We have seen many advancements in technology over the past 30 years or so and over this period there have also been many changes in the financial services industry. Cast your minds back to April 1988 when the FSA Act came into force, stakeholder pensions launched in April 2001 and pensions simplification in April 2006. Much has happened over this time and technology has also moved at a rapid rate.
In the early 1980s, Microsoft released MSDOS; Visual Basics in March 1991, XP in October 2001 and it was not until February 2002 that Visual Studio.
NET v1.0 was released.
As you can see, by highlighting just a few of the rapid developments in both the financial services and technology sectors, it is possible to see how far they have moved on since the “early days”.
If we look solely at technological advancements, we can see that software solutions in particular have moved on dramatically over the years but over a long period of time it is worth noting that even Microsoft has stopped supporting software such as Visual Basics 6 (March 2008). As with anything, you could say that various software and technology has a shelf life but you need to ensure that you are using the most up-to-date software available in order to run a business in the most efficient and costeffective way.
We live in a world where the technological improvements are vast and diverse and as such, it is now possible to link/pass data electronically more efficiently than ever before and as a result we are seeing more and more integrations between various providers. The web has undoubtedly aided this process along with wireless technology.
The majority of the population are using mobile devices such as mobile phones, laptops and even the new executive toys of choice – tablets – are shoehorning more incredible technology into smaller, faster and more lightweight devices.
Filesharing, downloading, sending emails remotely and accessing client data on the move are all things that would have seemed like something from a science fiction film not that many years ago.
As advisory practices have to adapt and reshape with industry changes, so should the technology that has been built to assist these firms. As an absolute must, technology needs to adapt quickly and be agile enough to keep up with any industry developments and never before has this been as important as now.
With the RDR, we know that there are many challenges to face for product providers, advisory firms and software vendors, all of which have an important part to play in order for the industry to improve, evolve and stay abreast of the constant stream of regulatory change.
Software vendors in particular need to ensure that they can offer their customers RDRready functionality in both a pre- and post-RDR world in order that they in turn can offer their clients a good service and value for money.
We have seen that advisory practices will need to segment their clients, have a service proposition in place, be ready for a fee-based world and even have the necessary qualifications in place. All this is required by 2013 while still trying to run a successful business.
You can be sure that over the next couple of years, there will be an awful lot of activity in our industry.
From a software point of view, what else must vendors be offering? Functionally-rich solutions that offer a truly integrated end-to-end process and that encompass audit trails, accountability and security right through to accurate management information.
To conclude, regardless of the technology you employ in your business, it is imperative that you look now at your current practice management solution and processes to make sure you are adopting the right product not only for your business requirements but for the demands stipulated by continually changing regulation.
Technology cannot be ignored and advisory practices not using the most powerful solutions in the marketplace today will be left treading water.
As previously mentioned, the technological advances since the FSA Act came into force in 1988 have been dramatic and moved at an incredible speed. You should ensure that your software provider of choice is geared to the demands of the RDR and written on a connected platform that can offer agility to move with the times as well as offer the functionality that advisory firms need.
We have glanced briefly over the past 30 years or so but we must also be mindful of the future and the future challenges which our industry will face.
Henry David Thoreau once said: “Let go of the past and go for the future. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.”