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Ian McKenna: How to get the most out of adviser software

The right software system should streamline client communications and ease the administrative burden,freeing up more time for what advisers do best

As part of the excellent Money Marketing Interactive event earlier this month I was asked to present a summary of the key technology efficient adviser firms will be using. The three most recent enhancements I identified – digital advice, screen sharing/online meeting services and a client portal capable of supporting the forthcoming pensions dashboards – are all subjects I regularly cover on these pages.

I also outlined what should be the core elements of the technology in an adviser business. Any firm not using all of the following are missing out on the opportunity to make considerable cost savings. They break down into two areas: client-facing services and internal administration.

All the client-facing services – factfind, needs analysis, goal planning, risk profiling and even elements of the portfolio rebalancing – should be available online as part of your client portal.

Many firms now ask the client to complete the initial factfind themselves before the review meeting so the discussion can directly focus on advice (which is, after all, what they are paying for). If the client also completes the risk profiling tool in advance, advisers can review to highlight inconsistencies and ensure they are fully discussed and the reasons documented during the meeting.

When it comes to back-office processes, technology should be taking much of the administrative burden from advice firms. Creating suitability reports is one area where technology has a powerful role to play. A well-structured system should enable you to flag all the key elements of the advice process and ensure no areas are accidentally overlooked.

Regulatory reporting is another area where software should be taking the strain. The same is true of case checking; paper-based processes should be a thing of the past.

Last but not least, income reconciliation and accounts is where technology can deliver huge savings. Machines are far better placed to carry out the bulk of such activities, freeing staff to address exceptions.

Any good adviser software system should include all the above either as core components or add-ons, and staff should be easily able to use them. That said, I hear of far too many advisers only using a fraction of the functions provided by such systems. More often than not, this comes down to a lack of training. Although it might cost a few hundred pounds to undertake this, the investment will be paid back through greater efficiency many times over in just a few months.

Adviser systems might not yet be perfect, but they have come on leaps and bounds over the last few years. If you are not satisfied with the return you are getting on your software, ask your supplier to give you an assessment of how you can use it more effectively.

They do not charge you less for using just a part of the system, so it makes sense to make the most of everything on offer.

Changing systems will cost time and money, so always give an existing supplier every opportunity to help you get more from the software you already have. These days, the good suppliers will be able to demonstrate the return your investment in their systems is delivering.

That said, if you are still not happy after challenging the supplier, it is worth exploring the alternatives. The right system can reduce the time you have to spend on administrative burdens and streamline client interaction, which means freeing up more time to do what you do best: advising.

Ian McKenna is director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre

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Comments

There are 2 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Ian, I couldn’t agree more! As a supplier of IFA back office systems, we believe in total integration of most of the things you mention. However, without accurate and up to date data entered into any system, the output (particularly for clients!)may be misleading. An integrated accounts package, Suitability Report Writer and MI information are a must for a back office system. Above all, the user interface and functionality must be easily understood and operated by admin staff and advisers or not all the functions offered by the software will be used or even investigated by the users.

  2. [Disclosure – I do work for a CRM provider]

    Ultimately data is king. The more data that is entered or sourced or brought into the system, the greater opportunity for use and re-use (and analysis later, e.g. ML). The richer the data, the less work that is required down the line from both the adviser and client. Where things become unstuck is where the user doesn’t embrace the philosophy of accurate and timely data entry in a secure environment.

    Carrot is better than stick and (hopefully) software propositions do recognise this. For example: an online FactFind saves the adviser time by front loading the initial engagement and having that data passed back into the CRM, sourcing or researching tools, while the client engages with the adviser providing data and information (including documents) on their own terms. From experience, once all parties realise the advantages, everything begins to flow but it still requires advisers to truly embrace and promote the technology. Of course, if a solution doesn’t map to the process or all parties are not engaged or do not understand / value the technology (e.g. Lenders and PSD2) then people are jumping through hoops and this does lead to switch-off.

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