Is it time to invest in a CTO?

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As a consultant, I take special note of how companies build out their C suite and I’ve come to a few conclusions over the years. For one, many larger firms I work with have hired chief technology officers and, for the most part, they have found this investment in staff and resources has raised the quality of service for their clients.

“If you are a technology-forward firm you need to make the investment in technology,” one of my clients told me.

But what do CTOs do exactly? Among their many responsibilities, CTOs determine their company’s short- and long-term business needs and invest in systems to support those objectives. To be more specific, they might have a hand in database architecture and development, technology infrastructure and data, as well as vitally important infosecurity.

To get an even better sense of this role, I spoke to Dan Jurgovan, CTO at JMG Financial Group. (JMG is not a client.), I soon learned CTOs perform many more vital tasks than the definition above would suggest. According to Jurgovan, one of his team’s primary objectives is implementing new software and training.

“The employee is the client,” he tells me. To support their end client — their company — he and his team provide in-person meetings, training sessions, and create video training for employees to access on demand. Jurgovan collaborates with the COO to make sure employees have what they need and are happy with the technology.

One of my clients, Bartlett Wealth Management, has a team of three, including the CTO, dedicated to cybersecurity, maintaining and maximizing asset management systems, and providing help desk support to the firm’s 65 employees. For new employees who have never worked in a firm that provides onsite tech help, this service gives them a “wow experience,” says Bartlett Wealth’s CTO Matt Whalen.

The team recently implemented Zoom Room software which enables their Cincinnati and Chicago offices to video conference with clients and each other. This extremely important project not only enhanced client interactions, but allowed many of the employees who had never met in person to meet virtually.

Exceptions to the rule

For smaller firms that do not have a dedicated CTO, I find the roles of IT manager, database manager and portfolio reporting specialist take its place. If my clients cannot afford to invest in dedicated tech support, I encourage them to create subject matter experts for each technology system or software the firm is using.

SMEs fill important roles, some of which include interfacing with tech vendors, staying current on software updates, and training the rest of the team. I recommend rewarding those who hold such tech responsibilities through your incentive compensation plan.

The majority of firms that I work with are convinced that technology is critical to the success of their firms. I’m seeing an increase in the number of technology initiatives they use, including CRM systems, performance reporting and financial planning software, data storage, document management systems and cybersecurity programs.

By using these tools firms can free up more partner and advisor time for business development. When technology streamlines administrative tasks, partners and advisors can allocate more time to servicing existing clients and looking for new business. The extra time to work with clients improves responsiveness and increases client retention and referrals.

“The goal of every advisory firm is to provide a high-touch experience,” Matt Sonnen, CEO of PFI Advisors, says. “As a firm’s client base becomes larger the only way you can achieve this is through leveraging technology.”

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