Ian McKenna: The secrets to successful software selection


There seems an unprecedented level of interest among advisers recently for reviewing the technology they use to run their businesses.

Consequently, over the coming months this column will mainly focus on how advisers can better prepare for and conduct a review of their software as well as look at a number of the leading systems, their strengths and where they could be further improved.

Technology today can and should play a far wider role in the operation and management of any adviser firm. Gone are the days when the primary role was record keeping and administration. If used effectively the technology used in an adviser’s business should be the core operating platform through which the business is run.

To begin with, I want to look at two of the factors that have become far more important in recent years as part of the software selection process. Fail to get these two right and it will have a damaging long-term effect on the profitability of an advice business.

The software selected as an operating platform will in many ways define the services an adviser is actually able to offer. With this in mind, before even considering their software requirements, I would suggest firms review the actual customer propositions they want to offer. This in turn should help identify where technology is needed to support these propositions.

This takes us to the question of integration between the software systems that advisers use as an operating platform and the platforms they choose to partner with to support their clients. For firms that want to really optimise efficiency it is now crucial to make software supplier selection and platform due diligence part of a connected process. Many software suppliers and platforms will claim links to each other but to optimise cost reduction and customer service, the key question is not whether a platform integrates with a software supplier but in what detail they do they so.

Because of the importance of this issue we have made an analysis of the depth of platform provider and software integration one of the priorities as part of the free Due Diligence Data Aggregation service advisers can access at advisersoftware.com. Advisers can compare the detail of the information that can be exchanged between different platforms and adviser software packages to understand how their preferred platforms work with different systems and vice versa.

Meanwhile, there are many areas advisers should consider when looking to put together a suite of software to run their client-facing offering. But what can be offered clients as a digital service?

Considering six out of 10 UK adults now own a smartphone and 70 per cent of families having at least one tablet device, the vast majority of customers who can afford to pay for financial advice are going to be using mobile devices for a number of purposes. They will increasingly expect their adviser to give them access to their information where they want it, when they want it and in whatever way they want it.

Such services actually offer an opportunity to have a far more active online dialogue with customers. Recent research by B&CE Pensions identified that even among the supposedly technology resistant 55 to 65 age group two thirds of consumers are interested in having a dashboard that presents all their financial affairs in a single place.

A wider range of such services are emerging but if clients start using these tools other than from their own adviser, there is a very real risk that adviser will find themselves needing to review their client’s affairs using a third party system they do not control. For this reason I believe the client-facing proposition is now the most important part of an adviser’s overall software proposition.

Ian McKenna is director of Finance & Technology Research Centre