As the managing director of a technology company, you might think I am IT-literate but it was not until I joined the commercial world of technology that I started to appreciate that just because I can find my way around a piece of software, it does not mean I am using it to its fullest capacity.
I became aware of how many of us will draft a spreadsheet, then use a calculator because we had not bothered to learn the formulae for Excel. Or how we still use back-office systems as a contact database when we could be using it to identify targets for marketing campaigns.
I will use research conducted on the routine of an IFA practice to see how each task could save time by using technology efficiently.
Quay Associates is a small IFA practice with three consultants and two administrators. It became a fee-based practice five years ago, which means every task it has undertaken over that period has been recorded into its back-office system. From this system, we analysed each task undertaken to form a complete picture of the practice. We identified about 37,000 individual tasks.
From that data, we found 167 common tasks that were performed each and every day. These 167 tasks have been broken down for ease of digestion to eight summary headings.
From this, we were able to identify exactly how long each task took to perform using the technology at the company's disposal. We then timed how long it would take to do those tasks manually.
By understanding how the practice operated, we were able to see ways in which it could improve efficiency using technology. When we removed the barriers of understanding through training and timed how long it took to do those tasks making the optimal use of technology, the figures were startling.
In some cases, optimal use of technology resulted in savings of 96 per cent, with the average saving compared with manual operation of tasks reaching 80 per cent.
All these summary headings will be familiar to the average IFA and in the table (right) we can start to identify the savings that can be made between using technology in an unoptimised and an optimised fashion.
Each article in this series will take a task and identify how, through using technology efficiently, you can make these kinds of savings on your time.
To get the most out of your technology, you need to make time to analyse your business thoroughly. How do you manage each task? Do you do these tasks in the same way because “that is how it has always been done”? Or is there a smarter way to work?
Marketing and client communication is much overlooked. The theory is it takes too much time, money and effort to conduct an effective campaign and who needs new clients anyway?
The reality is that it will take time but money and effort can be minimal with efficient use of technology.
Even if you do not want new clients, communicating with your existing clients will yield returns as your best source of business is often through existing clients. We will look at devising a campaign, identifying your target clients through your back-office system and using email to communicate.
How do you conduct a fact-find? Do you find yourself watching more Coronation Street while clients delve into the attic for long-forgotten documents or do you communicate electron-ically for the hard facts, leaving the soft facts for the personal approach?
Fact-finding, as necessary as it is, takes too much time in its current form and does little to enhance the adviser's image. We will look at how this vital form of communication can be improved, saving up to 77 per cent of your time and how technology can give you a major image overhaul as well.
Analysing client needs
There is a myriad of tasks that need to be performed. How do you currently operate? How long does your client reporting take? The most impressive report I ever got from an IFA was delivered in an expensive folder and took them 10 hours to complete using their technology.
Changing the way they used technology means the same impressive document can be produced in 35 minutes.
What about client self-analysis? Challenge your own views. How do you feel about clients analysing their own needs and transacting business through you electronically? Is it a good or bad thing?
Servicing your client
The picture of absurdity is the generation of paperwork in the through processing of new business and client servicing. We will be looking at how the new business submission and client servicing of today can be improved through using existing technology. We will also look at the near future and the development of mess-age hubs so that communication is done once.
Between now and the next article, think about each task you do. Ask yourself, am I doing this the most efficient way?
By investing time now to learn the software that we have in our offices today, we can start to appreciate the massive time and cost savings that we can make.