Growth can be enabled – or hindered – by your technology. And not only that, but it can also seriously erode your profit margin if it costs you clients, requires constant fixing, or slows down cross-department collaboration. But here’s the thing: NOT using tech is the bigger mistake you can make. With so many best-in-class solutions on the market (and more appearing everyday), certainly having something is almost guaranteed to be better than nothing…right? Let’s explore your best tech investments that enable revenue growth in 2023.
From a growth and profitability standpoint, there are three areas where your firm can benefit from leveraging the right technology. These are Client Experience, Operational Efficiency, and Marketing, and they all affect your ability to attract and retain clients, motivate talent and attract successors, merging or purchasing partners. These pieces weave together to support your vision, mission, brand promise, service model, and your reputation.
Majority of advisory firm owners operating anywhere from a $100M- $300M AUM firm have a lot to contend with being not only CEO but also in charge of business development, financial planning, marketing, operations, finances and so on. It’s unrealistic to expect that an owner could spend 20% or more of their time on researching, vetting, implementing, and training staff on how to utilize the technology stack. Couple that with the explosive growth in new solutions across our fintech landscape which has made it nearly impossible for any advisor to stay current on trends, features, and benefits that each provides. With well over 100 fintech solutions today, it begs the question of how anyone could keep on top of that landscape unless it was their full-time job. Fortunately, those people do exist, along with numerous sources like Kitces.com, Technology Tools for Today (T3), and many independent broker dealer and RIA platforms that categorize, explain, rate and review advisor tech.
While it depends on your business model, the basics of any tech stack could be summarized as your customer relationship manager (CRM), financial planning software, and a portfolio manager. Within these tools are often related solutions that can be innate or add-on, like risk management, rebalancing, trading, a client portal, and billing services. Other elements you need within your tech stack include a website, virtual meeting tools, and compliance-approved messaging and e-sign services. Registered Investment Advisors reportedly spend anywhere from 3.2% (according to FP Transitions’ data) to 5% of revenue on basic technologies, with a willingness to invest higher percentages on investment-oriented solutions that are more clearly tied into firm revenue (investment revenues can sometimes comprise up to 15-30% of firm revenue).
With industry experts repeatedly talking about technology as “table stakes” for advisors, it means those seeking to build a competitive advantage must adjust their approach. Not only is it essential to have technology that works well together consistently, but it also must enhance the overall client experience.
The Optimal Client Experience
A great client experience can serve as an advantage, but only if it’s consistent. Technology that supports evolving client preferences will account for a few things:
Clients must have access to their portal on their computer as well as their phone or tablet. It should be secure, reliable, and real-time. Client portals should be easily navigated via mobile app. And not just client portals – but also your website! Prospects should be able to learn all about you on your website, and there should be an easy way to reach out and schedule an appointment with your team. Keep the ‘contact us’ form within two clicks from your homepage.
Inevitably, tech requires updates and enhancements that can temporarily hinder access. How and when you provide support can drastically impact your perceived attentiveness to customer service. Just as clients will rely on your tech support for help accessing their client portal, you will rely on the customer service provided by the tech tools you select for your platform. Everyone must work together for a positive end result.
Clients want to be able to see their entire financial picture, including off-platform/non-managed assets that impact their overall financial health. Many portfolio managers and client portals are allowing this information to be pulled in via open APIs. Additionally, clients shouldn’t have to search far to find information on how they are being billed and how often they can meet with you. Sharing upcoming appointments, notes from prior sessions, and payment receipts are now expected as part of the client dashboard.
Key financial decisions don’t happen once per quarter – they happen all the time. Your ability to be there for your clients at that moment of need could depend heavily on your tech. Clients should have a swift way to reach you, share pertinent information, bounce it off a financial outlook, and circle back to an answer quickly. Whether buying a home, investing in a start-up, or purchasing equity in their firm, there are a variety of reasons clients could require a near-immediate answer to life-altering opportunities. To this end, some platforms now offer compliance-approved direct messaging or at a minimum, emails.
Increasing Operational Efficiency
If it doesn’t make you faster, fix it or drop it. Technology is a total distraction if it often breaks, requires constant updates, and creates customer pain points. If you find yourself in this viscous cycle, it might be time to get help. Lots of consultants today can operate as your Chief Technology Officer for a fraction of the price it costs to hire a full-time, qualified, C-suite employee. Additionally, unless you need full-time help, an outsourced CTO can bring robust expertise from their experience working with a variety of firms that setup similar workflows and integrations. They will undoubtedly have tips and tricks that save you ample time in the long run. Having researched and vetted all the tools on the market, many outsourced CTOs can save you time in selecting the right technology that will allow your firm to operate swiftly, accurately, and with minimal disruption.
The reality of tech is that it’s a tool. It must be used correctly in order to have the optimal impact on your business. This means understanding the purpose of your selected technologies, as much as it means knowing how to use them well. Rolling out any tech requires a training process for onboarding staff so that it is consistently used as intended.
Some of the more common advisory operational efficiencies that stem from selecting the right technology include cost savings, offloading manual tasks, automations, leveraging AI, and more secure and compliant data sharing. When done right, your tech stack can function like a machine, producing more results in less time and with nearly zero mistakes. Places to setup better operational efficiencies in your technology can include:
Nearly every platform offers integration support, even non-industry specific leaders for tools like CRM and email communications (think Hubspot or Salesforce) Several tools (think Bento Engine, Asset-Map, FP Alpha) offer creative and insightful opportunities to enhance the client experience, capture more assets, and stay top-of-mind at pinnacle life moments.
Robust Cybersecurity Protections
Nothing stops progress – not to mention disrupts client trust - like a data hack. Best-in-class platforms provide security features such as algorithm-driven encryption, deep packet inspection and no less than 2-factor authentication to deter threats. Preventing cyber-attacks in the first place is the best way to limit their impact on your operational speed.
Via automation, your compliance can be more accurate, repeatable and cost-effective. When using the latest software, firms can ensure regulatory processes are followed by automating content reviews, including correspondence and tech-enabled interactions with clients. Plus, keeping all this information in one centralized location mitigates a lot of the pain that can stem from a surprise audit.
Where Marketing Meets Tech
There are two schools of thought on advisor marketing. If you ask someone with a robust practice today, they may point to lunch-and-learns in their community, referrals, and phone campaigns. And while those tactics were successful in their own time, we have a saying at FP Transitions. “What got you here will not get you to where you’re going next.”
Today, advisors can provide select information on social media, directly email clients and prospects, build a virtual billboard for their services, and of course our newest favorite, solicit client testimonials. With so much potential and yet so very little time to pursue these opportunities for new business, where should advisors focus their time? This is where amazing technology comes in. For many savvy advisors, tech actually serves as the undercurrent for their entire marketing plan. Technology can trigger, automate, aggregate, suggest, and deliver literally any information to anyone who engages with you digitally. When done correctly, your technology platform can inspire meaningful conversations with clients and prospects, highlight your expertise, distinguish your target audience, and deliver value before you ever pick up the phone.
For advisors who find marketing overwhelming, or just don’t have the time to dedicate to it, the best advice may be to hire a part-time consultant. If your firm is evolving into a business with numerous advisors, strong growth goals and a succession track – you have all the makings of a robust business that requires a marketing position. Hiring someone young and new to the professional world may be an option – but this is also a very complex industry. Having a strong foundational knowledge of what to say (or not say) and how all these financial strategies fit into a client’s personal goals is something that requires experience and intelligence. Outsourcing to a professional firm like Intention.ly may be a better solution. At a minimum, firms like FMG offer scalable, relatively cost-effective marketing packages that solve for both time and budget constraints.
The primary technology you need to run an efficient marketing machine includes:
Your CRM allows integrations with your email client, your website, your marketing hub, and allows you to make campaign lists, additional notes, and all these are crucial to making intelligent automations that do the heavy lifting FOR you.
- Email Client
Whether its Mailchimp, Hubspot, Drip or something else, your email platform should allow customization tags, HTML and really interesting insights into client and prospect behavior. Drafting emails (including setting up workflows) can create massively repeatable efficiencies that ensure you don’t ever drop the ball.
- Marketing Hub
Not ideal for solo or smaller firms, although a marketing hub is probably the greatest advantage an established firm could embrace. (think Hubspot) A marketing hub takes your email and CRM integration so much further, and is also the host for your website, and any content library or private client portal. Turn visibility of certain resources on or off, and track behaviors to identify which pieces of content or forms are driving the most value for your firm.
How much business does your website drive for you? Having a high-quality website plays into brand loyalty, and maintaining this loyalty is a key driver of referrals. Of the many things you create on your website, make sure your services and the “about us” section are thorough and relatable to your target audience.
- Virtual Meeting/Webinar
If there was ever something obvious on this list, this is it. FaceTime isn’t the answer, you need a platform. Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, please get a professional meeting platform that allows you to record, add documents, share your screen, and allows you to blur your background when necessary.
Establishing a tech stack that embraces a digital-first mindset, prioritizes the client experience, and embraces smart efficiencies will enable firm growth. Don’t overestimate your marketing or technical prowess and ask for help when you need it. Many advisors have peer groups that review tech together and share notes. When it comes to building your optimal platform, it’s equally important to remember customer service and scalability. As you grow, your technology demands will too. Selecting your tools based primarily upon budget will not go well long-term.
When you’re ready to enable your firm’s growth, and want to see which levers to focus on, our team at FP Transitions is here to help you value, protect and grow your business. See what we can do for you by scheduling your free consultation here.