Firms weighing new technology should focus on the needs of advisors, staff members and clients and make sure that expectations at all levels are carefully managed.
These may seem to be obvious points, but sometimes firms lose sight of them.
“I talk to a lot of companies of all sizes, and it’s not necessarily the right people making the decisions,” said internet advisor Jane Barratt during a recent Finovate panel in New York.
Barratt, founder and chief executive of New York-based GoldBean, which licenses software and content to advisory firms, said that those businesses can be so focused on custodians, bank transfers, compliance, privacy protection and interface development, that the actual experience of advisors and their clients may sometimes get short shrift.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on, and the problem is that the people who make the trains run on time tend to drive the conversation as to what the platform will look like,” Barratt said. “And I’ve seen in a few institutions, when they build their train, there’s no one waiting on the platform for them.”
What is needed is a lot more experience planning, Barratt said.
That means thorough consultation at all levels and education throughout the process, advisors and technology specialists say.
“If you have a CRM, or you’re switching CRMs, and your staff doesn’t want to put time into it or doesn’t see the need, the why behind it, I wouldn’t even sign up for the service,” says Marguerita Cheng, a CFP and the chief executive of Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Give employees plenty of opportunity to test out demos, she says.
Make sure that new tools are easily integrated with the firm’s existing or likely future technology and that everyone will be comfortable with tech support, Cheng says.
Above all, make it clear that staff involvement is important, she says.
“People can’t buy into something if they don’t have the chance to weigh in,” Cheng says.
The process may take a little bit longer, but the result will be worth it.
“You’ll make your staff champions of that project,” Cheng says.
Still, don’t expect overnight client adoption.
“You need to be patient with your clients,” Cheng says.
Sometimes that means setting up a time to walk them through a new application.
“Once the client sees that the half hour, or however long it took, on the phone, was worth it to me, then they’re more likely to think it’s valuable and enjoy it,” Cheng says.
Advisors say that the most important thing, though, is not the use but rather the usefulness of tech tools. The whole point is that they should lead to higher client satisfaction.
“Some of my clients use our app; some don’t,” says Cheng, who adds that she just wants her clients to be happy. “If you want to use it, or if you don’t want to use it, I still love you; it doesn’t matter.”
This story is part of a 30-30 series on savvy ideas on modernizing your practice.
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