Linda Ding, director of strategic marketing for Laserfiche. Linda Ding, director of strategic marketing for Laserfiche.

The bane of advisory firms and their broker-dealer and custodian partners has a new foe: a robotic tool from Laserfiche that can automate the inefficient time- and manual labor-intensive tasks faced by advisors and their partners.

At Laserfiche’s annual Empower conference early next month, 3,200 users of its enterprise content management (ECM) software will learn about the firm’s new robotic process automation (RPA) tool.

(Related: Fidelity Go Ranked Best Overall Robo-Advisor)

Linda Ding, director of strategic marketing for Laserfiche, echoing the company’s tagline of “accelerating how business gets done by creating software people love to use,” says the RPA tool will address the “biggest pain point” for advisory firms, BDs and custodians: integration of disparate applications and systems.

Ding says Laserfiche is taking a “no-code approach” to integration, meaning users needn’t do any software coding themselves to move toward integration but instead can employ a bot that users can train to move data from one app to another.

While an API is usually required to move data from one application to another, Ding points out that many legacy systems used by financial services firms don’t even have an API.

Instead, the RPA approach captures visually the actions of the user—noting which fields the user copies data from in one application and then ‘remembering’ where that data in the target application is pasted to. Think of the process as similar to an old-fashioned keystroke recording program where the keystrokes can be captured then used to create a macro script, except with an RPA you’re using the visual currency of the web that is familiar to all users.

In which instances does RPA provide the best return on an advisor’s investment? While it would be valuable in any high-volume, repeatable process, Ding suggests it would be particularly valuable after the merger of two wealth management firms. RPA would be useful not only in cases where the two firms have different CRM systems, for example, but even where the firms use the same client management system.

Imagine the efficiency benefit, she points out, in standardizing on the preferred method of inputting client telephone numbers (with hyphens? without?) or addresses in a joint account, or using standardized acronyms.

Another standard advisor process that’s filled with pain is the account opening process. RPA can facilitate the easy and more accurate transfer of data to a new account from existing accounts at a wirehouse, for example, or from another advisor as long as the advisor “can see it on a screen,” says Ding. Once the advisor secures the permission of the custodian where the original account lives, there’s no need to access the back-end of that custodian’s API.

Ding says the RPA will soon be coupled to Laserfiche’s workflow process automation. That will allow a firm’s leadership or compliance department, for instance, to run analytics on each user and on each step in the workflow to identify possible bottlenecks or NIGO errors that might indicate a need, for example, for further staff training.

It will also allow owners of firms to determine which staff member is most efficient at opening new accounts. That, in turn, will provide the kind of business intelligence to advisory firm principals and compliance officers that’s critical to running a successful business, such as being able to accurately forecast revenue.

Laserfiche knows that tech success is based not just on one or more tools, but also on how you design workflow, Ding says, and “get people on board” with the tools and the workflow. That’s where Laserfiche’s user training comes in.

“We definitely understand the need of ongoing training for user success,” says Ding, so the company makes available online, self-guided learning tools following a specific curriculum that can lead to certification programs. “We have course materials that can take them from beginner to more advanced levels,” she says, supplemented by in-person training events, such as the 280 educational sessions that will be held during Laserfiche’s Empower conference.

Finally, since successful technology implementation starts at the top of a firm, Ding will be leading a series of executive track sessions at Empower designed to help its financial services users become technology “leaders and drivers” at the firms they lead, including the important step of how leaders can better communicate to employees the business-building reasons for their technology initiatives.

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