Written by Guest Writer: Colin Falls, President, GeoWealth
As a member of the investment advisor community, you are most likely enjoying some great success at the moment. Equity markets are up, business is booming, and your biggest challenge at the moment is how to streamline and scale your practice to support new growth. Obviously, technology is the key, especially when it can also improve and enhance the user experience of your clients, as well as free up your time to focus on delivering client value. You have attended a few conferences, and you left excited—even thrilled—about some of the new technologies you learned about: CRM, portfolio management, outsourced trading and back office solutions, and more. You were truly excited and ready for the next step.
However, you got back home, and then back to your office, and you began to think. Soon your enthusiasm faded away to frustration, and you started to question your next steps. Where do I begin? Which one integrated solution can solve all the headaches in my practice? Can I really build a “practice of the future”?
The good news is that the future has already arrived. Just like Smart Beta ETFs transformed the investment landscape a decade ago, smart technology is transforming the way you can attract, interact with, and deliver value to your clients today. In an age where adding real value is arguably the only way to retain clients, applying that smart technology to your practice is more than just a dream. It is a must-have. Here are the five steps that will help you make it happen with as little frustration as possible:
1. Identify the capabilities you need most.
Are you an asset gatherer? Sophisticated and diversified outsourced portfolios are a top priority. Are you an asset manager? Streamlining portfolio implementation might be your biggest challenge. Would model portfolios help? Do you meet with prospective clients, but then fail to follow up? Do you really know which clients form your ‘A’ list? An integrated Client Relationship Management (CRM) module can most certainly help. Are your clients asking for online, real-time account access? Are clients interrupting your day asking for basic information, but not real help? It is time for a Client Portal. Do you spend too much time on trading, billing, or rebalancing portfolios? A full back office system is the key. Identify your priorities, create your wish list, and rank each capability to be sure the solution you choose will deliver the greatest value for the cost.
2. Beware of building a Frankenstein monster.
When it comes to technology, integration is a must. Using a mixture of point solutions may sound like a good idea or may even look like it’s covering the checklist. After all, you are choosing the best of the best, right? But piecing together a collection of different or unrelated components will most likely turn into a nightmare. Unless you have a full IT department of your own to manage complex integrations (and sometimes even if you do), getting your systems to “speak” to each other and function in an integrated fashion would be nearly impossible. Yet, that integration is crucial to streamlining activities like portfolio and account management, individual transactions, client communication and client interaction, and more. And because maintaining separate systems requires redundant data entry, an integrated solution can both save time and reduce the potential for errors. To maximize business and cost efficiencies, your best choice is a single sign-on solution that connects the dots between your business activities and your clients, without the added work for you or your staff.
3. Minimize disruption.
Custodians seem to be coming out with new offerings every day. As you consider your options, remember that choosing a custodian-provided solution is likely to force your hand and disrupt your practice for a while. (Are you really prepared to transition those 200 clients from one custodian to the other?) The same is true for solutions that aren’t product agnostic, limiting your access to individual securities, ETFs, mutual funds, model portfolios, independent money managers, and alternative investments. Choosing a compliant and scalable solution that fits your business, rather than forcing your business to change in order to fit a certain technology, will minimize disruption and will help you set up to run faster, smarter and much more efficiently.
4. Focus on the Client User Experience.
More than ever, your clients expect ease of use and clear perceived value from any new technology. Thus, choosing a user-friendly solution that makes communication and transactions easier for your clients will make all the difference when it comes to adoption rates and client satisfaction. Make sure you focus on solutions that offer a single, aggregated view of all accounts as well as clear reporting for the entire portfolio. An easy-to-access, secure client portal, and document vault can streamline communication and storage and add a new level of comfort and efficiency to your practice. And of course, in today’s portable world, mobile access to every client offering is a must.
5. Trust the security of the Cloud.
Although Cloud technology may sometimes seem hard to conceptualize, it is clearly the best way to secure and back up your client data and to protect your business. While hackers are always out there looking for ways to disrupt (just ask the IT security teams at Target, LinkedIn, and even the IRS), placing your data on a trusted server that’s monitored 24/7 by top security experts is likely to be much more secure than storing it on your laptop or that private server that is “safely” sitting in your basement. Even if hackers do get in, working with a company that uses industry best practices and ensures a robust continuity and redundancy plan can help you keep your client data as safe as possible and get you back to business without any palpable disruptions.
Systematizing your processes is the just beginning. The real benefit—and what makes the leap well worth your time, effort, and expense—is that it allows you to get back to focusing on the work you do best. Smart technology can help you scale your practice to support growth and, yes, build a practice of the future. Your main priority should always be serving your clients. While new systems will always require a bit of a learning curve, once the technology is in place and working for you, you will have more time than ever to deliver the high-level holistic planning services your clients need most. That is how you add true value that, in turn, is what helps attract and retain new clients for generations ahead.
Learn more about an integrated wealth management solution at: Geowealth.com
J.P. Morgan Asset Management is the marketing name for the asset management business of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and its affiliates worldwide.
For additional disclosure: https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/adv/site-disclaimer
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