During my firm’s national conference, I was on stage with some of the brightest technology minds in the business: Aaron Klein of Riskalyze, Ed O’Brien of eMoney, and Brian McLaughlin of Redtail. We discussed how advisors embrace technology for their firm, from new purchase decisions to best practices to getting the most out of everything they already own. Here are highlights of the ideas and advice that these tech company CEOs shared during the session.
Your People and Technology: Great technology success doesn’t happen without employees being well-trained on how to best utilize the products. Be sure to allocate a significant amount of time and resources on regular training for your staff. A variety of training styles are important, too, from classroom sessions, to on-line training, to one-on-one calls with the help desk, to “ask the expert” forums. Great firms always are learning.
Users Voices: Make sure to consistently receive feedback from the primary users of each technology product. This includes for the systems used by your staff as well as the products directly used by your clients. Too often, the user’s input is muted or non-existent, or the “known” feedback is actually out of date because the technology product has been updated or changed.
Technology Sacred Cows: Is there technology at your firm that truly is irreplaceable? If so, that in itself could be a problem. Be honest with what really needs to happen with products that fall under this category. Avoiding addressing the situation or making a change is not an effective strategy, and gets more difficult to deal with as time passes.
Technology Innovation: Technology companies must continue to innovate to stay competitive and relevant. However, who on your staff is responsible for making sure that your firm does the same? Technology innovation starts at your firm with a staff member being aware of the new features and benefits available from your current technology partners. Regularly ask “what’s next?” and look closely at how to expand your technology stack.
Overcoming Technology Scars: We all have technology scars. Products that didn’t meet our expectations, terrible support experiences, costs that spiraled out of control, etc. But learn from these experiences and move on. You don’t want a technology scar to be the primary reason why your firm isn’t willing to try a new technology product. If your first response tends to be “been there, tried that,” then perhaps your viewpoint is based on old information. Maybe now is the time to give it another shot.
Technology Value Proposition: Any new technology purchase must align with your current technology value proposition and strategy. Specifically, when a new technology product is added, it is important that it utilizes your existing technology infrastructure and fits within the “DNA” of your firm. The opportunity for achieving greater efficiency and productivity gains occurs when your technology operates like building blocks.
Technology Security: Technology companies spend tremendous money and resources on technology security. But even with the best security, advisors need to have a culture where their staff is watching for fraud attacks, security issues, and the constantly changing risks from cyber threats. Unfortunately, too often a successful fraud attack occurs not because of a technology problem but because a staff member is inattentive or does not follow the firm’s documented security policies and procedures.
Finally, the panel shared our “crystal ball” predictions for the profession and technology. These included ideas about how automation will transform the business, how technology will be further in the forefront playing a role throughout the entire lifecycle of the client relationship, and how the days of “static” information and reports will be long gone. One universal viewpoint was that the demand for independent advice and guidance will continue to grow — the strongest reason why these leaders will continue to innovate and deliver great technology for the benefit of the advisors.
Dan Skiles is the president of Shareholders Service Group in San Diego. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.