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Advisors beware: New tech requires extensive commitment to training

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As a generally awful golfer I keep trying to “buy” a better game.

After about a dozen holes of losing balls off the tee, a sympathetic partner may suggest that I try his driver, and every now and then the gods of randomness will allow me to find the fairway with the borrowed club. Of course, prior to my next round, I will buy that brand of driver and have miserable results, only to start the cycle again with the next borrowed driver.

A far more intelligent use of funds would be for me to invest in lessons rather than new clubs. Unfortunately, with much higher stakes, I often see a similar cycle repeat itself with new technology.

The financial services industry is replete with new technology. I have seen fabulous demonstrations of how new technology can improve the client experience and create efficiencies while saving manpower.

Generally, new technology requires substantial upfront “hard” costs, such as purchase and customization, and “soft” costs, such as initial workflow disruption and staff training. The price one pays for progress!

And very often, once the latest and greatest is fully integrated into processes and a firm’s culture, there is disappointment and unfulfilled expectations.

Rarely is the technology platform the problem. Rather, the fault lies with firms vastly underestimating the enormous investment of time required for adequate training.

Technology intended to create significant efficiencies requires extensive firmwide training, and client-interfacing technology requires a very substantial investment in client education.

We are a technologically sophisticated firm, and yet, we keep underestimating the time and manpower necessary to maximize the benefits that our investment in technology promises, because we continue to underestimate the commitment to training required to fully integrate new systems. Although the investment in training varies by innovation, we have adapted the philosophy that for every dollar spent on new systems, we will allocate as much as $5 worth of professional time for the needed training.

As with golf, there are no shortcuts.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on savvy ideas on modernizing your practice.

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