As people, we have a funny side to our nature.People leading the way

We love progress - we want to better things, yet we also resist the necessary change to bring about those improvements. Most of us find ourselves in the space between “change is good” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. We want our jobs to be more efficient and productive, but often are challenged by the effort required to learn new solutions. Often we adopt the change simply as actions of last resort.

The wealth management industry is increasingly limited by outdated solutions. Legacy systems have lingered beyond their shelf life and are crippled by patches put in place over time. These systems struggle to serve the modern day wealth management business where scale, speed and sophistication in the investment management and client advisory functions have increased at accelerating rates. 

Visionary wealth management leaders realise the need for change and seek help to bring their team on board. Rapid change is a given in the competitive and entrepreneurial culture often found in successful wealth management firms. Team member engagement and support are key for a firm. Successful firms have adopted conscious and deliberate change management programs.

Inertia is not a strategy

Firm growth and technology change often go together in the wealth management industry. “Change Management as a whole is really enabling an organisation to adopt a change and then sustain that change post launch,” explains Jennifer Morelli, senior manager at professional services firm Grant Thornton LLP. No major conversion to new technology will be painless. Firms that delay their update of technology and business processes improvements are risking their competitive edge relative to those upgrading and adopting newer digital solutions at a faster rate.

"Change Management as a whole is really enabling an organisation to adopt a change and then sustain that change post launch." Jennifer Morelli, Grant Thornton LLP

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Built from the ground up, the SEI Wealth PlatformSM (the Platform) is an end-to-end solution that enables wealth management firms to provide a comprehensive, modern and fully integrated advisor and client experience that supports front-, middle-, and back-office services all within a single infrastructure. Integrating technology, operational outsourcing and asset management in one solution, the Platform is unlike any solution on the market today because it truly empowers transformational change. But that’s not easy. It’s something a lot of people talk about—but many people resist. To survive in this increasingly global and competitive marketplace, change is necessary. But how?

Challenges of organisational adoption often accompany the implementation of new technology.  The adoption issues are often associated with an organisation’s people element. SEI understands how hard change is for organisations, and therefore, the importance of change management. The company has taken a proactive approach to address its clients’ change management needs when it comes to implementing the Platform.

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Change is never easy, but today, doing nothing is the bigger risk. SEI is a long-term strategic partner because its values centre on building relationships that strengthen client communities. Striving to help clients achieve much more than a technology conversion, SEI works with them to transform their businesses—a process much more ambitious, complex, far-reaching and effective.

“With 50 years of implementation experience, we have an unparalleled commitment to completing complex conversions on time and on budget. This is not a new business for us,” said Al Chiaradonna, Senior Vice President of Private Banking at SEI. “Yet, after a number of successful implementations, and growing market adoption of our latest solution in the U.S., we realised we could add even more value to our clients by investing even further in the people side of change.”

In addition to a standard set of implementation services, SEI now offers change management services. These services provide a greater level of integrated change management subject-matter expertise. Chiaradonna further explained, “We invested in change management training for some of our staff and developed a robust Business Transformation Assessment (BTA) process to guide each client through the change that comes with adopting an enterprise solution like the Platform.”

Recognising the unique needs of each client, SEI saw an opportunity to expand its support model even further and searched for a like-minded organisation with whom they could pilot this organisational change management offering.

Enter Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton has a holistic view of how organisations approach change and the technology landscape. The firm also knows how technology and business process change ultimately gets adopted—or not. “Providing a modern, robust technology is part of the solution, but people are what enable the success of that solution,” says Morelli. “I think that was one of the driving forces behind why SEI and Grant Thornton are working together in this space—we have a shared vision and passion to help ensure the employees that use the services are prepared to do so.”

SEI worked with Grant Thornton to create a plan to integrate change management principles into a proven implementation approach that relies on the engagement, feedback and support of firm users. When employees aren’t properly engaged, the new solutions might remain unused. Lisa Walkush, principal at Grant Thornton, points out “SEI really values and understands the importance of change management. They see the value in focusing on the people part of a conversion process. And they have prioritised that within the total solution they deliver.”

The two companies mapped out what an organisational change management offering could look like. They built a robust model and launched it with a brand new SEI client, Trustmark, headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi. Trustmark was beginning to embark on its conversion to the Platform and would be one of the first clients to use the enhanced change management services as part of its implementation. SEI plans to offer a variety of expanded change management services to all clients going forward as an optional add-on service.

"We were engaged throughout the entire process so that we could hit the ground running from day one." Jonathan Rogers, Trustmark.

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Power to the people

Like transformational technology, change management is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Both SEI and Grant Thornton understand that SEI built the Platform to be flexible, scalable and customisable, and to be able to grow with each client’s specific business needs. SEI also has a long history of managing change through each implementation for firms ranging in size from small community banks to multi-national and global organisations. Grant Thornton differentiates its organisational change management approach with the ability to scale its program up or down to support a client exactly how they need it. There are many factors that determine the unique needs of a firm’s organisational change management program, whether that be size, business model complexity or even how many geographic locations it has. But there are two common denominators that will make or break a successful change initiative: putting the focus on the people and proactive communication throughout the process.

At the heart of every successful change management program is a strong project manager leading the way. Anyone leading the project must be a trusted member of the organisation who can proactively communicate to all affected stakeholders – e.g., portfolio management teams, client advisors, investment operations, legal and compliance, distribution and marketing, custodian firms – at every step of the way. Your team members are your most valuable asset; don’t be afraid to remind them of that as you lead them through and involve them in this undertaking.

“In order to be successful, you must make people the focus so that once the solution is live, the users know not only how to utilise the embedded services, but the contextual reasoning for why they need to do so,” notes Morelli. When users understand everything from the process to the outcomes that they should expect from using the system, they gain awareness of how the technology can actually make them more productive. Users begin to see what’s in it for them – and adoption rates increase at a faster pace.

The users at Trustmark agree. “Working with SEI and Grant Thornton really helped us prepare to go live on the SEI Wealth Platform. It is critical to understand the ‘why’ behind the how’it works, so that we can determine how the system can make us more efficient in our day to day. We were engaged throughout the entire process so that we could hit the ground running from day one after going live,” recalls Jonathan Rogers, SVP and Divisional Administrative Officer at Trustmark.

In pursuit of better outcomes

Successful and efficient adoption of a new solution is the goal of every conversion. But adoption is one thing that can’t be automated; it’s the single greatest barrier or enabler to the success of transformative change. SEI and Grant Thornton are committed to helping clients realise long-term, sustainable success.

Wealth management firms can benefit from this extraordinary level of collaboration. Morelli of Grant Thornton agrees, “We both understand that integrating a change management component to a client’s implementation really does offer them a robust implementation approach. It’s not just focused on systems. It‘s really focused on the adoption and usage.”

Change is hard and it’s the biggest impediment to wealth management leaders getting the value they’re seeking out of a new technology solution. “We want the people who are responsible for our clients’ experience to be connected by technology, not separated by it. And we’ve adopted SEI’s integrated solution to help make our own end-client and employee experiences a true differentiator in the market,” notes Scott Woods, President – Insurance and Wealth Management at Trustmark. He adds, “Moving to a comprehensive solution is a major transformation. The type of additional change management support SEI offered was invaluable and highlighted the importance of including our employees in the decision-making process, as the impacts are felt across the entire organisation—from executive management to everyday users.”

In the end, a technical-only strategy will never be a sufficient way to serve clients. The ultimate client success of an implementation is based on the people it serves—and how well it does that. To get there, all members of the implementation team must work with the same mission. Change is a good thing—but only if everyone in the organisation shares in the reward.

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