By now, you probably have learned how to use technology to make your working life easier. Buying a new iPad on its own won’t be enough to achieve technology mastery, however. Getting the most from technology in a financial advisory practice involves careful planning.
Here are some common mistakes that advisors make when tooling up with tech, along with some advice on how to avoid these blunders:
– Failing to build current technology into your brand
Advisors who don’t use technology when promoting their practice are almost certainly putting themselves at a disadvantage. An even bigger mistake is using outdated technology, which can send a powerfully negative message to prospective clients.
For instance, a website itself isn’t enough anymore. Your site must be optimized for users who rely on mobile technology. With the proportion of mobile visits to websites now at 63% globally and rising, websites not optimized for mobile users can seem outdated.
Similarly, not having a strong presence on social media can put you behind the curve in a world in which so many people now rely on this form of communication. While abiding by important guidelines and cautions from regulators and your firm is crucial, you can maintain a productive web presence using social media while remaining compliant. Follow some basic social media tips to get started.
– Not using technology to streamline workflow
The real power of technology is in its ability to automate manual processes and free up time.
Measure the amount of time you spend on manual tasks and find ones that technology can automate. Opportunities to save time in this way arise in everything from marketing – such as using mail “merge” systems to stay in touch with clients – to sales prospecting, automated proposal generation, booking client meetings and handling clients’ post-engagement paperwork.
Software-enabled automated workflow systems helped turn Starbucks Corp. into a billion-dollar company. These systems also can increase the efficiency of your financial advisory practice dramatically.
– Buying technology without planning for integration
To automate a practice properly, ensure that software applications and basic operating systems work smoothly together to exchange data on a trouble-free basis.
Tech companies frequently try to offer as much technology as they can in the technology’s ecosystem, designing software and hardware products to work seamlessly with each other. Structuring technology around one vendor’s integrated platform of operating systems, devices and hardware – such as that of Microsoft Corp. or Apple Inc. – can help make the integration process easier.
You also can look for helpful integration among the applications that vendors use. For example, ensuring that client-relationship management, workflow and document-management tools exchange data smoothly with each other can help technology work more efficiently rather than creating scenarios in which manual workarounds may be required to transport data among software applications.
One way to ensure this type of smooth integration is to buy an integrated suite of software, tailored specifically for investors, that supports several functions on one software platform. On average, 60% of registered independent advisors and independent broker-dealers get their business applications this way, according to a 2016 survey by Chicago-based portfolio-management software company Envestnet Inc.
– Neglecting the client’s perspective
Technology can revolutionize a practice with up-to-date portfolio-management and research tools, but how much of this will clients see? You can use technology to enhance your clients’ experience, too.
Technology that can engage clients in new ways include video-conferencing and interactive digital presentations. Interactive wealth planning and portfolio-management tools also can help clients feel more informed about their investments.
And, while some clients still may be more comfortable using paper forms, for those clients who enjoy using technology and are comfortable with it, the option to use fillable PDFs can streamline the experience and make these clients’ lives easier.
Clients appreciate a forward-thinking advisor who provides them with a polished, streamlined experience. A recent study by Connecticut-based FactSet Research Systems Inc. found that 82% of investors from the U.S., the U.K., Singapore and Switzerland expect their advisors to enhance online capability over time.
– Not using proper data protection
While all industries must be mindful about protecting the security of clients’ data, the financial services industry must be particularly vigilant and constantly on guard against security breaches. Failure to use up-to-date, reliable data-protection measures could cost you and your clients dearly. And protecting your practice against ransomware and other malware by using appropriate virus protection software is important. (See story on page 24.)
Basic measures that everyone should be following in the financial services industry include using multi-factor authentication for online accounts where such technology is supported.
You also should use full-disk encryption to protect sensitive data stored on your premises. This usually comes as an option within the operating system (Apple uses FileVault for Macs; Windows has BitLocker).
Finally, backup software also should be used to secure copies of sensitive data so that they can be restored if ransomware or physical disaster strikes.