Too often, I see advisors purchasing software based on what it does and not how they will use it. Now after two months of working from home, I think many have regretted some of those decisions. I’ve said before, most advisors didn’t have a true plan for technology — a plan for how new technology fit into their current processes and deliverables, a plan for how their staff would use it or how their clients would interact with it — most importantly how it was integrated.

In our 2019 paper: Advisory firms in 2030: The innovation imperative, we asked planners to choose what they believe will be their preferred technology platform in five to 10 years. Half (50%) said they wanted a single integrated platform requiring minimum integration with outside systems, while a quarter said they will capitalize on new fintech to build their own platform and manage the integration in-house. I hope that 25% are up to the challenge. 

In today’s contributor post, Matt Smith from SEI’s solutions group uses his experience to walk us through what integration really means and how advisors should view it when selecting and using their technology. Matt’s post is a wake-up call for those out buying the bells and whistles, and it’s a good guide for the “integrated advisor.” Please enjoy Matt’s post -- JDA

To be a little “Gladwellian” (defining commonality between two seemingly unlikely situations) the power of integrating technologies in your firm can be exemplified by examining a very common problem for newlyweds – the name change.

My longtime girlfriend and I married in the spring of 2013. Upon our nuptials, my wife decided to abandon her Scandinavian surname and adopt my significantly more common Anglo-Saxon moniker. 
 
To facilitate this very wise name change, my wife had to contact a multitude of agencies, including but not limited to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the Social Security Administration, her credit card companies, banks and numerous other entities. She had to log onto each site (remembering or documenting each password) or fax a handwritten form — all this only to complete the simple exercise of changing her name. It took her about a half a year to complete this Rube Goldberg machine of a process, which was incredibly confusing, time consuming and stressful. 

What if there were a better way? In an ideal scenario, my wife could change her name on a single platform, where it would be automatically disbursed to all the other entities where needed. A novel yet most likely unrealistic idea (I can dream, can’t I?). If all of the vast number of entities could collaborate (that is, integrate) to solve this problem, the world would unquestionably see blissful newlyweds be even more blissful. 

Advisor offices often face a similar situation. There are a multitude of disparate platforms used that should be communicating with one another but aren’t. The question is, how can I get all of the platforms used in your office to connect so that they’re all communicating with one another to make your daily life simpler? In other words, how do you get all of your tools to integrate?

wedding ringsIn your typical advisor office, anyone in the firm may be using a client relationship management tool like Redtail or Salesforce, a financial planning tool like eMoney or MoneyGuide, performance management software like Black Diamond or Orion, as well as marketing or presentation software. This is on top of the standard Microsoft or Apple suite of software systems and email. Managing all of these platforms can be cumbersome and overwhelming. The good news is that there is a steady and upward trend for all of these platforms to understand how they can more easily and seamlessly connect to make the user experience as intuitive as possible.
 
There is power in being able to update your client’s information once and have that information flow to a variety of linked platforms.

Advisor firms are always looking for ways to leverage technology to their benefit. One of the most clear time-saving benefits is to leverage the tools that they currently use to their fullest ability. Lots of CRMs and financial planning platforms can already seamlessly connect with one another; however, the full capacity of the functionality is not being leveraged. Integrating the platforms in your office is a simple (often free) way to increase efficiency in your office. Fortunately, the functionality is available for firms to link almost all of their technology, it’s simply a matter of having the drive to tap into the power of integration.

Here’s what you need to do to get started. 

  1. Take a look at the technologies that you’re already using in your office. Browse their help menus for their integrations.
  2. Contact those companies on what is offered through their integrations. Ask the company to help you understand how their integration is a benefit to you.
  3. If you decide to implement the integration, take the time to fully understand the integration functions so that you can get the most from the technology built for you.

I’m pretty sure that bureaucracies could take a few pages from the financial technology playbook to make a life transition simpler. I know it would have made my wife’s life easier.

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