An ongoing challenge for financial planning firms, regardless of their size or scope, is providing, personalized service to clients while maximizing productivity in a way that allows both profitability and the potential for growth. Inefficient processes, often attributable to cumbersome and outdated software, can hurt a firm in several ways.
One of the biggest problems that inefficient processes cause is wasted time — a limited resource regardless of firm size, or business model. Lost time can also mean lost potential revenue and the profit that goes with it.
Complex or inefficient processes can also cause reduced quality of the product or service provided. When an overall process takes too long to complete, employees may try to rush their specific part in the process, producing a larger margin of error and potentially damaging client relationships.
Inefficiency can also damage your firm’s culture. Many of the steps involved in onboarding new clients are time consuming, repetitive, and offer numerous opportunities for human error. Not to mention they’re boring and having to spend too much time on rote tasks can lower morale throughout the firm.
Processes Must Be Kept Up to Date
As important as it is to develop repeatable processes, it’s really only the first step. An onboarding process that works well when you have a handful of employees may not work at all anymore when your headcount grows. Yet the BP Trends 2016 State of Business Process Management study found that more than half (54%) of organizations surveyed had never or only occasionally documented processes and kept them up to date.
In order to maximize efficiency, firms must ensure their processes are thoroughly documented, consistently enforced and regularly evaluated.
Too Much of a Good Thing
It’s also important to recognize that technology alone is not the answer. Software solutions that can only do part of the job or that don’t integrate with the rest of your IT infrastructure can also lead to inefficiencies, especially if employees have to transfer data from one application to another. There is such a thing as too many processes and too many steps in a process. It can be difficult to accomplish tasks at a high rate when processes are too convoluted, and client experience may suffer if processes are not uniform among employees.
This is evident in some financial planning tools that are built as closed off systems, which makes it difficult for firms to develop a seamless process when providing financial plans. Closed-off systems create a laundry list of time-wasting activities such as transferring information between different tools, which greatly increases the chance of inaccuracies. Even more time will be spent checking calculations and cleaning up mistakes.
By eliminating useless procedures, merging redundancies and eradicating inefficiencies within essential processes, firms will experience a vast array of benefits, including increased revenue, client base and employee morale. But before you can take steps to eliminate the inefficiencies, you need to identify them. Look at things like number of hours spent in meetings, customer satisfaction ratings and complaints, prospect-to-client conversion rates, customer retention and other metrics.
As you do your research, don’t be afraid to talk to employees at different levels of the organization, vendors and clients. These people will have varied perspectives on processes through the business and client journey and can be a valuable resource. Technology is a great way to automate processes and connect people in the business, but it can quickly cause problems if firms do not evaluate their technology stack consistently.
Technology Makes Onboarding Smoother
Leveraging technology within advisor onboarding processes enables firms to get new employees up to speed much more quickly, meaning they can begin building a book of business and generating revenue sooner. It’s crucial that firms choose advice delivery software that will allow them to define a sales process for their advisors and even add talking points or a general script into the program for advisors to follow, ensuring that all their clients have the same experience.
Many of the same things can be said about the software used in the client onboarding process as well. Not only can API-driven tools like account aggregation ensure that all clients have the same top-notch experience but also that all advisors collect the right pertinent client data at the right time. By streamlining the data collection process, advisors can provide recommendations more quickly and easily and help eliminate the potential for human error.
Additionally, utilizing robust, scalable technology can make the financial plan development and presentation process more efficient. By ensuring that every financial plan is developed in the same way — regardless of client wealth level or the advisor’s level of experience — firms can cut down the amount of plans that need to be reviewed for compliance and accuracy, saving time by eliminating steps in the process.
By leveraging technology, financial services firms can ensure they offer an efficient financial planning and onboarding process, mitigate compliance risks, and provide a consistent client experience to those they serve. So do not wait for your firm to suddenly become more efficient and profitable; start evaluating your processes and technology solutions that will make them better today.
Angela Pecoraro is CEO of Advicent, the financial planning technology provider of choice for over 140,000 financial professionals across more than 3,000 firms worldwide, including four of the top five custodians, 15 of the top 25 broker-dealers, seven of the top 10 North American banks, and seven of the top 10 North American insurance firms.