For advisers who read about the latest technological wizardry in financial services, the information that is often lacking is whether it is any good in the real world. Does that clever bit of kit help when a client is in front of you? Does that all-singing, all-dancing customer relationship management package meet expectations or do some features let it down?
To shed some light on these issues, a Northamptonshire-based financial planner with an interest in technology has spent the last couple of years helping advisers gauge how useful certain tools and services are.
At The Technology Coach, a members-only website, The Investment Coach director Andrew Reeves discusses how he uses over 55 tools and services. Membership costs £25 plus VAT for one year but Reeves also writes a regular blog on the website that is free to access. The blog is where Reeves discusses the tools and services he does not use.
“I set up The Technology Coach because my peers asked me,” says Reeves. “At The Investment Coach we have experience of large CRM packages for financial advisers and found fault with them all – Iress, Intelliflo, Quay and other systems.
“The danger of locking into one system is that you don’t get best of breed. So we did a lot of due diligence in terms of best-of-breed tools. The Institute of Financial Planning got wind of this and I’ve been asked to speak about technology at regular IFP events.”
What works best
Reeves says client data is your business as an adviser, so it has to be managed wisely. Rather than locking into one of the systems offered by the big financial services software providers – packages which try to do everything but inevitably have some bits that are not so good – advisers can select what works best for them.
“There are elements people can take, almost like a smorgasbord. And the tools I’m recommending aren’t expensive,” says Reeves. “We do use small packages like FE Analytics for fund research – that talks to wrap accounts. Where there is data integration it’s great but there is not a package on the market that does everything.”
Reeves says he gets to know about the various technologies by reading technology magazines, his own research on the internet and speaking to his in-house IT manager. “There are some fantastic tools out there,” he says.
One of the better known examples is Dropbox, which is a way to store and share computer files, including documents and photographs. “It’s a cloud-based synching system where you can get Word documents on a PC to synch with other devices. But it’s only as good as the files and processes you set up with it.
“We have 26-folder staged process for Dropbox, so someone doing a remote file check can check all the boxes. It’s a sales process folder structure for adviser businesses using Dropbox,” says Reeves.
Reeves sells the Dropbox folder system to other advisers for £200 plus VAT and provides consultancy services to advice firms interested in how they can use technology. His IT manager offers various services to advice firms, including website design and PDF services.
Another tool that Reeves finds useful is HelloSign, which enables advisers to gain electronic signatures from their clients. “It saves on postage and having to chase it up with the client. Clients also like it because it’s an automatic sign-off. We’ve chosen the system so we can change it to EchoSign or another competitor if we think that is better.”
One of the benefits of the best-of-breed approach is that it is easy to change each element when something better becomes available. But Reeves points out that existing firms could find it difficult to move everything technology related to a best-of-breed approach.
“Existing business has got a huge amount of data in one place, so it would be a huge upheaval going best of breed. Most firms would pick and choose bits and pieces like electronic signing system and teleconferencing stuff but would find it too much of a hassle to move data.” he says.
Food for thought
Having said that, the potential cost savings of the pick-and-mix approach may give advice firms food for thought. “The system we run is a quarter of the price of having a commercial system,” says Reeves.
The next step for Reeves is refreshing The Technology Coach as new technologies are used. Reeves says this will happen at intervals when there have been enough additions or replacement technologies at The Investment Coach to give him something to say.
“The important things is that it’s a starting point for advisers, not an end point. I am keen to help and have discussions with advisers. They can get in touch with me through Twitter @theinvestcoach,” he says.