Given that the back-office system is the first thing advisers open in the morning and the last thing they close in the evening, this is arguably the most important piece of technology to invest in.
“You are in and out of client records and it becomes the beating heart of a practice,” says Belmayne Independent Chartered Financial Planners partner David Bashforth.
“The back-office system we use is Curo from a company called Time4Advice. We have had that in situ for six years now. It is based on a heavily customised version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM – Time4Advice adapted it for financial advisers to use.”
Bashforth says Curo provides access to a suite of apps such as Word, Excel and Outlook in a way that everything works well together.
“There are varying levels of integration, enabling us to create a list of clients in Curo then export it to Excel to refine and play with the data,” says Bashforth.
“We can do a mail merge to target specific clients. We can segregate clients based on any criteria we choose – their date of birth, their postcode, even their favourite biscuits and how they take their coffee.”
As an early adopter of technology, Belmayne has discovered through trial and error that there is no point investing time and money in the latest bit of kit that does not get used.
“Three years ago we bought a client portal from Moneyinfo. We had the future in mind and it allowed us access to bank account information before Open Banking. We had accurate fact-find information straight from the horse’s mouth.”
The idea was that clients would have an overview of all their assets, even if held with various companies. The Belmayne view was that, although expensive, the portal was great because it ticked a lot of boxes.
There is no point investing time and money in the latest bit of kit that does not get used
“But clients weren’t engaging with it; we had delivered something nobody had asked for,” says Bashforth.
Because of this, and through no fault of the tech, Belmayne then switched to a lower cost alternative from Moneyhub.
Essential or nice to have?
If technology used to be deemed helpful in the management of clients and their financial planning, things have moved on so that it is now vital.
“We have invested heavily in technology over the past few years so staff are able to work remotely, without significant disruption if our offices have power failure, and so our clients can view their financial position in between meetings,” says Essential Wealth managing director Sonia Wheeler. Her business relies on Office 365, Intelliflo and Voyant for cashflow modelling, and FE Analytics.
“We regularly review our systems and the way we work to ensure we continue to operate efficiently and deliver exceptional client value,” says Wheeler.
If Annetts and Orchard associate adviser & director Tom Orchard had to choose two pieces of technology he could not do without, they would be Voyant for cashflow modelling and Timeline, an app which focuses on the sustainability of income in retirement.
Orchard previously used CashCalc for cashflow modelling but moved to Voyant because he found it more suitable for tax planning.
Orchard says CashCalc is still an excellent piece of software, particularly as it is a bit more comprehensive and has a useful suite of financial planning tools in addition to the cashflow modelling.
“But these are what we’d like to have rather than what we need to have,” he says.
Advisers often complain that when they buy pieces of software from different providers, they do not integrate well. Orchard says some advisers struggle to understand how Voyant and Timeline can work together for retiring clients who are taking an income.
Clients weren’t engaging with it; we had delivered something nobody had asked for
He explains Voyant provides an overall view of client income while Timeline is used to stress-test income withdrawals using real historical market data. In a nutshell, Voyant gives a straight-line projection so it can show whether taking a given level of income works or not.
In contrast, Timeline stress tests a withdrawal structure by looking at how particular levels of income withdrawals would have fared historically – taking real market fluctuations into account. It gives clients some idea of whether the income they want to take is likely to run out, based on historical data.
“Some people don’t get the link between the two and if you’re not careful, you can end up confusing clients,” he says.
“Advisers need to understand the limits of each and understand the difference between straight-line projections and historical market data which has fluctuations, then explain it to clients in a way they will understand.”