’s standards.

“With Laserfiche, I have the infrastructure I need, and whether I have three or 20 reps, I don’t have to buy new technology to make things work because of the economies of scale,” he said.

Most importantly, Laserfiche has really allowed Blisk to do what he set out to do when he founded Spire Investment Partners: enable independent financial advisors to better serve their clients and to maintain independence in the investment choices they make for their clients.

At Spire, advisors own their own practices but can count on Spire to provide the technology, office support and product access that they need to grow their practices.

Laserfiche and its superior organizational capacities have allowed Blisk to keep growing Spire.

Because he’s worked with Laserfiche for so many years, he maintains a healthy, open dialog with them and works closely with the team there on product enhancement and innovation.

“I’ve known them from my first days as an RIA, and I feel they really listen to me and are truly responsive,” he said.

— Read How DOL Is Changing Sign-On Bonuses and Other Indie BD Procedures on ThinkAdvisor.


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