The basis for the successful integration of technological solutions lies in the firm’s culture. There must be – at its core – the acceptance of change and an emphasis on continual business improvement.
Without the leadership being supportive of the introduction of new technology, it is likely that any procurement decision will fail. Introducing new technology is initially extremely disruptive, with efficiency improvements and capacity gains manifesting over time – sometimes over years.
Before even considering introducing new technology, the business must have a dedicated person assigned as the Project Manager. Ideally, this is an existing experienced resource who has significant knowledge of the business, its strategy, processes and requirements.
The three tips to ensuring a rewarding outcome would include:
1. Planning phase
– What exactly does the new technology need to do?
– What is the new system meant to deliver that the incumbent cannot or does not deliver?
– Has the business properly investigated the incumbent’s potential?
– Does the business have a properly documented plan?
– Has a proper budget been done, not just for the base technology offering but also for the customisation of it to the business’s requirements?
– Is the business case proven – i.e. do the quantifiable benefits justify the investment?
– Has the business done a proper due diligence on the vendor and its capacity to customise the technology to the business’s requirements.
2. Ensuring that the quality of the existing client database is in good shape: Introducing new technology without a quality client database will simply result in incomplete output. By designing various client and practice management reports beforehand, may assist in determining the required fields on the database.
3. Writing very good content for producing the required output: It is critical to have well written and compliant content to ensure that the business’s various output documents, such as Statements and Records of Advice, produce quality information.
Make sure it fits in with your existing technology: With the advent of cloud-based subscription models, it is tempting to keep accumulating new software solutions. However, you should consider if you have existing technology that can do the job and if not, how the new technology will fit into your existing processes. The chances are that if it doesn’t talk to other technology, then it won’t get used long-term. If you do take it on, try to eliminate an existing program to keep your overall technology spend under control.
Ensure it is solving a real problem in your business: You need to ask yourself if the problem you are trying to solve with technology is just a one-off issue or a recurring need in your business. If it is one-off, outsourcing the task may be better. Take a step back before you buy and consider the bigger picture of your business.
Get your staff on-board: Make sure your staff understand why you are adopting the technology and how it is going to reduce bottlenecks in the business process and hopefully, make their job easier. Make sure you explain the ‘why’, so they buy in from the beginning.
One of the most beneficial investments you can make to your financial planning business today is technology. It has the ability to create significant efficiencies for your practice, enhance client experience, improve communication, provide marketing opportunities, and present a professional modern organisation.
However, when considering the introduction of new technology, there are a number of considerations to achieve a successful integration. My top three tips in selecting technology would be:
Evaluate the return on investment: When incorporating new technology, there will no doubt be a financial cost but there will also be a significant time cost in the initial implementation, training of staff and potential migration of data. This cost in time and money needs to be weighed up against any long-term time savings and potential increase in revenue due to the new technology.
Additionally, it is worthwhile considering whether this technology is likely to continue to remain the superior option or could it be surpassed and potentially be up for replacing as well.
The user experience: The embracing and adoption of new technology will no doubt depend on the user experience and with staff, this can be managed by a supportive training program. If it is technology that interfaces with clients, then it is particularly important that it is user-friendly and I would suggest testing the technology on a sample group. It is better to hear the actual opinion of clients, which may provide some valuable insights.
Cyber security: Becoming more and more relevant is the issue of cyber security, especially as we increase the adoption of technology and its use in collating, storing and transferring client confidential information. It is therefore beneficial to seek the insights of your IT specialists when considering new technology and ensuring the new technology can be managed under your existing security protocols.
At Yield, we view technology spend as the equivalent of an employment cost. Selected well, we’ve found that technology can achieve improved reliability in the service we deliver, reduce running costs, and free up the team to focus on the higher value advice needs of our clients.
It needs to create efficiency: The best technology solutions can lead to massive efficiencies and in turn, cost reduction for your business and more reliable outcomes for clients, too. Solutions we’ve implemented that achieve this include Managed Discretionary Accounts with HUB24 for investment management; Active Campaign for marketing and client engagement; Xero for bookkeeping; and XPLAN for database management and client review management.
Look for connectivity where possible: The best technology solutions we’ve found will connect with other related technology. Xero is a good example of this, in the way it connects to your bank accounts. The fewer the technology solutions you run, the better to avoid duplication and potential human error.
Think about the future: The most frustrating thing about technology can be when you select one, spend the time to set it up, and then later decide to move to a better solution. It therefore pays to shop around and really plan out the technology you choose, and always with the long-term in mind. How easily you can extract your data will be part of this thinking, as you ideally don’t want to be locked into one particular technology.
Technology is an enabler; a means to an end and not an end in itself. We feel technology will help us deal with:
Compliance and proof; and
Data and Artificial Intelligence.
Cyber security: Imagine having to tell clients that everything you know about them has been stolen. Cyber security has been the most pressing issue in our practice for the past 12 months. Key elements in our cyber security solutions were:
– Password security via a password manager and ‘Two Factor Authentication’ on all systems;
– Hardware and software encryption on computers via Windows 10 tools and new Intel chip sets;
– Hardware firewalls; and
– Software that tracks and reports unusual computer access and behaviour.
Compliance and proof: We have developed scalable systems to prove that every piece of advice we provide meets the Best Interest Duty, and all services have been delivered.To do this, we ‘merely’ need to link everything we do for a client (i.e. strategy, service and product) directly to the client objectives. This solution should enhance our advice process dramatically.
Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI): The future value in our practice will be based on what we know about our clients (data) and how we use that information to deliver services (AI). We need to do more with less, and the AI technology is staggering in its promise. We are starting to collect and store more client data, which will deepen and broaden the solutions we offer in five years’ time.
Make sure you don’t feel threatened when you see new technology that may replace some of what you used to do. For example, MyProsperity can take away some of the work when setting up a budget for a client or automatically provide a client with a real time balance sheet. To ignore this automation would be foolish for your business’s future profitability.
Ask if the technology is going to improve client outcomes or improve business efficiency. Some fintech available in the marketplace are solutions that look to solve problems that actually don’t exist. So, try to negotiate trials to see if the technology adds value to your business or your clients.
If you are going to use new technology, invest the time and money needed to understand it, and ensure you properly implement the technology. You can’t have one foot in the water and one foot out; you need to embrace change. In fact, the worst thing you can do is ignore technology.