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Ian McKenna: Let technology work hard for your firm

Ian McKennaThe key areas of focus for advisers looking to make the best use of tech in their business

This week I’d like to discuss the key takeaways from an event we recently held with the Personal Finance Society. Empowering Advice Through Technology was a pay-to-attend workshop for advisers who want to enhance the use of technology in their businesses.

A series of sessions saw key industry leaders focus on the issues that firms should address in order to achieve successful implementations.

Practice management
In the practice management system session, Iress executive general manager for wealth Mark Loosmore highlighted how essential data quality is to the successful deployment of such software.

Any firms that do not take the time to clean up their data are going to be disappointed in the results, while those doing it properly will see huge dividends.

Loosmore also pointed out that data cleansing is not a one-off exercise but something that should be repeated regularly to ensure the ongoing quality of information held.

In the same session, Plum Software director Dylan Navra shared one of the key messages of the day: do not try to do everything at once.

Attempting to do too much at once inevitably leads to failure and disappointment, so break your implementation down into small, manageable objectives in order to enjoy the success of your project.

Data use
In the 21st century fact-finding session, Intelliflo chairman Nick Eatock and Sesame managing director Richard Howells highlighted the importance of understanding the difference between consented and non-consented data.

The latter provides access to information about clients in a completely GDPR-compliant way, so that large amounts of that needed in the fact-find process can be obtained from public sources in advance of meetings.

Howells also pointed out how advisers have the greatest legitimate interest to hold data of any of the parties in the value chain.

This is hugely significant as it gives advisers a commercial advantage over other types of financial services businesses.

Cyber security
Addressing cyber security and GDPR, secure email provider Unipass general manager Gary Miller and Beyond Encryption chief executive Paul Holland examined just what significant a risk unencrypted email poses to advisers and their clients.

They showed that simply encrypting email is not enough. There needs to be a very specific process in place to ensure the identity of recipients.

Indeed, it can be just as dangerous to send a secure email to the wrong person as it is to send one unencrypted.

I bet we have all accidentally emailed the wrong person because Outlook picked up a different contact when typing in their name.

The need for documented cyber security plans was another important point highlighted, given recent FCA statements that the area will be a far larger part of the supervision process going forward.

Going paper-free
Over in the “consumer communications for all generations” session, Money Honey Financial Planning managing director Jane Hodges (who is also vice chair of the PFS expert financial practitioner panel) illustrated just how much paper is actually needed in a compliant advice firm today: none.

Hodges explained how she runs her firm paper-free, with the exception of situations where providers – totally unnecessarily from a regulatory perspective – insist on it. She also talked through her use of screen-share conference call systems for all client meetings. This delivers major time and cost saving benefits.

Polled at the end of the day, 90 per cent of delegates at the event said it had changed their views on technology and its role in their firms.

While technology has been a long time coming to the advice market, it really is possible for firms to radically restructure their working practices to reduce costs, increase profits and find new ways to provide better services to clients. The time for the digitally enabled advice firm is now.

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. The importance of clean client and policy data can never be underestimated. The problem with many companies is that they undertake a “data cleansing” exercise as a one off when really it needs to be a daily consideration and ingrained into the core processes of any business.

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